Soundbites: Pop Tarts, Rally Monkey, Have You Hugged a Mentor Today?, Imagination Station, Bite Torrent
Oh, that wascally Colin Clary! Burlington’s multitasking pop prince is always up to something it seems, whether touring overseas with cuddly twee-ty birds The Smittens, working on his own typically excellent solo material or lending a hand and being mistakenly credited with writing for and fronting local indie-rock outfit My First Days on Junk — oops. Anyhoo . . .
In addition to those myriad musical offerings, developing a cure for cancer, brokering peace in the Middle East and just generally being a swell dude, Clary is also one half of acoustic-pop duo Let’s Whisper, with sister in smit Dana Kaplan. In their stripped-down configuration, the pair trades in wistful, melodic bedroom pop. Or perhaps, Smittens lite — less filling, tastes great!
This Thursday at The Monkey House, Let’s Whisper celebrate the release of their new six-song EP, Make Me Smile, on British indie imprint WeePop! Records. This summer, Clary and Kaplan did a string of UK dates alongside their Smittenly counterparts, and the show will be their first stateside performance since. Joining in the feel-good fun will be Rochester’s Baby Shivers Boutique and Chapel Hill power-pop SNMNMNM offshoot Parallax & Doppler.
Speaking of The Monkey House and great local indie-pop, Wednesday, October 15, songwriter Austin Sirch returns to play his first live show in . . . well, way too long.
Earlier this summer, Sirch served up his excellent sophomore record, Alter Alert. He then promptly disappeared from the public eye following a release show at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. I don’t know where he went or what he’s been up to since. And I don’t care — unless he has a good story to tell, of course. I’m just happy he’s back in the game. And you should be, too. Dude’s a terrifically talented writer with an uncanny sense of melody.
Sirch will actually be handling opening duties for another pretty remarkable tunesmith, Brooklyn’s Paleo, a.k.a. David Andrew Strackney. Fans of Devendra Banhart or M. Ward — or perhaps Conor Oberst in his less whiny moments — take note.
HAVE YOU HUGGED A MENTOR TODAY?
We haven’t had a good benefit-show mention in a while. I don’t know about you, but I was kinda getting worried. But, fear not! The spirit of good will is still wild and free in the Green Mountains. OK, this time it’s not really free, per se. It’s 10 bucks. But it’s for a good cause, and you’ll get to hear some pretty nifty tunes to boot.
Regular Vermont Public Radio listeners have probably heard of Mobius: The Mentoring Movement. The organization does yeoman’s work pairing adult community members with at-risk kids in need of guidance and support in Chittenden County. Statistically, children with a positive adult presence in their lives are far less likely to drop out of school, experiment with drugs or travel similarly unsavory paths — like, you know, becoming musicians . . . ahem.
This Saturday the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge plays host to a benefit for the nonprofit group featuring two local, nationally touring groups, eclectic jam-rockers The Grift and folk-rockers The Sweet Remains, the latter of which are celebrating the release of their new album Laurel & Sunset.
If there is one person in Burlington we can consistently count on to blow our friggin’ minds, it’s Greg Davis. Actually, there are loads of musicians in the area we can count on for that. Greg just seems to do it more frequently than most. While his own compositions are often challenging and inventive, it’s his effort to bring attention to the works of others that truly endears him to the local music community at large.
This Friday, Davis welcomes a trio of avant-garde acoustic players to Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery. The show is part of a tour celebrating the release of the Imaginational Anthem box set from NYC label Tompkins Square. The three-volume compilation is a collection of some of the most innovative and thought-provoking acoustic guitar work ever recorded, juxtaposing traditional folk roots with more contemporary experimental meliorations — including a track from Davis himself.
Friday’s show will feature three artists from the series’ third volume, 19-year-old Irish finger-style whiz Cian Nugent, Scottish sensation Ben Reynolds and banjoist George Stavis. Stavis is likely worth the price of admission on his own. Following the 1969 release of Labyrinth, widely regarded as perhaps the strangest — and some would say greatest — banjo recording of its day, he all but vanished. Until now. This tour marks Stavis’ first live performances in several decades. Perhaps he’s come back to scold reigning banjo guru Béla Fleck for releasing a Christmas album. Just a thought.
Here’s something I’d like to see more of in and around Vermont: local bands being tabbed to open for nationally touring acts. I know it does happen from time to time. And it’s not always left up to club owners to decide. But it’s great — and much needed —exposure. And if more local folks get to check out more local music, everybody wins, right? Right. Anyway, this Friday, not one but two local acts will be handling opening duties at Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge as Grand Funk Express, or GFE — the self-described “political bongwater of underground hip-hop” — takes to the stage with B-town hip-hop stalwarts Tha VT Union and the estimable Burnt MD. Word.
While we’re on the topic, I’m sorry to report that Capstan Shafts have pulled out of this Monday’s show with The New Year at Club Metronome. However, I’m delighted to report that local indie-popsters Lendway have signed on as replacements, and were reportedly approached by the alt-rock icons themselves. Nifty!
Moving on, there’s a trio of talented female songwriters on tap this Friday as The Leaves’ front woman Aya Inoue and Jen Crowell join Caroline O’Connor at North End Studio on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington. And not only are the openers local, but the headliner is, too!
And finally, Big Heavy World and WOMM-LP 105.9 FM The Radiator are holding an open house this Saturday, October 11, at 6 p.m. If you’ve ever been curious about becoming involved with the station or just want to check out the incredible local-music library — I highly recommend the latter — swing on by and say hi. And while you’re there, see if you can find out what’s happening with the long-awaited podcast from last month’s “Bands of Burlington” showcase at Nectar’s and Metronome. Inquiring minds want to know!