COURTESY OF MATTHEW THORSEN
2011 in Review A look back at the year in local music news
loods. Fires. Protests. Hippies. Two thousand eleven proved an unusually dramatic year in Vermont and, by extension, Vermont music. So before we close the books on the year that was, here’s a look back at some of the major stories from the last 12 months.
After the Flood
BY D AN BO L L E S
Irene. There simply was not a bigger story in Vermont this year than the widespread devastation caused by the tropical storm that ravaged the state on August 28. Even those who escaped unharmed were a˜ ected. Irene touched everyone. Not surprisingly, the biggest music stories of 2011 sprang f rom the aftermath of the storm. At the top of the list are jam titans Phish. Vermont’s most f amous phoursome threw a beneﬁ t to end all beneﬁ ts at the Champlain Valley Exposition in September. The jamstravaganza was the band’s ﬁ rst show in Vermont since its “f arewell” at Coventry in 2004, and anticipation was predictably high. Hundreds of eager f ans waited more than 24 hours in line for tickets, camping out on the street in front of the Flynn Center the day before tickets went on sale, and turning downtown Burlington into something like the f abled Phish parking-lot scene for a night. Most would say it was worth the wait. At the show, Phish tore through a mix of classics spanning nearly the entirety of their considerable catalog, while tens of thousands of fans wiggled and danced beneath a full moon — and a killer light show. All totaled, the Phish beneﬁ t grossed more than $1 million for ﬂ ood relief. Not to be outdone, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals lent their considerable cachet to local ﬂ ood-relief e˜ orts , as well. The band played a sold-out beneﬁ t show at the Flynn MainStage in October that was simulcast on Vermont Public Television. With that show, a charity auction and a $1000-per-ticket acoustic gig at Sugarbush, GPN accounted f or more than $250,000 in relief donations. While those two bands garnered the lion’s share of press about the, well, ﬂ ood of Irene beneﬁ ts, they were hard-
ly the only locals to rock for the cause. There were dozens of smaller Irene bennies in venues all over the state in the months f ollowing the storm. Additionally, a number of beneﬁ t compilation albums were released as the whole local scene rose to the challenge.
Eugene Hutz in Burlington City Hall Park
Adler upped the caliber and class of performers and turned the Pearl Street juke joint into a legitimate weekly entertainment option. Adler has since moved on to handle booking at Radio Bean and has found a new home, bringing a similarly progressive booking philosophy to the already eclectic café.
Indie promotions outﬁ ts MSR Presents and Angioplasty Media scored a coup this summer when they booked Neutral Milk Hotel’s Je˜ Mangum f or a solo show at Burlington’s Unitarian Universalist Church. The sold-out show was the ﬁ rst stop on the reclusive songwriter’s much ballyhooed return Closing Time tour. It was so successful that MSR and two thousand eleven saw the passing of What’s So Funny? AM plan to utilize the church as a venue two beloved live-music institutions in For the last few years, standup comedy for similarly big acts on a regular basis. Vermont: Langdon Street Café in Mont- in Vermont has been on the rise. And Next up: Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore pelier and Parima in Burlington. now, the burgeoning local comedy scene on Sunday, January 29. has a home of its very own. In October, Montpelier’s quirky music hotspot was the ﬁ rst to go. Citing ﬁ nancial dif - Burlington welcomed Vermont’s ﬁ rst The Occupy Burlington encampment ﬁ culty, LSC owner Meg Hammond comedy club, Levity. was treated to a surprise perf ormance Prior to Levity opening, ground and her partner/booking maven Ben f rom a notable Burlington expat when T. Matchstick made the heart-wrenchzero f or local comedy was the open Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz showed mic at Patra Caf é. From established ing decision to close the caf é’s doors up for an impromptu performance atop at the end of May. During its six and a comedians honing their chops to the fountain in City Hall Park in October. half years, LSC became the lifeblood of newbies working through stage jitHutz wasn’t the only star to lend his Montpelier’s music and arts scene. Per- ters, the Vietnamese coffeehouse was voice in solidarity with the Queen City haps no other venue in the state — inthe place to be f or cutting-edge locamp. A f ew weeks earlier, Sarah Lee cluding Burlington’s Radio Bean, upon cal comedy. But when whispers surGuthrie and her husband, Johnny Irion, which LSC was loosely modeled — was f aced this summer that Patra was on led protesters in a sing-along march up as vital a cog in its community. “Montthe market, calling into question the Church Street. peculiar” has become a little less so. open mic’s longevity, comedian Ryan In the wake of LSC’s closing, the cap- Kriger jumped into action and purGrace Potter had a big year. First, the ital city seems to be trying to rediscover chased the café. inaugural Grand Point North Festival Levity now hosts weekly open mics its musical identity. A few venues have on the Burlington Waterf ront was an stepped up to sof ten the blow, includon Thursdays, and a pair of regular unbridled success. For two full days this ing the reopened Black Door and Bagishowcases on Fridays. Moving forward, August, thousands rocked to big-name tos Café, both of which host live music Kriger plans to begin a Saturday-night acts such as Taj Mahal and Fitz and throughout the week. And, of course, showcase and host improv-comedy the Tantrums, as well as an impressive there’s always Charlie O’s and Positive nights. He also hopes to bring in region- roster of local bands. Potter was even Pie 2. But the void remains. al and national touring comedians. joined onstage by country superstar In Burlington, Parima closed, rather Kenny Chesney for a rendition of their abruptly and amid great conf usion, in Odds and Ends duet, “You & Tequila.” By the way, September. While the impact of losing Irene wasn’t the only local tragedy worthy that tune was nominated f or a pair of the Thai restaurant/live-music venue in of big-name beneﬁ t love. In January, the Grammies. Big year. Burlington was not nearly so prof ound storage and processing facilities at Pete’s Potter wasn’t the only Vermonter as LSC’s closing, it was still signiﬁ cant. Greens farm in Craftsbury were destroyed garnering Grammy attention. Local In the year and a half that local songin a ﬁ re. So in February, a cast of local su- composer Al Conti is up f or Best New writer Joe Adler had handled booking perstars, led by Phish’s Trey Anastasio, Age Album f or his 2011 record, Northfor the club, Parima went from scene af- rocked the Higher Ground Ballroom and ern Seas. terthought to an increasingly vital asset. raised some serious cabbage.
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