The Precipice Day 1 Friday August 1, 2014 In The Field Behind Burlington College
Words by Tim Lewis.
I had a great time seeing music yesterday, and last night, and this morning. It was day 1 of The Precipice: A Vermont Music Festival, and I had been waiting for months. The morning had a rough start with a low battery chirping fire alarm waking me up at 8. I was able to get a few things done, then caught a little nap in the afternoon. Around 3, I headed out the door, caught a bus to Shelburne and met up with my brother Ken. He has liked a lot of the local music that I play on my radio show, and it was well past time to get him out to see some.
I borrowed a car and we drove to the show. We parked by the college and took the long winding walk down the hill. Instead of using the full bottom part of the field, they used about half of it. Last year, everything was more spread out, and this year it was a bit more concentrated. There were enough people at the height of the show to make it feel full, but not even remotely packed. There was plenty of space to spread out and walk around. There were several food vendors, a place to get henna tattoos, and a couple of other attractions. The main event was in a large tent with a stage on each side and a soundboard in the middle. There a fair amount of room between the stage and soundboard, but at times it did get a bit cramped. The effect of almost continuous music had it’s ups and downs. Last year it was fun to check out a couple of different bands and see which one grabbed you, but this year, it’s one at a time. I have mixed feelings, but it did concentrate people a bit more, and that feeling of being one of the few people seeing a band at a festival, was not there. Either way, they set the stages that way, and went with it.
We arrived a few minutes early, and heard Jane Boxall warming up on the marimba, but soon enough, it was time for the show.
Binger were the first ones on. They are a guitar, bass, drums trio with guitarist and bassist singing. They started with a hip hop groove but built the song into an indie rock work out. As the show went on, they seemed comfortable playing jazz, indie, hip hop, at times sounded a bit like a prog rock band and had some notes of metal here and there, Lots of hammer on guitar and bass playing showed how good they are with their instruments. I was impressed that they could play around with so many genres but still sound cohesive. They have an album coming out in a couple of months, and I will have to check it out.
As their last notes rang out, my focus turned 180 degrees and Jane was at the marimba and ready to go. Gregory Douglas sang a beautiful song, and showcased his remarkable voice. Michael Chorney came up next and they did a sweet cover of Neil Young’s Ambulance Blues. Jane took it from there and played a couple of bouncy old timey tunes that got the slowly filling audience to smile and have a good time. Pyramid followed and she showcased her ability to play the instrument with anywhere between 6 and 0 mallets (she ended the piece by playing with just her hands). She wrapped it up with a little Salsa Mexicana and called it an evening.
I turned around and Grundlefunk filled the stage. They played as a 9-piece with guitar, bass, drums, keys, singer, a percussion/trumpet player, a couple of sax players, and there must have been another horn player in there too. The sound was mixed perfectly and you could hear the guitar cutting through the sound, the keys taking the lead, or whatever they needed the music to do. They sounded like a big full jazzy brassy funk band. The audience was slowly filling in, danced and had a great time.
Up next, a group of masked chaos masters, apparently all named El Beej, except the drummer who was Sergeant Cody, played a loosely odd set of sonic weirdness. They got a cool vocal sound out of an old telephone, and the two guitar, bass, drums, two sax, and keyboard band swerved and drifted as Joe Adler kept asking if anyone was there. At times they had a big rocking jazz(?) sound, and had a slow steady huge build for the last song. The playing was great, and the set was fun and I was happy to see the keyboard player was from And The Kids, who will play tonight.
After their set, Steady Betty came on and locked into a groove. They were super tight and the harmonies were delightful. Kat Wright’s voice blended beautifully with Miriam Bernardo’s and Linda Bassick added some sweet backups. The mellow happy rock steady sound had a lot of people dancing and having a great time. Their songs of social justice, wrapped within a happy dance groove were fun an powerful. The sheer talent of the players was on full display. They wrapped it up with the song that goes la la la, and then it was time to turn around again.
Barika were set to go and played some super smooth building flowing jazz. The sound is driven by a sting instrument called a Kamel N’goni, and the plucked strings lead down a path filled with the key/trombone, sax, trumpet, bass and drums. The music has a lovely sweeping flow and kept the audience dancing. Miriam and Kat joined them for one song and the whole set was a relaxed good time.
Up next, Kat Wright & The Indomitable Soul Band filled the stage. The whole tent, past the soundboard, was dancing as they played some soul with a few rock and roll edges. With guitar, bass, drums, keys, and a couple of sax players, they created a beautiful space to let Kat loose. Her voice is warm and sweet and her stage demeanor is relaxed and confident. She led the band through lots of solid songs, and sang at least one with guitarist Bob Wagner. While the relaxed dance vibe thing works for most people, it left me wanting a bit of rock and roll. Bob threw in some nice guitar work, here and there during the set, so it made me happy.
Up next, it was time to rock. The Dirty Blondes were a little shorthanded, since Rebecca Rogers had recently been arrested in Cleveland, but they persevered. Sole singer Diane Sullivan was the opposite of Kat, loud brassy, and in your face. The band ripped through some very fast versions of their songs. From the opening notes of Burn, they played loud fun punk rock. Crybaby has a fun flow to the rhythm. They taught everyone the dance move for Kung Pao. Things threatened to get a bit spiritual with Hallelujah, but the ripping guitar and killer bass kept it nicely grounded. Slut was loud and fast, and Ornan McLean‘s drumming was blistering. Drunk was fun to sing, and Jacking Off has a great flow to the music. That New Guy Is Not James Bond had a nice spy theme going to it, and they wrapped the night with a cover of Cher’s Turn Back Time. The audience had fun with it and the guitar especially ripped. All in all, the set was a tad rough, but I was blissfully happy.
It was after midnight at this point. The air had a hint of crispness to it, but was still pretty warm. The audience had dwindled a bit, maybe due to the late hour or the Blondes volume, but there were lots of people there as Ryan Power hit the stage. He was playing keys and singing, and was joined by guitar, bass, drum, and another keyboard player. His songs are unique pop sort of songs. There are lots of layers of voice and keys and Michael Chorney mentioned that it doesn’t sound like anything else he’s ever heard. I concur.
It was late, and I was starting to feel drained. Ken was tired too, so we listened to most of Ryan’s set as we walked up the long hill. Bella’s Bartok and Plato’s Ears were still set to play, but it’s hard to catch everything. I drove him back to Shelburne, then drove home to Burlington. Later today, I will go pick him up, and we will do it all over again, this time with even more rock and roll!
This post was originally published by Tim Lewis at his personal blog, https://timstriangletribune.wordpress.com.