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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Tell Us How You Really Feel

It's hardly news in Burlington that the Vacant Lots are blowin' up. The garage-psych duo have had quite a run of late, touring the country with the likes of Spectrum, dropping by showcases such as SXSW and the Austin Psych Festival, and signing to hip indie label Indian Summer. For TVL, it has been a very good year indeed.

But it seems in the midst of his wandering, TVL founder and front man Jared Artaud may be souring on the scene in which his band cut its teeth. In a recent interview with music website Rock Edition, Artaud offers some provocative words on the Queen City and its music scene. Here's an excerpt:

Rock Edition: What’s the music scene like in Burlington, VT?

Jared Artaud Jared Artaud: It’s a small city with a big scene: a lot going on, but not a lot happening. In the 4 years I have been in Burlington, I have always tried to get the most out of this city, but I am continually disappointed. There is a lot of activity locally, but not a whole lot that is drawing me out to experience it. There is a lot of mediocrity in Burlington. I think there is a great amount of comfortability and conformity here that I don’t correspond with. Honestly, I feel pretty detached with the scene here. [There are] not a lot of people making music that I like seeing live either. I spent my first year here going to everything, every show, every night. It took me a year to find a drummer to play with!

It’s equally difficult to invite other bands to come and play here, with a low attendance rate and excitement surrounding live shows. I think the greater disappointment with the Burlington music scene is this unspoken notion of, “Well, they’re playing this Friday night, but I’ll catch them next time they play.” How does a local musician make a living with that kind of attitude? That really doesn’t work for me. There are also only a few cool venues to play. Consequently, the scene gets old pretty quick, if you know what I mean. It’s a city that has great potential but continually disappoints, because there is so little really happening here, [and so few] bands that are really saying something. Do you know what I mean? That’s the kinda sad truth of the small city.

We play so few shows here, mostly just incorporating the shows into our future tours and not doing a lot of one-offs. Maybe one to two shows a year, tops. The funny thing, too, is people are always asking, “When are you playing here next?” You tell them you are playing next week and they don’t show up! So why bother at all? I’d [prefer to] just concentrate on writing, recording and developing my ideas, rather than worry too much about when or if we should play here soon. There is also a continual trend with bands leaving Burlington for bigger cities. We’ll see what happens.

Curious sentiment from a guy who said this in a 2009 interview with Seven Days:

The Vacant Lots circa 2009 “There’s just something about Burlington,” he says. “I really believe that a revolution is necessary and that we need to redefine our values and explore new roads. I believe that art can pave that road. And I really believe that is happening here.”

Artaud points to the wealth of artists and musicians, new and old, currently combating what he calls “the decay around us.” When asked to be more specific, his eyes light up. “There are some really great bands doing things here that weren’t happening a year, two years ago,” he says. “There’s a revitalization of spirit. Rough Francis, Blowtorch, Nose Bleed Island . . . these are all people who are expressing in this new light for our generation.”

In his RE interview, Artaud didn't air any grievances we haven't heard before. Disillusioned local musicians have been grumbling about the perceived limitations of the Burlington scene for decades — often blaming fans, as if a packed house is a birthright in BTV. We're not Brooklyn or Austin or Portland. And, for better or worse, we probably never will be. Still, Artaud's apparent change of heart is interesting. Maybe the scene really has diminished in the last two years — at the least, it is always in flux, and ebbs and flows constantly. Maybe for Artaud, Burlington has simply lost its lustre. It happens. Or maybe tasting the riches of higher profile scenes has just made ours seem provincial and plain by comparison. Or maybe Artaud is dead on and Burlington needs a kick its artistic ass. Still, one can't help but wonder how TVL would have fared without the support from bands such as Rough Francis and Blowtorch, and the Burlington scene at large that embraced them in their early days and helped put them on the map. Whether he's right or wrong, as TVL continues its ascent, here's hoping Artaud remembers that.

 

Comments

Mike Luoma

Vacant Thoughts from The Vacant Lots... "the world didn't stand on its head for me in Burlington, so the scene is lame"? This scene has been going for a long time, it's been the "Next" fill-in-the-blank - Seattle, Austin, whatever... but it's never "blown up" and I think that frustrates some people.

Better to think of the Burlington & Vermont music scene as an incubator... sometimes the fact we DO have so many musicians and bands means the folks who would go to your show are gigging at THEIRS. Disappoints me to read these somewhat ungrateful comments from Jared.

Mark

I understand how it's tough to play venues that aren't packed for every show, but the fact that you have multiple venues to play allows young musicians and bands to get their feet wet before going out for more. Perfect examples: Lowell Thompson, Barefoot Truth, Japhy Ryder, Strangefolk, etc. The list can go on and on.

Lets all remember this is coming from Jared who has only lived in BTV for 4 years. If BTV isn't your scene, do us all a favor and move on..

Jackie

I recall one awkward night at the Monkey maybe two years ago when he interrupted the set to condescendingly question the venue's sound guy... I don't think he's been asked to play there since. It's not a good idea to get on the bad side of the city's go-to promoter, methinks.

He's a hater. Just because his band is cool doesn't mean he can treat people (or cities, as it were) like shit. You're right -- TVL wouldn't be where it is today without the Queen City's support.

"Continually disappointed" with TVL

Disappointing but not surprising comments from TVL.

Interesting that Jared complains about poor attendance at local shows, yet in this excerpt (and again in the full interview) he alludes to rarely going out to local shows himself.

And it's particularly difficult to feel sympathetic for Jared's whining about no one going to his shows considering I've witnessed him berate audience members from stage at multiple TVL shows.

Pocket Productions

The monkey house is not the only show that an engineer has had problems with Jared. I muted most channels and walked away from my console after being berated from the stage several years ago at art hop. Production crews are family here in Vermont people talk, the music is good the attitude not so much, sorry to hear he has burned bridges with many of the most talented people in our industry up here.

TVP

"blowin' up" is quite an overstatement. a 7" on mexican summer, a handful of shows with sonic boom and others, and a little blog buzz doesn't make a band popular or cool.

when TVL started in burlington, they were playing shows several times a week, they were playing all of the time! then i think jared slowly burnt his bridges and pissed off people at almost every club in town with his faux rock star attitude, i think this is more likely the reason TVL rarely plays in town these days.

also, there is plenty of interesting music happening in burlington and vermont. for a small city and small state, there are good things here (as jared admitted in 2009 but won't admit now)

move out of town if you don't like it here! don't complain! and good luck out in the world playing your postured, derivative velvet underground rock n roll.

Nate

Wow...your a pompous ass

JM

Maybe Jared should move to a place where constantly wearing sunglasses indoors in dark rooms is considered acceptable.

TC

Man, I wish this guy would stop blowing my mind all the time with his avant-garde thoughts and genre-defying music.

Raph Worrick

Persistent snarkiness in a small town will come back to bite you, indeed, and Mr. Artaud would have done well to temper his commentary. But the B'ton/VT music "scene" (not sure there is one, but anyway...) does have some persistent wierdnesses. Audiences often have a studied jadedness that seems out of place for where we live. One notices the difference immediately when playing elsewhere, and lots of musicians have brought this up to me independently. The rules often seem to be: get as far away from the stage as possible, talk as loudly as possible through the entire show, don't make eye contact with or acknowledge the musicians, and definitely don't talk to them after they play. Hell, NYC audiences are often less aloof, and they actually HAVE seen it all. There is certainly a lot to Mike Luoma's comment: it often seems like there are more people gigging than going out on some nights. But as we watch venue after venue struggle to stay afloat, and often fail to, I think some of Artaud's criticisms are indeed warranted.

Whenever this discussion comes up, I always flash to a scene in the late, supposedly "music-centric" Langdon Street Cafe. I was setting up to play and a gentleman who was seated right in front of the stage with his laptop open, studiously not looking at me, began talking loudly to someone on his celphone. "Well," he said in an exasperated tone, "I'm going to have to move anyway, there's some guy with a guitar here."

Yeah....

z-rob

his last name isn't even Artaud.....its all just a fucking put on.....

z-rob

@ raph "get as far away from the stage as possible, talk as loudly as possible through the entire show, don't make eye contact with or acknowledge the musicians, and definitely don't talk to them after they play"

dude this happens everywhere in the world (and even more in the USA), i don't know where you've been playing....its not just a burlington thing.

loo read

his last name isn't even Artaud.....its all just a freaking put on, man......

MSP

Too bad. Good band, but Artaud (if that is your real name)'s live performances and attitude off stage reeked so badly of pretention that it made him flat out unlikeable. I wonder if he felt this way when he messaged all of his Facebook friends, through Kickstart.com or some shit, asking for donations to get his album done. One of the rewards for a decent donation was "a hand written letter from the band". No thanks, dick. It's true that BTV concert crowds can be painfully lame at times, but this dude takes the cake.

LOL

"there is so little really happening here, [and so few] bands that are really saying something. Do you know what I mean?"

No, not really. If by "really saying something" you mean creating an incredibly derivative Spacemen 3 wannabe two piece with banal lyrics and weak guitar riffs, then I guess you're right: you are the only band in town doing that. Or maybe you mean being a grown man who still has a Lou Reed complex and changes his last name to that of a famous French poet? Well, I guess Verlaine was already appropriated 20+ years ago and Rimbaud would have been a little too obvious, so Artaud is just pretentious enough. All of this would have been precious is you 17, when you should be naively running your mouth in an attempt to be "edgy" and emulating your heroes in dress, attitude and musical style...but you're a grown man now Jared; you should be subsisting on more than just imitations. Unfortunately, beneath all your faux-rock star trappings and regurgitated philosophies is a pretty non-existent human being with nothing original to say, so maybe it's for the best.

Raph Worrick

Aside from VT, I most frequently play in Ontario. Audiences there are noticeably more engaged. I can count on one or more people who I've never met before coming up after the show and saying something that indicates they were actually listening to the music. That hardly ever happens here. Bands from such warm and cuddly places as Boston and Houston have, unbidden, commented to me about the standoffishness of VT audiences. I think its a real thing.

I don't agree with Mr. Artaud's statement that there aren't any good bands around here. If anything there are too many. Its the audience/scene issue that I think is valid.

Meanwhile, if we're going to write off any musician who uses an assumed name, its going to scratch a lot of good (and, yes, bad) music off our playlists. Its a particularly odd charge coming from someone who is posting under multiple assumed names himself.

Matt Hagen

There is an extraordinary musical bubble here in Burlington that's not necessarily looking to spoon feed people. You could arguably say we're spoiled with the amount of talent here. Within a 4 block span at that! People who know, know.
It's too bad when given a chance to actually give credit to that, the voice ends up being a fart.
Why cut something down that you can't even see the top of?

jb ledoux

i agree with what matt hagen said. there are a lot of talented & beautiful people here in burlington, and i have always found them supportive of all kinds of music. hip hop, jam bands, bluegrass, jazz, etc etc etc. but if you're looking to make it 'big', this aint the place to do it.

when i play shows, i first of all play for myself, to exorcise whatever demons i have. secondly, i play for my friends who come & support me nearly every time. after that, if someone new to the music comes by & likes it, or gets inspired, or hates it, or really feels ANY kind of reaction what-so-ever i consider myself lucky.

lets all be happy with what we have in our little slice of heaven

JC

I just don't understand what he's complaining about. TVL have always seemed to be doing just fine with decent crowds. I haven't bothered to see them in a while because the last couple of shows I saw were mainly Jared bitching out the sound guy, which is something I realized audiences don't like to listen to when I was 15.

I hope this doesn't turn into a 'Shun-The-Lots' type situation, though. I dig them.

stu

Did this really warrant an article in the print edition? you posted someone else's content, then wrote an article about the comments that were made on a blog? Way to make your own news. Surprised by the absence of Furthur jokes in your column.

Sam K

The circa 2009 photo is pretty hilarious. This is clearly before Jared decided to wear all black, tight clothing and refuse to take those stupid tinted sunglasses of his face, as another poster already pointed out. I used to live on Bank St. and had to see this wanker standing around outside the record shop pretending we still live in the 1960s. I don't know where he came from before moving to Burlington, but this article confirms that it's about time to pack up and head back.

Limbour

I think Jared is mad because people here just don't want to see the Vacant Lots anymore.
It's not that you're being too unique Jared (far from it), it's that you regurgitate sounds that we have all heard presented in a way we have all seen before. You regurgitate and repeat, over and over again. Often times the same open chord. For 15 minutes. I love drone/trance music but it's hard to zone out and enjoy the sounds if there's monotone-garage-talk-singing coming out of a face that talks shit to the crowd and venue staff when there is not monotone-garage-talk-singing coming out of it. Your real name is way cooler than your fake one too.

Shelley

Burlington is a severly disappointing place. You are excited in the beginning, then it is so small, lack-luster, conservative, judgmental and dull. I agree with him completely.......so much potential, but such a waste of time in the final analysis. And the people here are obnoxious. His success is largely due to something within himself.....some people are amazing and they will succeed no matter where they are or where they go. The "scene" had nothing to do with it. Burlington people need a measure of self-awareness......it is not so great here and you people are not all that. In a word: disappointing. So get over yourselves.

Lord Silky

Sorry Jared, the "scene" is only what you make it. And frankly, seeing the Vacant Lots play live is no less boring than joining my grandmother at the V.F.W. for bingo night and eating dried-out Ziti from a foil tray heated over sterno burners for the last 4 hours while listening to Polkas...
But I've done both, and I'm never inclined to punch the bingo ladies faces like I am yours. If you're wondering where all the crowd engagement has gone in this town, come to a Lord Silky show. We don't play four times a week like TVL, we just make it count when we do.

Bassmonster11

I don't like crappy music, I don't care where it's from.

The Vacant Lots could be from Hollywood or Sweden and I'd still think they sounded like someone with voice immodulation syndrome (Google the Will Ferrel sketch) covering an Animals cover band.

AND A LITTLE BIT SOFTER NOW

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