Here's some good news: A new Rough Francis album is on the way. It's been almost four years since the Burlington rock stars dropped their debut full-length, Maximum Soul Power. Needless to say, we're ready for another helping. Please pass the rock, won't you? While no release date has been set yet, you won't have to wait long to hear some of the new material. Two days, in fact.
This Friday, February 10, Rough Francis take the stage at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington, and no doubt will unveil some new tunes. Support acts include locals Blue Button, DJ Disco Phantom and recently reunited Spies in America. Expect some punk rock resistance, as well.
In a Facebook post, Rough Francis front man Bobby Hackney Jr. invites all to "celebrate the beauty that the establishment wants to erase!" He goes on to encourage "loudness, flamboyance, public affection, friend making, niceness, thrashing, dancing, raised fist salutes and anything else that would freak out the alt-right." I can think of a few other ways...
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But that's not all! Rough Francis have a special treat for their hometown audience. They've put together a new EP, MSP 3: Counterattack, to be released exclusively on cassette tape and for sale at this particular show. And when I say exclusively on cassette, I mean that the material is, for now, only available in physical form in this particular format. In other words, you can't stream it. But you all have a tape deck of some kind, right? Good, that's what I thought.
Each cassette is slightly different — that is, the tapes themselves vary. The band recycled and redubbed classic cassette albums, recording their work over that of whoever originally released the particular tape. The one Hackney dropped off with me used to be Bread's Lost Without Your Love.
At a diminutive 12-minute runtime, MSP 3: Counterattack zips by at a rapid pace, but not without making some bold statements. Hackney is as screamy as ever throughout the five tracks. The EP's centerpiece is the anthemic protest banger "Big Box Law Enforcement." The song flips a massive middle finger to hate and prejudice and unambiguously kicks the KKK square in its shriveled balls. Hackney calls out, "Rebel flags don't really freak me out / The cross you burn won't hold me back." He drives it home on the cut's fervent chorus: "Step on up / Take off the mask / Look me in the eyes."
The EP also includes a couple of less-than-political numbers, as well. "Good Person" is a heart-on-sleeve garage-rock love song. Its lyrics are as charming and simplistic as the wall of sound that underscores them: "I really like your style / I like the way you smile / Let's hang out for a while." The EP's closer, "Retrosexual," expresses how fleeting life is by deploying now-and-then snapshots of party-centric life in one's early twenties versus the veritable winter of discontent in one's thirties.
Oh, yeah! There's a listening party, too! On Thursday, February 9, Rough Francis host an EP listening-party at the Light Club Lamp Shop, which marks the first time the EP will meet public ears. Aspero Saicos, the Rough Francis spinoff and salute to Peruvian protopunks Los Saicos, perform a special acoustic set.
Do the Time Warp, Again
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Photos Courtesy of Laura Levine
Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth and Grandmaster Flash; Joey Ramone
Let's all take a trip to the Shelburne Museum, shall we? No, not for a fourth-grade field trip, but to see an impressive collection of rock-and-roll photographs. Beginning Saturday, February 11, nearly 300 portraits of legendary musicians will be on display at the museum's Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education.
Titled "Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography," the collection features rarely seen portraits of prominent rock icons, such as Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and the Who. The exhibit also features legends of jazz, soul and hip-hop, including John Coltrane, James Brown and the Beastie Boys.
Museum director Tom Denenberg curated the show. The photos belong to a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous, and were originally shown nearly a decade ago at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine (where Denenberg previously worked). I got a sneak peek at the exhibit while it was being hung. I don't want to spoil it for you, but here's a little preview.
On freshly painted gray and pink walls, the portraits take the viewer on a tour from the late 1940s through the mid-1990s and are arranged somewhat chronologically throughout the Murphy and Colgate galleries. The late '40s are an appropriate time to begin, since it was in 1949 that Billboard magazine recategorized "race" records as "rhythm and blues," which led to the widespread exposure of African American music into previously whites-only spaces. As Denenberg writes in a brief essay included in the show's catalogue, "This appropriation did more to engender racial harmony (and intergenerational discord) than will ever be measured."
Moving clockwise through the Murphy Gallery, the show starts with the golden era of Elvis Presley, Coltrane and the Beatles, and concludes downstairs in the Colgate Gallery with modern masters such as Kurt Cobain, Moby and Björk.
Several photos gave me goose bumps, particularly two portraits of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. The first was taken in 1955; the second was snapped more than 30 years later, just two years before his death in 1988. The latter is chilling, as Baker's struggle with heroin is written all over his weathered face. Also — and I have no logical explanation for this — the portrait of the Everly Brothers gave me a serious case of the willies.
As you take in the photos, a few may look familiar. Many are outtakes from the shoots that spawned famous album covers. Several of the photos capture what Denenberg refers to as "moments of inflection," in which two iconic superstars happened to be in the same place at the same time, and a photographer was fortunate enough to immortalize it. Laura Levine's 1981 shot of Grandmaster Flash and Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth is one example.
The kickoff event on Saturday, February 11, which features the stylings of DJ Disco Phantom, is sold out. But, lucky for you, a series of events accompanies the exhibit. These include an informative lecture by Denenberg on Saturday, February 18; a listening event with Vermont Public Radio on Saturday, February 25; a talk with featured photographer Kate Simon on Wednesday, March 15; and readings of Bob Dylan's poetry on Friday, March 24. The show runs through Sunday, May 7. Don't sleep on this.
If I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to get songs stuck in other people's heads. Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week. May they also get stuck in yours. Follow sevendaysvt on Spotify for weekly playlists with tunes by artists featured in the music section.