Belizbeha Returns June 7 at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival

Words by Jackson Balling. Photo by Matthew Thorsen.

With their first local appearance in five years, one that coincides with their twentieth anniversary as a band, Burlington’s own jazz-funk fusion legends Belizbeha are staging a comeback at this year’s Discover Jazz Festival. I was able to send some questions to Kyle “Fattie B” Thompson, one third of the vocal force that makes up the band, in order to get an idea of the band’s excitement level as well as any nerves that might be kicking in as their set approaches.

While their last show was at the Flynn Theater, a venue that the band always held a special desire to play, Kyle told me that their upcoming set at the Waterfront Tent will be even more unique as it can hold a thousand more people than the Flynn, with enough room to dance and sing along.

“I feel the energy will be more upbeat and rocking, for sure.” Kyle said, not without mentioning that, “the other acts on the bill are a KILLER all-Vermont lineup, both the Jen Hartswick Band and Kat Wright's Band absolutely kill it!”

While most bands I’ve personally seen reunite for a show or tour and play their old material, sometimes they find a struggle connecting with the music they had created years before. Fattie B dismissed any worries of that happening with Belizbeha next Saturday by saying, “We have obviously all grown up since the band days, but (just speaking for myself) it's such a blast going back to that mind-set and rocking these songs again... it reminds me of all the great times we had in our heyday. We were blessed to tour so much and have so much success."

Even as someone such as myself attempts to catch up on the career that Belizbeha had, I find myself in awe with the respect and success that the band had right off of the bat. The list of their accomplishments go on and on, with Fattie B’s personal highlights including “opening for A Tribe Called Quest in front of about 7,500 in D.C.; playing in front of about 10,000 at the Montreal Jazzfest; performing on the same bill as Morris Day & The Time, Maceo Parker, The Roots, Kool & The Gang, The Wailers, Michael Franti and Busta Rhymes, and becoming the first un-signed band to ever work with the Susan Blonde Agency (who also represented Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston).”

The current generation of Burlington jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop unconsciously owe a lot to the road that Belizbeha paved in the 90s. In addition to the love and praise that Kyle had for Kat Wright’s Band and the Jen Hartswick Band, he mentioned that “Funkwagon throws down every time they take the stage.  As far as local hip-hop, The Aztext, Linguistic Civilians and S.I.N. are hands down the best”.

His praise for these local artists connect with his and the band’s excitement to return home and perform for old and new friends, family, local musicians and music lovers of all kinds. While no one knows if this is truly the last we’ll see of Belizbeha, including the band themselves, Fattie B offered up an optimistic perspective by exclaiming, “Never say never, but this may be the last hurrah, and what a way to go out!”. One thing is for certain, this isn’t a set to miss.

Be sure to grab your tickets here: