Exile on Church Street | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Exile on Church Street 

Soundbites: Zoe Christiansen, The Toughcats, River City Rebels

Published May 23, 2007 at 4:00 a.m.

The plight of Burlington's street performers has been a hot-button issue over the last week. Regular readers are no doubt already familiar with embattled clarinetist Zoe Christiansen, but if you're not, check out last week's cover story, "Busker Dos and Don'ts". I'll wait ... Finished? Good. Now that we're all up to speed, I'll continue.

It appears that "The Clarinet Girl" isn't the only busker to have encountered trouble on the Marketplace lately. The Toughcats - Maine's answer to folk-rock-kings-in-waiting The Avett Brothers - had a run-in with Burlington's Finest during a recent spin through town. Killing time before a gig at Montpelier's Langdon Street Café, the indie-folk trio set up shop on the hallowed cobblestones of the Marketplace, with percussion and - cue sinister organ music - without a permit.

The group played for close to an hour in front of Old Navy, attracting a crowd of roughly 30 people before being told by Burlington police to pack it up. Says banjo player Colin Gulley, "I am convinced that we were asked to stop playing the same day the cops told Zoe she couldn't play. We were right near the popcorn guy, and we had heard a clarinet playing around the corner before we set up." Curious.

Gulley says the group plans to play on Church Street again - but with a permit. Perhaps they'll "busk-a-move" this weekend. The Toughcats will stop by Burlington's Radio Bean this Friday, May 25, then head over to Bradford's Middle Earth Music Hall on Saturday, May 26.


I swear that this will be the last time Zoe Christiansen is named in this column - this week, anyway.

In the aftermath of her appearance as Seven Days' cover girl, a rumor began circulating that a music professor in Wisconsin had contacted Christiansen about a scholarship to attend his school. My curiosity piqued, I contacted Christiansen by phone to get the scoop. Guess what? It's true.

A music professor from Wisconsin's Ripon College read Christiansen's story online and listened to the accompanying music clip. One minute and 39 seconds later, he was sold. No word as to whether she's accepted, but I took the liberty of electronically visiting fair city of Ripon, anyway.

Despite its designation as "The Birthplace of the Republican Party" - I'm not making that up - there is no mention of regulations for buskers anywhere in the city's municipal ordinances. You may not possess fireworks, flammable liquids, "dangerous trees" or "noisy fowl," but clarinets, it appears, are fair game.


I can almost guarantee there won't be a single clarinet this weekend at 242 Main. Actually, that's generally a pretty safe bet. There will, however, be some totally ass-whooping yet socially conscious punk and hard-core music.

This Friday, May 25, former Burlington-based ska-punkers-turned-Portland, OR-based-road-warriors River City Rebels make their triumphant return to the basement club that spawned them. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $6.

The following day, The Boys & Girls Club will sponsor a Youth Advocacy Day beginning at Burlington's City Hall Park from 2-5 p.m. The event will feature music from Roots of Creation, a cookout by Nectar's, jousting - of the inflatable variety - and a Youth Speak Out. Then, at 6 p.m., 242 Main again throws open its doors, this time for a free show featuring Fight Till the End, Few and Proud and A People's History.

Or you could go to some lame, small-town Memorial Day parade. Your choice.


The folks at Big Heavy World are at it again. Never content to rest on their huge pile o' laurels, BHW Executive Director Jim Lockridge, and his crew have put together a stirring compilation that highlights Vermont's most talented and innovative acoustic artists. In Silver Light is a bit of a departure for our local-music archivists; their releases trend more toward the blistering hard-core favored by the 242 Main crowd. But even the most churlish metal-head has a soft side - our own nearly departed Dark Lord himself, Casey Rea, recently offered a glowing review of the disc in these pages, and I have to agree with him. It's an intimately affecting and often heartbreaking collection of songs from the area's finest singer-songwriters and instrumental artists.

This Friday, at 7p.m., the Flynn Center is sponsoring the album's grand unveiling with a release party at the FlynnSpace. The show, like the album, boasts a big heavy lineup that includes, dreamy shoe-gazers The Cush, master-tunesmith Aaron Flinn's Salad Days and a cappella stalwarts Social Band.

Tickets are $14 for students and seniors, and $17 for the rest of us. You can get yours at the door, or online at http://www.flynncenter.org. And while you're surfing, check out http://www.bigheavyworld.com to hear clips from the record and learn more about the show's beneficiary, the Vermont Music Library.


Casey Rea is really slipping. I'm sure he'd pass this off as merely a symptom of "short-timer's syndrome," but I've been working with the dude in extremely close quarters for the last two weeks and I know better. When your "mentor" shows up to the office in sweatpants - black, of course - you know you've got trouble.

I lied about the sweatpants thing - but everything else is absolutely true ... ish.

Anyway, last week we ran a blurb announcing the initial lineup for this summer's Northeast Kingdom Music Festival - which is pretty sweet, by the way. While Casey got almost everything correct, he goofed on one small, but important, detail.

It was reported that the "early-bird special" for reduced-price tickets begins on June 1. Those dropping by the Langdon Street Café or the Lake Parker Country Store on or after that date would be in for a (sticker) s hock. The reduced rate is actually already in effect and runs until June 1. You can also purchase by phone, by calling 888-512-SHOW, or online at http://www.NEKMF.com.

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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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