Rough Francis, as pictured in Ivan Klipstein's Emerald Moon Over Dirty Lake
Vermont is a beautiful place. I mean, duh. Every 802-themed coffee-table book and postcard showcases the eye-popping wonders of foliage season, the serenity of Lake Champlain's shores, the pristine streets and covered bridges of small towns, and Burlington's Church Street. And why shouldn't they? Isn't that what life in the Green Mountains is all about? Well, sure — but it's hardly the whole truth.
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Courtesy of Ivan Klipstein
Enter artist and musician Ivan Klipstein. The globe-trotting comic-book maker and bandleader of the Auroratones has called Burlington his home for the better part of the last decade — when he's not pursuing creative projects in places like East Timor, Chile or Nicaragua. During his time in the Queen City, he's come to cherish the spaces between the glossy imagery used to portray life in the Green Mountains.
In his new comic book, Emerald Moon Over Dirty Lake, and its accompanying soundtrack, Klipstein celebrates the daily lives of everyday people and the less-than-touristy spaces they occupy. In other words, forget about orderly rows of tapped maple trees and hot-air balloons hovering over Mount Mansfield.
This Sunday, April 9, the Auroratones perform the soundtrack to Klipstein's new book at Radio Bean. The band's name is a representation of its multifaceted approach to performance. "Aurora" refers to something seen, while "tone" obviously refers to something heard. During a live performance, Klipstein projects his comics, syncing them with live music specifically written to accompany them. He calls it a "musicomix experience."
The Auroratones are sometimes populated with multiple musicians. You can hear a glut of instruments on previous recordings, but, for this Sunday's performance, Klipstein presents a stripped-down version of the band — just guitar, piano and his own voice.
The comic book's foreword introduces it as a kind of study in folk anthropology. In an email to Seven Days, Klipstein expresses dissatisfaction with the representation of Burlington in art and media. He writes, "[It's] too shiny and happy, too easy. I wanted to create a document which acknowledged the unique confluence of cultures and struggles, especially that of the Old North End, where refugees, artists, students and scavengers all coexist in a very special and imperfect but ever-changing way."
Here's where Emerald Moon gets super cool: Its 60 pages of gorgeous, hand-drawn pen-and-ink portraits feature actual people Klipstein has encountered around Burlington. Given that it's a fairly small town, you just might see someone you know in the book — especially if you live in the ONE or hang out at Radio Bean.
Klipstein employs substantial cross-hatching and intricate fine lines, which make the images buzz with life and vitality. Chapter 1, "Around Town," introduces the reader to people found in places such as the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes, Sunshine Laundry and J&M Groceries. Chapter 2, "Music Folks," immortalizes local musical heroes such as Rough Francis, Mickey Western, Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band, and Brass Balagan, to name a few. Chapter 3, "Let's Go Home," shows the intimacy of Klipstein's subjects inside their own living quarters.
And let's not forget about the soundtrack! After all, the reason for this Sunday's shindig is to present it live for the first time.
Its three songs correspond to each of the book's chapters. The first track, "OH VERMONT (Chapter 1 ... Around Town)" plays like an artful reimagining of "People in Your Neighborhood" from "Sesame Street." Its ambling piano line and harmony-heavy background vocals provide a well-rounded sonic palette of what to expect from the Auroratones. "REDEMPTION CENTER (Chapter 2 ... Music Folks)" is a country-soul number with a groovy, propelling bass line. The soundtrack closes with the wistful piano-and-glockenspiel ballad, "EMERALD MOON (Chapter 3 ... Let's Go Home)."
Klipstein printed a limited edition of only 100 copies, so you'll want to get yours before they sell out. Also included in Emerald Moon is a second mini-booklet featuring musical notation for the soundtrack. So, if you're listening and wish you could be playing along, Klipstein's got you covered.
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File: Matthew Thorsen
Reunion announcement: On September 9 at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge, Burlington legends Dysfunkshun will reunite for the first time in 15 years. They played their last show in 2002 at Higher Ground's original venue in Winooski. And — fun fact! — the reunion coincides with the 25th anniversary of the band's inception.
The funked-out hip-hop/rock band was a mainstay of the Vermont music scene throughout the '90s. Cofounder Richard Bailey tells Seven Days via email that the group was built on a staunchly left-leaning political platform. And, while reunions can be super fun on their own, the current state of affairs nationally and abroad partially inspired the upcoming show.
Bailey and cofounder Marc Daniels return to the group, along with late-era drummer Ornan McLean. Joining the original members are Aram Bedrosian and Franky Andreas, both longtime friends and collaborators. Bailey is hopeful that other past members are available to join in the festivities. The Dirty Blondes add support.
We'll take a deeper look back as the reunion approaches. On a personal note: Though I was too young to be clubbing it up during the band's original run, I have fond memories of listening to their reinvention of Chin Ho's "Hippie Girl" (which they called "Hip-Hop Girl"). Dysfunkshun recorded the track for the compilation Burlington Does Burlington Vol 2, in which local artists covered each other's songs. Luckily, I have an older brother who introduced me to local music when I was just a nerdy middle schooler. Because otherwise, I was listening pretty much exclusively to "Weird Al" Yankovic at the time.
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.