On the Beat: GRRRLS 2 the Front Returns, RIP Byrdman | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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On the Beat: GRRRLS 2 the Front Returns, RIP Byrdman 

Published March 6, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

click to enlarge GRRRLS 2 the Front - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • GRRRLS 2 the Front

The Stone Church in Brattleboro is bringing back its GRRRLS 2 the Front series, which debuted last year. With a month of workshops and a run of live shows at venues around the state, GRRRLS 2 the Front aims to increase participation among women, trans and nonbinary people in the music industry, particularly in sound design, lighting and booking — all areas where those groups are woefully underrepresented.

"We've really stepped it up this year," Stone Church programming director and chief GRRRLS 2 the Front organizer Erin Scaggs told me when she brought a workshop north to visit Higher Ground in South Burlington last week. "The amount of venues that joined in this year alone is just so cool!"

Those venues include Higher Ground, Radio Bean, the Monkey House, Foam Brewers and the 126 in the Burlington area, and the Stone Church and Epsilon Spires in Brattleboro. Out of state, Nova Arts in Keene, N.H., Alphaville in Brooklyn and the Drake in Amherst, Mass., are also participating.

"The program is more expansive now," Scaggs said. "It's year-round and strives for greater systemic structural changes."

The series offers 10- to 12-week tech production classes in sound and lighting, led by the Stone Church's staff. Students in those classes, who visited the Flynn after getting the full tour of Higher Ground, will also participate in meetups with industry pros and songwriting symposiums. They'll help bottle Foam's special offering for the series, Riot Grrrl beer.

March will see 13 dedicated GRRRLS 2 the Front shows, featuring artists such as THUS LOVE, Orange Peel Mystic, Dutch Experts, Hayley Jane, Rubblebucket and many, many more. Visit stonechurchvt.com/grrrls-to-the-front for more information.

click to enlarge Byrdman in 2012 - COURTESY OF BROOKE BOUSQUET
  • Courtesy Of Brooke Bousquet
  • Byrdman in 2012

Burlington lost one of its most distinctive and memorable characters when Byrdman died over the weekend.

Sometimes called Super Byrdman — real name Joseph Byrd Allen, 73 — the local personality was struck and killed by an allegedly drunk driver while riding his bicycle on Shelburne Road on Saturday night.

I found out the way one would expect to learn of the death of someone who had achieved near-urban-legend status in Burlington: a dozen or so midnight texts from friends who, like me, had spent years downtown and often came across Byrdman in the wild — for instance, near Radio Bean. You could always bet he'd be drunker than you and would find a way to tell you to "get right with Jah" in a heavy Jamaican accent before pushing his shopping cart loaded with colorful curiosities full steam ahead.

Byrdman was no stranger to the Radio Bean stage, often appearing at open-mic nights to belt out his local hits "Radio Bean Is the Musical Scene," "Orange Juice" and "Too Many Dogs in Burlington." I even have a vague recollection of him approaching me during a Dino Bravo set at the Bean one night and asking me to shout out "Jah" over the mic between songs. I think I made some excuse about the microphone or said I was Jewish, I can't recall, but he didn't seem to mind.

This isn't an obituary, mind you. I have no idea who the real Joseph Allen was; I only knew the strange character who was Byrdman. I've heard he was a complex individual with plenty of trouble in his past, but that's for another writer to delve into. Me, I'm just raising a glass to the passing of a character from Burlington's weird-ass past, when the city possessed an odd charm that has transformed into something darker these days.

Radio Bean holds a memorial for Byrdman on Wednesday, March 6, at 9 p.m. "Byrd was one of the first people I met in Burlington," club owner Lee Anderson wrote. "So many memories, epic recycling wagons and songs of his swirling around my mind right now. A true eccentric."

Eye on the Scene

Last week's live music highlights from photographer Luke Awtry
click to enlarge Noah Kesey Magic Band - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Noah Kesey Magic Band

Noah Kesey Magic Band, Muddy Waters, Burlington, Friday, March 1: I will argue that Coldplay's debut, Parachutes, would be a near-perfect album if it weren't for that annoying song "Yellow." Ironically, last Friday, the Noah Kesey Magic Band ended their set at Muddy Waters with a cover of the song — and it was the best version I've heard. I always wanted "Yellow" to be a total sludge fest, and Kesey delivered. The rest of the set, featuring songs from Kesey's new album, Holding Hands Around the World (which I'm definitely getting on cassette), was even better. But what's this about Muddy Waters, the mellow downtown coffee shop, having rock shows? The trend started last year with some late-night Burlington Electronic Department shows and was affectionately dubbed "Clubby Muddys" by Muddy Waters employee and roost.world front person Zaq Schuster. Though the coffee shop isn't ready to go public quite yet, very cool plans for live entertainment at Muddy's are in the works.

Listening In

Spotify playlist of Vermont jams

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About The Author

Chris Farnsworth

Chris Farnsworth

Music editor Chris Farnsworth has written countless albums reviews and features on Vermont's best musicians, and has seen more shows than is medically advisable. He's played in multiple bands over decades in the local scene and is a recording artist in his own right. He can often be found searching for the perfect soft pretzel or listening to a podcast about the X-Men.


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