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Monday, March 15, 2010

No Newsom? No Problem!

If you're like me, you pay attention to the calendars of larger venues around the Northeast. Personally, I just like to stay on top of who's gonna be at Paradise Rock Club in Allston next week (Beach House), who's coming to Metropolis in Montreal next month (The XX) and who's at Iron Horse in Northampton in May (Horse Feathers). And who is, um, not coming to Burlington. Ahem.

Come to think of it, I can't recommend this as a healthy pastime at all. It's really more a source of constant frustration. There is nothing so deflating as finding out an artist you've been hot to see is touring the Northeast and hitting every reasonably sizable city in the region except ours. Especially when, as is the case with Joanna Newsom, they have an off day between, say, Montreal and Boston.

Now, just so we're clear, I'm not ragging on our local booking folks and club owners. By and large, they do a terrific job, especially for a town/region our size. And frankly, they are usually as bummed as you and I when folks like Newsom do a flyover. Rather, this is just one of those little irritations of living in and around Burlington. You learn to live with having to go to Boston and beyond to see some of your favorites. Like, for example, Spoon at House of Blues on March 27 … WOOHOO!

Excuse me. Where was I? Ah, yes. Joanna Newsom. The hell with her.

Every now and then, when certain stars pass us by, others align just so and things unexpectedly work out in our favor. Tuesday night should prove to be just such an occasion.

The Monkey House has scored a serious coup with the last minute booking of, well, Joanna Newsom's band. Or at least some of them. Since they have an off day, Newsom's supporting act, Kevin Barker will play a set with Brooklyn's Robert A.A. Lowe (a.k.a. Lichens). Newsom band mates Ryan Francesconi and Neal Morgan will also plays sets, as will our own cosmo-rural crooner, Brett Hughes.

Barker actually made a stop at the Monkey last July with Happy Birthday and Paper Castles. In a quickie column bit I wrote about the show, I mentioned that our old pal Greg Davis had suggested I might really dig Barker. Not surprisingly, Davis was spot on. Sadly, I missed the show — something about the Quad, I imagine. But Barker's solo debut You & Me stands among my favorite albums of 2009.

Here's a clip of Barker performing with his band last year. And Ms. Newsom, maybe you wouldn't have such a tough time moving records if you played more places like Burlington …



Those first two paragraphs describe my latter-day Burlington life far too closely. Which, really, is part of the reason I'm in Boston. The lull that happened post-Toast but pre-Higher Ground was brutal.


The problem with Burlington is that you have too many big-city minded people living in a small town. When you accept the fact that you can just drive a couple hours to see major musical acts, you can then appreciate the fact that you live in an area that doesn't have all of the inconveniences that those cities hosting the big name musicians do (i.e. crime, traffic, air and water pollution, high[er] cost of living).

It also gives you the opportunity to see some local or touring upcoming talents that you might have otherwised skipped out on to see the mainstream big name artist.


i personally emailed with Joanna Newsom's booking agent (and i think the folks at HG did as well), trying to get her to play in Burlington on this tour. unfortunately it didn't pan out. i understand her need for a day off on tour, its pretty vital. we are lucky to have kevin & rob and ryan come through town to play though. neal morgan had to cancel the show due to last minute tour logistics (they had to split up to come to burlington). thankfully brett hughes is taking his place. it should be a sweet show tonight. hope to see you all there.

can't say we didn't try & we will keep on trying to bring bands to town, thats for sure.
i think more and more people are considering burlington a good tour stop (especially in the last 5 years or so). there just needs to be a desire and effort of local booking folks to actively try to bring a variety of bands / musicians to town. and if we all can show them that burlington is a good & worthwhile place to play, the word will spread and bands will start stopping through. in a small town like this, people have to be pro-active about bringing in bands they want to hear, just wishing and hoping isn't gonna make it happen.

as for horse feathers and beach house, they both have played in burlington a couple of times already. too bad they skipped us this time around...there are plenty of other good shows happening in the weeks / months ahead here.

dan bolles

Agreed on most counts, Greg. And actually, it seems like there are more and more folks taking music matters into their own hands — Angio, MSR Presents, Edified Presents, etc. — and booking the people they want to see instead of, um, whining about it on a blog. Ahem.

In rereading what I wrote yesterday, it occurs to me that I sound a little more bitter than I really am. I guess that's what happens when I try and bang out a blog post at the tail end of a wacky deadline day. C'est la vie.

Clearly, everyone needs a day off, critical freak-folk darlings included. And just because we're ideally situated between two major metropolitan areas doesn't mean every band we want to see is obligated to pay us a visit when they're in the neighborhood. That said, Beach House and Horse Feathers were just two examples. I could come up with plenty more from several other venues who are leapfrogging the 802 in the coming months. While there indeed are lots of good shows on the docket, there could always be more, right?

SOT, I left Boston several years ago for many of the high fallutin' city slickin' issues you pointed out. One of the big reasons I chose to return to Burlington, specifically, was the strength and accessibility of the music scene. I love that we have so many solid local and up-and-coming touring options to choose from, week in and week out. It speaks not only to the depth of talent here, but to the passion of music fans in the area that a population this small can sustain that. But there's the rub.

Like Greg said, Burlington is a great landing spot for touring acts, big and small. One of the reasons is that we have a seriously high concentration of knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans. The kinds of people who will go to places like Winooski to see relatively obscure music on a Tuesday night. So when the Joanna Newsoms of the world pass us over, it stings a little, that's all.

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