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

Listen to this: Patrick Watson

Filed Under: Wicked Good Music
Written by Brendan
Monday June 4, 2012

I just finished listening to Patrick Watson’s new release Adventures In Your Own Backyard and liked it enough to inspire me to write something here for the first time in months. Having just returned from a whirlwind 10 days overseas, this simple, sweet and sentimental album is the perfect way to soothe out and transition back home.

Here’s a Tiny Desk Concert recorded last week:

Here’s Adventures In Your Own Backyard on Spotify, iTunes or Amazon (where it’s currently just $4.99).

Patrick Watson will be opening for Andrew Bird in the Higher Ground Ballroom on Friday, July 20.

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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: The Thoughts @ Monkey House 11/7/2011

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Monday November 7, 2011

What can I say, I’m a sucker for falsetto. I wasn’t sure what was going to get me back to writing, but now I know the answer.  Though he didn’t need to play Radiohead and Neutral Milk Hotel covers to draw the comparison, The Thoughts vocalist Ian Williams made it easy for an overworked web developer-cum-music blogger to make a lazy comparison for reference.  Williams did a perfect Thom Yorke and a really good Jeff Mangum, but their original work was all The Thoughts needed to make me a quick fan.

Ian Williams of The Thoughts

Though I was one of maybe 3 people at the Monkey House to see The Thoughts tonight (the other 8 folks there were REALLY LOUD people playing pool in the back), they still put on a show that would have worked as well in either my living room or to a crowd of a couple hundred.  While the show was billed as a trio, Williams and violinist/harpist Katie Mosehauer were without percussion.  It may have livened up the show, but I was just as happy sitting in a chair at the front and resting my legs so my ears could do all the work.

Katie Mosehauer of The Thoughts

I only wish I’d paid more attention so I could have invited more folks to the show tonight.  I can’t think of a single person who I share musical interest with who wouldn’t have loved the performance.  The Thoughts are on the East coast for a few more shows, and are based out of Seattle.  If you have the chance to see them, I highly recommend it.  I’m already looking forward to their next trip east, and will be listening to I Won’t Keep You Here from now until then.

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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.

Starfucker @ Higher Ground 4/8/2011: Wrapup & Photos

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Sunday April 10, 2011

“No, no barricade — we’d rather they fuck up our equipment than have a barricade.” That was a wonderful start to a wonderful show, as Ryan Biornstad, Starfucker vocalist and jack-of-all-trades (guitar, keyboard, turntables, dancer) told Higher Ground security to stop backing people away from the stage as they sound checked.

I had really high hopes for this show and the band met my expectations, easily. There were lasers, a ton of dancing (on and off stage), and well, this photo does a much better job than I could of describing the energy at the Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge:

Starfucker @ Higher Ground 4/8/11 Burlington, VT

Starfucker played a brief but exciting set, much of it from their recently released Reptilians, but also featuring some of my favorites from their self-titled debut LP, including “laadeedaa” and “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second.” Thankfully, there was a really good turnout, and I don’t think there was a single person there who didn’t have a wicked good time. The energy was infectious — smiles never left the faces of the five guys on stage, and it was impossible not to move to the music.

Starfucker @ Higher Ground 4/8/11 Burlington, VT

I’m fairly fascinated with the demographics of the crowd that turned out, further confusing my understanding of what makes people go to shows. It was a significantly different group of folks than I generally see out at the Higher Ground, and I’m glad to see a band like Starfucker have the draw to bring out such a seemingly diverse audience. If that many people turned out regularly to support live music in Burlington, there is no doubt that we’d become a regular stop between Montreal and Massachusetts. Thanks to the hard work of Angioplasty Media and MSR Presents, and the continued willingness of Higher Ground and Monkey House to host indie music bands, we’re on the way. But it’s fans who really keep these bands coming back, and I really enjoyed seeing so many music fans turn out on Friday.

Starfucker @ Higher Ground 4/8/11 Burlington, VT

I’d see Starfucker again anytime they came through town, and if you like to dance, I suggest you keep them on your radar as well.

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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.

You’ll be sorry if you miss it: Starfucker @ Higher Ground

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday March 29, 2011

There are definitely a couple of posts that I’ve written the day after a show that begin with a sentiment close to “you blew it if you weren’t there.” In the spirit of fairness, I thought I’d tell you explicitly in advance this time: if you aren’t at the Starfucker show next Friday, April 8 at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge, you’re blowing it.

Portland, Oregon’s Starfucker, previously known as Starf**ker, STRFKR and potentially some other variation(s) of their current (and seemingly complete) band name, are a real treat for Burlington-area indie music fans. This is a band with a huge following in their hometown, and one that I am 100% sure is going to become immensely popular in the next couple of years (if not sooner). Their music is just too damn good.

They play songs ranging from straight up electronic dance jams to more mellowed-out shoe-gazers. It occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned the price of the show – it’s $10. Ten measly dollars. You’ve spent more than that on a six-pack — you’ll enjoy this much more. If we’re lucky, Starfucker might even treat us to tales of the recent (apparently unsubstantiated) arrest of band member Ryan Biornstad at SXSW in Austin, TX.

If you like to dance, sing in the car or the shower, jump up and down, smile, or if you just like to party, I suggest you join me at Higher Ground next Friday. Still unconvinced? Just be the first person to comment on this post, and I’ll send you a free ticket (be sure to use a valid email address).

Here’s a quick (albeit blurry) example of what you’ll be missing if you aren’t there:


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: The Head and the Heart @ Higher Ground 2/15/2011

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Wednesday February 16, 2011

Last night, I caught The Head and the Heart (who opened for Dr. Dog) at the Higher Ground.  It’s the strangest thing, but their performance was so impressive that it really makes their album seem a little lackluster.  Not that I’ve stopped listening to it today (currently on the third time through), but the band has definitely come a long way since they recorded it (they originally self-released the album in July 2010), and their live act adds so much character to their music.

The Head and the Heart @ Higher Ground, Burlington VT

They clearly have such a good time playing that it was hard not to get swept up in it, but what impressed me wasn’t  just the energy they played with.  They also consistently belted out flawless 3-part vocal harmonies, thumped and shook impeccably timed percussion and threw in a jangly piano and some violin to boot.

Jon Russell and Josiah Johnson share the lead vocal duties, and both went all out.  Russell’s voice is normally deep and raspy, but he hits falsetto notes too.  Johnson was so crisp and clear that at times it was hard to believe there were other instruments playing.  Percussionist Tyler Williams went from four-limbed madman, nearly jumping out of his seat for entire songs, to egg-shaking time keeper, precisely placing shifts and tics.

My only hope is that as they continue to write music, The Head and the Heart finds a way to use vocalist/violinist Charity Rose Thielen’s voice more often.  She’s the perfect complement to the two male voices in harmonies, but it was her several solo lines that garnered the most attention from the audience (In “Rivers and Roads” and “Winter Song”), and I was seriously impressed at her vocal range.

All in all, I highly recommend seeing The Head and the Heart.  It’d be pretty hard not to have a good time.  Oh, and if they are opening for Dr. Dog and you plan on staying for that, make sure to bring your earplugs.  I brought the wrong ones, and only made it through the first 5 Dr. Dog songs before I couldn’t take the loudness anymore.

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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: Split Tongue Crow @ Shelburne Steakhouse 1/22/2011

Filed Under: Album Reviews, Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Tuesday January 25, 2011

I wrote about Split Tongue Crow’s self-titled debut album last year. What impressed me then was the same thing that I enjoyed about their show last weekend at Shelburne Steakhouse: vocalist Cara White’s voice.

Though I was a little skeptical of the venue, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the general ambiance and setup of the “stage” area at the Shelburne Steakhouse. For the most part, folks sat at tables that basically surrounded the floor to enjoy the easygoing folk sounds of Split Tongue Crow. The majority of their music doesn’t exactly lend itself to dancing, so the empty dance floor didn’t feel as awkward as it might have otherwise.

The show was well attended, and the band played many songs from their new album as well as several others. They had a good rapport with the audience, and drummer Matt Marro’s dry-humored (if perhaps overeager) banter kept things light.

Electric guitarist David Anderson, who spent much of the night re-tuning his cold weather averse instrument, could have spent a little less time with his back to the audience, as his impressive guitar work is certainly worth watching. Lead vocalist Eoin Noonan and bass guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Woods both sounded great — particularly Woods on “Midlife Missile Crisis,” my favorite from their album and from the show.

Like I said, Cara White was definitely the highlight for me. I didn’t actually pick up how much her vocals play into harmonies throughout their album, but her impressive contribution was on display on Saturday. Not to diminish how good the band sounded as a whole though – I’m significantly more into their music than I was before seeing them play live.

I definitely recommend seeing Split Tongue Crow when they come to your town (they play The Skinny Pancake in Burlington on Feb. 5). You can check out their full schedule, listen to their songs, and buy their album via this link.

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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.

Split Tongue Crow, Split Tongue Crow

Filed Under: Album Reviews, Local Bands
Written by Brendan
Friday December 3, 2010

Split Tongue Crow - Split Tongue CrowI often feel that there is some pejorative connotation to a qualification of a band as “local.”  It feels like by using “local” I am somehow putting a band in a lesser class.  I don’t know if that comes across to you or is just in my head, but it’s something that I don’t intend.

Because the fact is that while cities like Los Angeles and Brooklyn are well-known incubators of quality musicians, there are a number of Vermont-based bands who are putting out extremely high-quality music, but simply lack exposure.

The better for me of course, because I get to see these bands perform for a few bucks a pop, but I do feel like many of them deserve more recognition.

One such band is newly-named Split Tongue Crow (formerly Rogue Eyebrow), an alt-country outfit out of Rutland.  They’ve just released their self-titled debut LP, an easygoing, tender slice of Green Mountain Americana.

While much of the album has a fairly laid back feel, echoing roots in traditional American country music, there is definitely some guitar-laden country rock bubbling just beneath the surface.  “Avalon” which opens the album with Spanish-style string work, “Horizons,” and “No Reservations,” a slightly drawling tune that leans a little too far country for my tastes, show the potential to be fleshed out into heavier hitters at a live performance.

The songs featuring vocalist Cara White beside one of the male singers, like “Easy Come,” “Mother’s Okay” and “Midlife Missile Crisis” stand out as favorites of mine.  I dig the songwriting of the latter(“I’m hiding out in my own reverie, oh clever me/ no, never me, I’ll never grow old”), which to me is the highlight of the album.  The sorrowful tenderness, drowsy guitars and male-female harmonies are really touching.  Oddly I find myself craving Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” every time I hear the song.

“Manuel” picks up the pace a little bit, offering a bass-laden, danceable groove that keeps my feet tapping and my head nodding, while not feeling out of place on such a mellow album.

“The Day You Left This Earth (Dragonfly)” has a particularly personal connection to me, as the story of the dragonfly was related to me by my mother as a young kid, to help me come to grips with the death of a close family friend.  It may be an easy metaphor, but it worked for me then, and I can feel it working for White in this song.

One of these days, I’m going to catch Split Tongue Crow at a Burlington-area venue, and I can only hope that their live show captures the same character, emotion and honesty as this album.

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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: Langhorne Slim @ Higher Ground 12/1/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday December 2, 2010

It’s not often that I have such high expectations as I did last night for Langhorne Slim, who I’ve wanted to see for at least 5 years. It’s also not often that those expectations are exceeded, but Langhorne Slim did it last night. The band put on a performance that easily ranks in my favorite 5 of the year, and has had me listening to Langhorne albums all morning. Here are some photos from the show, with more wrapup beneath them:

The only slightly negative aspect of the night was the slim attendance (couldn’t resist the pun). I wish I knew what it took to drive people to shows, as I can almost guarantee that everyone there last night had an amazing time. That was easily the best $10 show I’ve been to, and if you missed it, you blew it.

Anyhow, the band consists of Langhorne Slim (born Sean Scolnick) on guitar & lead vocals, Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, Jeff Ratner on upright bass and David Moore on keyboard & banjo. The upright bass adds such a presence onstage, and such a richness to the music. And Ratner knows how to work it.

Moore was animated on the keys, and a downright animal on the banjo. In one particular maelstrom of strumming, he managed to both break a string and rip the accompanying tuning key right out of the banjo head. The volume on the banjo could have been turned up a bit for the whole show, but it was played with such zeal that even with minimal amplification, it was still a presence.

DeLorenzo also attacked his instrument with a particular fervor, all four of his limbs moving so quickly they were almost hard to see. It seemed like he was working to contain himself from jumping out of his seat for most of the show.

And Langhorne Slim himself left it all on stage, ending the night covered in sweat and stripped down to a tank top t-shirt. His songwriting is so forthright and easy to relate to that it doesn’t take much for him to have an immediate connection with the audience. And his stage presence only amplifies that feeling. They played a fairly long setlist, featuring material from the most recent release, Be Set Free, as well as songs from several of their previous albums. My personal favorite was “She’s Gone,” but then that’s also my favorite song of their whole catalog…

If you don’t own any Langhorne Slim, it’s time you gave it a listen. And if these guys play anywhere close to you, go see them. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Along with Midlake, Langhorne Slim now tops my list of bands I need to see again, and as soon as humanly possible.

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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.

Upcoming Shows in Burlington

Filed Under: Live Shows, Local Bands
Written by Brendan
Sunday November 28, 2010

There are a few good shows coming up that I recommend seeing.  If you were to only go to one of them, I highly recommend Langhorne Slim.  He made my Favorite Music 2006 list, and I’ve been dying to see him live ever since.  His live show is supposed to be outstanding…

Wednesday, December 1
Langhorne Slim @ Higher Ground

Tuesday, December 7
Miniature Tigers w/Maga @ Monkey House

Maga is one of my favorite local acts, and sure to put on a good show. They alone make the cost of admission worth it, though I also recommend sticking around for Brooklyn’s Miniature Tigers.

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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: Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday November 11, 2010

If there’s one word I could use to describe last night’s show, it would be “beautiful.” Though I’m not sure that quite does justice to the performances by Horse Feathers and Anais Mitchell.

Sadly I missed Paddy Reagan (as Paper Castles), who opened the show. I got there to a fairly packed house (I didn’t bother to try and count the people, but the Showcase Lounge was significantly more full than I’ve seen it in a very long time). I have to assume that Anais (a Vermonter) was the big draw, but regardless of why they were there, it was nice to see such a large crowd for a folk music show.

Horse Feathers came on first (they were co-billed with Anais, and I’m pretty sure she’s been opening for them, so again, I have to assume it had to do with the show being in VT). They are a four-person band, with Justin Ringle on vocals & (mostly) acoustic guitar, Catherine O’Dell on cello, Nathan Crockett on violin and Sam Cooper as a multi-instrumentalist (including drums, banjo, xylophone and a variety of others).

Horse Feathers

They played several songs from House With No Home, my favorite album of theirs, as well as a lot of songs off of their latest album Thistled Spring. Ringle’s vocals were obviously the highlight of the show, imparting such sorrow without being weepy or melodramatic. I also particularly liked the plucking of the cello, and my personal favorite instrument of the night — the edge of a cymbal played with a bow. Definitely never seen that before, and it created such a unique sound.

As the sunlight dwindles, the days get colder and winter nestles in for the long haul, Horse Feathers put on a performance that seemed to perfectly match my mood. You can be sure that they’ll be on heavy rotation for the cold, dark months to come.

Anais Mitchell took the stage with a couple of her friends, one on electric guitar and the other on drums/keys/etc. They played an assortment of her solo material and songs from her rock opera “Hadestown.” This is the second time I’ve seen Anais play (the first being my very first show in Burlington, in early 2007), and she has definitely made huge leaps forward. Her voice is still out of this world, but she appeared much more confident and at home in the spotlight, where she definitely belongs.

Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010

The songs I liked most were the ones Anais played alone — I think her voice tended to shine more (it’s really tough to describe, but I think caramel coated sugar is a good descriptor). I heard a couple of different people in the audience talking to each other about how outstanding her singing voice is, and I couldn’t agree more. Not that she isn’t already well on her way, but I expect very big things from Anais as more people have the chance to hear her sing.

Because folk music doesn’t always translate well at a live show, I tend not to go to folk-ish shows very often, but Anais Mitchell and Horse Feathers proved to me last night that a folk performance can be as captivating and beautiful as any.


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.