A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground Ballroom 9/22/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday September 23, 2010

If you missed last night’s Broken Social Scene show, you really blew it — and don’t say I didn’t warn you. BSS treated us to over 2 hours of audio enjoyment, putting on one of the best shows — if not the best show — I’ve seen all year.

Openers The Sea and Cake started things off with an impressive performance, but I was so jazzed with anticipation that I could hardly pay attention. It’d been quite a while since I last saw BSS — a little over 4 years actually. The last time I saw them definitely stands out as one of my favorite shows of all time, at Merriweather Post Pavilion (MD) in the summer of 2006, along with Belle & Sebastian and Ted Leo/Pharmacists.

I was also at the BSS Presents… show in 2007 at the Ira Allen Chapel, but that was definitely Kevin Drew’s solo effort, no matter what it was called. Not to mention the sound quality was awful and Kevin Drew was sick. Needless to say, I’ve been waiting to see Broken Social Scene again for a long time.

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

They played a nice mix of tunes from all 4 of their albums, as well as a cover of “Soul Unwind” by Apostle of Hustle (BSS guitarist Andrew Whiteman’s side project). I was only allowed to take photos during the first three songs, so they may make the show look pretty mellow — don’t believe it. There was plenty of sweaty rock energy on stage and off.

Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene

Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

Though I really wanted to hear “It’s All Gonna Break,” my disappointment was pretty easily overcome by some of my other favorites like “7/4 (Shoreline),” “Superconnected” and “Meet Me in the Basement.”

The band clearly had a strong connection with the audience, and their stage presence and banter really cemented that feeling. A few of them made a guest appearance at the Live Yo Gabba Gabba (children’s entertainment, for those without kid neighbors) performance earlier in the day, and Kevin showed off his newly acquired dancing skills by leading us in the “Peanut Butter Stomp.”

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

There was a fairly new female addition to the band (sorry I can’t remember her name and can’t find it online), and she fit in wonderfully, singing “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” live for the first time, and absolutely killing it.

I think there were 8 people in the band last night, though a couple members of The Sea and Cake also joined them on stage for several songs. There were tons of different instruments played — well beyond what I’m used to seeing at a show. The trumpet and saxophone definitely stood out, and there was some solid harmonica work in there as well. There was also plenty of instrument-swapping going on as usual, a true testament to the talent of this band.

Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

Broken Social Scene @ Higher Ground 9/22/10

Broken Social Scene really brought their best last night, and I couldn’t be more excited to see them again in December at Metropolis in Montreal.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Erin McKeown @ Kennedy Center 8/19/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Guest Post, Live Shows
Written by Aaron
Friday August 20, 2010

Ed. Note: Brendan asked me to fill in for a few a few days. I’m happy to oblige.

A 6 p.m. rock show?  Fine by me.

I moved toward the front of the stage and found an empty chair next to two chatty, much older women.  Why were they here?  Were they unlikely rock fans?  Perhaps they were hoping to hear some lady jazz singer profiled in the patrons’ newsletter.  Folky singer/songwriter enthusiasts?  Maybe that was the case.

Erin McKeown - Hundreds of Lions

Hundreds of Lions

Since this blog typically covers music closer to Burlington, I’ll do a little explaining.  Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center is a short walk from my apartment.  It’s even closer — across the street — from the famed Watergate complex.  Young people live where I live.  Old people live in the Watergate.

So I was sitting next to some Watergate retirees.  Their pre-show banter pegged them as regulars at the Kennedy Center’s daily Millennium Stage shows.  Music I love isn’t often featured at the free performances hosted in this arts palace (later this week in the same series: “Marvin Hamlisch conducts alumni of the D.C. Youth Orchestra!”).  But tonight was different.

At 5:57, the very slight Erin McKeown hustled through the atrium hefting an enormous backpack.  She was on stage a moment later wearing a white shirt and white pants — both rolled and unbuttoned enough to reveal intricate tattoos.  Not the typical Kennedy Center look.

McKeown’s latest album was released last October.  As she tells it, Hundreds of Lions chronicles a relationship from start to finish.  It’s a solid record.  At this abbreviated show, McKeown chose to play what she called a “mini suite” of songs from that batch (“Santa Cruz,” “Put the Fun Back in the Funeral,” “To A Hammer,” “The Rascal,” “The Lions”) along with some older gems and two new songs.  She was alone on stage with an electric guitar, a grand piano, and a cup from Starbucks.  Her voice sounded better than ever.  She rocked.

Erin McKeown’s first proper album, Distillation, popped onto my radar screen nearly a decade ago thanks in large part to WXPN,  Philadelphia’s cooler-then-than-now public radio station.  I’ve seen her plenty of times since 2001.  And I’ve even dragged my parents along.  I think of McKeown as a great rocker with smart lyrics.  Others pigeonhole her as a folk artist.  And she’s released a record of jazz standards.  She’s tough to label.  As McKeown tours relentlessly she promotes herself to that NPR audience that enjoys a little bit of folk, jazz, and just maybe sometimes rock.

She’s a commanding performer on stage.  McKeown can tell quick stories and call attention to particularly witty lines from her own pen.  Tonight she overcame an extremely stiff crowd and managed to look like she enjoyed herself.  “Let it fly, y’all,” she yelled during one brave attempt to garner audience participation.  “I think to sum up the record and certainly this song: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.  Words to live by, kids!”  The ladies in my row exchanged stern looks at that advice.  They whispered disapprovingly.  They should have gone home.

McKeown closed with “You Were Right About Everything” from her 2005 record, We Will Become Like Birds.  The women on my row shuffled out, unmoved.  They were wrong.  This was a brief performance but a real treat.

You can watch video of tonight’s full show on the Kennedy Center’s site. McKeown has announced an upcoming tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Distillation.  She’ll play that complete album before moving on to newer material in several cities (stops include Cambridge, Mass. 9/24, Northampton, Mass. 10/9, New York 10/17, Arlington, Va. 10/23, and Philadelphia 10/24).

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Argh! (or, how I blew it and didn’t buy tickets)

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Sunday July 18, 2010

Well it finally happened. Normally, when a show that I want to go to gets announced, I buy tickets right away. My philosophy has always been: why wait? So I’m not sure that I can explain why I didn’t jump on tickets to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Higher Ground when they went on sale a couple months ago. Sure, I’ll see them at Osheaga just a couple days later, but anyone who’s been to a festival can attest to the fact that a set there just isn’t the same.

Maybe it was that the past few indie shows I’ve been to have been completely empty. Maybe it was that I thought Rachel would get them. But whatever it was, the end result is the same. The show has sold out and I will not be seeing this incredible band when they come through Burlington.

Not that I needed the lesson, but it has definitely been learned. Never again.

If there are any good samaritans out there who would like to sell me their tickets (2), I’d be more than willing to pay above face value, as much as it would pain me to do so. Email me at opr@brendanbush.com


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Fiery Furnaces & Vacant Lots @ Higher Ground 6/23/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Friday June 25, 2010

When this show was first announced, I briefly pondered going, but I’ve never particularly cared for Fiery Furnaces sound. Call me simple, but whatever they are going for has generally been a bit too complex for my head. On the urging of a friend (who ended up not showing…weak), I decided to give it a shot. I’d tried to catch The Vacant Lots last week at Metronome, but their website said doors at 9 and when I showed up at 9:30 they still weren’t open, so I took the old man route and left in favor of bed.

Needless to say I loved The Vacant Lots. Rachel had forgotten her new earplugs at home, and not being a fan of psych-rock to begin with, she had a hard time with it. But I thought they were excellent, and definitely had the talent to bring to mind some of my favorite psych-blues-rock bands like The Black Angels, Wolfmother and even The Black Keys. I look forward to seeing this local drum and guitar duo again soon. They looped a video composition during the show, which at times was cool, at times was distracting, and by the end was just old. I dig the idea, but I think it could be taken one step further by making it as long as a set, with no looping. I remember who I believe was Sound Team doing something similar at a show in the back stage of The Black Cat 5 or 6 years ago.

Fiery Furnaces @ Higher Ground Showcase Lounge 6/23/2010

Fiery Furnaces quietly took the stage and the scattered crowd did a little shimmy forward 10 or 20 feet, which still left another 20 between the stage and the closest audience member. They did very little throughout the show to encourage any further movement. They literally didn’t speak to the crowd once. The only non-lyric I heard come out of Eleanor Friedberger’s mouth was after the first song, when she told her brother Matthew and the other two band members that they had messed up and ended the song too early. That led to an awkward sibling exchange, with her not wanting to repeat herself and him aggressively prompting “what did you say? what did you say?”

With Eleanor staring out from behind her bushy bangs, almost still besides a tapping foot, it was tough to form any real connection with the band or the music. There was barely a pause between any of the songs, one kind of bleeding into the next. I did think that a few of the individual songs were entertaining, and it gave me the chance to try out my new EarLove hi-fi earplugs (more on those at some point soon), but the performance itself was so lackluster that I had to leave early because I couldn’t stop yawning.

Fiery Furnaces put on a show much like I envision creating were I in a band with my sister. Not fun for me, not fun for you, and certainly not worth paying to watch. I think I’ll pass on their next trip through the area.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Midlake @ Le National, 5/20/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Friday May 21, 2010

I first saw Midlake in the back stage of the Black Cat (D.C.) in 2006. They, along with Cold War Kids, were opening for Sound Team. A pretty damn good billing in retrospect, though I hadn’t heard of any of them at the time. I can’t say that I remember much of the Midlake set, so I’m thankful I got to see them again last night, and I will definitely not forget that show for a while.

I got really nervous when we first walked in – there wasn’t a single person in the bar area and the woman at the ticket booth knew who we were when we walked up to pick up our will-call. I just wasn’t ready for another empty show – my soul couldn’t take it. Luckily, there turned out to be a fairly decent crowd when we made it into the stage area.

Midlake @ Le National, Montreal - May 20, 2010

We caught one song from the second opener and were able to easily make our way down to the front as Midlake got set up. A few minutes before they came out, a remote-controlled helicopter flew out from the backstage and hovered around menacingly, seemingly taunting the audience. Oddly, people didn’t really seem to notice.

Midlake, who I was expecting to be a five-person band, rolled out on stage seven deep. That amounts to one person on the piano/flute/secondary percussion, four guitars (variably acoustic and electric), one bass and a drummer. I didn’t know until I was reading more about them this morning, but the initial band met in college, where they were all studying jazz music. Their depth of musical talent was apparent – never before have I been to a rock show where not just one but two of the band members played the flute (not to mention the two recorders that were played).

Midlake @ Le National May 20, 2010

Midlake’s sound is layered with richness and depth (thanks in large part to the 4 guitars). Their live performance really brings the music on their albums to life, lending it such sullen emotion and character. They played a good selection from both “The Trials of Van Occupanther” (2006) and their new release, “The Courage of Others.” The standout to me would probably be Roscoe, which in addition to being one of my favorite songs, was played masterfully. But seriously, there was not a bad song among them. There wasn’t much dancing, but there was enough tapping, bobbing and nodding to tell that the whole place felt the same way.

Tim Smith, the lead singer, definitely has a pretty reserved demeanor onstage, and actually seemed to be a little embarrassed at times when Eric Pulido, one of the guitarists and secondary vocalist, talked to the audience. For a band with such a serious sound, the stage banter was surprisingly fun and light-hearted. Midlake had some gear stolen a few nights before, and told the tale of yet another attempt at robbing them the night before the show, an attempt thwarted by one of the band members who ran down the would-be thief and tripped him.

Tim Smith of Midlake @ Le National May 20, 2010

Midlake are masterful, sorrowful, soulful musicians and the show last night was an impressive display of it all. I’m definitely looking forward to their next visit to this area.

On a semi-related note, I still have a lot of work to do on my photography and post-production work, but I am loving my new Panasonic DMC-LX3 camera, which took the photos in this post.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Tomorrow: Midlake @ Le National

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Wednesday May 19, 2010

Lo-fi indie rockers Midlake come to Montreal tomorrow. Doors open at 7pm at Le National (1220 Ste. Catherine Est).

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Givers – Monkey House 5/9

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Saturday May 8, 2010

Don’t miss Givers tomorrow, Sunday May 9 at Monkey House. They don’t come on till 11 which is a heavy lift for me on a Sunday, but this is a show I can’t pass up.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: k-os @ Higher Ground Ballroom, 5/1/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday May 3, 2010

I pre-bought two tickets to the k-os show, in the hopes that someone would come with me. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out (which I guess doesn’t surprise me – not many of the people I know here have much of an interest in hip-hop, and nobody had heard of k-os). So I headed out solo.

I got there about 9:15 (doors opened at 8), and I walked in to an almost entirely empty Ballroom. As in literally 15 people, tops. There was a DJ onstage and 1 or 2 people out on the floor. I can’t say that I was expecting a sold out show, but I definitely wasn’t expecting an empty one either. The first opening act tried to get people interested, beckoning for everyone to come up to the front (there were maybe 20 or 25 people by then), and most people obliged. Unfortunately, the DJ had technical difficulties, one of the MCs didn’t actually perform on any songs, and the one who did was less than stellar, so the energy died down pretty quickly. Underwhelming is a the kindest description I can offer.

Next up was iLL iNTELLEKs, and for two white kids from Vermont, they were OK. But they didn’t deserve to share a stage with k-os, even if less than 100 tickets were sold.

By the time k-os took the stage, there were maybe 70 or 80 people there. Despite such a pathetic turnout, everyone gathered up front and the majority seemed genuinely engaged. Most of the songs played were from his 2009 release “Yes!” though I definitely heard at least one from “Exit” and one from “Atlantis – Hymns for Disco.” All in all, I was really impressed with his performance and just wish Burlington could’ve made it worth his while to come play here, in the hopes that he’d come back. Unfortunately, I’m pretty confident that will not be happening.

k-os @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT

k-os definitely looks the part for a self-described indie hip-hopper. His skinny, tapered jeans were tucked into his high-top boots. Under his denim jacket was a sleeveless Broken Social Scene hoodie which was pulled up over a beanie that covered his thick mass of dreads. And he left his big aviator shades on for most of the show. He also seemed to enjoy the VT beer that someone in the audience handed him just after he took the stage (though he sure did nurse it!).

k-os @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT

He is an impressive multi-instrumentalist, playing acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard/piano as well as harmonica (when’s the last time you saw from a hip-hop artist?). He also has a good singing voice (“No auto-tune there” he said after belting out the refrain to one of his songs) which makes for a much more dynamic show than your typical hip-hop act. He was accompanied by a turntablist and a guitarist (who played both electric and acoustic guitars and sang on a few occasions).

k-os @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT

I was essentially standing front-and-center which made for some good photos and definitely had me very engaged. Thanks to those standing around me for realizing that with such a sparse audience, there was no need for pushing, shoving or jostling for position. I was able to comfortably “dance” the entire show which is always nice (I’ve never seen myself do it, but my guess is that my dancing looks something a little bit closer to “thrashing about”).

I hope to catch k-os again at some point, preferably playing to a much larger audience with a lot more energy.

k-os @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

This week’s music purchases

Filed Under: Live Shows, New Releases
Written by Brendan
Tuesday April 27, 2010

On Friday I ended up picking up “Swim” by Caribou, and I’ve only been through it once with not much to report. I’m out of downloads at emusic for the month, and Amie St. didn’t have any of the 5 albums I was interested in listening to, so I didn’t pick up any of today’s releases.

However, I did get sent “atlas” by the american dollar (another fantastic first to encourage me to keep doing this – free music!), and I’m really into it. It reminds me a lot of Explosions in the Sky, with a little bit more of an electronic/digital feel. But it has the same depth and texture as an Explosions album, as well as similar euphoric crescendos and crushing decrescendos.

I’m not sure I’ll make it to their upcoming show at the Monkey House (June 24) — I kinda feel like I need to be outside to really experience and appreciate this genre of music live — but I can definitely recommend the album to those keen on the “post-rock” or “experimental rock” styles of music.

One more quick note – Caribou will be at La Tulipe in Montreal next Wednesday, May 5, though I’ll be at JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound at the Monkey House.

The American Dollar - Atlas Caribou - Swim


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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: An Horse & Kaki King @ Higher Ground 4/21/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows, New Releases
Written by Brendan
Thursday April 22, 2010

I’m definitely a sucker for advertising and the power of suggestion. So when I saw Higher Ground‘s facebook post about Kaki King and An Horse playing yesterday, I figured why not. I checked them both out on myspace and both had songs that I liked, and it was a bonus that the show started at 7:30 (what’s with Monkey House shows starting so late? I love music, but I’m getting old, and I love my sleep almost as much…).

An Horse was a song or two into their set when I arrived in the Showcase Lounge. There was a decent crowd for a Wednesday night show, and it was pretty diverse (Bassnectar was playing in the Ballroom and sold it out). Apparently Kaki King doesn’t attract the same audience that Erin McKeown does, which is what I was half-expecting (I was one of maybe 5 men at the last McKeown show at HG).

An Horse @ Higher Ground - Burlington, VT

Anyhow, An Horse is a two-person Australian sound machine (Kate Cooper on guitar & vocals, Damon Cox on drums & vocals). They showed flashes of Black Keys, leaving me looking around to see if any other instruments were being played offstage somewhere. Damon was at times a whirlwind, reminding me a bit of Paul Banwatt from Rural Alberta Advantage (who is a freaking maniac with drumsticks). His vocals were also a great addition to the band’s sound.

Kate Cooper’s dry Australian humor and stage banter made her all that more engaging. She is clearly bucking the increasing trend of homogenized/Americanized accents, creating a very unique sound with a fairly heavy Australian accent (“I” sounds like “oi” etc). She has a great singing voice and has written some compelling lyrics.

I love An Horse, and will definitely make it a point to see them again (hopefully headlining so I can hear more). Any two person band that makes that much sound and makes it sound so good is always a big draw.

On to Kaki King, who is as good on the guitar as people say she is. The photo above has her using a technique of slapping, plucking and thumping that I’ve never seen before. She also had some witty stage banter, and was on a mission to not allow her friend who was there taking photos to get a good shot (she kept sticking out her tongue or making ugly faces when the camera was in her face). But I just couldn’t get into her songs. Each time a new song started out I felt like I’d really be into it, but 30 seconds or so in, they all seemed to lose their muster.

I think that maybe an additional vocalist might help beef up what I think was the major factor in my disappointment, which was Kaki’s vocals. It’s not that she’s a bad singer – not at all – but the quality of her vocals just don’t match up with the quality of the accompanying music. I kept thinking that she’d make one hell of a lead guitarist and backup vocalist in someone else’s band (which is why I’m really excited about the record I bought – more below).

I also couldn’t get past whatever plastic newfangled wind instrument was being played along with the drums and guitar. It might be that the sound mix was off, but I didn’t feel like it was actually making any noise. It also made the guy playing it look like he was just writhing around on stage smoking out of some new-age bong. He had a trumpet on the ground next to him, and since I left early, I missed him playing it, but I just kept thinking how much better it would have been if he’d been playing it all along…

Kaki King @ Higher Ground - Burlington, VT

On my way out, I stopped by the merch table and added 3 news albums to this week’s music purchases: “Rearrange Beds” and “Beds Rearranged” EP from An Horse and “Black Pear Tree” EP on vinyl from The Mountain Goats and Kaki King. Both An Horse releases are wonderful, and I highly recommend their LP. I haven’t listen to “Black Pear Tree” yet, but I’m definitely brimming with anticipation at what has the potential to be an amazing collaboration.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.