Monday, July 31, 2006

Lunchtime Baseball | UPDATE

Quick reminder for those folks in the Montpelier area...The Vermont Mountaineers will be playing a noon make-up game on Tuesday, Aug. 1st against Holyoke. The game doesn't mean anything to the Mountaineers since they clinched first place in the Northern Division by beating Concord on Sunday, 4-2. However, Holyoke and Lowell are battling for the last and final playoff spot. Whoever gets the spot will be the Mountaineers first round opponent starting on Wednesday in Montpelier.

I have a 1pm meeting tomorrow but I think I'm going to try to hit it for a few innings and a hot dog. Something different to do during lunch.

There is a chance that the game will be cancelled if some combination of wins and losses occur on Monday night throughout the league. However, I'm not sure what that scenario is. I'll just check the Mountaineers site on Tuesday morning to see if the game is still scheduled.

UPDATE: Both Holyoke and Lowell lost last night. So, the game is on for noon in Montpelier today (assuming it doesn't get rained out). Holyoke actually has to also play in Keene, NH tonight at 7pm to complete their season. Considering the heat and rain today, Holyoke has a long day ahead of them.

Pitchfork Festival

Hey folks, I wasn't able to go to the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago this past weekend but my friend, Tom (he signs his comments with "TK"), was there and sent me this summary of the two days. Tom is now flying to VT for ther rest of his vacation and will be going to the Editors show up in Montreal tomorrow night with me. Needless to say, he's a big music fan. Plus, he gets makes his living as a writer. So, this is better than the usual crap I scratch out. Thanks, TK.


Day One

Quite frankly, the heat is getting to me.

It started with the 2001 Radiohead show in Grant Park with temperatures in
the upper 90s and heat index warnings. Then it continued at Coachella in
2004 (over 100 both days but it's in the desert), Sasquatch in 2005 (mid
90s, record heat wave) and now last weekend's Pitchfork Festival at
Chicago's Union Park and temperatures in the mid 90s both days.

My sidekick Rich and I (I'd be his sidekick if he drove) avoided passing out
by drinking umpteen bottles of water, which were fortunately big and $1 a
pop. As far as the brief setup of the festival, the Aluminum and Connector
stages were about a football field apart, which enabled one band to play on
one stage while the other stage took down/set up for the next act. So you
essentially had a rapid fire succession of acts from 1 to 9. We basically
stayed behind the mixer board at the Aluminum Stage and then just turned 90
degrees to the left to check out the next band.

Before I get into band reviews, I need to point out just how much of a pain
in the ass I found the guy introducing every act to be. He combined the
worst, most condescending traits of your parents and the know-it-all guy
from work, or the bar, that turns out to not know shit. I'll call him MC
Wannabe - an endless string of public service announcements, plugging for
whatever crap they're selling and lame attempts at humor while introducing
bands. Some people simply need to be kept from microphones at all costs. I
came to hear music, not how great this festival is compared to Lollapalooza,
how great the merchandise tents and the local music scene is,

Hot Machines: Described as a "garage-rock supergroup" by the Chicago Reader,
they evidently don't have much in terms of available material on CD. It
didn't stop them from providing an energetic start to the day.

Chin Up Chin Up: Like any bad reporter, I failed to bring a notebook and
write anything down. With all of my notes mental, I'm bound to forget
certain things about certain acts. The good news is that if I forget
anything of note about a band, like local product Chin Up Chin Up, then I
don't have to write much about their unmemorable set.

Man Man: Winner of Best Organized Drum Circle (Saturday) as well as Most
Likely To Throw Its Own Feces At The Audience. They played for 35 minutes
and I think my head was going to explode if they played for 45 minutes. Yet
I was oddly entertained by the whole spectacle...

Band Of Horses: I'm not going to pretend I have encyclopedic knowledge of
every band that played - in fact, a fair number of acts will be new to me. I
have enjoyed Everything All The Time, the debut by Band Of Horses, quite a
bit. Upon listening to them close the set with The Funeral, I was able to
forget for a while that my forearms and legs were covered with beads of
sweat and that it felt like I could actually see myself sweating away.

Mountain Goats: Drum's Not There. If you're going to constantly try to be
clever when you're on the same bill as Art Brut, you need to do a better job
of it than these guys did.

Destroyer: I saw Destroyer open for The New Pornographers in Atlanta last
fall and usually when my friend Nick wants to ruin a band for me, he'll sing
them in his unique, hideous style. This time, it was simply a question, the
type that once implanted in your head will never escape. "Does he talk this
way all the time?", Nick asked of Pornographer/Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar.
We weren't sure but we did find that Bejar sings in the same tone and
cadence, every song, and it gets on my nerves. When moonlighting with the
Pornographers, the trait doesn't reveal itself. When he's doing a set with
Destroyer, I can't help but be agitated. I admire some of his work but it's
a hangup I can't get over.

Art Brut: At Sasquatch, I remember The Arcade Fire playing midway through
the afternoon and thinking I was unlikely to see a better performance for
the rest of the day. I felt the same way after watching Art Brut and I was
right. I'll admit I'm biased and a huge fan of Bang Bang Rock N Roll after
Murph burned a few tracks for me and their live set only increased my
infatuation with these clowns. It can easily be lost while giggling to their
silly lyrics just how good the music is and the guitar work proved to be
even more rabid live. Then there's the antics of lead singer Eddie Argoos,
who jumped rope with his microphone, imitated an airplane and made me nearly
pull a rib muscle laughing during the closer of Good Weekend. After proudly
exclaiming the signature lyric of "I've seen her naked...TWICE!" he followed
it up by celebrating "Twice! Twice! Twice! Twice!...". Another memorable
spoof was his oh-so-tender rendition of Rusted Guns Of Milan that proved to
be a pitch-perfect ballad farce.

Ted Leo & The Pharamcists: By this time we were desperate for shade and a
smoothie. I'm not too familiar with Ted Leo but what I heard, I certainly
enjoyed. I'll tack him on the list of bands I plan to find out more about.

The Walkmen: I own a copy of Bows & Arrows and if I've got issues with Dan
Bejar, surely I should have a beef with the Bob Dylan-Rod Stewart strains of
Hamilton Leithauser, right? But I don't and I can only defend my answer with
personal preference. I was pleasantly surprised by their set with its energy
and sometimes even angry outbursts that all seemed to work. They even
callled a couple of guys from Man Man out to play horns on one track.

Futureheads: Once again, a set interrupted by a break for food and drink
(prices were fairly reasonable). What I heard, I liked.

Silver Jews: We skipped out early. Usually I'm the last person to hit the
exit early when I paid money for a ticket but we had a 90-minute commute to
Rich's in-laws an another day of dealing with brutal heat to think about. I
was on the verge of sweating through my shirt for the third time and
something had to give. So I can either kick myself for bailing on a quality
band or relish what I had. I would have paid $30 to see Art Brut and I got
to see a bunch of other good bands to boot.

Day Two

On Sunday Rich and I came far more prepared to deal with elements. We had
sunblock and hats on Saturday but we added some folding chairs, an umbrella
and a gallon jug of water that coupled with a steady breeze made a big
difference. Unfortunately, there was no escaping that punk bitch MC Wannabe
and his diarrhetic banter (Drink lots of fluids! Watch your friends! Check
out all the tents! Wipe your ass after you crap!).

Tapes 'n Tapes: If Tapes 'n Tapes somehow turn out to be the Rolling Stones,
I'll feel compelled to pay for a $200 ticket and see their geriatric asses
touring when they're in their 60s because they've been such a bargain so
far. I paid $4 to see them at a small club in Madison in early January.
Since then, they have a new bass player and a far more refined set. One of
the advantages of playing early is when you have really soft interludes,
there's no distracting noise to mess with it. Tapes' Internet director
introduced them by encouraging people to blog about them in a positive
light, otherwise they'd kill their dog or hurt their weakest family member.
The mock threats were funny but the band stands on its own and has picked up
an edge, which I think it's a good thing. We've had a recent blog discussion
on overhyped acts and Tapes entered the discussion. Having The Loon as a
debut coupled with a live set like this makes me think there's plenty of
promise to be had here.

Danielson: Murph trashed them in a recent live review and I found Ships
falling short of the hype despite help from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and
Deerhoof. I tried to give him another chance but it simply wasn't happening.
Too many off-kilter screeches for my taste.

Jens Lekman: Lekman's breezy pop went over well as the temperature, which
was OK during Tapes 'n Tapes, began to rise. I had trouble ignoring his
backup band, which appeared to be a bunch of middle school girls. Don't ask
me how Lekman enticed this Jimmy Page-aged harem to play with him.

The National: The National started with an upbeat set until I heard one of
the mixer guys say "Everyone's ripping off Joy Division." As if almost on
cue, the set lost steam and a citation had to be issued for poaching Ian

Liars: Winner of Most Organized Drum Circle (Sunday). I've been reeled in by
their latest release, Drum's Not Dead, recently so I was intrigued by what
I'd see from them. Easily the loudest band to perform at the festival, Liars
ranged from searing primal noise to limits-pushing screaming. Like Man Man,
I found myself strangely engrossed, perhaps even more. The lead singer at
one point stated "the stage is hot and black," which I didn't think much of
until realizing after the song that he was barefoot and wisely opted for a
pair of shoes. He later stripped down to what appeared to be a blue waitress
dress, which offered a bit too much of a tighty-whities show than I cared
for. He made up for it and then some by mocking MC Wannabe by saying
"Remember what the guy said. Be sure to drink lots and lots of beer and rub
yourself with a fried chicken. That's what we did before we came on." It
wasn't knocking him out cold by swinging a guitar at his head from behind
like I'd hoped, but sometimes you have to celebrate the small victories in

Aesop Rock & Mr. Lif: I tend to get bored very quickly with the hip-hop
genre if the band isn't named Public Enemy or the Beastie Boys. So Aesop
Suck and Mr. Stiff gave Rich and I an opportunity to rehydrate in the shade.

Mission of Burma: When a band decides to reunite after 19 years, I start
thinking hip replacements and county fairs. So you have a fairly compelling
story when a band returns from nearly two decades off by playing hip
festivals and kicking ass like Mission of Burma does. Their latest, The
Obliterati, has been a favorite disc of mine recently and the set was
fantastic. They had one glitch when a unit overheated on them but they
quickly hopped to another tune. The set blended in chaotic numbers from
their early days with more streamlined recent numbers, all played with
relentless driving force. You wonder what possessed them to reunite and find
a somewhat different sound but they certainly showed no signs of slowing
down. Most bands at this point in their careers would have folded the tent
or should be begged to do so. With that said, Mission of Burma simply
doesn't know how to act its age.

Devendra Banhart, Yo La Tengo, Spoon and Os Mutantes: We bailed again early.
Rich has a wife and two kids he wanted to get back to at a resonable hour
and I only have the next day before heading out to Vermont on vacation. So
while I skipped out on a fair number of bands, I've also done my share in
terms of enduring ridiculous heat to see bands I like. I don't second-guess
myself for not seeing every part of a place I go on vacation to and I won't
look back on missing some of the bands I'd normally hang around to check
out. Instead I'll take to the road with delightful visions of Art Brut and
Mission of Burma dancing in my head. For $40 total for two days, it proved
quite a bargain.


It should also be noted that Eddie Argos of Art Brut gave a nice shout-out to Team Band during "Formed a Band". "TEAM BAND! TOP OF THE POPS!" Watch the video of it here.

Plus, in the photo above, that's a Team Band button that Argos is sporting.

I like Art Brut and Team Band. And now Art Brut likes Team Band. The world is in harmony.

Art Brut | Formed a Band (acoustic) | buy the album

Spinto Band | Alumni News

Hey, what's more "rock 'n roll" than getting interviewed for your college alumni magazine? That's right...nothing.

Seriously, I love The Spinto Band and recently learned of this recent interview that Tom & Sam Hughes did with their alma mater, Bennington College. In fact, Bennington is so stoked about it, it's on the front page of the college's website. Perhaps, that'll draw a bunch of indie kids to Vermont the same way Phish dragged in a plethora of jam fans to UVM. I doubt it but I have my dreams.

I particularly like how The Spintos get a big picture on the front page of the site while two other alumni only get a small link to their story about being named "Voices of Their Generation" by Time. I like how Bennington prioritizes things. Screw the literature guys...we want rock 'n roll!

Here's an interesting tidbit from the Bennington article:

Thomas joined the band committee on Bennington's Campus Activities Board, in part to help book gigs for the Spinto Band at Sunfest and in the Downstairs Café. Other band members attending Syracuse and American University followed suit, and they soon had an ongoing East Coast tour established.
Smart kids. Good idea for other "high school going onto college" bands to copy.

Besides doing interviews and touring Europe, The Spintos will be the opening band on a killer US fall tour...Art Brut, We Are Scientists and The Spintos will be touring together. You can find the listing of tour dates on the Spintos website. The only thing that would make that tour better would be if Team Band was on the bill also.

The closest the tour comes to Vermont is Boston. We Are Scientists will have dropped off the tour at that point but that's fine with me because I really just want to see Art Brut and The Spintos. They'll be playing at Middle East on Monday Oct. 16th (not listed on MidEast's site yet but is on The Spintos site).

To get an idea of their live sound, emusic also has an exclusive live album from The Spintos' show at Maxwell's last summer.

Lastly, here's the video for The Spintos' "Oh, Mandy" which I guess has also been picked up for a Sears commercial. Anyone seen it?

The Spinto Band | Late | buy the rest of the album

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pavement | Wowee Zowee Reissue | Other Crap

Since I just posted about Yo La Tengo, I thought I'd keep the 90's Matador theme alive and post about Pavement.

A few highlights:

1) Following the success of the S&E and CRCR reissues a few years ago, Wowee Zowee will be reissued this fall. Same drill. Some live tracks, b-sides and rareties. I've always loved Wowee Zowee so I hope this reissue holds up to the quality of the last two. Also, as I've mentioned before, I hope this is the last reissue. Their last two albums don't deserve reissues.

2) rbally has the mp3 files from an acoustic set Malkmus did at KCRW last summer when he was out supporting Face the Truth. I never warmed up to Face the Truth but I like this set.

3) Brooklyn Vegan had a post a few weeks ago that started a rumor that Pavement may be considering a reunion tour. Every other former band is cashing on reunion tours...why not Pavement? They would make a lot of bank and the guys are still involved in music so they wouldn't sound like retirees relearning their own songs. I'd go in a heartbeat.

4) Malkmus and Ibold played with Sonic Youth at Bonnaroo last month. My friend, Scott, sent over a copy of Malkmus singing "Expressway To Yr Skull" with Sonic Youth during their encore at Bonnaroo. The sound quality is a bit muted but if you collect everything that is Pavement, it's worth having. For a visual, here's a portion of the same performance via YouTube.

Sonic Youth (with Stephen Malkmus) | Expressway To Yr Skull

Friday, July 28, 2006

New Yo La Tengo

Interested in hearing tracks from Yo La Tengo's upcoming album, I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass? Well, the album won't be released until Sept. 12th. However Matador has put two tracks up on their site and TimeDoor has one up also. Stereogum had one up a week or two ago but has since been taken down.

All four tracks have sounded great and has greatly whetted my appetite for this album.

And you can keep checking The Hype Machine to see if any more leak.

By the way, YLT will be playing the Avalon in Boston on Thursday, Sep 28th. It isn't up on the Avalon site yet but it's on Matador's tour page.

Our First Harvest

It isn't much but there's a lot more to come. A few carrots are breaking the surface, the cherry tomatoes are starting to rippen and the lettuce is everywhere. However, we failed to weed for two weeks and the switch grass moved in with stunning speed.

If we decide to do this again next year, I'm going to sink some 2x12's on end all around the outside edge of our plot. The roots on the switch grass don't run very deep. So, a 2x12 should keep it out. Then we'll cover the plot with black plastic after we pick everything to kill off the grass and weeds. Hopefully, that'll help us out for the next season.

In the meantime, anyone have any good recipes?

Blogosphere Hype Rant

Analog Giant has an interesting post up about overhyped bands. I disagree with him about some of the bands he mentions but it's a good point. Ever since the first cavemen bang a few rocks together, there have been overhyped musicians. However, it happens a lot faster and more often with the preponderance of music blogs though.

Having said that, I don't think too much hype is going to hurt or kill the music scene. It's just forever a part of it.

By the way, if you want to see a good movie about music hype, check out the documentary about the Seattle scene in the early 90's called Hype.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Contrarian

In addition to being the music editor and blogger for Seven Days, Casey Rea is also a musician and a studio craftsman. Recently, he put those two latter skills together for his new ambiant pop five-song EP on Burlington's Icebox Records. For the album, Casey goes by The Contrarian and the disc is called Soft Rock.

Normally, ambient tunes aren't my thang. Ambient bands get so caught up in creating a rich textured and haunting sound that they forget about melodies and rhythms and wander directionlessly through their newly created "ambiance". Next thing you know, 15 minutes of your life is gone forever with nothing to show for it.

Soft Rock is different. Casey did a good job creating a dramatic soundscape but he also built nice acoustic tunes dab smack in the middle of that atmosphere. If you liked Greg Davis & Sebastian Roux's Paquet Surprise, you'll enjoy The Contrarian. However, I would say that Soft Rock does a better job of sticking to the song structure than Paquet Surprise did.

Knowing Casey's love for all things cheesy in the music world, I'm not surprised he went with the "Carpenters font" for the album cover. It also obviously goes with the soft rock theme. And I'm guessing the 35th anniversary thing is also related to the Carpenters 1971 self-titled release.

The Contrarian | Soft Rock Two
The Contrarian | Soft Rock One

MLS Goal Compilation | Week 17

The guy who writes the soccer blog, Climbing the Ladder, puts together a compilation of all the goals scored in MLS each week. While I could squabble with the music he chooses, he does a great job putting them together. The key thing it does is make the league look exciting and fun. So, I thought I'd start posting them here too.

I'm still sporting a soccer hangover from the World Cup but I'm starting to get up for games again. Just a few more weeks until EPL kicks off and with Bruce Arena now coaching Red Bull, the end of the MLS season may get a lot more interesting for NY fans.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Strugglers

Over the last year, the majority of bands I've posted about fall into one of four categories:

  1. They are from Sweden.
  2. They are from Vermont.
  3. They are from Brooklyn.
  4. They are a one-man band.

The Strugglers fall into the last category. Brice Randall Bickford II has a rotating cast of musicians join him but he's THE GUY and hence, the band.

I learned about The Strugglers from the Will Oldham tribute album I Am a Cold Rock. I Am Cold Grass and their sweet cover of Oldham's "Riding". However, on their album, You Win, their sound is much broader than the acoustic cover.

I'd compare The Strugglers to Smog when Bill Callahan records his more heavily built tunes. However, Bickford's voice sounds a lot like Eddie Veder. That's the thing I had to get past. I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan and Bickford's voice is so much like Veder's that it put me off for a while. Thankfully, I finally got over it since I'm now enjoying the album.

I also like Bickford because he left the following message on his website:
If you want to buy the new record, please check elsewhere online. has several basically brand new used copies that our friends in the rock journalism business put up for sale—thanks, guys.
Come on. That's kind of an amusing shot at rock journalists. And to put that on the front page of your site is rather ballsy.

The Struggler's myspace site has more songs to check out.

The Strugglers | The Cascade Range
The Strugglers | Racing Down One Path

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Five Bands | Two Shows | Higher Ground & Positive Pie | Jul 21st

It's not too often that you get to hit five indie bands in one night in Vermont. However, the stars aligned last Friday night and I was able to catch Phantom Buffalo, The Jazz Guys and Danielson at Higher Ground before heading back to Montpelier to catch the second sets from both Ryan Power & the Prons and The Cush at Positive Pie.

That makes for a lot to get through. So, let's get going.

jds, a friend of jds and I got there about a half hour before Phantom Buffalo hit the stage. The place was pretty empty at that point. Ultimately, there were about 50-75 people there which was less than I was expecting since it was a Friday night and The Jazz Guys were on the bill who I've seen pull in two-three times that many people at Club Metronome.

The nice thing was that Higher Ground was playing Bedhead's Transaction de Novo and The New Year's The End is Near over the house PA. It's cool to hear some great albums coming over a big sound system.

The Jazz Guys had a fun promotion going before the show also. If you colored in one of the show posters, they'd give you a DVD they had put together of the movies from their website. So, we grabbed some beers & markers and started coloring. I think they are planning on putting them up on their site at some point but I don't see them up there yet. Mine sucked but it was something to do before the show.

Plus, it was cool to finally meet Herb, Max and Martin from TJG. Nice guys. Too bad Bobby Domino wasn't in the house though.

I was only familiar with a few of Phantom Buffalo's songs before the show. However, it's always a sign of a good band when you enjoy their set despite not being familiar with their songs. They just have an intersting yet accessible sound. Their songs tend to have a poppy base to them but then they add in a bunch of subtle sounds that absorb your attention.

A lot of those subtle sounds came from the guy on the right. Whether he was playing the accordian or guitar, he would play odd little sounds and notes in a pattern that fell in line with the beat of the tunes. The guy seems inactive for large stretches during the show but they wouldn't be as good of a band without him. A good example is the little twangy bit he plays on "A Hilly Town".

By the way, what was up with the floods on the bass player? Is that a new hipster fashion style? I haven't seen floods like that since Frankie Dipasquale hit a growth spurt in second grade.

One other amusing thing to note about their performance is that they forgot their CDs. Their CDs are tough to find on line. No emusic. No iTunes. No Insound. Import only from Amazon. No CD Baby. And their site seems to be down. So, I was hoping to pick up their LP Shishimumu and EP at the show. No dice. They left all of their CDs back in Portland. Thankfully, Nick at Higher Ground went up to his office and burned a few copies for them to sell at the merch table. That's such a good example of how stuff happens in northern New England. Regardless, I was able to get both discs for $6. A great deal.

Next up was The Jazz Guys. They blew through their 45 minute set with their usual zeal. Because the crowd was small for the size of the room, the show lack some energy but I don't think it was their fault. They were having a good time but the crowd was kind of stiff and sober. Perhaps their rapport with the crowd works better when the show starts later and the fans are sauced.

Regardless, they sounded good and even played a few new songs called “Girl from Across the Ocean”, “Mortal Orange” and “Stuart.” I liked the new stuff; particularly the last tune.

Next up was Danielson. I was interested in seeing them since I had seen so many blogs raving about them and their new album lately. I didn't like what I had heard from them but I thought I was just missing something that would reveal itself in concert.

Nope. They stink. Daniel Smith's voice is like nails on a chalkboard. Completely grating. The only thing I can surmise is that all of the rave reviews has been an example of "blogosphere group-think". The lady in the band was at least attractive to look at and the police uniforms were kind of amusing. However, that wasn't enough to keep us there for more than a few songs. None of us were enjoying Danielson, so we decided to head back to Montpelier and try to catch the end of the show at Positive Pie.

We got back to Montpelier sometime after midnight. jds and his friend were wiped. So, they headed home and I went over to Positive Pie to find some friends and catch what was left of Ryan Power & the Prons and The Cush.

By the time I got there, Ryan Power & the Prons were about 2/3 through their second set and there was about 25 people left. Quick question: What exactly is the band's name? Is it The Prons, just Ryan Power or Ryan Power & the Prons? I know it used to be Ryan Power Trio but since the name change, I've seen/heard it a few different ways.

Regardless, they sounded good. Despite having had them recommended to me a long time ago, this was my first time hearing them and I was pleasantly surprised. Mid to down tempo indie pop. I liked the singer's vocals; particularly after hearing Danielson's. I hope to catch a full set of them one of these days.

I guess both bands played two sets and switched back and forth. So, sometime around 12:40, The Cush took the stage again. I had heard good things about The Cush also yet had not actually heard them. So, I was glad to catch part of their set. The odd thing is that, in tying the entire evening together, The Cush are originally from Dallas and are friends with the Peter Schmidt of The New Year which Higher Ground started the night with four hours earlier.

The best way to describe The Cush is to compare them to Low. Very quiet down tempo stuff with keys, bass and drums. The difference is that Low has a much warmer sound which is hard for any band to replicate. In general, The Cush weren't doing it for me. However, my ass was dragging. It was 1 a.m. and I had to be up in a few hours with the kids. So, I wasn't in the best mind frame to enjoy their sound. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to catch them when I'm feeling better.

Overall, any night you get to hear five bands (for $10) in Vermont while hanging with friends is a great night.

Check out jds' photos of the Higher Ground shows on his flickr account.

Phantom Buffalo | A Hilly Town
Phantom Buffalo | Anywhere With Oxygen

Ryan Power & the Prons | Heat Sleep

Jesus & Mary Chain | Live @ Vienna | Apr 1987

If you're a fan of early Jesus & Mary Chain, you should head on over to rbally to grab the mp3 files of their show at U4 Club in Vienna, Austria in 1987.

Good quality files and a fairly long set from a band that was notorious for walking off after a handful of tunes.

And for those that want a visual of J&MC around that here.

And, lastly, for anyone who ever held a crush for Hope here.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I don't know how popular Daytrotter is but I dig what they are doing so I thought I'd pass the word. Daytrotter is a site that asks touring bands to stop by their studio in Rock Island, IL to record four songs in two hours. Then they put those songs up on their site along with an article about the band, a brief interview and photos of the session. That's it. Simple. Yet, if you get good bands, it becomes a great idea.

Well, the guy who runs it, Sean Moeller, seems to have good enough connections to land a nice collection of bands as they roll through Illinois. So far, they've had (among others) The M's, Sunset Rubdown (Wolf Parade side project), Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Hockey Night, Casey Dienel and this week they have San Francisco's dirty folk duo, Two Gallants.

The Daytrotter song files are available on each of the pages I linked to for that band. You can also stream the most recent songs from the site, if you prefer.

jds last week was raving about the tunes from Sunset Rubdown's session. I downloaded them but haven't had the chance to spend a lot of time with them yet.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

M. Ward | Coming to Montreal | Sep 12th

M. Ward, the savant of warm acoustic tunes, will be playing La Sala Rosa in Montreal on Tuesday, Sep 12th. I can't seem to figure out whether he's touring with a backing band or not though.

In the past, Ward has done both but I've only seen him play solo live. While he does a good job of using digital loops and mutliple mics to build a full sound, I'm interested in seeing him with a band the next time; particularly if I'm going to drive to Montreal on a Tuesday night.

Plus, his upcoming album, Post-War (Aug 22nd release), is a more expansive album than his previous works. So, I think he would have a tougher time replicating them live when playing solo. So, if anyone knows if he's bringing a band with him or not, please let me know. It'll probably determine whether I make the trek to Montreal or not.

The other possiblity is a Burlington show. This is pure speculation but I noticed that M. Ward has Wednesday, Sep 13th open on his tour calendar (between his Montreal show and NYC show on the 14th. So, he's going to be driving through the area anyway. Why not pick up another show? The problem is that Dan Bern is already playing the small room at Higher Ground that night. Maybe M. Ward could tap into some of that private college money at Dartmouth or Bennington College.

Regardless, I'm enjoying the new album and hope he delivers it live with a full band.

M. Ward | Chinese Translation
M. Ward | To Go Home

Performance Art Update | UPDATE

So, my post from last week about the performance artist at the Montpelier Farmers' Market was picked up by Seven Days and appeared in last Wednesday's issue. I don't know if the short piece in Seven Days had any impact but things were a little different this week.

As expected, the artist had a different outfit on, as you can see. Plus, they were standing on the platform this week with their cloak hanging to the ground which gave the impression they were as tall as Herman Munster.

The two weird differences this week though were how people were reacting to the artist and how the artist was reacting to the market goers. The first two weeks, people were kind of standoffish and unsure what was going on. This week, it was a party with kids going right up to the artist, lots of photos being taken and plenty of laughs and giggles from people as they passed.

However, the warmer relations weren't just one-way. The artist, who in the past had purposely ignored everyone, was now shaking hands, waving to kids and posing for pictures. Still silent but much more engaged with folks.

Hell, it's gone from being a bit creepy to the point where he/she is basically the mascot of the market. The Mountaineers have Skip and, now, the Farmer's Market has this.

UPDATE: If you want to see what the person was wearing the first week, the blog Runs With Scissors has a good photo of the person from that initial day.

Pretty Flowers

All lovers of rock n roll and playing air guitar should head over to extrawack! to grab the Pretty Flowers' "Scheisse Movie". The entire song is basically one riff and about two sentences of lyrics but that riff is worth the trip. I got it a few days ago and have been playing it constantly. I'll probably be sick of it a few weeks but in the meantime...oh, that riff.

By the way, I think "scheisse" is German for "shit". So, I have no idea what Pretty Flowers are singing about but, like I said, it's all about the riff.

Beemer Bikes Everywhere

Are you wondering why you're seeing so many BMW motorcycles this weekend? It's because 8,000 BMW owners have descended on the Queen City for their 2006 BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Rally. It seems like everytime I turn around I see another bike and some dude in eurotrash leathers. And Montpelier is 40 minutes from the rally. I can just imagine what it's like in the Burlington area.

I generally can't stand motorcycles (or "monster turtles" as my 2-year-old calls them) because of the noise. However, I think my bias has been skewed by the preponderance of Harleys we see (and unfortunately hear) in Vermont. However, I've noticed these BMW bikes are a lot more quiet. So, it hasn't been too annoying.

And the bikes are kind of cool to check out. Some the bikes are pretty packed. In fact, some seem to have more metal on them than my old VW Rabbit had in the early 90's.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Amen Break

Are you curious about the history and orgin of a famous 6-sec. drum break sample called the Amen Break? Got 18 minutes to kill? Click below.

iPod Mystery Track | Hard-Fi

Every once in a while a track pops up on my iPod while it's in shuffle mode that I've never heard of and have no idea how it got on my iPod. Perhaps a friend sent it over or I got it from a music blog or I got it from a sampler CD or some record promoter sent it over or the music gods bestowed an immaculate download upon my iPod. I don't know but it's fun to have these tracks pop up every so often to keep things interesting.

I usually don't write about the tracks because I don't know anything about the bands. But when has that lack of knowledge ever really stopped me in the past from posting about a band. So, I thought I'd throw the track up here from now on when they appear.

The track this time was "Stars of CCTV" from Hard-Fi and it came on while I was giving my kids a bath last night. The lead singer has a Billy Bragg quality to his voice and the music is half-acoustic and half-electric. The strumming makes the song feel immediately familiar and the chorus is rather catchy. Good tune.

Today, I learned the band is from England, the song came out in 2004 on a very limited release (500 copies) but was re-released in 2005 on an album of the same title. Apparently, the album got strong reviews and was nominated for a Mercury Prize.

According to iTunes, I added the song to my library on Aug 8th, 2005. So, it only took me a year to finally get my ass around to listening to it. Whoever gave it to me, thanks.

Hard-Fi | Stars of CCTV

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lambchop | Coming to Montreal | Sep 23rd

Do you know how music fans didn't really "discover" The Velvet Underground until about ten years after they had broken up when a bunch of musicians started citing them as a major influence? Well, in 2020, I think the same thing is finally going to happen for Lambchop. Someday, the world will "discover" the genius of Lambchop and their dark, beautiful fusion of country and soul.

Or maybe they won't. What the hell do I know?

Seriously, I've been in love with Lambchop ever since hearing those first "stop whatever you are doing and stare at the stereo" notes from How I Quit Smoking float out of my stereo speakers. Since then, they've released about 9,000 albums with each one providing more and more tunes of sweeping delicate artistry. Yet, they never get any attention and, with ten band members, nobody is getting rich for that excellence. But in 2020, I'm telling ya, it's fat city for whoever is holding the rights to these albums.

Having said all of that, Lambchop will be making a stop on their next tour in Montreal at Le National on Saturday, Sep 23rd. I pretty sure my wife and I will be going up for this one. Maybe make a weekend out of it.

Lambchop will be out supporting two albums. Last spring, they released an album of rarities called The Decline of Country & Western Civilization - Part II: The Woodwind Years (Now, that's a title!) which was surprising because they had released another rarities disc back in
2001 called Tools In the Dryer. Here's the kicker, the first 1,000 copies of Tools in the Dryer included a bonus disc of more rarities. That's three discs of rarities in five years. And the magic is that they are all enjoyable.

The best tracks from The Decline are the alternate upbeat rocking versions of the quiet tunes from How I Quit Smoking like "The Scary Caroler" and "Smuckers". It shows how flexible the large band is when they can completely change the structure and sound of their songs and still produce gems.

The main album Lambchop will be out supporting is their new album Damaged which is due in stores on Aug. 22nd. I've only heard three tracks from it so far and it sounds similar to their last release Aw C'mon/No You C'mon. More sweeping strings than exclamating horns but dazzling nonetheless.

They've also recently released a split EP with Hands Off Cuba that is more electronica than country and probably won't be featured much during this tour. Like I said, they seem to have released a few thousand albums. It's tough to keep track of all of them.

The opening band in Montreal will be Toronto's post-rock outfit Apostle of Hustle.

Songs from The Decline of Country & Western Civilization:
Lambchop | The Scary Caroler
Lambchop | Smuckers

Songs from Damaged:
Lambchop | Beers Before the Barbican
Lambchop | Crackers

Song from the compilation Beyond Nashville: The Twisted Heart of Country Music:
Lambchop | Beyond Belief (Elvis Costello cover)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hipsters in Heat aka Siren Festival | Osheaga Festival

Well, while Vermonters spent the weekend heat wave soaking in our favorite local swimming holes, the indie kids in NYC were catching all of the hot new bands out in Coney Island at the Village Voice's Siren 95 degree heat.

The big names were Scissor Sisters, Tapes 'N' Tapes and Art Brut but it sounds like Serena Mannesh and Dirty On Purpose got a lot of attention too.

Here's a few links to some nice photos of the shows. Obie's photos. extrawack's photos. Fresh Bread's photos.

Check out performances by Art Brut here and here. The second one includes a nice little rant from Eddie Argos about Cat Stevens. And one by Dirty On Purpose here. And one from Tapes 'N Tapes here.

But don't despair our lack of access to big summer music festivals because as jds posted a few weeks ago, there is going to be a big one in Montreal over Labor Day Weekend. It's called the Osheaga Festival and will feature Sonic Youth, Wolf Parade, The Hidden Cameras, Clap Your Hands, Final Fantasy, Islands, Dinosaur Jr., Flaming Lips, The Magic Numbers and a bunch of other indie bands. Clearly, a stacked line-up.

Having said that, I'm still up in the air about whether I'm going to go or not. Labor Day weekend is a tough one. We always have a bunch of parties and activities going on. Plus, I'm not a big fan of hanging in a huge field all day waiting for truncated performances a hundred yards away when I know that if I wait for the band's club dates, I could see a full set in a more intimate setting.

Although Parc Jean-Drapeau looks like a beautiful setting for such a festival. By the way, I think the Google Map from Osheaga's website has it's marker in the wrong spot because, according to the map, the show is going to be in a parking lot under an elevated highway. I hope for everyone's sake, that marker is misplaced.

Two-day passes are available through Higher Ground for $80.

One final note...I'm liking Dirty On Purpose's Hallelujah Sirens LP. Yet another good Brooklyn band. I also like at the end of their set when they say "We're Dirty On Purpose". It makes an otherwise horrible band name kind of amusing.

Dirty On Purpose | No Radio
Dirty On Purpose | Car No Driver

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Little Ones

It's already mid-July and I haven't trotted out any posts on "good summer albums". So, I thought I'd finally get my ass in gear with an EP from a new band out of LA called The Little Ones. The six-song disc is called Sing Song and reminds me a lot of one of my 2005 faves The Spinto Band. Lots of summery classic 60's pop. Nothing transformational but just a fun album to have blowing out your car window.

Now, to be honest, I'm kind of late on The Little Ones. I'm the third VT blogger to pimp the California quintet. gjs over at Pages Within tipped me off to them back in May and then Tiny Meat tossed them up on one of his Tuesday indie music dumps. So, that's three of us showing love for these guys. In the small world of VT bloggers about music, that's almost overkill.

The Little Ones | Lovers Who Uncover
The Little Ones | Cha Cha Cha

Editors | Coming to Montreal | Aug 1st

OK. I know that not everyone is crazy about Editors (I'm looking at you, Casey). However, after having the album for six months or so, I still find myself playing it regularly. There's still about 4-5 songs on the album that I don't like and find to be quite bland. But the rest of it is delicious.

So delicious in fact, that I'm willing to hike up to Montreal to hear that half of the album. Plus, I've heard from friends that they are pretty damn good live. I missed their Burlington show back in March when I already had tickets for Silver Jews in Boston right before the show and Arctic Monkeys in Montreal the day after the show. It just would have been too much to hit a third show. But Editors have given me a second chance.

The show will be at Cabaret La Tulipe (9pm) which is a nice old theater with a great sound system; and easy to get to. The opening band will be Lake Trout who is also opening for The Flaming Lips at UVM in September. Download a few of Lake Trout's songs here.

By the way, check out their tour itinerary. It's a recipe for "band burnout". In one month, they are going to hit Canada, US, Japan, Austria, England, Scotland, Germany, France, Isle of Jersey and then Turkey; in that order. Geez, and I was bitching about hitting Boston and Montreal in one week.

If you want to download their four-song acoustic session they did for a French radio station, click here.

Editors | Lights
Editors | French Disko (Sterolab cover)
Editors | Feel Geed Inc (Gorillaz cover)

Farmers' Market Performance Art

The Montpelier's Farmers' Market has all of your usual stuff. Vegetables, meats, plants, bread, cheese and crafts. However, there's something new at the market this month.

Performance art!

I first noticed the person last week when he/she was standing on their platform wrapped in a large off-white sheet and mask just peaking out of their wrapping. It kind of freaked my kids out at first but then they became curious about who it was and why they were standing there. The artist moves every once in a while but is completely unresponsive to the people going by.

The reaction from the other folks at the market seems to have varied from being startled when they first see it to being annoyed by it because it made them uncomfortable to laughter to photographing the person while their kids stand along side of the artist. Plus, a lot of people just walk by without noticing it or just purposefully ignoring it.

The people who seem the most perplexed by it are the out-of-towners who thought they'd go away for the weekend to a quaint Vermont town. There never was anything like this on Newhart.

As you can see, this week the person was covered in straw and paint. Considering the 90 degree heat yesterday, I'm guessing that straw was humming by the end of the market.

I like this addition to the market. It adds to the atmosphere and is certainly a conversation piece. I have no idea what statement the artist is making but I'm interested in seeing what they show up wearing next week.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Jazz Guys | Phantom Buffalo | Danielson | Coming to Higher Ground | July 21st

Alright. I'm done guest blogging over on extrawack. Time to get on with VT business.

The best show of the summer at Higher Ground will be next Friday night - July 21st. Three good bands for $10 ($8 in advance). With the exception of the creme stand, that's the best deal you find.

The first band at 8:00 will be Portland's (ME; not OR) Phantom Buffalo. It took a little while for these guys to grow on me but now I'm making special plans to get my ass there in time to see them. They have a bright guitar pop sound but it isn't overly sweet. The singers high-pitched voice can take a little getting used to but now I love it.

You can downlaod all the mp3 files of their in-studio radio performance at WMPG from last February.

After them comes the Queen City's reigning indie champs, The Jazz Guys; hot on the heels of their debut EP, Blessing in Disguise. In classic Jazz Guys fashion, a show can't just be a show. They always throw in a little something extra. This time, they are having a contest and giveaway. They are going to have a show poster up on their site which fans can print off, color & decorate, and then bring to the show. The first 100 folks who show up with flashy show posters get a special gift. Mums the word on the gift though. I'm hoping for a Smoker Father Christmas because I'm loving my new one.

I can't find the poster on their site yet so I'm guessing it isn't up yet. However, once it is up, I'll post again about it. Maybe I'll print off a whole bunch and let my kids' daycare classes color them in.

Either way, it should be an entertaining set.

Capping the evening will be Danielson. The blogosphere is raving about their new album, Ships, but they aren't clicking for me. Perhaps seeing them live will make a difference for me. At the very least, their use of costumes and props should provide for some amusing visual moments. But they could compeltely suck and it would still be a good show because Phantom Buffalo and The Jazz Guys are playing.

By the way, jds at Lat 44.2N has been loving Phantom Buffalo and Danielson for a while now. For more (and better written) posts on them, go here and here respectively.

Phantom Buffalo | A Bathing Suit For a Rich Girl
Phantom Buffalo | Killings Not OK

The Jazz Guys | The Best Five Minutes of Your Life
The Jazz Guys | Amanda

Danielson | Did I Step On Your Trumpet

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

False extrawack!

Hey folks. I'm guest blogging over at extrawack! while b.f. is out saving the planet.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Contrast Podcast | Parlez Vous Français?

With France losing in the World Cup finals today, I thought I'd mention that the theme for the most recent Contrast Podcast is "songs in french". I contributed a song from Montreal-based band Les Breastfeeders called "Mini Jupe et Watusi". Great song.

The podcast is stacked with a bunch of good tunes such as Dutronc's "Le Responsible", Miou Miou's "A l'ete de la saint martin", Stereolab's "Miss Modular" and Serge Gainsbourg "Bonnie & Clyde". Plus, you can now stream the podcast from the site. So, if you aren't in the mood for downloading a 64MB file, just stream it.

I was also thinking of submitting a tune from Eux Autres or Fabienne Delsol but ultimately decided to go with Les Breastfeeders since they never seem to get mentioned in the blogosphere. Plus, I can just share the tracks from the Eux Autres and Fabienne Delsol here as a supplement to the podcast.

The theme for the next Contrast Podcast will be Beatles covers. It filled up very quickly and I didn't get a chance to submit anything but I'm hoping somebody got Stevie Wonder's version of "We Can Work It Out" in there.

Les Breastfeeders | Mini Jute et Watusi
Fabienne Delsol | Laisse tomber les filles
Eux Autres | Ecoutez Bien!
Dutronc | Le Responsible

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's All Over

Well, a month after it started, the World Cup is over with Italy being the last team standing. I don't care for the Italian team but kudos to them. Nobody beat them for a month. In fact, nobody got a better result against them than the US did when they tied them 1-1.

I watched the game at Positive Pie 2 with TM and about 100 other soccer fans (which you can make out from TM's fuzzy shot from his camera phone). The place was packed. And that's the most notable thing for me and this cup. Four years ago, eight years ago or twelve years ago you would not have seen 100 people go to a bar in a small Vermont town on a beautiful afternoon to watch a soccer game. People seem much more interested this year than in year's past.

I'm not crazy enough to believe all of these people are going to watch soccer regularly but they'll tune in for the next cup and a portion of them will follow the sport more closely than they did before. Whether it's watching pro games from Europe or qualifying matches for South Africa 2010, some of these new fans will expand their soccer interest.

As for Zidane and his bat shit crazy head butt with ten minutes to go in extratime, it was one of the craziest things I've ever seen a player do at such a heightened moment in a big game. The early reports are that Materazzi used a racial slur that sent Zidane over the edge. As disgusting as that is, Zidane has been playing soccer for decades. I'm sure he's heard all sorts of horrible things coming out of players' mouths. I can't imagine what Materazzi said that was so much worse to make Zidane lose complete control of his self-judgement.

Regardless, Zidane will probably be forever remembered for that head butt as it gets replayed thousands of times from now to eternity. But let's never forget that Zidane scored this goal in the Champions League Final. Certainly a better way to remember the guy.

Friday, July 07, 2006

DVD Double Feature | All Dolled Up | Wattstax

I don't watch many DVDs but I accidentally stumbled into a killer double feature recently with a similar theme. The theme was music from 1972-73 but both DVDs showed opposite ends of the spectrum of the early 70's music scene.

One was about punk while the other was soul. One was in black & white while the other was in color. One was shot mainly indoors and the other outdoors. One dealt with concerts in small dark clubs before 400 fans while the other focused on a sunny outdoor music festival in front of 100,000 fans. Lots of differences but besides the theme of music, the thing that unites these two films is the overwhelming desire for individuality that seemed to dominate US culture in the early 70's.

All Dolled Up

While reviewing Kris Gruen's debut album a few months ago, I talked to Kris about a film his parents, Bob Gruen & Nadya Beck, had recently released about The New York Dolls. Apparently, Bob Gruen & Nadya Beck were some of the first people to buy a portable video recorder. Because nobody back then had VCRs (except for Gruen & Beck), they would film bands and then invite the bands over to watch their performances. This was a pretty novel and cool things for bands. So, it led to some friendships with the couple. Well, Kris was kind enough to lend me a copy of the DVD.

One of those friendships was with The New York Dolls. From 1972 to 1975, Gruen & Beck recorded about 40 hours of videotape of the band. The majority of the footage comes from the Dolls 1973 tour of LA and San Francisco. Some on stage. Some back stage. Some while traveling. Some poolside. Etc.

The result is an unblinking view of one of the first punk bands and the scene that surrounded them. The concert footage is fun to watch but my favorite part of the documentary is everything off the stage. There is very little editing with the camera rolling for minutes at a time. So, you get a great feeling for what it was like to just hang out with the Dolls.

You can sense David Johanson's charisma as he dominates the backstage parties. You can easily see bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane's fragile personality as he seems to slink into the background of every scene; even when he is physically front and center. You can see Johnny Thunder's presence shrink as drugs begin to take their toll. But most of all, it's easy to tell how much fun it would have been to be a part of that scene.

Plus, you get to see the befuddled looks of regular folks' faces as the Dolls walk down the street or through the airport. You get to see the fans as they file into Max's Kansas City. The surprising thing is how much the fans look like hippies. It looks like the same crowd that are following the Trey & Phil Lesh tour at the moment. Even the little things like seeing the pull rings and tin cans of the beer they are drinking is interesting. The fact is that very few people were in these clubs with video cameras in the early 70's. So, not only is it a unique look at one of the most influential punk bands, it's a great look at the clubs and people surrounding them at the time. So, the film works well for fans of the Dolls and just general music fans.

One last point, if you are a big Dolls fan, be sure to watch the bonus feature where Bob Gruen shows his still photos of the band and provides commentary. He adds a lot of interesting info that doesn't make it into the film. For example, in the film, we just see Kane with a cast on his hand when they reach LA. Johansen says at one point that he hurt it but leaves it at that. Well, in Gruen's commentary, he points out that Kane's girlfriend didn't want him to go to the West Coast. So, she tried to cut off one of his fingers to prevent him from going.

Watch the trailer here.


The other documentary was the Oscar nominated documentary of the 1972 music festival that Stax Records hosted in the LA Coliseum to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Watts riots. My brother-in-law and his wife had recently bought it and while visiting them last month, they showed me a bit of it. I had never even heard of the disc but from just a few minutes of it, I knew I wanted to see all of it. So, I borrowed it and watched it back-to-back with All Dolled Up.

Ecerything about this film makes it a must-see. The performances are spectactular. The crowd looks great with long afros, gigantic hats, big fur coats and all sorts of classic 70's clothing. Richard Pryor's comedy bits between the performers are hilarious and a nice change of pace. And the interviews with residents of Watts (including Ted Lange (pre-Isaac Washington days)) remind you of the social activism of the event.

While there are some big names at the show such as Issac Hayes, The Staples Singers and The Bar-Kays, what blew me away were the performaces by the guys I had never heard of. Johnnie Taylor's sweaty & sexy performance of "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" and Rance Allen's blistering "Hendrix meets gospel" version of "Lying On the Truth" are worth tracking it down alone.

One amazing moment occurs when Rufus Thomas is on stage. The crowd starts to pour out of the stands and onto the field. But Thomas tells them to stop and not go on the field until he tells them. Amazingly everyone stops. Then when he starts the next song, he tells them to "Go". People go sprinting everywhere; doing splits, dancing and just having a great time. Then at the end of the song, Thomas tells everyone to leave the field again. And everyone just leaves (except for a few stragglers that Thomas mocks hilariously). It staggering to watch. Think about all of the times you've been at a show and the band has asked everyone to take a step back to alleviate a heavy crush on the front row. Have you ever seen it work. Nobody ever listens. However, in 1972, I guess people did a better job of listening (or at least listening to a classic showman like Rufus Thomas). Regardless, it's a great moment to watch. You can watch it here. Be sure to check out the lady dancing at the 2:35 mark. Smoking.

Watch the trailer here.

Like I mentioned above, I enjoyed watching the two films because they both showed heavy doses of individuality busting loose in the early 70's. Completely different music scenes but, overall, the two films paint a great picture of the colorful era in US culture.

Now, I need to get the copies of these films back to their owners.

All Dolled Up | Buy | Rent

The New York Dolls | Pills (Mercer Street Sessions)
The New York Dolls | Jet Boy

Wattstax | Buy | Rent

Rance Allen Group | Lying On the Truth (Live at Wattstax)
Johnnie Taylor | Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone (Live at Wattstax)

Monday, July 03, 2006

4th of July

Happy 4th!

Since we moved to Vermont, the 4th of July has become my favorite holiday. The weather is great. No gifts to buy. No traveling required. Zero stress. BBQs. Relaxing with friends. And best of all...Montpelier's 4th of July Parade.

Almost every town has some sort of parade around the fourth and we usually hit three or four of them. I could pretend it's just for the kids but the fact is that I love them too. Particularly Montpelier's. The thing I love is the traditional slice of Americana it represents along with the contrast between all of the things and people in the parade. The organic farmers march with the Civil War re-enactors who march with dancing hippies who march with the politicians who march with the protesters who march with the kids who decorated their bikes who march with the local minor league baseball team and so on and so on. All of it weaves together into a wildly entertaining slice of our community. So, with that in mind, here we go...

After enjoying some great beer-soaked brats and burgers at a friend's BBQ, we headed over to the parade and took our usual spot along the state house lawn. As always, kicking it's the politicians.

Sen. Jeffords, in his last parade as a sitting senator, got the largest round of applause.

Next up was Jeffords' likely replacement, Rep. Bernie Sanders. Nationwide, he's a bit of a polarizing figure but in VT, he gets about 60% of the vote. He even does well in the blue-collar conservative region in the northeastern part of the state.

Come on! Name another state where the sitting Treasurer is driving a farm loader in a parade! In the past, Jeb Spaulding has walked on stilts in the parade. Talented fellow.

And if everything goes as planned, State Senator Welch will replace Bernie in the US House.

Next up were the kids on their bikes. You can't see it well in this picture but most of them had their bikes decked out in red, white and blue decorations.

Followed by the wacky bikes.

The Lyme Town Band. I've never even heard of the town of Lyme.

This one was my son's favorite which makes sense for a four-yeal-old boy. It's the local minor league baseball team, the Vermont Mountaineers, on top of a firetruck. Little boy nirvana.

By the way, after topping Sanford 2-0 this afternoon, the Mountaineers are 14-7 and enjoy a three-game lead in the Northern Division. The amusing part of today's game is that it was a make-up game from Friday's rain-out and they forgot to notify the umpires. After realizing they didn't have any umps, the team called a local guy who left work early and came over and umped the game alone. Such a typical northern New England way of doing things.

As my friend, Nik, always pointed out...Americans love things that rhyme. If it rhymes, it must be true!

And after the "no nukes lady", come some of the sailors from the USS Montpelier which is an active nuclear attack submarine. Oh, I love the back-to-back contrasts of this parade.

My wife and I were having dinner outside at Conoscenti last night when a few of the sailors walked by in their dress whites. We both immediately had the same thought..."It's Fleet Week in Montpelier???"

Next up was Chris Robinson and his band promoting the Washington County Family Center. Looks like they need a bass player. Hmmm, I wonder where they could find a bass player...hmmm.

Did someone ask for dancing hippies?

And who did the parade organizers put right after the dancing hippies? That's right. The Civil Air Patrol. With their shiny helmets, they look like the ROTC guys from Omega House.

Apparently, Montpelier has a unicylcer club.

Next up were the farmers. Another big hit with the little ones.

I gotta get me a set of "green walls".

Time for the beauty queens. Where's the guy with the "Fuck Barbie" shirt when you need him?

And what do you put right after the beauty queens? That's right. Dancing pagans banging sticks together. Such a great parade.

It's not a 4th of July parade until you have a few white folks in Che Guevera t-shirts playing steel drums.

The Raging Grannies. Seriously, don't fuck with the Raging Grannies.

Kevin of Buch Spieler rocking out "Aiko Aiko".

These guys are my favorites. The Shriners are a bunch of old guys who are probably jacked up on about 1,600 mg of ibuprofen as they cruise around in these little go-carts high-fiving all of the kids along the parade route. The thing I love is when they drive up and over their accompanying truck (which doesn't stop) on the ramps attached to the roof. It's great. Everyone goes nuts for these guys.

Coming down the ramp.

The back of the truck that the go-carts go up.

This guy freaked out my son. I'm sure he'll be waking up any minute now screaming about a bad dream. I'm blaming this guy when that happens.

These are the folks that want VT to secede from the US. Ever since they published their newsletter about how 9/11 was a big federal conspiracy, I've dismissed them. This little showing didn't win me back.

By the way, in continuing the "contrast vibe", the parade organizers put these guys right after The League of Women Voters. So, The League of Women Voters came through encouraging everyone to register to vote. Then these guys came through with banners saying "Refuse to Register". Some parade organizer has a great sense of humor.

Next up...Bread & Puppet. Love 'em or hate 'em, they always put on a good show.

More protesters against Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Bread & Puppet's bus. Yep, they're hippies.

And what should follow an anarchist theater group? That's right. The minor league basketball team.

Followed by...Civil War re-enactors. I like how re-enactors always make themselves Generals.

Time for an oompa band and some laderhousen.

The beginning of the end. Smokey the Bear. You can just see his hat behind the tractor's wheel.

The firetrucks are always the big grand finale.

Another year. Another great parade.

After the parade, there's a two-hour party on the state house lawn which is concluded with a fireworks show. And tomorrow, on the actual 4th, we'll hit the Worcester parade (11 a.m.) which is followed by the Strawberry Festival at the Methodist Church and chicken BBQ on Ladd's Field.

Now do you see why the 4th of July is my favorite holiday?

Sufjan Stevens | The Star Spangled Banner (Live)