The Vermont Cynic | The Jam scene returns to Burlington

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Besides the nostalgic crunch of fallen leaves and the gentle whistling of the wind, this fall welcomes another exciting sound.

From basements to bars to backyards, Burlington’s live music is back and vibrant. Characterized by rock and roll inspired by jam, funk and blues, student bands are experiencing a resurgence after a year of COVID-19 lockdown.

No Showers On Vacation, Moondawgs, Lazy Bird, The Rose McCann Band, Dead On Arrival, All Night Boogie Band and Russian Dolphin Pool Fight, are just a few of the names you might hear in the hustle and bustle of Fridays and Saturday afternoon.

On Friday September 11, Russian Dolphin Pool Fight, known as RUDOLPH, opened for No Showers On Vacation in an underground location known as “The Tub”.

Members of Russian Dolphin Pool Fight sit down for portraits on September 23. (Joshua Harwood)

As groups of revelers flocked towards the cellar door and into the basement, a sax and groovy bass line could be heard from the backyard, pouring out over the hustle and bustle of those mingling with it. ‘outside.

Bands backing the bands are a hallmark of Burlington’s underground scene, as exemplified by Lazy Bird guitarist and lead vocalist Jackson Bower attending the show.

“It was crazy, it was like a six hour show too,” he said.

Listeners filled the basement to capacity and the others gathered outside to enjoy the atmosphere.

Sam Lyons, drummer and songwriter for No Showers on Vacation, said the band found success in underground college rooms in Burlington following the release of their jazz-fusion album “Aquaband” on February 26, 2021.

On the Friday show, the band performed a cover of The Meters’ 1969 song “Cissy Strut”, a funkadelic and laid back tune. While not a party song for the past few decades, the groovy bassline and tightly syncopated beats have the crowd on fire.

“I think he says [something] about the kids at UVM or Burlington’s openness to music, ”Lyons said.

Bower said that student interest in culture, and more specifically, music from the 1970s has increased dramatically.

Senior Will Sturcke of Moondawgs and Dead On Arrival said this trend is exemplified by crowds of students supporting extended jam sessions, a signature derivative of 70s-inspired music.

“With [Dead On Arrival], people had come down to dance while there was a five minute guitar solo, ”Sturcke said.

This jam-heavy atmosphere is a staple of Burlington’s basement show scene, and something Vermont musicians are known for – producing jam bands such as Phish and Twiddle.

However, Sturcke said this style of performance has recently come back into fashion.

“Before the pandemic, it was a much more punk-dominated scene,” Sturcke said.

One of the newest jam groups on the scene, Lazy Bird, boosted its popularity among college students with their 9/11 Courtyard show on South Williams Street.

Tertiary image for funk story
Lazy Bird performs surrounded by crowds on the night of September 24. (Eric Scharf)

Junior Van Garrison is the keyboardist for RUDOLPH and the All Night Boogie Band.

“Not everyone listens to jam music,” Garrison said. “But many of us are quite fat [Grateful Dead] fans and really enjoy the whole experience of live music.

With the genres overlapping and the band members themselves in these bands, the Burlington music scene can seem to focus on one genre at a time. This is indicative of the relatively homogeneous cultural background of UVM students.

Regardless, there are only a limited number of basements in Burlington.

Jazz, funk, blues, and rock are all quite different on their own, but from a listener’s perspective, the sound of a jam band can seem somewhat constant.

Thus, jam bands are often characterized by the social environment they provide to listeners rather than by brutal variations within or between songs.

“We’re trying to create a fucking crazy atmosphere,” Garrison said of the jamming.

The ability of local groups to organize events where students can meet new people or get together with friends is a testament to their success in a post-containment world. These renewed opportunities to play shows are special according to Bower.

“When you host a good time, which all of these other bands do, it’s a cool feeling,” Bower said.

While each of the groups – out of humility – categorically denies any idea that they are “the next Phish”, the connection is there.


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