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Blues Christmas 

Soundbites: Blues Christmas, The Main Event, Bite Torrent

Published December 22, 2009 at 7:30 a.m.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, I really enjoy the Christmas season. I also mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of Christmas Day. But what about Christmas night? Well, my friends, that’s a horse of a different color. Blue, to be precise.

In what has become a personal annual tradition, I top off my yuletide celebration with a nightcap or five at Nectar’s. Why Nectar’s, you ask? For one thing, it’s usually the only bar open on Christmas. Although, as Santa’s arrival falls on a Friday this year, Lift will also be open — with Craig Mitchell himself spinning the wheels — as will a handful of nonmusic-y watering holes, I’m sure.

But, more importantly, I go to Nectar’s on December 25 because of Jason Corbiere’s Blues Christmas. For me, it’s not Christmas until I see guitarist Dave Keller jump off the stage and into the crowd — typically wearing a loud, holiday-themed Hawaiian shirt — and tear through a blazing solo or two. Or until I catch up with my old friend, harmonica god and the finest Southern gentleman the town of Essex Junction has ever produced, Greg Izor.

Granted, I’m biased because I’ve known the dude for more than a decade — and even played a little music with him once upon a time. That said, I’m not pulling your chain when I tell you Izor is among the finest blues harp players I’ve ever seen. And watching him work on Christmas — as well as seeing how he’s evolved learning from the masters of the instrument in New Orleans and Austin — is among my favorite Christmas presents. It’s right up there with the box of Andes mints my dad has been giving me since I was 10.

But don’t just take my word for it. Says legendary blues harpist Jerry “Boogie” McCain, Izor’s “got the real sound.”

Damn straight, Boogie.

Anyway, you can also catch Izor this Saturday at the Purple Moon Pub in Waitsfield and at Radio Bean on Sunday. As for myself? Well, I’ll have a Blues Christmas — with or without you — at Nectar’s.

The Main Event

You know what would make Boxing Day (aka the day after Christmas) even better? Boxing. Like, if in order to return your crappy Christmas presents that day, you actually had to engage in the sweet science with a sales clerk. Wouldn’t that make post-holiday shopping more interesting? I think so. But until that day comes — which it almost certainly won’t — we’ll just have to settle for the start of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ annual four-night end-of-year residency at Higher Ground.

Back to the Boxing Day thing for a sec. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to attend said Boxing Day show if Potter was actually going a few rounds with someone? Maybe drummer Matt Burr, or new bassist Catherine Popper? Or The Disco Biscuits, with whom the Nocturnals once publicly feuded? Or — wait for it — ex-bassist Bryan Dondero? You’re telling me you wouldn’t pay money to see that? Of course you would. We could give the money to charity. And we could do one of those inflatable boxing dealies so no one gets hurt. This needs to happen.

(Note from the Seven Days legal team: The opinions presented by Dan Bolles are solely his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Seven Days. Also, he’s right. We would pay money to see Grace Potter box.)

See? Now, where was I?

Oh, right. The Boxing Day show this Saturday at Higher Ground.

As the reigning rooster in Vermont’s musical henhouse, GPN take a lot of criticism from certain factions in their home state — including yours truly. Some of it is deserved. Some of it isn’t. But when you are on top, that comes with the turf.

I probably run into the Nocturnals about twice a year. And when I do, Burr asks about local music. Every time. Last year — right around this time, actually — I ran into him at a show in the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge and raved about this band called Lendway that had released a stunning debut album called The Low Red End a few months earlier. And now? Lendway is the opening band on the Ballroom stage on Boxing Day.

(OK, one more boxing plug. The undercard: Lendway vs. Ghosts of Pasha. Admit it, you’re starting to like this idea.)

Just so we’re clear, I am in no way trying to claim any sort of credit for Lendway scoring the Ballroom gig. None. Rather, I just want to point out that GPN took a legitimate interest in the band because of their legitimate interest in supporting local music. I find that highly commendable.

Obviously, GPN is a very successful band — speaking of which, they were just tabbed to play next summer’s Lilith Fair. And, especially during their homecoming NYE gigs, they share that success with worthy local acts, such as Lendway and The Book ’em Blues Band ( December 31) this year, and have with folks such as Lowell Thompson and Swale in years past. Especially for relative unknowns like Lendway, a gig on the grandest stage in the area is a big deal. So, whether you dig their music or not, you’ve gotta hand it to GPN on this one. That’s a pretty cool way to give back.

Bite Torrent

As fun as the holidays are, they can be incredibly stressful, too. And once the stockings, trees, menorahs and, um, Kwanzaa thingies are put away, we could all use a good outlet for our pent-up aggressions, right? Fortunately, next Tuesday, December 29, Higher Ground has just the thing: the venue-wide Metalcore Meltdown. There are so many bands playing, in both the Ballroom and Lounge, that I actually couldn’t fit all of them in the accompanying club listing in this week’s paper. Really. So here’s the full list. And, once again, I’d like to point out how much I love hardcore band names: Hatebreed, The Acacia Strain, The Casualties, Crowbar, Thy Will Be Done, The World We Knew, The Glory of Armageddon, Head of the Traitor, Caulfield, Blinded by Rage.

Just a heads up, but when GPN are back in town, we can usually expect an appearance from guitarist Scott Tournet’s dirty-as-fuck psych-rock outfit Blues and Lasers. And, sure enough, they’re playing Club Metronome Tuesday, December 29, with ace axe man Bob Wagner.

Congrats to legendary local jazz outfit Kilimanjaro. The band’s excellent 2009 album Homecoming was featured as a “Critic’s Choice” in Jazziz magazine’s year-end “best of” issue. Others named include some dudes named Branford and Chick. Pretty decent company, huh?

Congrats also to the Starline Rhythm Boys who once again topped the Freeform American Radio charts (FAR) in November with their killer 2009 effort, Masquerade for a Heartache. Some folks they beat out: The Avett Brothers, Roseanne Cash and Lyle Lovett. With its strong showing in the charts, the record has a legit shot to take FAR’s Record of the Year award, joining SRB’s previous winners Honky Tonk Livin’ (2002) and Red’s Place (2007).

And finally, I’d like to wish everyone who celebrates a very merry Christmas. And for those who don’t, I hope your Chinese food is tasty and that Avatar is as much fun as it looks. Happy holidays, folks.

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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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