This is a strange time of year in Vermont. It’s not really winter. But it’s not really spring, either. Case in point: When I wrote last week’s column, I was perched on my back deck, basking in the sun and 75-degree weather.
This week? I’m nestled on my couch under a comforter watching snowflakes drift past my window. (The answer to your question: Yes, I often work from home. And I may or may not be in pajamas right now. It’s a perk.)
It’s an equally strange time of year on the local music front. We’ve technically emerged from the winter doldrums, the time between New Year’s Day and, roughly, St. Patrick’s Day when things tend to slow down a bit. That was actually less the case this year, as there were more interesting shows than usual over the not-so-wintry months to keep us rockupied. (See what I did there?)
Early spring feels similar to the doldrums. We haven’t fully come out of hibernation, our collective gaze on the horizon as we wait for warmer weather and all the fun shows that come with it. So with that in mind, here’s a scattershot edition of Soundbites, covering some impending happenings, as well as peeking a few pages down the calendar.
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and Burlington City Arts are currently taking submissions for this year’s JazzLab series at the BCA Center. To refresh your memory, JazzLab is a live recording project engineered by Rob O’Dea and Ben Collette from the Tank Studios. The public is invited to watch, and listen to, recording sessions at the BCA Center, blurring the line between live performance and studio recording. It’s a cool concept, and several local bands have released material recorded in past sessions, including Villanelles, whose 2011 EP, Kiss My Grits, was tracked during the 2010 JazzLab. Interested acts have until Sunday, April 8, to submit applications. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Speaking of the BDJF, Béla Fleck is coming again, on the heels of last year’s reunion show with the Flecktones. Only this time, instead of Future Man and friends, he’s bringing the incomparable ivory-tickling talents of Marcus Roberts and his trio — which, by the way, includes Jason Marsalis on drums. Little-known jazz rule of thumb: Having someone named Marsalis in your band is never a bad thing. They’ll be at the Flynn MainStage on June 1.
And speaking of summer fun, have you seen the lineup for the 2012 Newport Folk Festival in July? Holy schnikes! It’s epic — if not exactly folky. However, it does include Anders Parker, Jay Farrar, Yim Yames and Will Johnson getting their Woody Guthrie on, which might be Vermonters’ best bet to see the New Multitudes project live. Who’s coming with me?
It’s late March, which means it’s time again for the annual Cabin Fever Reliever at the Sheraton Hotel in Burlington. This one, the 10th, benefits the Cancer Patient Support Program. And for the ninth time, the headliner is Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen guitarist Bill Kirchen, backed by our own Starline Rhythm Boys. Opening the show is Elisabeth von Trapp, accompanied by Peter Riley. Also appearing are Asleep at the Wheel founder LeRoy Preston, Girl Howdy’s Betsy-Dawn Williams and renowned keyboardist Jeff Potter.
Did somebody say Potter? The news out of the Nocturnals’ camp is that GPN’s new album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, hits shelves on June 12. However, ansty Potterheads can check out the album’s first single, “Never Go Back,” right now on rollingstone.com. By the way, said single was produced and cowritten by Dan Auerbach and is one of three tracks the Black Keys front man cowrote for the record.
If you’ve been keeping your eyes trained on certain corners of the interwebs, you may have noticed Ryan Power getting some buzz of late, especially from Stereogum, which has been championing the local pop provocateur as the next great artist out of Vermont. My guess is that said buzz will reach a fever pitch when Power’s 2010 album, I Don’t Want to Die, is rereleased by nationally connected local microlabel NNA Tapes on Tuesday, April 3. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s. About. Time. Power has long been considered one of the area’s most gifted songwriters. I can’t tell you how often I’ve left one of his shows over the last 10 years thinking, How the hell are you not famous? (Most likely because he’s too nice and humble to ever promote himself. Enter NNA Tapes to do the dirty work.) With any luck, the rest of the world is about to be clued in to what locals have known for a decade: Ryan Power is a friggin’ genius.
Sara Grace and Miriam Bernardo unveil a new project this week, which Grace describes in a recent email as “folk gone jazz.” Specifically, they’ll play tunes from Grace’s last album, as well as new originals and shared favorites by the likes of Sean Hayes, Emilíana Torrini and Nina Simone, among others. Sitting in — and presumably fulfilling the jazz portion of Grace’s descriptor — are trombonist Andrew Moroz and percussionist Dov Schiller. Check ’em out at the Black Door in Montpelier this Saturday, March 31.
I ran into MSR Presents’ founder Matt Rogers at a show at the nicely renovated Signal Kitchen over the weekend, and he filled me in on some interesting developments, not all of which I can share here just yet. He mentioned a potential union between his company and Angioplasty Media. It makes sense, since the two organizations copresent shows all the time. Now, all they really need is a name. I’ve got one: Mangioplasty. Eh, maybe that needs some work. In the meantime, the dynamic duo has another intriguing show this week: Emily Wells at the BCA Center in Burlington on Friday, March 30. Wells is a phenomenal talent who blends hip-hop energy, singer-songwriter urgency, and classical and jazz virtuosity into a stunning blend of sound that earned my current all-time favorite press quip, from SPIN magazine, which compared her to a “feral, streetwise Nina Simone.” Sold.
Last but not least, happy birthday to Big Heavy World, which turns 16 this Sunday, April 1. Before you crazy kids go for your driver’s license road test, allow me, on behalf of the local music community, to say thanks. With virtually no budget and nothing but volunteer help, Jim Lockridge and company have created an invaluable resource for local musicians that few other cities have. From curating events such as IndieCon to providing a tour van for broke bands to releasing great compilations to simply cheerleading for the local scene, BHW has helped cultivate Vermont music for several generations. You can show your appreciation this Sunday at the BHW birthday bash at Maglianero Café in Burlington, which features Rough Francis, Trapper Keeper, Hunger, Problem Child, My Revenge!, Disconnect and Union Gun of ’62.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Wild Child, Pillow Talk
The Shins, Port of Morrow
Odd Future, The OF Tape Vol. 2
Poliça, Give You the Ghost
Fanfarlo, Rooms Filled With Light