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To the Death 

Soundbites: To the Death, White Castle, Bite Torrent

Published December 3, 2008 at 6:59 a.m.

For the past 20-plus years or so, New Englanders have known brothers Bobby and Dannis Hackney as the dynamic duo behind seminal Vermont reggae band Lambsbread. These days, reggae bands in the Green Mountains are about as novel as, well, jam bands — and they’re often one in the same. But that wasn’t always the case. Long before our hills were alive with the sound of irie music — or rather, when most of the current crop of Rasta wannabes were still in diapers — the brothers Hackney were legitimizing locally made reggae throughout New England. But what most people probably don’t realize is that the Hackneys almost never made it here. Were it not for the folly of a misguided record exec, Bobby and Dannis might have been Detroit punk-rock legends instead of Vermont reggae institutions.

The scene was the Motor City, 1974. Like many African American teenagers at the time, Bobby, Dannis and brother David’s musical influences came more from the sounds of Motown and Stax than the ferocious racket emanating from clubs such as Detroit’s Grande Ballroom or CBGB’s in New York City. But live performances from iconic proto-punkers Iggy and The Stooges and The MC5 opened the Hackneys to an entirely new world of music. Newly inspired by acts such as Led Zeppelin and The Who, they set out to deliver their own take on heavy rock and recorded a DIY demo tape in their mother’s garage under the name Death.

The demo wound up in the hands of Stax producer Don Davis, who would properly record the band at the legendary United Sound Recording Studios. Though traditionally an R&B producer, Davis was stunned by the Hackney’s unbridled punk energy. Eventually, the resulting singles found their way to Columbia Records President Clive Davis, who became enamored with the group and was ready to offer them a contract. But, as with any deal with the Devil, there was a catch.

They had to change the name.

The Hackneys refused, headed east and, long story short, Death was dead. Until now.

The eight tunes recorded with Don Davis have recently been unearthed. This coming February, they will be released for the first time as a whole under the title For the Whole World to See. Given that since 1976 these songs have been heard by precious few ears — and that one of the only known surviving 7-inch singles was recently auctioned off to a Detroit collector for $800 — the news is cause for celebration, especially for punk-history buffs.

Though we’ll have to wait a few months to hear all the tunes in their original incarnations, Vermonters will have a chance to hear some of them recreated this weekend. Bobby Hackney’s son, Bobby Jr., will be performing his father’s tunes with his band Rough Francis. Check it out Friday at 242 Main with Husbands AKA, The Vacant Lots and In Memory of Pluto, and again Saturday at The Monkey House with The Jazz Guys and another blast from the past, Blowtorch.

On a related note, an interview with Bobby Hackney Sr. planned for this week’s issue fell through due to scheduling problems. That interview will appear on the Seven Days music blog Solid State this Thursday.


Can’t we all just get along? Actually, we can. In an unprecedented show of scenester-ly unity, The Monkey House in Winooski and Burlington’s Radio Bean are joining forces to present a border-crossing evening of eclectic indie rock and experimental music, the likes of which has rarely been seen in either town. Given both venues’ penchant for bringing avant-garde noise to our eager ears, that’s really saying something.

Based in the seedy Boston suburb of Jamaica Plain, The Whitehaus Family is a sprawling music collective. I know what you’re thinking: “Kind of like Broken Social Scene, right?” Yeah, totally. Only not really.

Where BSS is/was really only two genres — indie and/or rock — Whitehaus is all over the map. Noise, psych-noise, folk, psych-folk, noise-folk, indie-polka, and so on. And I’m only sort of kidding about that last one.

This Friday, the collective is bringing seven of its roughly 46 acts to Vermont for simultaneous performances at the Bean and the Monkey. Fortunately, they’re splitting themselves between the two venues by relative — very relative — genres. Indie-folk and acoustic fans will want to swing by the Bean as Gracious Calamity, Manners and Peace, Loving set up shop. Those with “other music” leanings should head to the Onion City to catch Many Mansions, Truman Peyote — Best. Band. Name. Ever. — Prince Rama of Ayodhya and Teeth Mountain . . . Second. Best. Band. Name. Ever.

And a tip from The Monkey House booking man Paddy Reagan: “I recommend doing a good old MySpace mashup with a few of these acts. That is, play two of them at once, every once in a while tweaking the volume of one or the other. It’s super freaky.”

Indeed, it is, Paddy. Indeed, it is.


Speaking of mashups, VT Union’s DJ A-Dog and Nastee now have a regular slot on 99.9 FM The Buzz. The noted area hip-hop tag team is mixing rock beats with hip-hop vocal tracks and the show is reportedly wildly successful thus far. Ever wonder what Jay-Z and Nirvana would sound like together? Tune in Fridays at 10 p.m. and find out.

The John Kasiewicz Trio will be making a couple of rare Vermont appearances this weekend. Kasiewicz is a renowned guitarist and composer who studied under Goddard College’s Ernie Stires — FYI, Stires’ most famous pupil was some dude named Trey. Kasiewicz will be joined by the crack Vermont rhythm section of Gabe Jarrett and Giovanni Revetto on drums and bass, respectively. Catch them Friday at Montpelier’s Black Door Bar & Bistro and Saturday at Radio Bean.

And that’s not the only heady jazz on the menu this week. Saturday at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery, Tick Tick is presenting MI3, an electric free-jazz trio from Boston with strong ties to Chicago avant-garde heavies Vandermark V. Anyone familiar with the latter band should plan to attend.

This just in from RAQ guitarist Chris Michetti: He’ll be debuting his new band, the aptly named Michetti, this Friday at Nectar’s. Flanked by Rob O’Dea and Tim Sharbaugh, he describes his new sound as “all-instrumental, rock guitar compositions.” Color me intrigued.

And finally, this Sunday is Tom Waits’ birthday. In his honor, the piano will undoubtedly be drinking at Radio Bean. As will, I imagine, Cccome? front man Lee Anderson, songwriter Anna Pardenik, accordionist David Symons and a few other as-yet-unnamed folks who will pay tribute to a master of American song by performing his music.

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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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