Archive for the ‘South Burlington’ Tag

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.

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.


Lotus Land at Higher Ground February 8, 2014   1 comment

I had a good time seeing music last night. I got out of work early, took a bus to Shelburne, and had dinner with Mom, Dad and my brother Ken. After that, Ken and I headed to Higher Ground to check out Rush cover band Lotus Land. Usually, I’m not that into cover bands, but many of my friends have been raving about them, and I though it would be an easy way to drag Ken out to a show.
We arrived just after doors opened and chatted with some of Burlington’s coolest music people. We hung out with Mike Wilhide and his brother, Pat Cook, and all of the guys from Elephants of Scotland. Sadly, Rich Haskell could not be there as he was in New York celebrating the birthday of Scott Fultz by Seeing Cold Sweat.
My expectations of the show were pretty high, but I tried to not let it influence me, and just listen.
Shortly after 8, the band casually took the stage and set up. The opening guitar salvo signaled The Spirit Of Radio, and we were off. As the vocal kicked in, I was momentarily stunned. I expected them to sound close, but Chris Nelson’s voice was scarily dead on. Guitarist Bob Chartrand spiderwebbed his way through the solos and drummer Mark Dalton came as close to Neil Peart as you could hope. While the whole night lacked a little something (the fact that they weren’t Rush), it was so close that it was easy to wrap yourself in the veil of illusion and fly with it.
Much of the 2+ hour set was taken from Signals/Moving Pictures/Grace Under Pressure/Power Windows era. Songs like The Body Electric, Big Money, Analog Kid (with that great surging guitar riff) sounded great, rocked hard, and were fun to sing along with. Red Barchetta, early in the set, brought me along for the ride. The Camera Eye was enchanting from first note to last. They played the hits like Tom Sawyer and Subdivisions (though the sound guy kept not turning up the guitar microphone for the title line, it was almost there for the last one). They had the drummer do an intense solo, that I think was from A Show Of Hands. Ringing cymbals brought forth a killer YYZ. The crowning achievement of the evening was a spot on Xanadu. It was truly majestic!
They closed with a rocking Working Man, and threw in a little bit of Roundabout in the late part, but they did not make it off the stage before an encore was demanded. They saddled back up to the instruments and started Overture. They let it run through The Temples of Syrinx then morphed it into the Grand Finale, and that was that.
It was obvious that the band loved the music and loved playing it. More importantly, they had me rocking from first note to last. I’m still more excited to see bands play their own music, but if you are going to be in a cover band, this is the way to do it!