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The Precipice Day 2 Saturday August 2, 2014 in the field behind Burlington College   Leave a comment

I had a great time seeing music at The Precipice: A Vermont Music Festival last night. If Friday showcased dance bands, last night was more rock and roll.


Around 4 I hopped into the car, drove to Shleburne and picked up my brother Ken. We headed back to the festival and arrived just before the first band went on.


We settled in and The DuPont brothers took the stage. They played as a four-piece with Zack on electric guitar, Sam on acoustic, Rob Morse on stand up bass and Dan Davin (?) on drums. They have a smooth easy style about them, but rocked out at times. Sam sang most of the songs and when he and his brother sang together, they blended wonderfully. They sang songs about waiting (Seven Days), astral travel when sleeping (1,000 Years Old), and stuff like that. They did a nice job blending mellow tunes with some songs that really rocked. The last song of the set was the fastest and it was quite fun.


I turned 180 degrees, and Osange Orange started right up. A synth growl began then the band kicked in with some down tempo indie rock jangle pop. The four-piece, guitar/vocals, keys, bass, drums, played politically charged songs that had a bit of rock to them. There was one song that compared ice melting directly to air with not being there in a relationship anymore. I thought that was a great metaphor, and a really good song. Their set was strong and mellow at the same time. I had a great time for every moment.


When they wrapped up, Barbacoa hit the other stage and kicked things into high gear. Their dark surf rock instrumentals are fun to dance to. Bill Mullins guitar work was killer, as always. Kirk Flanagan’s bass was locked in with Jeremy Frederick‘s drumming, and every song was a fun work out. They played a killer version of Trans Am, tossed in covers like Goldfinger, and Paint It Black, and tempted the weather gods with Gorilla Monsoon. The weather was grey with dark clouds, and just a mist of rain at one point, but generally perfect. That said, you don’t really have to tempt fate do you? Either way, the set was fun as always. They are such pros, it’s always great to be in their presence.


After their set, Duke Aeroplane and The Wrong Numbers took the stage. Well dressed in suits, the six-piece had a full cabaret rock sound. With guitar, bass, drums, keys/vocals, sax and trumpet player, the piano seemed to lead the way and the band filled in the rest of the sound. It was cool to see Matthew Kloss play electric bass, since I usually see him play stand up. I liked their set, but was hungry, and since the music was not going to stop, we took some time to get food and mingle a little. While wandering the grounds, I could hear the band fairly well, and I really liked them, even if I was distracted.


Up next Zack DuPont returned to the stage with his old band Japhy Ryder. They have played around town for a long time, but last night was the first time I saw them play. The six-piece with two drummers, guitar, bass, keys/trumpet, and trumpet player, jammed out some funky beats with occasional builds. Zack’s guitar playing was sweet, articulate, and smooth. They had the audience dancing and people seemed to have a great time. A couple of the songs rocked a bit and were fun. They wrapped up the set at twilight, then it was time to turn to the next stage, again.
Maryse Smith sang and played acoustic guitar, and was joined by Michael Chorney,,also on acoustic. I think her set was the same that she played at Radio Bean on Tuesday, except for dropping Good Thing and following 15 Steps with Liar. She has a great voice and a nice flow to her songs. She will just play some nice music, then drop it into a gorgeous chorus driven by her commanding voice, and that seems to happen on almost every song. Her guitar playing is nimble, but having Michael weave in and around her playing was pretty fantastic. After finishing with Liar she was told she had time for one more. She played a sweet version of Good Thing, and called it a night. One of her new songs, Orlando, is quickly becoming a favorite.


Another 180 turn brought me to an even happier place. Swale hit the stage with Joyless. It started slow and poignant then built and built until it was ripping at the end. Jeremy Fredrick sang backing vocals and pounded out the drums. Tyler Bolles held down the low end allowing Amanda Gustafson a bit more freedom on the keys. Eric Olsen ripped it up with killer guitar work and we were off and running. By the end of Joyless, it was rock and roll glory. The followed with Jack Sharp and Popular Crowd and played them at blistering speed and volume. I loved every rocking moment. They slowed it down a little for Soul Piggy Bank, then did a long slow build into Waterlanding. Again, late in the song, they built it into a monster and rocked it hard. They brought the tempo back down a little with the song about the gymnast, then played a stunning version of If You Get Lost. They followed with Old School, which is really slow, but even that one was a bit more uptempo than usual. They slammed it back into full gear for Everyone Likes To, and called it a night.

Lee Anderson directed everyone’s attention outside of the tent, to the right of the stage, for the Appalled Eagles puppet show. With all the music that was to come, Ken and I took some time to get another beer and say hi to Peg Tassey.


After a few minutes, four familiar people dressed like gondoliers, took the stage. The Italians (Swale in “disguise”) got set and invited the first guest to the stage. Joe Adler joined them for a rousing version of Pump It Up, and the audience bounced and danced. Nichole followed and sang a rousing I Love Rock And Roll. The next song was an indie rock song, maybe called Seasons. I think it was Brian someone who sang it. Despite not knowing much about either, it was a pretty good song, and well sang. Bill Mullins came up next for a deep voiced cover of Tom Jones’ She’s A Lady. I missed the name of the guy who sang We-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M., but it was done well and the audience was happily dancing. Kat Wright kept the party going with Party In The USA. Up next, James Kochalka played a rousing version of Justin Timberlake. I was very psyched, as I had not seen James play for a long time. Dan Bolles followed with a deeply sung version of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. The audience ate it up, but I was really wanting the music to start rocking again. I got my wish when the brought up Urian Hackney to sing the next song. Bobby Hackney Jr. took the drums. Julian Hackney and Paul Comegno joined Eric Olsen on guitar. I don’t think Steven Hazen Williams joined in on bass, I think it was just Tyler Bolles, but I was back a bit so it was hard to see. The Swale/ROUGH FRANCIS combo put the music into maximum overdrive on Iggy Pop’s Now I Wanna Be Your Dog. When the song ended, Tyler, Eric, and Amanda Gustafson left the stage, Williams took the stage, Urian and Bobby switched places. Rough Francis lit into their set. I did not recognize the first two, put they were powerful and fun. I-90 East was especially intense, and the audience was rocking hard, though not moshing yet. Staring Out The Window slowed things down a tiny bit, but Black And Red picked it right back up. The opening notes of Not A Nice Guy saw the front of the audience jump into most pit mode. The slam dancing was intense and people started surfing the crowd. Comm To Space followed, which Bobby dedicated to a couple of people who passed away recently. The song was filled with light dancing in the slow parts and the full on mosh when the song erupted. It was a wonderful show, and I could not have been happier.


My brother had to work in the morning and needed to leave a bit after midnight. We stuck it out through argonaut&wasp’s set. They are a four-piece with two electric guitars, bass and drums. The music was mostly beat driven dance music, but at times, the guitars roared and they rocked hard. It was a fun set.


When they wrapped up my brother Ken lobbied to leave, but I told him we had to stay for a couple of songs from the next band. And The Kids ferociously hit the stage with a killer Cats Were Born. The guitar, keys drums trio mixed dance sounds with indie rock and were brilliant as always. We stuck it out for three songs, then had to leave. We could hear them quite clearly for the slow steady walk out of the festival grounds, up the first hill, up the second hill, and all the way to the parking lot. It was hard to let the end of their set go, but it was a trade-off to get my brother to see how much great music we have in this town. I would have liked to check out Gnomedad, who finished the night and festival, but it’s hard to catch everything.


I am so delighted with all of the great musical talent we have in this town. I’m so grateful for people like Lee Anderson and Joe Adler and the ton of other people who put this all together. It was obvious that a lot of work went into it, and the whole thing ran very smoothly. I feel lucky to be able to be in the presence of all the talent that made this happen. Thanks everyone, you rock!

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The Precipice Day 1 Friday August 1, 2014 in the field behind Burlington College   Leave a comment

I had a great time seeing music yesterday, and last night, and this morning. It was day 1 of The Precipice: A Vermont Music Festival, and I had been waiting for months. The morning had a rough start with a low battery chirping fire alarm waking me up at 8. I was able to get a few things done, then caught a little nap in the afternoon. Around 3, I headed out the door, caught a bus to Shelburne and met up with my brother Ken. He has liked a lot of the local music that I play on my radio show, and it was well past time to get him out to see some.

I borrowed a car and we drove to the show. We parked by the college and took the long winding walk down the hill. Instead of using the full bottom part of the field, they used about half of it. Last year, everything was more spread out, and this year it was a bit more concentrated. There were enough people at the height of the show to make it feel full, but not even remotely packed. There was plenty of space to spread out and walk around. There were several food vendors, a place to get henna tattoos, and a couple of other attractions. The main event was in a large tent with a stage on each side and a soundboard in the middle. There a fair amount of room between the stage and soundboard, but at times it did get a bit cramped. The effect of almost continuous music had it’s ups and downs. Last year it was fun to check out a couple of different bands and see which one grabbed you, but this year, it’s one at a time. I have mixed feelings, but it did concentrate people a bit more, and that feeling of being one of the few people seeing a band at a festival, was not there. Either way, they set the stages that way, and went with it.

We arrived a few minutes early, and heard Jane Boxall warming up on the marimba, but soon enough, it was time for the show.

Binger were the first ones on. They are a guitar, bass, drums trio with guitarist and bassist singing. They started with a hip hop groove but built the song into an indie rock work out. As the show went on, they seemed comfortable playing jazz, indie, hip hop, at times sounded a bit like a prog rock band and had some notes of metal here and there, Lots of hammer on guitar and bass playing showed how good they are with their instruments. I was impressed that they could play around with so many genres but still sound cohesive. They have an album coming out in a couple of months, and I will have to check it out.

As their last notes rang out, my focus turned 180 degrees and Jane was at the marimba and ready to go. Gregory Douglas sang a beautiful song, and showcased his remarkable voice. Michael Chorney came up next and they did a sweet cover of Neil Young’s Ambulance Blues. Jane took it from there and played a couple of bouncy old timey tunes that got the slowly filling audience to smile and have a good time. Pyramid followed and she showcased her ability to play the instrument with anywhere between 6 and 0 mallets (she ended the piece by playing with just her hands). She wrapped it up with a little Salsa Mexicana and called it an evening.

I turned around and Grundlefunk filled the stage. They played as a 9-piece with guitar, bass, drums, keys, singer, a percussion/trumpet player, a couple of sax players, and there must have been another horn player in there too. The sound was mixed perfectly and you could hear the guitar cutting through the sound, the keys taking the lead, or whatever they needed the music to do. They sounded like a big full jazzy brassy funk band. The audience was slowly filling in, danced and had a great time.

Up next, a group of masked chaos masters, apparently all named El Beej, except the drummer who was Sergeant Cody, played a loosely odd set of sonic weirdness. They got a cool vocal sound out of an old telephone, and the two guitar, bass, drums, two sax, and keyboard band swerved and drifted as Joe Adler kept asking if anyone was there. At times they had a big rocking jazz(?) sound, and had a slow steady huge build for the last song. The playing was great, and the set was fun and I was happy to see the keyboard player was from And The Kids, who will play tonight.

After their set, Steady Betty came on and locked into a groove. They were super tight and the harmonies were delightful. Kat Wright’s voice blended beautifully with Miriam Bernardo’s and Linda Bassick added some sweet backups. The mellow happy rock steady sound had a lot of people dancing and having a great time. Their songs of social justice, wrapped within a happy dance groove were fun an powerful. The sheer talent of the players was on full display. They wrapped it up with the song that goes la la la, and then it was time to turn around again.

Barika were set to go and played some super smooth building flowing jazz. The sound is driven by a sting instrument called a Kamel N’goni, and the plucked strings lead down a path filled with the key/trombone, sax, trumpet, bass and drums. The music has a lovely sweeping flow and kept the audience dancing. Miriam and Kat joined them for one song and the whole set was a relaxed good time.

Up next, Kat Wright & The Indomitable Soul Band filled the stage. The whole tent, past the soundboard, was dancing as they played some soul with a few rock and roll edges. With guitar, bass, drums, keys, and a couple of sax players, they created a beautiful space to let Kat loose. Her voice is warm and sweet and her stage demeanor is relaxed and confident. She led the band through lots of solid songs, and sang at least one with guitarist Bob Wagner. While the relaxed dance vibe thing works for most people, it left me wanting a bit of rock and roll. Bob threw in some nice guitar work, here and there during the set, so it made me happy.

Up next, it was time to rock. The Dirty Blondes were a little shorthanded, since Rebecca Rogers had recently been arrested in Cleveland, but they persevered. Sole singer Diane Sullivan was the opposite of Kat, loud brassy, and in your face. The band ripped through some very fast versions of their songs. From the opening notes of Burn, they played loud fun punk rock. Crybaby has a fun flow to the rhythm. They taught everyone the dance move for Kung Pao. Things threatened to get a bit spiritual with Hallelujah, but the ripping guitar and killer bass kept it nicely grounded. Slut was loud and fast, and Ornan McLean‘s drumming was blistering. Drunk was fun to sing, and Jacking Off has a great flow to the music. That New Guy Is Not James Bond had a nice spy theme going to it, and they wrapped the night with a cover of Cher’s Turn Back Time. The audience had fun with it and the guitar especially ripped. All in all, the set was a tad rough, but I was blissfully happy.

It was after midnight at this point. The air had a hint of crispness to it, but was still pretty warm. The audience had dwindled a bit, maybe due to the late hour or the Blondes volume, but there were lots of people there as Ryan Power hit the stage. He was playing keys and singing, and was joined by guitar, bass, drum, and another keyboard player. His songs are unique pop sort of songs. There are lots of layers of voice and keys and Michael Chorney mentioned that it doesn’t sound like anything else he’s ever heard. I concur.

It was late, and I was starting to feel drained. Ken was tired too, so we listened to most of Ryan’s set as we walked up the long hill. Bella’s Bartok and Plato’s Ears were still set to play, but it’s hard to catch everything. I drove him back to Shelburne, then drove home to Burlington. Later today, I will go pick him up, and we will do it all over again, this time with even more rock and roll!