When I Was 17
When I was 17, I spent the majority of my weekend evenings — and more than a few nights during the week (sorry, Mom) — worshipping rock ’n’ roll at the altar of Club Toast. That’s right. Seventeen. In fact, I attended my first show at the late, great Queen City nightclub when I was 15. Let’s just say the club’s 18-plus policy was more of a suggestion than strict protocol. Those nights spent in the dingy, smoky confines of a loud rock club were a crucial factor in my formative years, my development as a person, my decision to pursue music and, ultimately, it led me to this job. They may also lead to tinnitus, but I digress.
Sadly, a measure recently enacted by the Burlington Police Dept. to enforce a stricter permit policy for nightclubs offering 18-plus shows may rob the current young generation of the rite of passage that I and countless other local musicians and fans experienced as young bucks coming up in the scene. As reported on our staff blog, Blurt, by 7D political columnist Shay Totten last Friday, the measure goes into effect immediately.
In a memo to the city council from the BPD, Lt. Art Cyr writes that the policy change is an effort to address, “numerous and growing concerns with activities directly related to [18-plus] events.” And just what are these dastardly activities? According to Cyr, “underage drinking, disorderly and assaultive behavior, and loitering complaints from surrounding properties and businesses.” Kinda sounds like every weekend night around 2 a.m., when throngs of wasted (21+) morons congregate on the corner of Church and Main, right?
Obviously, underage drinking is a perennial and gravely serious problem in Burlington, as in most college towns. But the last time I checked, it’s already illegal. As are disorderly conduct, assault and loitering. Why not, oh, I don’t know … enforce those issues more strictly? Why punish the majority of sober kids who simply want to check out a favorite band or hang out with friends in — wait for it — a controlled environment where they can’t get booze? Unless they have good fake IDs, of course. But again, already illegal.
If the problem, as City Councilor Dave Berezniak (D-Ward 2) suggests, is kids showing up to shows drunk, why not crack down on the dozens (hundreds?) of underage house parties that happen every weekend in the college ghetto? Y’know, the places where those kids are getting drunk in the first place. And if the problem is kids being turned away from shows because they’re drunk and then causing a disturbance loitering, why not — this is brilliant, trust me — arrest them?
Because of the numbers game, says Berezniak.
As he told Totten, “The sheer numbers of intoxicated kids showing up was a real problem, so the thought is, if there [aren’t] as many of these events, then they wouldn’t be showing up downtown.”
He’s right. They’ll go somewhere else — and still get ripped, and still cause problems, or worse. And the scores of kids, excuse me, legal adults who simply want to enjoy some music? They’ll go somewhere else, too. Can’t imagine what they’ll do when they get there, though…
What’s that saying about idle hands?
Before we continue, I would like to take a moment to apologize for something I wrote recently that has the local hip-hop community up in arms, and justifiably so.
Two weeks ago, in pimping a Higher Ground Ballroom appearance by Immortal Technique, I wrote a spotlight blurb playing with the thug stereotype often associated with rap and hip-hop. Essentially, I attempted to cheekily suggest that jail time boosts a rapper’s street cred, which drew the ire of certain MCs in the 802 who accused me of “clowning” the entire genre. Hoo boy.
As I addressed last week, it wasn’t Tech who was recently jailed, it was his longtime turntablist, DJ GI Joe. That was strike one. Strike two: Tech is probably the last rapper on the planet who need worry about cred. Dude is among the most politically and socially conscious emcees in the game today, and he backs it up. Case in point: He recently opened an orphanage in Afghanistan. Really.
In hopes of avoiding strike three, I offer my sincere apologies to the VT hip-hop community and its fans. I was way out of line, and that spotlight was utterly thoughtless. I’m sorry.
To make it up to you, I wanted to let you know about a really interesting show happening Wednesday, October 13, at Club Metronome, dubbed 1982. This blast from the past features Boston-based hip-hop mogul Statik Selektah with Termanology, as well as locals Nastee and DJ A-Dog, AP and the Stack Money Boys and Aleck Woog. This will be a good one.
But the real kicker is that Statik will be giving a preshow lecture at Burlington hip-hop academy The Lab that same day, touching on all manner of things hip-hop, from beats and production to business. Young’uns, this is a chance to pick the brain of one of the genre’s more visionary and successful movers, not to mention an incomparably talented DJ and producer. If you want to be the best, learn from the best. Here’s your chance.
- Vermont’s reigning pop-star-in-waiting, Jer Coons, is celebrating the release of a new EP, JERemix, with a show at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday. The six-song quickie is a nifty little collection of dance remixes from last year’s solid debut, Speak. The revamped tunes bounce around genre-wise, touching on house, electronica and even Afrobeat. Seth Glier and Jesse Ruben open the show.
- Jam fans will want to check out Nectar’s on Wednesday, October 13, as the House that Phish Built hosts a package tour dubbed Sorry for Partying. (Irony Alert! The show is — as of this printing, anyway — listed as 18-plus. Sorry, indeed.) Anyhoo, the lineup includes Massachusetts-based overly hyphenated outfit the Brew, Denver’s Kinetix, and funk-rock-reggae-etc. post-college rockers Roster McCabe.
- Regular readers know I’m kind of a sucker for good indie-folk. If you share my affinity for gorgeously melancholy folk music filtered through an artsy, indie prism, I’d strongly recommend checking out Brooklyn’s Leland Sundries this Monday at Radio Bean. He’ll be stopping through town as part of a regional tour with fellow Brooklynite Will Levith.
- Band Name of the Week: Death to New England. Funny this Connecticut-based band would be playing in town the same week proto-punk trio Death play their one and only Vermont show. The coincidences end there though. DTNE play a distinctly poppier brand of high octane punk. They’ll be at Burlington’s Manhattan Pizza this Saturday.
- This just in from the greatest bar in the world — or at least Montpelier: Charlie O’s has recently upgraded their PA system. If the bar had a flaw — big “if” — it was that as rowdy and fun as it is most nights, the sound was generally lackluster. Problem solved. And if not, try whiskey.
- And speaking of Charlie O’s, the juke joint hosts Burlington’s orginal punks, the Wards, this Saturday, with opening support from Pushbutton. It’s a big, big week for local punk legends, huh?
- Continuing on a theme, perhaps you’ve heard that gypsy punk Eugene Hutz has been making cameos at Brett Hughes’ ever popular Honky Tonk Sessions, Tuesday nights at Radio Bean. It’s true. The enigmatic Gogol Bordello front man has been there three or four weeks running, while he’s in town visiting his parents. He’s also been recording a demo of original country songs with Hughes, drummer Sean Preece and bassist Tyler Bolles — yes, we’re related. This past Tuesday, Hutz and Co. unleashed a batch of the new material on the Western-shirt-clad faithful’s eager ears in a special pre-tonk set. Gotta say, it was a lot of fun. Imagine the Ukrainian love child of a Johnny Cash-Glen Campbell-Gene Autry tryst and you’re kind of in the neighborhood. Highlight of the week: the incomparably compelling Hutz standing on top of a table leading a raucous call-and-response to the strains of “Everybody Knows this Party Sucks.” Awesome.
And finally, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc. this week.