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Live Culture: Vermont Arts News and Views

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July 2013

July 21, 2013

Walking Across America to Prove It's Not as Effed Up as We Think It Is

Tom-1John Cohn was driving near his Richmond home on Friday afternoon when he saw a guy walking along the side of the road pushing a jogging stroller loaded with camping gear. The walker wore a bright yellow reflective vest and a sign on his back that said, "Walking America, go greater good . com."

Cohn, an IBM fellow, reality-TV star and self-described mad scientist, says he thought the guy might be "a nutcase," but he pulled over anyway to hear what the website was all about.  

Thomas Francine, the roadside hiker, quickly dispelled Cohn's wariness. "He's just got this very good vibe going on," says Cohn. His message is "very peaceful and compelling."

What's this 26-year-old New Jersey resident selling? The idea that, despite media reports about violent crime and abductions, the world is actually a pretty safe place; that strangers still help each other; that the good out there in the world is greater than the bad. 

Francine is currently on a cross-country trek to demonstrate his "greater good" theory. He took a break from his jobs as a caregiver and a substitute teacher for the journey. He started in Portland, Maine, on July 8, and hopes to finish in San Diego, Calif., by December. Along the way, he hopes to inspire people to be more trusting, and "to take small risks in their own lives."

Continue reading "Walking Across America to Prove It's Not as Effed Up as We Think It Is" »

July 19, 2013

Movies You Missed: Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter

Elfie-hopkins-02-2This week in movies you missed: In which I go looking for fun schlock on Netflix Instant — because it's too hot to think — and find something worse: arty schlock.

What You Missed

Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone, daughter of Ray) is not a cannibal hunter. Her title appears to have been added to the movie for U.S. video release, perhaps to hook "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans.

Elfie is a disaffected young slacker who lives with her dad and hated stepmother in a twee house in the Welsh countryside. She spends her time moping about her mom's death, pretending to be a detective, and fending off the advances of her cute friend, Dylan (Aneurin Barnard), whom she sneeringly calls a "nerd" for checking police records and other stuff that detectives might actually do.

Then a family of cannibals moves in next door.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed: Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter" »

July 18, 2013

Somebody Destroys the Cairns a Southern Vermont Man Built to Honor His Dog


Abby Raeder, vice president of Chester's Vermont Institute of Contemporary Arts, was driving recently down Route 30 near the Stratton access road when she noticed something unusual: hundreds of rocks stacked into countless cairns rising out of a nearby brook.

Captivated by the scene, she stopped the car, got out and waded through the water. She wrote about the cairns, and their creator, a young man named Grant, on the VTica blog. Grant told Raeder he started building the stone structures after his beloved Bull Mastiff, General, died a few months ago. "I needed to do something for him," he told her.

Unfortunately, the monument was fleeting. Raeder reported in a follow-up post this morning that someone who lives near the brook — and was apparently peeved about the traffic the site was causing — had destroyed the cairns.

"Word of the cairn destruction spread quickly, and now I am receiving countless responses in support of Grant," Raeder wrote. Indeed, one commenter left this message: "We will help Grant rebuild."

Photo contributed by Abby Raeder

Previewing the Precipice Music Festival Playlist

Kat singin

"Precipice: A 3 Day Happening" at Burlington College this weekend has more than three reasons for you to attend: 65 local bands. Twenty-two of them can be heard on a recently released Bandcamp sampler.

For starters, Alpenglow’s folky rock bursts into rocky folk in the hard-hitting, fiddle-screeching “Solitude.” But the Burlington-based band also takes its time with soaring harmonies and careful acoustic pluckings.

The 10-piece Bella’s Bartok might blow your brain. Three drumstick clacks begin “Creepster,” joined shortly by upbeat guitar, thumping bass and commanding vocals that ask, “When I speak, do I sound a little funny?” This is jump-around, pump-your-fist music at its finest.

Kat Wright (pictured above) says, “It’s all about you” about a million times in the song titled — what else? — “All About You.” Yet her jazzy Indomitable Soul Band make it sound different every time. Plus, with her just-breathy-enough voice, Wright really does make it all about you.

She comes back crooning in country duets “Windy Pines” and “At Least Not Today,” sung with Brett Hughes. In the latter song, the duo blends in a swaying ballad that could only be improved by a backdrop of setting sun over Lake Champlain. (How much you wanna bet Wright and Hughes take the stage at just the right moment?)

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July 17, 2013

Phish to Play Burlington, er, Chicago

Untitled-3Are you a Phish fan? Or do you just love the Chicago skyline (pictured)? Either way, this show is for you.

This will probably come as no surprise to rabid followers who have the word "Phish" on RSS or other alert, but Higher Ground announced this morning that it's hosting a live broadcast of the band's show at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, a 91-acre peninsula on Lake Michigan.

Phish is playing three nights in Chicago, and each of them will be captured from 10 camera angles. The high-definition, high-quality audio webcase begins at 8 p.m.on Friday, July 19, in the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington.

At five bucks, it's a lot cheaper than the real deal.

Proceeds benefit the Waterwheel and Mockingbird foundations.

P.S. Depending on your taste in entertainments, you might be interested in Higher Ground's "erotica" show on Saturday night.

Ethan Lipton's Lament — at the Hop and the Flynn


The words "lounge act" and "economic malaise" don't seem to fit together, except in Ethan Lipton's world. The Brooklyn-based performer, who routinely makes New York-area "best of" lists, mixes a hilariously mournful monologue with a jazzy soundtrack. The latter is courtesy of his "orchestra," i.e., guitarist Eben Levy, upright bass player Ian Riggs and saxophonist Vito Dieterle. Then again, sometimes they indulge in country-western.

Clad in a budget suit and tie and alternating between an Everyman speaking voice and gravelly croon, Lipton personalizes, and skewers, the grim economic times with a story about how his company is relocating ... to Mars.

Way to lose a day job.

Lipton and co. will perform their "lounge act musical" No Place to Go this Friday at the Hopkins Center, and at two locations in Vermont in September. The piece was commissioned by New York's Public Theater and originally performed at Joe's Pub; a video preview of this and other songs can be seen on Vimeo

A New York Times rave about No Place said Lipton is "expert at keeping music, jokes and personal narrative tightly knitted together into one consistent human package." We're looking forward to hearing his ode to Martian tax incentives, not to mention the song "Shit Storm Comin'." 

Ethan Lipton + His Orchestra perform Friday, June 19, 7 and 9:30 p.m., at the Moore Theater, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. $25/10. Info, 603-646-2422.

The group will also perform September 26 and 27 at the FlynnSpace in Burlington and September 28 at Marlboro College.

July 16, 2013

What's in a Name? Sleuthing a Mountain Called Mansfield

Nametag-mansfieldAt 4393 feet in elevation, Mozodepowadso ranks as the biggest thing in Vermont.

What? Never heard of Old Mozo? OK, maybe you know it by the translation of its Abenaki name: Moosehead Mountain.

Still doesn't sound familiar?

That's because neither the native name nor its English language version remained in use after the mid-18th century. Vermont's most prominent natural feature instead came to be called Mt. Mansfield.

No one knows for sure why a few Abenaki place names — Winooski, Missisquoi and Ascutney among them —survived the coming of the white man while many others, including Mozodepowadso, did not.

Continue reading "What's in a Name? Sleuthing a Mountain Called Mansfield" »

Amazing Glass Works From Dale Chihuly in Montréal

Chihuly-reedsWhen I walked into the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts recently to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit, I had two thoughts right off the bat:

1. Holy crap!


2. I will not be able to think of enough superlatives to describe this.

I'm sure it's not an uncommon reaction to the seriously mind-blowing creations of this world-renowned, Washington-based artist. Some might, however, be more elegant. Whatever.

I've seen individual works by Chihuly in several other museums over the years, but MMFA's show, aptly called "Utterly Breathtaking," is the first time I've had the pleasure of a sense-surround Chihuly experience. That is to say, walking among, and under, his vibrantly colored creations. The museum curated the works beautifully — sparsely and with brilliant lighting that makes the glass sculptures seem to glow from within.

When you climb the stairs to the second-floor exhibition rooms, Chihuly's anemone-shaped discs float overhead, suspended along the sides of the stairwell. On the landing, you are greeted by a piece called "Turquoise Reeds": a stand of tall blue tubes of glass seeming to grow like stalagmites from an arrangement of oversized driftwood. Both of these installations give the sense of marine creatures and botanicals, but electrified.

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Sun Comes Out for SolarFest 2013

Last weekend, while many Vermonters were celebrating one of the summer's first dry spells (finally!), others were tucked away at Forget-Me-Not farm in Tinmouth attending the 19th Annual SolarFest, a lively mix of music, kids activities, educational workshops and solar exhibitors that attracted those on the grid, off the grid and everywhere in between.

SolarfestfieldSolarFest began 19 years ago as merely a dream — literally. Nance Dean, SolarFest’s founder, dreamt one night of close friends walking over a hill on her farm to a performance stage. Dean lived off the grid, so the stage was completely solar powered. She shared her dream with artsy pals and made it happen. Patty Kenyon, the current managing director of SolarFest, recalled this history with me before my exploration of SolarFest began.

According to Kenyon, Dean’s first SolarFest was primarily a music and arts festival powered by the sun. 

Indeed, at this year's Fest, bands such as Kina Zorel, Jesse Dee, Melodeego, the Skatalites, Max Creek, DJ Sinna-G and Sparkplug lit up the stage — an "outstanding lineup of entertainment," said SolarFest President Steve Goldsmith (pictured, below, with daughter Sarah Goldsmith.)

But today, while performances still entertain guests, solar education seems to trump the beats coming from the main stage. Although the performances brought quite a crowd this year, Goldsmith reports that the majority of the attendees — almost 60% — likely came to learn from exhibitors and workshops.


“Our 2012 survey indicated that just over half of the people filling out the survey said that education was the primary reason for attending the festival," Goldsmith explained. 

And there was plenty to see.

Click here to read more about SolarFest on the Vermont Tech Jam blog.

July 15, 2013

Brian Anthony Wilson: From "The Wire" to 'The Whipping Man'

Brian Anthony WilsonIs anyone else smitten with this guy? He's not quite a household name, considering that a number of his films, and small parts in them, are pretty forgettable.

But Brian Anthony Wilson's guest turns on "The Wire" are not forgettable. On the HBO series, sadly long over, Wilson had me at "detective." That is, Detective Vernon Holley. (Who comes up with these names?) And I remember his face, if not specific roles, on the "Law and Order" franchise, and spotted him in the more recent Silver Linings Playbook.

Wilson, 53, has played numerous film and TV characters since his 1997 breakout in a movie called The Postman. A big man with a bald head and piercing brown eyes, he seems a natural for tough-guy parts. (Me, I love his freckles.) But, btw, he can sing, too.

Right now, Wilson, a Philadelphia native, is summering in Vermont. That is, by acting in Dorset Theatre Festival's production of The Whipping Man. The show, penned by Matthew Lopez, is lately being produced all over the place, perhaps because it is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In it, Wilson plays a character named Simon, who is a former slave and a de facto father figure to other characters. In an interesting wrinkle, he is also a Jew, having been "owned" and raised by a Jewish family.

Continue reading "Brian Anthony Wilson: From "The Wire" to 'The Whipping Man'" »

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