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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Pants Tickets Going Quick UPDATE

I swung past the Higher Ground box office yesterday and picked up a pair of tickets for this Saturday's reunion of the long defunct Burlington rock gods The Pants. Good thing I did, as the fella working the window said they've already sold more then 500 tickets, leaving only 100 or so left. I have no doubt that the show will sell out - 100 tickets a week before a show can disappear like Little Debbies at fat camp. If you are planning on seeing what the buzz is all about (as is the case with me), or you want to recapture the days of yore, you better get off your rump. And do it before the UVM kids start hearing the Trey Anastasio rumors.

The Pants w/ Tell No One (formerly Akrasia) - May 27 - Higher Ground

Casey over at Solidstate has a handful of tracks available for download

Purchase The Pants' Eat Crow for $10 at the Vermont Music Shop

UPDATE (5/26/06) - It looks like the 100 tickets left was an exaggeration. As of Wednesday there were more like 300 tickets left for the show. That doesn't make a sell-out imminent, but still possible.

Sharron Van Etten/The Hero Cycle/Fire the Cannons - May 19 - Montpelier, VT

Friday, May 19th saw the first true indie rock show at Montpelier's Positive Pie II. Unless they are able to work out the sound, it may be the last. The bands played well and the crowd was excited and un-characteristically "hip" (topping at nearly 150 for The Hero Cycle), but the harshness of the sound and bad mix made the show fairly difficult for all parties involved. Flatlander at False45th has a much more detailed and well written review of the evening then I could put down. I agree with his assessment. Despite the difficulties it was fun and I look forward to seeing The Hero Cycle in the future. I'd like Positive Pie II to give it another try, but I'm afraid that their space will only be useful for hosting the booming bass of hip hop and reggae.

More pictures are available at Flickr.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Sixfifteens/Greg Davis/The Books - May 12 - Middlebury College

Oh college. That wonderful time of exploration and experimentation. The safety. The "be your selfness." I spent four years at a small liberal arts school, but it has nothing on Middlebury. The parents of the 2.300 kids pay $43k/year (endowment of $660 million doesn't touch Harvard's 22 BILLION, but it's certainly something) and they expect their kids to be taken care of. And they are.

The spring festival for WRMC, Middlebury's college radio station, known as Sepomana, is a pretty sweet deal. They've been known to pull in Animal Collective and Rilo Kiley; this year's main act was The Books.

Opening the show was the Saratoga Springs, NY four piece The Sixfifteens. Blending perfect pop with mathrock arrangements, the 4 piece entertained the crowd of approx 75 for nearly an hour. Powered by Joel Lilly's infectious and creative drumming and Jeff Fox's guitar riffs, they went far beyond the normal opening band meekness, even earning a crowd demanded encore.

Keeping with the theme of liberal arts open mindedness, the rock of The Sixfifteens were followed by a dude DJ'ing from his laptop. I'm sorry, but that does absolutely nothing for me. Especially when he mixed in a hip-hop version of Stairway to Heaven. I chose to stand outside in the rain. My civil disobedience.

I came back halfway through Burlington's own Greg Davis sitting cross-legged on the stage in front of his laptop. Looking as peaceful as Thich Nhat Hanh, he occasionally accompanied Mac generated enviro-soundscapes with bells, a squeezebox, and omming, all the while mushroom images swirled above him. The crowd was sitting and subdued, with the front row laying on their backs staring off into the dark ceiling.

Then came the main event. The crowd swelled to three times its earlier size as soon as The Books took the stage. They were rewarded handsomely.

First off, the two dudes are incredible musicians. Guitar and cello. I was amazed at how fast and creatively they played to pre-recorded material (mostly beats, but other things too. Pretty much all but main vocals and the strings). One could argue that it was a bit too structured and pre-planned - leaving out improv, but that's cutting it short. In addition to the sound (which made the wanna-be hippie kids dance in their LEOTARDS), it was all about the perfect visuals that were primarily video segments. The first one was ancient b&w shots of prominent Mormons - some times it was a few seconds of someone standing, other times they would go all Brady Bunch and have multiples on the screen, and at other times it was shots of ants in the grass. One whole section concerned religious ceremonies - absurdity surrounding Baptist revivalist stuff ("you're healed!") next to shots of Hindus, etc, etc. Then there were times when the black screen had just white words in time with the lyrics ala Dylan/INXS. The interesting thing was that they weren't written in plain English, but instead were totally screwed up smaller sentences with weird letters, but still readable. The effect was that if the audience was forced to concentrate on what was being said, even though it was impossible to know all that was being taken in.

The bottom line is that it was pretty amazing. More performance in the art sense then concert. It would fit perfectly at MASSMoCA or some other contemporary art museum. I left realizing how their stuff on cd is only half the package; Which is sort of how it always felt - a bit empty. But the imagery transforms it into something much more then just music.

I was surprised by The Books closing song, which was a beautiful cover of Nick Drake's Cello Song. I never imagined hippie dancing to Nick Drake, but Middlebury students surpass all expectations.

At the end of The Books set I heard one of The Sixfifteen guys say, "did we play tonight?" My sentiments exactly. It went from rock to DJ to acid trip to art house. Liberal arts at its finest.

Great article by the Harvard Independent, which grapples with describing The Books in concert.


More pictures available here.

YouTube concert footage:
The Books - Cello Song (Nick Drake cover) - North Adams, MA - 5.6.06
The Books - Take Time - Grand Rapids, MI - 4.28.06
The Books - Smells Like Content - Hollywood, CA - 4.15.06

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Devotchka/Norfolk & Western coming to Higher Ground

Indie gimmickry that's greater then the sum of its parts:

Devotchka/Norfolk & Western - June 26 - Higher Ground

Denver based Devotchka is a big band with a big appetite (name inspired by my most unfavorite movie of all time: A Clockwork Orange). They flawlessly perform Eastern Eurpean soundscapes with more emotion then an Olympian losing the gold. I saw them open for M Ward at Higher Ground last April in front of a handful of people. Disgrace. Hopefully the recent Beirut references will pull out more folks. They are plenty deserving and put on a great show. As much influenced by Modest Mouse and Ennio Morricone as gypsy rock.

Norfolk & Western are on of my favorite "period" group. They have a vintage folk feel but are unafraid to bring the rock. The latest N&W release, A Gilded Age (available for $9!), keeps the beats solid, the banjos picking, and the harmonies sweet. N&W's lead singing through a Victrola Grammaphone, like Devotchka's gypsy rock, may seem a bit gimmicky, but it works. Just make sure you check your preconceived notions at the door.

MySpace
Devotchka
Norfolk & Western

Devotchka - How it Ends.mp3
Devotchka -
We're Leaving.mp3
Norfolk & Western -
A Guilded Age.mp3
Norfolk & Western -
Porch Destruction.mp3

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sharon Van Etten coming to Montpelier

Sharon Van Etten hails from central New Jersey and creates haunting and engaging acoustic guitar music. That's all I know. Four of the more haunting songs can streamed at MySpace. Two more are attached. I hope to learn more this Friday, which looks to be a great night out in Montpelier.

Sharon Van Etten/Carrigan/Fire The Cannons/The Hero Cycle - May 19 - Positive Pie II - Montpelier

Sharon Van Etten - You Don't Wear White Well.mp3
Sharon Van Etten - You're No Good.mp3

Friday, May 12, 2006

Jolie Holland

Jolie Holland made me cry. I was huddled over a listening station at Pure Pop Records this past weekend checking out Holland's latest disc, Springtime Can Kill You, and the horns on Crush in the Ghetto got me. I stood there, tears streaming down my face, dumbfounded. I can barely explain it - the horns we so beautiful and sad, perfectly matching Holland's vintage voice.

Jolie Holland was a founding member of the Vancouver-based all female old-timey bluegrass/blues/folk outfit The Be Good Tanyas, but left after contributing tracks to the group's stellar debut, Blue Horse. While I enjoy The Be Good Tanyas for a breezy summers drive, I appreciate Jolie Holland for the darker more introspective moments. Her solo work is equally beautiful, but in a sadder/smokier way. The Be Good Tanyas are to Vancouver as Jollie Holland is to her native Texas.

Springtime Can Kill You is Holland's second proper release (the first, Catalpa, was a collection of early demos). I have yet to pick up a copy (it was released on Tuesday, but the local shop, Buch Speiler, lived up to their reputation and didn't have a copy on hand), but gauging from what I've heard and the early reviews I've read (Metacritic has it at 87, above Springsteen's great Seeger Sessions, the Arctic Monkeys' debut, and St. Elsewhere by Gnarles Barkley), it'll fulfill my needs when I'm searching for a soundtrack to life's beautiful sadness.

And excitedly, Higher Ground has booked Holland and her "sepia-toned song noir and billowy voice":

Jolie Holland w/ Sean Hayes - July 13 - Higher Ground, S. Burlington

Purchase all of Holland's discs at Insound

Springtime Can Kill You
Jolie Holland - Crazy Dreams.mp3
Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You.mp3

Escondida
Jolie Holland - Old Fashion Morphine.mp3
Jolie Holland - Black Stars.mp3

Catalpa
Jolie Holland - I Wanna Die.mp3
Jolie Holland - Black Hand Blues.mp3

Friday, May 05, 2006

Politics

Here are a couple short but sweet notes from the Vermont political landscape.

First, I'm a big fan of author and VPR commentator Philip Baruth's blog, Vermont Daily Briefing. His insight and wit are intriguing and fun. Yesterday's post takes the cake. In Tarrant Openly Taunts Workers: “It’s All Mine! Whoo!”, he details the Republican billionaire candidate for Senate's campaign theme song, Bachman Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business. The lyrics for the song highlight "a very rich man openly mocking the workers who don’t control their own destinies." Truly amazing and, as Baruth points out, rivals Reagan's attempted usage of Born in the USA.

The second note is pretty glum. Douglas to veto seed bill. Sad day for Vermont. If you want to do something, contact the Governor today to request that he sign S.18, The Farmer Protection Act. 802-828-3333. Click here and here for more information.

Jana Hunter & Devendra Banhart - A Bright-Ass Light.mp3 (via musicisart)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Damien Jurado

Damien Jurado is one of my favorite "generation x" crooners (along with Richard Buckner). He's a sad "urban folky" from Seattle who has been pressing deeply personal and exciting albums since 1997's Water Ave S. His five lp's since have traveled between rolicking numbers, alt-country, found sounds, and downbeat acoustic musings. Through it all is a classic storytelling lyrical style, emotion, and a sound far from polished.

Damien and company played a handful of dates earlier this year with Clem Snide and Rocky Votolato, but he cut the tour short as he went home "to just hang out loving my family who i am feeling distant from" as he was once again dealing with depression.

I've always been impressed with his dedication to his family, as I heard him once on a KEXP studio broadcast attempting to play while his young son was running around pressing buttons in the studio (he explained that it was his day with the little guy).

Here are a couple tracks off the six song tour ep that was available during the short-lived tour. It's acoustic and sad - just the way I like it.

Damien Jurado at MySpace

Purchase most of Damien's recordings directly from his website

Damien Jurado - Denton, Texas.mp3
Damien Jurado - Arcade.mp3