Archive for the ‘Higher Ground’ Tag

Don Rico, Zeus Springsteen, and The Blue Stones at Higher Ground, March 4, 2019   Leave a comment


Don Rico


I had a great time seeing music Monday night at Higher Ground. I got out of work, had a little time to settle, then took the short drive to South Burlington.

I got in and settled into the steadily filling room. Don Rico took the stage and played a whirlwind set of chaotic rock music. With three guitars, bass and drums the band were loud and fast and full of attitude. Their stage banter was fun and the X’s on their hands suggested that they are just getting started. They opened with a song about dollar shots that made me think of what Mr Doubtfire might sound like if they were a little breezier. They played a countryish song about getting your dicks up, a fun rocker, then one about how cool Burlington is. They played a song that was not a Nirvana song about getting stuck in a basement then wished us a Happy Valentine’s Day. They closed with a song about screaming to worship the gods. They had something going for them and it may be fun to see where they go in the future. They weren’t great, but have potential.


Up next Zeus Springsteen took the stage and rocked the packed house hard. They opened with the old Lobot song Lights Of Montreal then brought us A Special Kind Of Hell. I don’t know that song, but will get to know it soon. They encouraged us not to stand too close to the shadows then we had a Signal Loss. Their catchy songs seemed to delight the audience and it was fun to be part of the experience. The next one was cool then they rocked out I’ll Get You Dindone Fontain. Your Funeral lit me up and I enjoyed the next song, which I think was about dimming the lights. Car Bomb rocked hard then they closed with a punk prog song which told us don’t think about it. I’m so happy they have so many newer songs that I need to get to know. They are just amazing.



Zeus Springsteen

I did not know anything about headliners The Blue Stones but when they unwrapped their gear it looked like a guitar drums duo. Remember back a few years when The White Stripes began to play and everyone loved their sound, but I really hated it and thought it was way too thin? There are very few duos that I can handle, and my fears were answered when they began to play. They were a duo and did not catch me at all. I stuck it out for three songs, but after the killer set that Zeus dropped on us, I could not find anything to latch on to. I headed out quickly and took the lovely walk home.

It’s a pretty common occurrence for me to see a band I like and a band or two that I don’t know and really discover something wonderful. It did not happen that night, but I’ll keep trying.



The Blue Stones

Posted March 11, 2019 by tmusicfan in Rock Shows

Tagged with , , ,

Grand Point North at Waterfront Park September 15 and 16, 2018   Leave a comment


Nina’s Brew pic by Tim Lewis

I had a great time seeing music last weekend on Burlington’s waterfront. I worked from 9-1 on Saturday, then had a little time at home to get ready. I was a little slow to get out the door and head down to Grand Point North. I arrived around 3:10 for the show that had doors at 3 and the first band on at 3:15. The timing was as tight as I thought it might be and I got into the venue at the end of Nina’s Brew‘s second song. I headed up front and began to listen. They played as a two guitars, bass, drums, keys band and jammed out some rock and roll. They sang about how life is a roller coaster and how you got to know my name. That one had a cool opening from the keyboard player and some nice vocal work at the end. They closed the set with one about a little bit, or let’s roll, or something. The set featured a sweet lead guitar, sweet keys, sweet vocals and were a fun rocking time.


Miku Daza pic by Tim Lewis

Immediately after their set ended, we shifted to the stage on the right and Miku Daza hit it hard. Joined by Sugar the Clown for the opening song, they began as a guitar, bass, drums trio. They played fast and hard on the opener Parasite. About half way into the song, Sugar wandered into the audience and Jonathan Tollefson appeared with his surging Baritone Saxophone. They followed with Flaca Daza and Chris Tranten and Will Bennington laid down super heavy rhythms on bass and drums. Miku’s guitar surged and her vocals effortlessly flowed from a whisper to a scream. Her rainbow colored wings were wonderful all the way through the show. Their powerhouse gypsy punk sound was pure joy. Even through I was close to the stage, the volume was lower than ideal. I moved a bit to the right to catch more of the speaker, but likely should have moved a bit to the left to catch more of the center one. Oh well. They kept the music at full fury for one about a heavy load where you have the power and one about giving me everything I need. Panic was fun, as was the one like fire. Sugar Rush got us a little high then they sang about dressing in black. They closed as hard as they opened with a song about how you don’t make it easy, so I’m gonna make it hard. Their set was pure rocking joy.



Miku Daza pic by Tim Lewis

We shifted to stage left as West End Blend began to jam. They had a funky soulful sound punctuated by lots of horns. They opened with a song about the prophecy then got into a long cool jam. They switched to a more jazzy sound for one about having to fight to make it right. They moved back to funk for one about telling me what to do. It had a fun get down, it’s getting me down, breakdown in the middle. They closed with a song about how we’re gonna try that had a nice keys lead section and was driven by the horns. They were pretty cool.


West End Blend by Kim

West End Blend pic by Kim Tuure Faris

The action moved to the right and Clever Girls opened with a bluesy rock jam. They let it drop into a gorgeous version of Catch And Release and we were off. Sometimes they play with full rock fury and sometimes they are a little more gentle and precise. This show was the latter and it showcased their songwriting talent. Dumb Smile was a delight as Rob Slater and Tobias Sullivan kept a tight rocking groove on drums and bass. Diane Jean yelled out 1 2 3 4 as the band lit into Loose Tooth. Her guitar gave it a nice rock feel. They played a cool new song about tilting your head back, then followed with the delightfully gloomy Loom. Another new one about walking in circles had a swampy sound. A little way into the song, the energy picked up and they got closer to the full power that they can release. Hannah Wants to see you was gorgeous and Diane’s voice soared then they dropped it into Heavy. The song surged to full power and they let loose their full fury. Winfield Holt‘s guitar surged to glorious rock heights as they locked into that groove and worked it hard. I loved every moment of that ripping guitar, and they set a standard that would not be overcome for the rest of the night. What a great set!



Clever Girls pic by Tim Lewis

On stage left Darlingside played with strings, voices, and a kick drum. They had a nice sound and were great at chatting with the audience, especially on the introductions for the band members. They sang about history books and Back To The Future Part 2. They asked is it today or tomorrow and sang about a superconductor up in the sky. They sang a song for the cowboys that kind of rocked a little and had a nice lead before slipping back into their usual gentle happy sound. They sang a song about how mother died young and their sound delighted the crowd for their whole set. I liked them but was still a bit wound up from the set before.


Darlingside by Kim

Darlingside pic by Kim Tuure Faris

The steadily growing crowd moved left as Mt Joy opened with a solid rock sound. They let it slide into a mellow jam singing from side to side and changing your mind. They sang about smoking cigarettes on rooftops and red lights. They asked if we realized that everyone we know someday will die and rocked a bit in the middle. Their music had a nice flow as they urged us to show up and vote in a song about the red, white, and the blue. They lit into a fun song and dropped a bit of Ain’t No Sunshine into the middle. They closed with a song about being on the mountain that rocked a bit and was quite nice.



Mt Joy pic by Tim Lewis

The festival was pretty packed when Ani DiFranco took the stage. Her band had a jazzy sound that created plenty of space for her words and lyrics to stand out. She opened with a song about not being shy and followed with one about being taken out of context. She sang a poem about democracy that she sent out to her fellow voters. Since it was a festival with non-stop music, I got to a point where I needed to wander around and get a drink. It’s unfortunate that it hit during Ani’s set, since she was so cool and great. I hoped there would be speakers in the vending area so I could still listen in, but that was not the case. I made it back just as her set ended. I wish I had planned a little better, but with nine bands over 8 hours, it’s a bit overwhelming.



Ani DiFranco pic by Tim Lewis

I got back in and settled. The sun had set and Jackson Browne took the stage and was joined by Greg Leisz. They both played guitar for most of the set through Greg played some sweet pedal steel now and then. They mostly avoided the big hit songs in favor of more poignant obscure ones. Even the cover of a Band song was not well known. He sang a song for migrant workers and spoke about a program that teaches children of immigrants their historic culture when they would have otherwise not have known about it. They brought out Ariel Zevon for a song called Cold Hearted Empath. Something in that song stuck a chord with me and I was elated for every note. She left and they continued on with quiet songs including Late For The Sky. He moved to piano for a grand version of The Pretended which got the crowd going a bit then slowed it back down. Late in the set the opening notes of Take It Easy sent a bolt of energy through the crowd, who proceeded to sing it word for word in full festival gusto. They closed with another quiet one and called it a night.



Jackson Browne pic by Tim Lewis


Senator Bernie Sanders pic by Tim Lewis

Stage left lit up and Bernie Sanders walked on. He spoke about how proud he was of all that Grace has accomplished and urged us to vote. Grace appeared, then her band followed, and they rocked out a song about medicine. I have not kept up with her music, so I did not know most of the songs that she played. They all sounded cool and rocked nicely. The crowd was massive and I wandered around a bit and could hear well from most any place where you could see the stage. I found place to sit and stare at the lake and listened to song after song. I was pretty exhausted from being in the sun all day, and from listening so closely for so many hours. I headed towards the main gates then found a tree to prop me up. They brought out a special guest and Kenny Chesney delighted the audience with You And Tequila. Late in the set Grace began the opening strains of Nothing But The Water and it perked me up. Part 1 was cool and featured her doing some nice guitar work. The rest of the band came back out and they rocked part 2 hard. They played a couple more and called it a night. They quickly returned for the encore and began Angel From Montgomery. A little way in, Jackson Browne came out and sang it with her. He then took a seat at his keys and the audience exploded as they began Dr My Eyes. He moved to guitar and the band launched into Lawyers, Guns and Money, which kept the audience at full fervor. They closed the set with a long jammed our Running On Empty which featured Chesney on some of the vocals and Grace on keys. It was glorious.

The lights came on and we slowly walked down the path. I headed up the hill and took the lovely walk home. I was exhausted and elated and prepared to do it again tomorrow



Grace Potter pic by Tim Lewis


Grace Potter with Kenny Chesney and Jackson Browne pic by Tim Lewis



Julia Caesar pic by Tim Lewis

I had Sunday off and learned my lesson from missing the first two songs on Saturday. I got going earlier and arrived at the waterfront about 1:50 for the show that had gates at 2 and first band at 2:15. Around 2:05 our line started moving and at 2:10 I was inside the gates. I got a beer, moved to stage left, and Julia Caesar began to weave their magical spell. They opened with Hear Me Now and their beautiful vocal harmonies lead into the song that takes many fun twists and turns. The second song was one about how someone told a girl that she takes up too much space. It opened quietly then began to rock. They found a happy groove for Chosen Names then played a new song called Demons. It’s a triple threat song with a vocal round to open, and fun audience clap-along part and a sing-along part that goes we’re dying alone. It’s such a fun song. They played the song that ends saying let it be without a sound, and the ferry boat hit its horn precisely on the last note. They rocked out a long fun version of Falter and let it end in a feedback haze. It was a brilliant set.



Juptr pic by Tim Lewis

The music began immediately on stage right, so we all moved over as JUPTRband filled the air with their cool smooth synth pop sound. I’m not one for fashion, but I’ve got to say that Stephanie Heaghney’s shoes were every bit as dazzling as Miku Daza’s wings the day before. Juptr continued on with a late night jazzy soul sound that featured some nice keyboard flourishes. Their music evoked a late night cozy bar feeling but worked well in the blazing sunshine. They played a song about Jupiter being true then one that made us happy happy. That one got a bit trancey and I lost myself in it for a while. They brought up three dancers for a slow cool funky song about fighting for your life then called it an afternoon. They were really good. I need to check them out again soon.



Juptr pic by Tim Lewis

We all moved left and Harsh Armadillo began with something that reminded me of Golgi Apparatus. They let it slip into a big band soul jazz sound and we were off. They played a song about how nothing can come between us that had a ripping lead guitar part. They played a song about sweet sweet love that had a nice slow keys lead section in the middle. They played a song with a Zappa jazz sound and closed with a rich soul jazz sound on a song about how all I have is a bit of sunshine. They were fun.



Harsh Armadillo pic by Tim Lewis

We moved to the right and Seth Yacovone Band opened with some hard rock blues on a song about demons. Seth let loosed a staggering lead break that elicited great joy from the audience. They stayed bluesy for a song that asked what will I do when you’re gone. They could barely contain themselves on a song from the upcoming album Welcome then played one about how we are all waiting. Mr Reed began by rocking hard then they kicked it up a notch for the second verse. By the time they hit the third one they brought it to a staggering height of rock and roll glory, then ripped out the ending. I was sure that would be the most intense part of the day.



Seth Yacovone pic by Tim Lewis

Music began immediately on stage left as Sister Sparrow began to play. They had a soulful rock sound with strong vocals and a couple of horns. They sounded nice but I was still riding the heights of the band before. A song about not being jealous had a funky opening and rocked a bit at the end. They played a new song called Ghost then a new song called Gold. They treated us with their take on Aretha Franklin’s version of Bridge Over Troubled Water then ended the set with a Grateful Dead like jam.



Sister Sparrow pic by Tim Lewis



The two stage setup with Sister Sparrow pic by Tim Lewis

With stage right covered in red boas, Elmo, and an inflatable unicorn head, Caroline Rose and her band took the stage as some girls like boys intro music played. They opened with a song about how the world is breaking down and followed with one about how everybody wants you. They played Caroline’s favorite song which was more of the same. They played a new one about giving it more time then played her favorite song about how Jeannie becomes a mom. It was sunny and hot and she said it would be their last show as they were melting on stage. Soul No. 5 lit up the crowd then they told us they were doing it for the money. Caroline spoke about the hippy cocktails served backstage that were made from kombucha and vodka, which begged the question, why were those not being sold at the concession stands? She grabbed a pipe and played a little of the Titanic theme and Abbie Morin tossed in some vocals. It did not last long, then Caroline kept up her charming witty banter that lead into the song about the little bikini dance dance dance. They closed the super-fun set with her favorite song about how I’m ready now. Every moment of the show was just great.



Caroline Rose pic by Tim Lewis

A huge rock sound began on stage left and we all moved over as The Magpie Salute sang about a back door. It was as if they picked up with the intensity of the end of Mr Reed and drove the power up and up. Mark had a staggering lead break and it was immediately obvious that the show would be like the best of the Black Crowes show, but with a different singer. They launched into a song about Mary the gypsy and i hit that moment where I needed to get another beer. I walked quickly and missed the next song but was back for the one about walking on water. I reveled in the huge sound as they sang about those things they said about you. It featured some sweet slide from Rich and was just wonderful. They kept the rock fury going for a wicked version of Custard Pie then lit up the audience with the Crowes Morning Song. They were going to close with a song about telling me something good about yourself then noticed they had more time. After a quick huddle, the hit us hard with Wiser Time to close the show. I was stunned in the best way possible.



The Magpie Salute pic by Tim Lewis

By now the audience was huge and filled the area in front of stage right as Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats began to play. They opened with a blues rock jam that fell into a song with some yea yea yea vocals. They played a song about one time, two times, three times that had a solid rock vibe. I was still reeling from Magpie’s set, and it did not really grab me, but the audience loved them. I hung out for much of their very long set, but was pretty exhausted, then realized it was time to go.

I took the lovely walk home with a perfect mix of being tired and happy. I heard later that Nathaniel joined Grace Potter for I Shall Be Released and she closed her set with Jackson Browne playing Running On Empty again.

All in all, it was a great weekend.



Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats pic by Tim Lewis



Hana Zara at Light Club Lamp Shop and Rough Francis, Cave Bees, and Jessica Rabbit Syndrome at Higher Ground August 11, 2018   Leave a comment


Hana Zara pic by Tim Lewis

I had a great time seeing music Saturday at Light Club Lamp Shop and Higher Ground. I got out of work at 5:30 and had time to eat and hang out at home before driving downtown. I parked near the lamp shop and got in and settled.

The room slowly filled as Hana Zara took the stage and got ready to play. A group of people walked in and sat in the back and began chatting. Hana asked if we were ready to listen, and they quieted down. The room was virtually silent as she opened with a couple of songs about love and being yourself. She began with one about a final battle cry that is one of love and followed with a song about how that being deep inside you will be your guide. She recommended finding it and saying hi. She played a song about disastrous relationships called The Cats and a sequel that was inspired by going to an ex’s house and psyche. It was called Little Fires and the room stayed transfixed. She played a song about the people out destroying the Earth called The Toy then a sequel that she had finished earlier in the day. It was about change and how we are the the thing that is changing. She quietly sang Hooray Hoorah to close the set. The audience wanted more so she played House Of Mirrors for a friend in Nebraska. She is an amazing performer and always fills my heart.



Jessica Rabbit Syndrome pic by Tim Lewis

I said a quick goodbye and zipped out the door. I drove to Higher Ground and could hear a band playing as I walked in the door. I got into the room as they were wrapping it up. Jessica Rabbit Syndrome said they had one more and rocked out a song called Bacchus D. They had a heavy stomping indie grunge sound that made me wish I had arrived earlier. I need to catch them for real soon.

I chatted with a few cool people in the star-packed room then Cave Bees took the stage. They opened hard and fast with Mine All Mine then let loose the 22-R, I Need A Raise had a slower stomp then they kicked it back up with Round Sum. I Don’t Need This Anymore rocked hard then we started riding The Golden Goose. They eased back to a ’50’s groove for Muskrat Love but were back at full speed for the laser beam eyes part at the end. They rocked the Queen City then sang about the Lunacy. Juliet kept up the furious pace and Sister Blue was nice and heavy. They closed with Sweet Pussy and I was in a happy place.


Cave Bees pic by Tim Lewis

I hung out for the set break then Colin Nicholas Clary walked on stage and put on a record. The intro music was fun then ROUGH FRANCIS took the stage. They opened fast and heavy with I-90 East and kept up the pace for Ruffians. MSP2 rocked hard then they eased up a little for Don’t Look Back. By the end of the song Paul was in the audience shredding on his guitar. Not A Nice guy was furious. I missed the name of the next one but it put the audience over the edge and the mosh pit began. They finally got to the album they had just released and rocked Big Box Law Enforcement hard. Geese and Good Person kept the intense pace then they eased up for the anti-Nazi song Walk On By. They brought the energy back up with Retrosexual then warned us of the dangers of Meth Mouth. They told us of the Earthquake that is coming and closed the set with a powerhouse version of Procession 1. The audience encore call was a bit anemic but they were gracious enough to come back anyway. Comm To Space is one of the greatest songs and they played an epic version.

I headed out pretty quickly and took the quick drive home. I’m so lucky to have so much great music always around me.



Rough Francis pic by Tim Lewis



Girls Rock Vermont at Higher Ground and Silver Bridget at Light Club Lamp Shop July 21, 2018   Leave a comment


All the campers from Girls Rock Vermont pic by Tim Lewis

I had a great time seeing music on Saturday at Higher Ground and Light Club Lamp Shop. I had an unusual Saturday off and realized that I could finally make it to one of the Girls Rock Vermont showcase shows. Campers show up on Monday and spend the week learning about playing instruments, writing songs and about the music industry. Some are older, some are quite young. Some have some history with an instrument, some pick it up for the first time. Either way, by Saturday, they are on stage in a band playing a song that they wrote.

I got in and settled and was joined by Lauren Costello. We chatted about sunflowers and gardening then it was time for the show. They started with the stage filled with all of the campers who sang a song about the camp. Linda Bassick was a charming emcee as she brought each of the four bands to the stage to play one song. They ranged from a band who’s bass player was marginally taller than her bass to teens who are almost ready to hit the DIY scene then head to the clubs. It was nice to be in a room where people encouraged the kids to learn and play. Keep rocking girls!


I had a relaxing day then a little after seven I took the lovely walk to the Lamp Shop. I got in and settled and chatted with Charlie Messing. He’s a fun person, a wealth of knowledge and when he is there I know we can figure out the whole Silver Bridget set list. With Johnnie Day Durand on musical saw and Matt Saraca on electric guitar, loops and effects they played instrumental versions of classic songs. They opened with Wild Horses then played a cool version of Space Oddity. We soaked in the Blue Moon then had a pleasant encounter with the Karma Police. Michelle was sweet then we were ushered into a Black Hole Sun. They played some Elvis with Love Me Tender, though Charlie said that’s really based on an older song. I think the next one began as Norwegian Wood and ended as She’s Leaving Home. Linger pulled my heartstrings as did God Only Knows. With Or Without you made the virtually silent room smile, then they took us Over The Rainbow. They closed the night with And I Love Her and I was in a happy place. I hung out and chatted for a bit, then took the lovely walk home.



Silver Bridget pic by Tim Lewis






Dysfunkshun 25th anniversary with Blowtorch, Tsunamibots, Swillbillie and the Dirty Blondes at Higher Ground September 9, 2017   Leave a comment


Blowtorch pic by Tim Lewis

I had a great time seeing music last Saturday at Higher Ground. I worked until 5:30, got home and settled for a bit, then went to the club and arrived just before the 7:30 showtime. I was kind of psyched for the anniversary show but was mostly excited to see four cool rock bands.

I got in and settled and soon enough it was time for Blowtorch to begin. They opened with a bit of a cowpunk sound but as the show progressed it was nothing but punk rock. Singer Clark Russell was delightfully animated and introduced many of the songs with a sound effect of some sort. Bill Mullins was as amazing on guitar as usual and the bass and drums were perfectly solid. They sang songs about watching your head and waving goodbye. They showed us what democracy looks like and wondered why they even try. They spoke of how hurricane Irma had two nuclear plants in it’s path and advised us to run for our lives. They encouraged us to rise and shine since we’re all in this together then told us about how water turns to ice. I think they played a song about a human hippopotamus but I might have missed something. They let us know that Trump lies matter and sang something about what in the world is wrong with you that had a bit of a Teenagers From Mars vibe. They closed the blistering 30 minute set saying I want what you want. I’m so glad I did not miss a note of their show.



Tsunamibots pic by Tim Lewis

Up next was a band who have been playing around for a while that I’d been meaning to check out. The stage was set with a robot wooden cut out and a robot with flashing lights and The Tsunamibots were dressed as robots and let us know they identified as robots. Much of the music was instrumental with a few vocals. I thought the sound would be more surf rock but it was more instrumental punk that had surf mixed in, though a couple had that classic surf sound. Imagine a looser Devo ripping it up and you’ve got the idea. Their 12 song set was fun and featured chants like Fuck You Robots Rule and songs about robot uprisings. They capped the night with a fun song called Co2ULater that made me want to check them out again.



Swillbillie pic by Tim Lewis

I thought that there were four bands on the bill but Swillbillie took the stage next for a short and sweet set. They rocked a punkabilly sound super hard and fast. They opened with their Manifesto then rolled on. The next song was about the devil being on the run. I missed the details of the next song but I think it was about whiskey. They closed the short set with a rousing Hell Chicken that kept me smiling and rocking.



Dirty Blondes pic by Tim Lewis


Dirty Blondes pic by Tim Lewis

The set break was short then Dirty Blondes hit the stage with a roar. Their songs have nice melodies and a punk rock sound and are always fun. They opened with Burn then rocked out Crybaby. They brought the spirituality with Hallelujah then sang about Jacking Off. Oh Dirty Blondes filled my heart like it always does. At one point Lefty played his guitar in the audience all around the room and at one point the Sisters LeMay cruised through. The Blondes taught us to dance with Kung Pao. Slut rocked hard and Drunk is always a fun song. They celebrated their kick ass drummer Ornan then taught us who James Bond really is. They capped the night with a ripping Yayo and fun was had by all.



Lefty out for a stroll  Dirty Blondes pic by Tim Lewis

It was finally time for the 25th anniversary of classic ’90’s rap punk band Dysfunkshun. Marc Daniels sang and Richard Bailey sang and played guitar. Ornan McLean sat in on drums and the band was filled out with Ben Bouchard on guitar and Aram Bedrosian on bass. Imagine reggae played at punk speed with super fast rapped vocals and you get the idea. They opened with Here We Go and kept the show at blistering pace for all 13 songs. The vocals were so fast it was hard to catch anything but I did catch themes like stopping and listening to the sound and freeing your mind and how it all falls down and it all comes down. They played a rockus song about the President and sang an anti-Nazi song. The whole set was fun.

I was pretty drained when they wrapped up so I did not stay long and headed for home. Any of those sets would have been enough and the combination made it yet another fantastic night of music in our town.


Dysfunkshun pic by Tim Lewis




Spies In America, Blue Button, and Rough Francis at Higher Ground February 10, 2017   Leave a comment


Rough Francis pic by Luke Awtry Photography


I had a great time seeing music last Friday at Higher Ground. I arrived a bit early and soaked in the atmosphere as wisps of smoke danced above the sharply lit blue and red stage. I chatted with Cam Barrows for a bit but it was soon time for the show.

Spies In America opened with a set of classic punk and rocked hard. I missed the names of the guys playing bass and drums but they were joined by Jessica on guitar and vocals. She had a low slung guitar and reached down to hit the notes hard. Her voice was strong and loud without being a punk scream. Her stories between the songs kept the audience engaged and the music was nothing but furious fun. They opened with a song called Heroes and followed with a song about the patriarchy called This Art Fights Back. They played a Circle Jerks cover with a rewritten last verse then announced they would play a slow song. The drummer sang it and it was the fastest song of the set. A powerhouse version of Rebel Girl followed and I was in heaven. The next song was something about being better than this. They said they had only played a couple of shows in the last 13 years and weren’t really a band but had a new song for us anyway. It was called Conversion Therapy and it rocked hard with the same strong political message as the rest of their music. They closed the set with a Ramonesish rocker and that was that. They were just great.



Spies In America pic by Luke Awtry Photography

Blue Button came on next and kept the place rocking. They played with a bit of a darker heavier sound which bodes well for the future. They opened with a new epic instrumental called Pissing At Flies then rocked out My Bitter End. The next five songs were new and fun so they should have a new album on the way. Their punk sound was brilliant and Eric Olsen ripped out some serious leads. James and Frankie held down the rhythm and Jason Cooley sang and played guitar. There was another instrumental and a song about a window symphony. I had heard City Hall Park before and it continues to grow on me. After seven songs they went back to their Love Angry album for a blistering version of We’re Closed. They eased up a bit for How It Goes then played their big Hit. They threw a cool breakdown section in the middle. They ended the set with a raucous Bullshit and that was that. Whether they are the classic quintet or a modified quartet of a band, they always put on a fun show.



Blue Button pic by Luke Awtry Photography

With a tiny bit less punk fury and a bit more of a soulful sound ROUGH FRANCIS rocked the stage hard. They opened with some new songs that I did not know but thoroughly enjoyed. One was something about taking off your mask and showing me who you are, and one was about missing you and I didn’t think that I could. The fourth song was a rocking version of I-90 East. Songs with themes about how we’ve got to come together and don’t look back followed. A fun and heavy cover of Fortunate Son was a surprise then they continued to rock us with MSP2 and Blind Pigs. Songs about that lovely feeling that goes strait to your veins and getting out while you can followed. They eased up a bit for a searing Staring Out The Window then played songs about coming together in the darkness and every day. They started a slow jam that built and built and built until it exploded into Comm To Space and that capped the show. They came back for a well demanded encore with a crazy punk song and capped the night with Not A Nice Guy which they dedicated to the crazy bullies in Washington DC.

I headed out pretty quickly after the show but was thoroughly sated by all the great music I was lucky enough to enjoy that evening.



Rough Francis pic by Luke Awtry Photography



Rough Francis pic by Luke Awtry Photography



Rough Francis pic by Luke Awtry Photography

Posted February 19, 2017 by tmusicfan in Rock Shows

Tagged with , , ,

Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers at Higher Ground June 7, 2016   Leave a comment

The Felice Brothers at Higher Ground June 7, 2016 pic by Tim Lewis

The Felice Brothers at Higher Ground June 7, 2016 pic by Tim Lewis


I had a great time seeing music last night at Higher Ground despite the fact that I had no business being there. A lot of times I will go see a band I like or love and get to hear new songs and hear what variances exist that night with the songs I know so well. Instead of putting in any effort to listen to the artist beforehand, I made the decision to go early in the morning and bought a ticket on the day of the show. I could have checked out the music of Conor Oberest during the day, but did not. I just waited until it was almost show time and headed out.

I was not surprised to feel old when I arrived and saw the young crowd. I saw Bright Eyes when they played at the Shelburne Museum and really liked the show and knew Conor was a star of the younger generation. I suspected the songs would sound different, but felt game to give them a listen.

The ballroom was mostly full when the lights went down and opening band The Felice Brothers took the stage. They played as a five-piece with a singer/guitar player, bass, drums, violin and an accordion/keyboard player. The lineup suggested an Americana or Appalachian sound, and certainly there were overtones of both, but the core of the band seemed to be an indie rock band. From the sound of their music I would guess they were equally influenced by The Band and Nirvana. Sometimes the fiddle would have a more traditional sound, sometimes it sounded like a shredding lead guitar. Sometimes the accordion had a traditional sound, sometimes it sounded like a keyboard filling out the sound. The guitar mixed strong rhythms with a few searing leads and the singer’s voice had a unique and pleasant sound. The bass player was solid but the star of the show was the drummer. He kept any pace the band wanted nice and solid but also threw in lots of quick fills and rolls and played with an intensity that would let any song turn on a dime from something slow and pretty to high energy rock and roll. They played well together and kept a consistent sound while the musical styles varied. Some of the songs sounded like ’60’s protest songs. One sounded a bit like a sea shanty. One song had a hint of All Apologies and the song that closed their set sounded a bit like the Heartbreakers jamming out Don’t Come Around Here No More. I walked into the show knowing nothing about The Felice Brothers but was quite favorably impressed by the time they wrapped up.

Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers at Higher Ground June 7 2016 pic by Tim Lewis

Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers at Higher Ground June 7 2016 pic by Tim Lewis

I had noticed that there only seemed to be one band’s gear on stage. I guessed from the look that Conor Oberst would use The Felice Brothers as his backing band and as the lights went down, I was proved correct. I was very happy, since it would mean that I got to hear the drummer play a lot more. Conor is a great songwriter and the structure of his songs changed the sound of the band slightly. They songs had a bit more of a formal feel and considering the instrumentation and intensity of the music, the show reminded me a little of seeing The Waterboys. Conor’s voice is very easy to listen to but the star of the show, drummer aside, is his lyrics. Not many are still with me this morning, but I was very engaged all night long and the song about Reagan, Christopher Hitchens, Sylvia Plath and a few others was really cool. I’m sure this would be more interesting to read if I could tell you what songs he played, and I gather he stretched across his career for the setlist, but whatever he played, all the songs were enjoyable and kept me bopping for the full show. After they wrapped up the audience asked for an encore. The first song was Colin and his acoustic guitar, which he played all night long, and the violin and accordion player. The second was a full band romp and he closed with a quiet song where he played a mellow electric guitar and was joined by the bass player. Even though I put in no effort before the show, and in some ways had no business being there, I walked in willing to listen and loved what I heard. Sometimes that is the best that you can do.


High Water Mark – The music of The Pants featuring Swale and tons of other musicians at Higher Ground March 26, 2016   Leave a comment

High Water Mark with the Pants and Swale and everyone else picture by Mark Randall Byland March 26, 2016

High Water Mark with the Pants and Swale and everyone else picture by Mark Randall Byland March 26, 2016


I ended up having a really good time seeing music Saturday night at Higher Ground. I lived and thrived through the Burlington music scene in the ’90’s. There was always music about, much like there is today, and some of the bands music just filled my heart. I would often go to shows where there were three of five bands on the bill and like some of it, love some of it, and not be amazed by some of it. The Pants were one of the bands who I saw a few times that I never liked. I was writing for the Permanent Records Review at the time and published something about their music making me run screaming to the bar. While a lot of bands music clicked with me, the Pants just never did.

Recently, a movie was made about the Pants and the local scene from the 1990’s in Burlington. On Saturday night they showed the movie then had a musical showcase of the music. I was sure I was not going to go, especially since it started at 7 and I had to work until 8:30. I knew the music was going to start at 9. They promised songs from the Pants, of course, but also some songs from Construction Joe and Wide Wail, and since Swale were the house band, I thought there would be a little bit of musical magic there. On Friday morning I broke down and bought a ticket and set the plan in motion.

I got out of work right on time and drove to Higher Ground. I got into the ballroom, settled, and ran into a ton of people that I knew and that looked familiar. Soon enough, the lights went down and Swale took the stage. As they lit into the first song I realized both why I did and did not want to be there. The Pants have a lot of chunky indie rock songs that have a lot of intricacy, but they usually stay in the discordant zone, so they are a bit jarring. Conversely, it was Swale playing them so the musicianship was outstanding and a complete joy to be in the presence of. That was how I felt for most of the first part of the three hour show. Swale played the first song on their own then brought Pants member Tom Lawson to the stage. They played a great version of High Water Mark, the only Pants song that I know, and that was really fun. Tom sang it well and his voice was quite nice. He stayed with them as they rocked out the third song of the night. After that, Tom left the stage and they brought out Ryan Ober to sing the next one. His voice was great and he had some nice dance moves. Up next, Casey Merlin Rae took the stage with a vocal tour de force. It’s been ages since I have heard him sing live and I really enjoyed it. The next song featured just Swale with Amanda Gustafson doing a great job on vocals. The next song featured Ryan Miller who came out covered in turned off Christmas lights. The song started slow, but when it hit the fast section he flipped on the lights and danced frantically. Jason Cooley came out for the next one and rocked it hard. James Kochalka added his quirkiness to the following song. The one that followed featured a powerful vocal performance by Craig Mitchell. Heloise Williams sang the next one and let her voice range from a deep growl to a high pitched scream. Amanda lead Swale through the next song, then things started to change. Swale left the stage and Tom returned with Chris Ziter & Jeff Baron. They played with one acoustic guitar and two singers and pulled out a Chainsaws of Babylon song. Tom then moved back to the drums but still kept the vocal mike. He was joined by a couple of people and they called themselves Factory Edge. The first song was a rocker called Backhoe. The second was a bit more mellow and was called That’s The Sound Of The Sun Going Down. Their final song was even mellower and quite pretty and was called We Never Had A Chance. After that, they left and the original members of Construction Joe took the stage. The first few notes lit me up like a ray of sun finally breaking through a cloudy day. The three songs they played, including the fun version of Funky Cigarette in the middle, were great. For me, music is never about taking me back to what I felt when I first heard it, it’s all about how it makes me feel now. Construction Joe’s set made me feel great for every moment. With a non Tyler Bolles bass player, David Cam?, Swale returned to the stage for a couple of Wide Wail songs. The first song was achingly beautiful, though I missed which one it was. The second was a hard rocking run through All My Life, a song that is one of my all time favorites from that era. My heart was full of joy for that one! Up next James Kochalka Superstar took the stage. James sang, Eric Olsen played bass, Creston Lea and Jason Cooley played electric guitar, Jeremy Frederick was on drums and the band rocked. They played Magic Finger, a little bit of Good Morning Glorkian Warrior, then something that may have been called Pony or something like that. They wrapped the set with Monkey VS Robot and the end section sounded like the classic song Gloria. Imagine M O N K E Y Rooooooooobot and you are in the right neighborhood. Swale returned to the stage and instead of playing keys, Amanda took the microphone. She told a touching story about working with Syrian refugees and the band played a song about someone who’s only desire is to be able to sleep with Both Eyes Closed. It was one of the most powerful performances I have experienced. Amanda returned to the keys and Tom came back to the stage. He sang a song about yes you can make me a freak and it was pretty fun. For the last song, 2,000, everyone took the stage for a giant singalong. The chorus about spirals had a 5 Years vibe to it and was a fitting way to close the night.

I headed out pretty quickly and contemplated the night on the short drive home. There were a lot of songs that didn’t grab me, but I enjoyed the full spectrum of the performances, and some of the songs just filled my heart. I’m so glad I put the effort in.

Last World, Barbacoa, and Rough Francis at Higher Ground April 18, 2015   Leave a comment

I had a great time seeing music last night at Higher Ground. I bought tickets some time ago and scheduled myself out of work early, but still worked an 8am-4:30pm shift. Instead of just running running running, I stopped an home, settled a bit then walked downtown, and caught a bus to Shelburne. I chatted with my brother Ken, and realized how early it was, around 6 for and 8:30 showtime. We headed out anyway and went to the pop up record store they were having in the HG showcase lounge. I though there might be more bands representing themselves, but a lot of the vendors, who lined both sides of the room, had tons of vinyl and art for sale. James Kochalka was there with his books and comics. The Smittens had some vinyl, Justin Gonyeahad some Doom Service shirts and tapes, and Rough Francis had some t-shirts, mix-tapes, CD’s, and a couple of various oddities. Both Ken and I bought one of the black Rough Francis Burlington Vermont t-shirts, then we headed out in search of dinner.

We arrived back at the venue just before 8, had a super short wait, then the doors opened, and in we went. We ran into Ed, who is a friend of a friend, and a huge fan of RF, and chatted a bit as DJ Disco Phantom spun some records. Around 8:40 something odd happened. A bass player I did not recognize (Scott McCormick) took the stage with a guitar player I did recognize, but doesn’t Urian Hackney play drums? They were joined by Bobby Hackney Jr. on drums and lit into some wicked fast hardcore that would make As We Were try and keep up. The blisteringly screamed vocals of Julian Hackney rounded out the sound and they kicked out four or five songs. The set was, maybe, 15 minutes of pure fury and was a fantastic treat. It was kind of cool standing next to Paul Comegno when most of RF were on stage. After, he let me know they are called Last World and they just lost their drummer, so Bobby is playing with them now. What a great bonus!

It was not too long of a wait, after they wrapped up their set, until Barbacoa hit the stage as a four-piece with Lowell Thompson sitting in. They dove into their surf rock noir set with grace, precision and a beautiful flow to the music. The third song in was an instrumental version of Paint It Black and by the end Bill Mullins jr was standing on his amp, Lowell was standing on the bass drum, and bassist Kirk Flanagan stood on the amp on the other side of the stage. Drummer Jeremy Frederick powered his way through the song and it was brilliant, both visually and musically. Next, Bill put on a virtual guitar clinic by wandering into the audience and playing right in front of people. He hung out in the audience for several songs and made a remark about enjoying hanging out with the people. As the 45 minute set headed towards its conclusion, he returned to the stage and they let loose a killer mix of Miserlou (I’m pretty sure) that flowed into the Spiderman theme and ended with Secret Agent Man. What a killer show, as always.

After another short wait, ROUGH FRANCIS took the stage just before 10:30 and kicked off with a new song I did not recognize, but rocked hard. They followed with a bunch of songs from Maximum Soul Power including I-90 East, Righteous, Black And Red, Staring Out The Window and a super intense version of Not A Nice Guy. They headed into new song territory with MSP2, which is on the 45 they released that day, since it was record store day, then the second big surprise of the night happened. They brought Bill Mullins jr out to play a couple of songs with them. The first one was the b-side of the single, Blind Pig, and began with a moody bluesy riff that sounded a little Barbacoalike, then shifted into the heavy rock we know and love from Francis. They kept him out for another new rocker, and the music was wonderfully intense. The half full room had people dancing around happily, but in the next set of new songs, Paul exploded off the stage and started slamming with the audience without missing a note. The energy jumped for the next few songs, and something close to a mosh pit emerged. The energy was through the roof as they played the final song, Every Day (??), which is fun, since that is the song they have been opening with lately. They left the stage, but one huge song was missing and there was no doubt they would come back for a well demanded encore. It wasn’t quite the midnight hour but Comm To Space started slowly with Urian taking command of the beat on the toms and Steven Hazen Williams reinforced it with the bass. The song built into it’s huge unhinged rock sound as Bobby let loose some blistering screams. Everyone had fun and they jammed hard as the song fell into it’s conclusion, then came back and rocked some more, before finally finishing off the night.

We said a quick goodbye to Bobby who headed over to the merch table as soon as the set was done, then I drove Ken back to Shelburne. It was a great night of music and I’m so happy I got to be a part of it.


Midlake (acoustic) at Higher Ground July 31, 2014   Leave a comment

I had a great time seeing music last night. A few months ago Mike Luoma brought home an album by a band called MIDLAKE BAND. He played it a few times, and one of the songs got stuck in my head. I’ve listened to Antiphon several times, and often play a song from the album before or after my radio show. I was excited when I saw they were coming to town, but the show was acoustic, and at the time I do the radio show.
I got the night off from the radio show and Mike got me in as his guest. We arrived shortly before showtime and the large room at Higher Ground was steadily filling. After a short wait, three members of the band took the stage and started to play. With two acoustic guitars and a keyboard player, who played flute a couple of times, they created a full and lush sound and I was quite impressed. The songs did not have the thunder, but did have the full lush sound. They played three or four older songs, and several from Antiphon, including a gorgeous version of the title song. The singer’s voice was crystal clear and carried the songs nicely. The guitars weaved a beautiful spell and the keys were sometimes driving piano, and sometimes lush soundscapes. The large audience was very appreciative and seemed to be having a good time. When they announced they had one more, I though for sure it would be their “hit” The Old And The Young, but instead they pulled out a cover of I Shall Be Released. They did a great job with it, and played it with passion. It sounded noticeably different from their other songs, but great nonetheless.
When they wrapped up, I was pretty tired, so I took the easy ride home, instead of staying for Band Of Horses. I knew I would need it to be an early night, since there was tons of music about to happen the next day.