Ah, the summer blockbuster! Perhaps other than oppressive heat waves and the annual Red Sox "June swoon," nothing signifies the arrival of summer quite like the flood of lightweight celluloid schlock currently occupying cineplex screens around the country. Whether an aging action star with a bullwhip, a recovering drug addict in a metal suit or four men-obsessed - but independent! - NYC socialites, the popcorn flick has become as much an unofficial indicator of summer as Memorial Day.
Vermont's music scene has its own version of the phenomenon - though, thankfully, on a smaller and significantly less cheesy scale. For whatever reason, the roughly six-and-a-half weeks we call summer in the Green Mountains is typically loaded with new releases from artists of all stripes. New bands and old standbys alike seem to choose this time of year to unleash their latest aural assaults on our eager ears. Everyone needs a soundtrack to summer, and if the early returns are any indication, we should all have one hell of a mixtape by the time September rolls around.
So, with that in mind, let's devote this installment of Soundbites to discussing some of the new sounds, faces and spaces on the menu for summer of ought-eight.
They're baaack! Following a harrowing jaunt to southerly climes this winter - lead singer Joey Pizza Slice was run over by a truck - enigmatic indie savants Nose Bleed Island are back in the Queen City. The group's critically acclaimed (by this critic, anyway) More Tales From The Blood Island was one of the finest releases of 2007 and seemed almost an exercise in controlled chaos. Immaculately produced but endearingly offbeat and clumsy, the album got heavy play on the iPods of legions of local indie audiophiles. However, the band's live show is as curiously unpredictable as More Tales was curiously refined. That dichotomy left a bad taste in the mouths of those expecting the latter, while delighting those more in tune with the former. But hey, you can't please everybody.
This Friday - the 13th, no less - the band celebrates its return, and first Vermont show in about five months, at Radio Bean. The evening will double as a release party for NBI's new 7-inch, which features "Lazy Dream With Suzy Sue" on Side A - probably my favorite cut from More Tales. Side B showcases the previously unreleased tune "Rosalina," written and sung by 12-year-old drummer Z-Bear, as well as a re-recorded version of the More Tales tune "Vamps."
Additionally, I'm told a new full-length, entitled Opposite Hitler's Mustache, is slated for release later this summer.
SOUNDS FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Speaking of old friends, GTD's Burnt MD is reviving his long-running Ill Sessions hip-hop series this week, and it seems he's moving up in the world. This Friday, Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge plays host to "Ill 10: Friday the 13th," which serves as a dual CD release party for headlining act Akrobatik of The Perceptionists and Burnt MD and Tha Professor's new self-titled offering.
I haven't heard Akrobatik's Absolute Value yet - you can bet it's excellent. But I have heard Burnt's latest offering and can tell you it is easily his finest effort to date - and his last mixtape was pretty damned good. The man works as hard as anyone around town and the new disc bears that out, both in production and artistic quality. It also boasts some legit underground heavyweights, including Planet Asia, Akrobatik and DJ Touchphonics as well as cameos from longtime collaborator Network. Oh, yeah, it's also "hosted" by Boston's DJ On & On from Beantown hip-hop station JAM'N 94.5.
The disc is available at www.undergroundhiphop.com. Or you can pick it up at the show and catch Akrobatik, Burnt MD & Tha Professor, The Problemaddicts (Best. Hip-hop. Name. Ever), Sophistafunk, The Higher Concept and Blak Madeen live in the process. Such
NEW BAND ALERT!
In the opening paragraph, I alluded to some "new faces" releasing albums this summer. One such group of fresh-faced cherubs is Burlington's Cherry Cassette, who will unveil their debut offering this Saturday at Club Metronome. Fans of ironic hipster metal, take note.
Some unmastered cuts from the new disc are available on the band's MySpace page and, from the sound of them, those who dig band influences Eagles of Death Metal and Wolfmother will find a lot to like. Members Jet Jaguar, Jimmy Pointless, John "Ladyfingers" Henderman and Sparks Douse simply ooze sleazy pop-metal charm. And I mean that in the best way possible.
The band is reportedly heading out on an East Coast tour this summer, so catch 'em while you can.
NEW CLUB ALERT!
Lessee. We've covered new sounds and new faces . . . oh, right. New spaces.
Last month, we bade a teary goodbye to a central Vermont landmark, Bradford's Middle Earth Music Hall. But when God closes a nightclub, he opens a . . . um, well, another nightclub. Thanks, Big Guy!
Filling a need that likely existed even before Middle Earth succumbed to the fires of Mordor, Burke Mountain ski area has renovated its Tamarack Bar and Grill and re-opened the space as a legitimate music venue. The joint seats 130 to 200, depending on the nature of the show. Its grand unveiling last weekend featured country crooner Mark LeGrand, who christened the summer-long Burke Mountain Music Series.
The lineup consists largely of folkier fare at the moment, but after the venue's organizers get a feel for what kind of acts work in the space, they expect to broaden their horizons. Maybe even book some of that rock 'n' roll music the kids are all talkin' about! For more info and a full schedule, visit www.skiburke.com. Welcome to the fold, Tamarack.
EARLY BIRD GETS THE . . . CHEAP TIX
Just a quick announcement before we close this edition with a bang: Early-bird discounted tickets - $40 plus service fees - for this summer's Northeast Kingdom Music Festival are on sale now at Pure Pop Records in Burlington, Riverwalk Records in Montpelier and the Lake Parker Country Store in West Glover. The deal runs until Friday, June 20.
OK, maybe we won't close with a bang as much as a bleat, but still, local trumpet players will want to jot this one down.
This Monday marks the opening sessions of the third annual Chosen Vale International Trumpet Seminar at the Center for Advanced Musical Studies at Chosen Vale in Enfield, N.H. Participants will be completely immersed in the instrument from dusk to dawn as they learn from 45 of the world's most prominent trumpeters. The two-week-long seminar encompasses virtually every facet of trumpet playing, from history to composition to performance. While the studies remains largely in the classical realm, there's a noted emphasis on "cutting-edge" music and improvisation.
For information on performances or to apply for the seminar, visit www.chosenvalemusic.org. Bleat on!