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Soundbites: WTF?, Wide Whale, Bite Torrent

Published October 7, 2009 at 7:13 a.m.

Is it me, or does something feel a little different this week? A touch cramped, perhaps? I mean, it sure seems like everything is still here. Brilliantly crafted CD reviews? Check. A nifty mini-feature about an industrious local lad doing cool stuff with one of my all-time favorite bands? Yup, that’s there, too. Painstakingly culled club listings? And how. A positively enthralling column brimming with wit and wisdom? Oh, yeah. But still, something’s not quite the same …

Oh, right! We redesigned the whole friggin’ paper. Um … supplies! (UHF reference, anyone?)

I know, I know. You probably liked the old version of the paper. It was a treasured friend with whom you have long shared your deepest secrets — albeit usually whilst perusing Hot to Trot and I Spy on the can … pervs. But fear not, friends. You’ll come to love the sleeker, streamlined version of 7D, too, I promise. And if not, well … tough shit.

Kidding! Actually, now is a great time to re-evaluate what you dig and don’t dig about your friendly, local alt-weekly, specifically the music section. You’ll notice we’ve already taken some small liberties ’round here. For example, the CD reviews now come with a few quick notes about albums recently reviewed in these pages, just in case you missed ’em. Wanna see more of that? Less? Help me help you.

The cool thing about reinventing yourself is that it’s a fluid process. Just because something appears one way this week doesn’t necessarily mean it is set in stone. I’d love to hear your ideas for things you’d like to see — or not see — in my little corner of the paper. And no, “a new music editor” is not an option. Sorry.

Anyway, my inbox is always open. Spend some time with this new version of the paper and drop me a line to let me know what you think.

And now, music stuff!

Wide Whale

Regular readers have likely figured out that I kinda have a thing for killer alt-country. What can I say? I like twang. And whiskey. But mostly twang.

Anyhoo, regular readers may also have figured out that few things chafe my vintage Western shirt like bad alt-country. (Click here to see my review of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers’ latest CD.)

The thing is, alt-country is all too easy to do poorly. It takes a deft touch to avoid the genre’s inherent pitfalls. Let’s face it, there are only so many ways to sing about drunken heartache and/or life in a Midwestern jerkwater, right? Right. But walking that fine, dusty line between trite and terrific means that when you do discover a band that puts a new spin on an old trick, it is all the more rewarding. Witness San Francisco’s Or, the Whale.

The Bay Area outfit is something like an alt-country orchestra, claiming a whopping seven full-time members, including Burlington ex-pat Tim Marcus. Local folks may remember Marcus as the mad sonic scientist behind the late, great, live-electronica trio Concentric. He has since moved to the left coast, where he moonlights with Queen City ex-pat Arthur “The Lazy Songwriter” Adams and his quirky pop outfit Blammos!

The multitalented Marcus mans the pedal steel with these punctuational provocateurs. And as you would expect, he’s awfully good. But Marcus isn’t really the story here. He just provides a perfect local hook for me to tell you why you need to check out this band.

Or, the Whale are churlish and gritty one moment, and then turn around and leave you crying in your beer. They embrace the time-honored conventions of traditional country. But they’re not afraid flip Hank the finger from time to time and make with the glory rockin’. In short, Or, the Whale embody everything that’s right about alt-country.

Lest you think the local connection is tainting my opinion here, I’m not the only one smitten with the band. Or, the Whale are currently on a lengthy national tour and have drawn the attention of National Public Radio, Paste magazine and noted online purveyors of the awesome Daytrotter, with whom OTW recently recorded a live session while swinging through Chicago. So there.

This Sunday Or, the Whale make a Burlington appearance at Club Metronome. Local alt-country torchbearers Lowell Thompson and Crown Pilot open.

Bite Torrent

Speaking of Lowell and Metronome, allow me to double up a bit and plug another show at Nectar’s black-sheep cousin: Tuesday. Grand Archives. Go. Aside from rockin’, this show is (doubly) notable as it represents the debut of a new local promotions company, MSR Presents. MSR founder Matt Rogers has a full slate of good stuff coming up at the club, so be sure to keep an eye out. Also, a portion of the proceeds from all MSR shows is donated to local charities.

One last Metronote: A hearty welcome back to Alex Budney, who spent the summer running Nectar’s southerly experiment, Nectar’s MV, on Martha’s Vineyard. Budney’s return means his weekly open jam, Family Night, is back in action on Wednesdays at Metronome.

I love a good pun. But I love a bad pun even more. Accordingly, I urge you to check out “Hip-Hoptoberfest” this Saturday at Montpelier’s Black Door Bar & Bistro, presented by Halogen Media. Suspect wordplay aside, the show features two of the finest regional-ish hip-hop acts going, Philadelphia Slick and Immortal Technique’s ace turntablist, DJ GI Joe.

Also in the Capital City, Langdon Street Café hosts a nifty little event this Friday, “Some Girls: Women Sing the Stones,” which is, um, exactly what it sounds like. Expect appearances from lovely local luminaries Myra Flynn, Carol Hausner, Peg Tassey and San Gordon. And word has it that Rachel “sweetheart of the alt-country rodeo” Rice will do a version of “Sympathy for the Devil” with four banjos. Really.

It’s time again for the Monkey House’s monthly local comedy night! But this Saturday’s installment is extra special in that 1) it features pretty much every local comedian not named Alex Nief, and 2) is also an audition for Montréal’s Just for Laughs Festival. Good luck, funny people.

WRUV’s long-running live local showcase “Exposure” is kicking into high gear. The upcoming schedule for the weekly Wednesday night throwdown (8 p.m. at 90.1 FM!) includes the Lonestar Chain (10/7); Paper Castles (10/21); Justin Levinson (11/4); and My Dearest Darling (11/18). Now, if we could just get all those bands to send the station their CDs, too…

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About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox.


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