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The Real Deal 

Soundbites: The Mathematicians, The Powder Kegs

Published December 5, 2007 at 12:23 p.m.

A few months back, I regaled you with the thrilling story of my perilous journey about town during the last night of the Discover Jazz Festival in downtown Burlington. In the weeks following, a veritable firestorm of criticism erupted, in which I was called everything from a biased hipster to an uninformed boob — I’m paraphrasing, of course. It’s cool, though. No hard feelings.

If you’ll recall, much of the nonsensical controversy stemmed from a glowing review I gave to a certain nerdy little trio from upstate N.Y., The Mathematicians. Given the flood of heady jazz flowing through the streets of the Queen City that week, the band’s quirky blend of indie-pop electronica was a welcome change of pace and offered respite to the rowdy, rock-thirsty crowd gathered in front of their tiny stage on Church Street. The band played well past midnight and, were it up to the throng of folks clogging the street in front of Ken’s Pizza, could have kept on rockin’ all night long. Well, guess what? They’re coming back!

This Thursday, (almost) everyone’s favorite pocket-protector-clad geek-rockers take the stage at Nectar’s sandwiched between Boston-based art-funkers Parker House and Theory and Crescent Moon.

The latter band, by the way, is the side project of Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz. Just thought I’d mention that.


Last week, I berated you for not spending more time at Burlington’s latest entry into the live music fold, The Skinny Pancake. Perhaps hell froze over — or was it just Vermont? — but I’m told some of you folks actually went. Way to go!

I, um, didn’t . . . but that’s totally beside the point. I was waiting in line at What Ale’s You. Totally kidding.

Anyway, based on the rousing success of last week’s challenge, I’m gonna do it again. This weekend, the cozy creperie on the Waterfront is hosting one of the more interesting shows to come down the pipeline in a while and, frankly, you should go. And I’ll be taking attendance.

Hailing from the Big Apple, New Action Fingers are a curious little trio made up of guitar, cello and painter. Yes, you read that correctly. They have a guitarist.

Obviously, the real curiosity here is actually the painter, who apparently paints along to the music, which, by the way, is pretty cool on its own.

I gave cellist Matt Logan’s CD a spin a couple days ago and tried to paint along. Let me tell you, it was harder than it sounds. Methinks I’m better off leaving it to the pros and checking ’em out this Saturday.


If painting along to spacey guitar and cello in a live setting is just a bit too conventional for you, might I introduce you to Greg Davis? Burlington’s resident Svengali of sonic strangeness — and occasional Akron/Family collaborator — is at it again, this time with a little help from our friends at Tick Tick.

This Saturday at Kriya Studio, a chamber ensemble featuring Davis, Duane Pitre, Craig Colorusso and a handful of UVM students will be performing Pitre’s improvisational composition, “The Ensemble Chord in Eb with a Minor 7th and a Pump Organ Base.” Any questions? If it seems odd to call a set composition improvised, you’re right. It is. The players work within the confines of a set tonic, set pitch classes and technique restrictions, but are directed by spontaneous conduction. The results are remarkably different with each performance.

The ensemble will also be performing pieces by experimental composers Christian Wolff and James Tenney.


This next bit isn’t actually that weird, it’s just pretty cool.

December 8, 2007, marks the 27th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination. To commemorate the occasion, a local supergroup of Lennon acolytes are recreating the legendary songwriter’s critically acclaimed album Plastic Ono Band.

Though Lennon’s intense collaborations with wife Yoko Ono are often cited as a primary reason for the Fab Four’s breakup, the resulting material is a seen as a major benchmark in the evolution of avant-garde art-rock. Plus, it spawned a new term for when a girlfriend breaks up your band, as in “Dude, your girlfriend totally Yoko-ed our band.” Trust me, it happens.

Though curiously lacking a “Yoko,” the band features The Major Arcana’s Bob Wagner in the role of Lennon, Soulvation Army’s Will Kirk on piano, guitar and vocals, The Jazz Guys bassist Herb van der Poll, Carrigan drummer Ken Johnson and saxophonist Nathan Bramhall. Burlington’s version of The Plastic Ono Band is almost as star-studded as the original, which at various times included Eric Clapton, Keith Moon and Alan White as well as ex-Beatles Ringo Starr and George Harrison. Almost.

Pay your respects to the slain Beatle this Saturday at Club Metronome.


I know I’ve already mentioned T-shirt mavens/concert promoters Tick Tick in this column, but experimental music seems to be the order of the day and, quite honestly, those crazy kids got spunk. We like spunk. We also like cool shows, and this one’s a dandy.

Featuring members of Vandermark Five, Powerhouse Sound and School Days, Chicago’s The Engines are one of the most talented improvisational bands going today. And they’re swingin’ through Burlington. How convenient!

The group formed during the summer of 2005, honing their collective chops at Chi-town’s legendary Empty Bottle. If you’ve never been, the nightclub is the epitome of the term ”dive bar.” In other words, it’s awesome and has been the launching pad for more Windy City musicians than I have space or time to list.

The quartet really is a supergroup and uses its collective virtuosity to explore mind-bending sonic textures, or, just for the hell of it, bust some balls-out guitar rock. With The Engines, you never really know what you’re gonna get. And the only way to find out is to stop by Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery this Sunday.


I’ve been focusing on a lot of the artsy fare happening around town this week and some of you are probably, like, “Dan, what about me? I’m not into all that crazy shit. I just want to hear some sick bluegrass, bro.” Dude, I’ve got you covered.

Semi-local, semi-bluegrass outfit The Powder Kegs are making a quick curtain call in the Green Mountains before retreating to their New Paltz, N.Y., home for the winter to record their first studio album and pound some moonshine. Catch ’em this Thursday at Montpelier’s Langdon Street Café and/or this Friday at a sustainable-agriculture benefit at the Cabot Town Hall.

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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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