For the last few years, I’ve used my Thanksgiving week column as a forum to outline what I’m personally thankful for. This kills two turkeys with one stone. First, this is notoriously among the slowest weeks of the year, music-wise, as several area nightspots close up shop for the weekend (Radio Bean), or scale back to give their employees a much-needed break (Higher Ground). Second, it’s a clever-ish gimmick that allows me to show off a little to all of my old high school chums/unrequited crushes who only read me when they’re home for the holidays and I have nothing to write about. See, [insert unrequited crush here]? I told you I’d make something of myself. Ahem.
Oddly enough, this week is actually a little busier than usual, meaning I don’t have as much real estate to fill with thanks. Still, this has become one of my favorite annual columns to write, so if you’ll indulge me in an abbreviated version, I’d be, well, thankful.
I am thankful for MSR Presents, Angioplasty Media, While We Can (Booking & Promotion), Halogen Records, Edified Presents, and any number of other independent booking and promotions outfits that have identified needs in the local scene and have attempted — often for little to no financial reward — to fill them.
I’m also thankful that local clubs have welcomed these folks into the fold to work together and deliver one of the most exciting years of live music in recent memory. Seriously, it’s been rad and pretty much nonstop.
I am thankful for my cuddly, half-crazy half-pit-bull Buckley, even if he kills the occasional skunk.
I am thankful for Parima. I wandered in to see the Joshua Panda Band on the Main Stage a couple weeks ago after not having been there in a while. I was reminded of what a unique venue that joint can be, especially lately under the sage guidance of Joe Adler. Nice work, Joe.
I am thankful for Radio Bean. Dig deep, folks.
I am thankful for my 17-month-old nephew Arlo, whom I just taught to play the piano with his feet.
I am thankful Arlo’s parents have yet to discover that.
I am thankful for friends, new and old, who’ve made a weird year a little less so.
And, last but not least, I’m thankful for you, dear readers. Particularly in the current economic climate/state of print media, Seven Days is lucky to be where it is. We honestly couldn’t do what we do without your continued support and feedback. So thank you, thank you, thank you.
You know what else I’m thankful for? People like Michael Chorney, who for my money is kind of like the local-music version of basketball legend Michael Jordan. Confused? Try to stay with me on this.
At the height of his powers, it was often said that Jordan’s greatest asset was not simply that he was better than everyone else — which he was — but that he elevated the play of those around him. He made average players good and good players great. Chorney is much the same type of artist — and, yes, Jordan was indeed an artist.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Chorney has made everyone around him better. Take 1990s acid-jazz monsters viperHouse. Individually, the band featured several of the area’s most exciting performers — Heloise Williams, for starters. But the band became even more than the sum of its considerable parts, thanks in no small degree to the direction and vision of Michael Chorney.
More recently, one need only look as far as Anaïs Mitchell’s much ballyhooed folk opera Hadestown. True, the project’s grand, singular vision belongs to Mitchell. But the sonic aesthetic that lends the project its unique artistic greatness belongs to Chorney. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask Anaïs…
“There is patience and honest conviction in [Chorney] that I will spend my life trying to learn,” Mitchell wrote to yours truly earlier this year, prior to a Hadestown Orchestra performance at Higher Ground. “Michael’s music leans toward the true, the unexpected, and the twinning of dark and light. All this he brought to Hadestown.”
This weekend marks Michael Chorney’s 50th birthday. In celebration, on Saturday Montpelier’s Langdon Street Café will host “Michael Chorney: This Is Your Life,” a career retrospective featuring pretty much everyone who has ever played with the Chorn Dog in VT.
(Note to Michael Chorney: I know you hate that nickname. So, in honor of the big five-oh, I promise this is the last time I will ever use it in print … this year. Happy birthday!)
Now, when I say “everyone,” I literally mean everyone. Mitchell and Co. have dug deep into Chorney’s voluminous local history to summon as many Ghosts of Chorney Projects Past as they could, including Magic City, the So-Called Jazz Sextet, Feast or Famine, viperHouse, and more recent/current collaborations such as Ensemble V and Hadestown Orchestra. And we’re just scratching the surface. In short, should you go — and you should — expect the unexpected, which is always a good mindset to have when it comes to Michael Chorney.
There’s a good chance getting into LSC this Saturday will be difficult. Prior to the actual concert, there will be a private party for Chorney at the café, which will likely leave the joint at or near capacity when the doors open to the public. Should you find yourself out in the cold, I recommend strolling around the corner to Charlie O’s, the greatest bar in the world. And specifically this Saturday, you’ll get a chance to see Montpeculiar’s finest pirate-drinking-songs outfit the Shanty Rats. I happened to find myelf at LSC for a bit last Friday and had the chance to sit in on a small segment of the band’s practice in a room upstairs. I really liked what I heard. And I hadn’t even had any PBArrrrghh yet.
Band Name of the Week: The Blackberry Bushes. Sticking for the moment in the capital city, this week’s marquee band name comes to us by way of Olympia, Wash., in the form of hot pickin’ bluegrass band the Blackberry Bushes. OK, so the name is a little underwhelming, at least compared to the typical fare we feature in this segment. But, like I said earlier, it’s a slow week. Plus, these cats took second place in the 2009 Telluride Band Competition, which is kind of a big deal. Catch them at the Black Door Bar and Bistro this Saturday.
One last Mont-P bit before we head north. Last week’s column featured some fairly effusive praise for jazz-saxophone monster Bryan McNamara, who flat-out blew me away with his band Souls’ Calling at the FlynnSpace. A big reason SC impressed me had to do with the group’s keyboardist, Parker Shper. Friday, you can catch Shper leading his own equally excellent ensemble, yoUSAy Placate, at the Langdon Street Café.
I continue to be impressed by both the quality and quantity of local hip-hop. What was a mere blip a couple of years ago has developed into a legitimately vibrant scene, as a slew of up-and-comers are throwing their Fitid hats in the ring alongside more established acts such as BURNTmd and the Aztext. Case in point: this Friday’s local hip-hop showcase at Nectar’s, featuring DJ Dakota, S.I.N. Sizzle, the Lynguistic Civilians, Colby Stiltz, Pone Loc and Killa Twan.
Speaking of hip-hop and Nectar’s, it’s nice to hear from our old friends 2nd Agenda again. The hip-hop rebel-folk hybrid rocks the House That Phish Built this Tuesday.
And, last but not least, there was a minor goof in last week’s article on Ryan Power by freelance writer Matt Bushlow [“Golden Ears”]. The article incorrectly referred to the Loveful Heights as Tall Heights, which is just kind of redundant, right? Anyway, apologies to the band on behalf of 7D and Bushlow, who has been whipped accordingly.
And 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, 8-track player, etc., this week.