Diary of a Day in Montpelier
So I’m hanging out in Montpelier the other day, right? It’s a beautiful, early spring day. A little chilly, but sunny. You know, “nice” — or what passes for nice in early April in Vermont. I’ve got some time to kill before I need to head back to Burlington, so I wander over to Buch Spieler to say hi to Knayte Lander. In addition to working at the record store, he’s also part of the Golden Dome Musicians Collective and State & Main Records, which are both pretty cool. He tells me they’ve got a new compilation coming out that he’s super-psyched about. Then he shows me the T-shirt they’re putting out with the comp. It has, like, every band in Montpelier listed on it. That got me pretty psyched, too. I like Montpelier bands.
Knayte says the album should come out on April 20. Duuuuuude, I think, worrying that I’ve been conditioned to think that every time someone mentions the date. You know, 4-20? I wonder if I’ve been in Vermont too long.
We chat about the sheer awe- someness that is Frightened Rabbit’s new album. They’re not from Montpelier. They’re from Scotland, I think. Maybe Wales? Whatever. They rock. And they have cool accents.
I’m late to meet a friend, so I bid Knayte good day and head over to Capitol Grounds. I walk down Langdon Street and, after crossing the bridge, I stop and stare at the building on the corner that used to house the Langdon Street Café. It will be a new joint soon, Sweet Melissa’s. It seems pretty quiet from the outside. But I take the zoning notice and newsprint covering the front windows (Seven Days, in fact … should I be insulted?) as a sign that something is happening. “What’s He Building ?” by Tom Waits appears in my head.
I meet my friend Steph and her baby, Dex, at the coffee shop, and we decide to take a stroll. Because it’s “nice” out. Our walk eventually takes us down Langdon Street, and we stop in front of the old LSC façade again.
“I really miss this place,” my friend says.
“I bet. But I’m hopeful the new place will be cool,” I say. It’s true. I do hope that.
“Me, too,” says Steph. “I wonder what they’re doing in there?”
As if on cue, Ralph Eames tumbles out the front door. He says he’s been helping out getting the place ready. After a few minutes of small talk, he invites us inside to check out the new digs.
The place is gutted; the only remnants of LSC are old show posters affixed to the ceiling. It looks like someone has tried to scrape them off but with little success. I kind of hope the new proprietors might leave them up. They look cool.
One of the owners, Jason Merrihew, joins us and introduces his wife, Melissa. She seems, um, sweet. He then fills us in on the plans.
The new bar is going in along a side wall, rather than in the back, and the kegs will be stored on the second floor. I think how glad I am not to be a barback at Sweet Melissa’s.
There will be a small, open kitchen where the old bar was. The stage will be in the same front corner. I’m reminded of some of the shows I’ve seen — and played — there. There will be a second bathroom.
Merrihew says there has been some minor quibbling with the fire marshal over seating, and whether moving tables so people can dance qualifies the venue as a nightclub. I think — for roughly the Thousandth time — that city officials who worry about shit like people dancing really need more things to do.
I ask Merrihew when he thinks they might open. He laughs. Hard. I tell him I’ve heard May 1. He shrugs his shoulders and grins.
On my way home, it occurs to me that Sweet Melissa’s is in a tough spot. No matter what they do, people will probably expect LSC 2.0. That’s probably not fair.
In talking to Merrihew, it seemed he and his partners have their own vision for the place. And that vision isn’t necessarily recreating LSC. I wonder if people will judge Sweet Melissa’s on its own merit and not its predecessor’s. I think they probably won’t be able to help it. I hope I’m wrong. I make a mental note to keep my calendar as clear as I can on May 1, just in case.
You know who used to play LSC pretty often? Brown Bird, who delivered a fantastic set for a great crowd at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge last Thursday. Watching the show, it occurred to me they also used to frequent the Skinny Pancake in Burlington. And the Monkey House, if memory serves. That got me thinking about the feeder system that exists in Burlington, and Vermont generally, and how often bands come through our smaller venues, then end up on bigger, stages like HG. Just a reminder to take a chance on an unknown every now and then. Because you never know when you might be seeing the next Brown Bird — or Low Anthem, or Lumineers, etc. — playing 10 feet away from you.
Speaking of probably-soon-to-be-big bands in small venues, I’d recommend catching Superhuman Happiness while you can. The dance-rock band, which features members of TV on the Radio, Antibalas and Iron & Wine, play Radio Bean this Friday, April 12. Hear ye, hear ye! The band formerly known as Michael Chorney and Dollar General shall forever henceforth be known as Michael Chorney and Hollar General. Though it’s not quite on par with Chik-fil-A suing the Eat More Kale guy, Bo Muller-Moore, word has it that Dollar General, the variety store, was none too pleased with Chorney’s band’s moniker, so he wisely changed it. I think for the better, frankly.
Oh, but I do love me some Joe Pug. The Austin-based songwriter played Higher Ground pretty recently, so I was surprised to see him on the bill at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction, opening for country all-star band the Flatlanders this Friday, April 12. If you’re in the neighborhood, show up early and catch one of the better young Americana songwriters working today. And then stick around for three of the best old guys: Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock.
Band Name of the Week: Beasts of Bourbon and the Molson Twins. I have no idea who these cats are, or what they do. But this might be the best band name in the history of this gimmick — a dubious honor, but an honor nonetheless. They’re playing Bagitos in Montpelier this Saturday, April 13. And then probably drinking at Charlie O’s.
Dept. of Corrections: Before we bid you adieu for yet another week, a quick setting straight of the record. Last week’s review of An American Hallel, the latest CD from local vocal ensemble Counterpoint, contained a regrettable goof. The review stated that the group was conducted by Nathaniel Lew. While Lew is indeed the choir’s current director, for that recording, Counterpoint founder Robert De Cormier actually led the group. De Cormier is one of the most highly regarded choral conductors in the country. He is also intimately familiar with the album’s composer, Michael Isaacson, and his works, as well as the chorus itself, which undoubtedly accounted for much of the album’s excellence. His omission from the review was an unfortunate oversight. My sincere apologies.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Charles Bradley, Victim of Love
Balkan Beat Box, Give
Brass Bed, The Secret Will Keep You
Jamaican Queens, Wormfood
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Want More