Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vermont Summer Festivals

Ahh - my favorites. I love getting dressed in my picnic best and sitting on a lawn listening to the lovely sounds of beautiful music surrounded by all that is Vermont. Every summer I treat myself and my significant other (this summer Mitch is on two years in a row - a sure keeper!) to one performance of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and one of the Vermont Mozart Festival. I typically purchase the tickets at the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce Silent Auction for which I get a little sneaky at the end to "win." (This means I usually pay over what they are worth which is so worth it to me!)

In past years I have gone to the season closer at the end of July for the Mozart Festival at the Trapp Family Lodge and have traveled south to camp at a Vermont State Park for one of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra performances. In fact, this is such a favorite summer ritual for me, I even wrote about it in the launch issue of The Healthy Hippie Magazine for which I write an article based on my Vermont Vibes blog.

But this year, now that my Vermont public relations agency has moved from a dingy apartment in Burlington's North End to a gorgeous farmhouse rental in East Charlotte, I felt it completely necessary to experience Shelburne Farms for both concerts.

Mitch and I arrived in style for the VSO's 4th of July concert. The weather was perfect which unfortunately has plagued both festivals this summer. I think my photos do our entire experience tremendous justice - we had an absolute blast!

Only a week later we were all set to head back to Shelburne Farms with wine, grapes, cheese, salads, and cloth napkins only to learn early in the day the Mozart Festival Opener was moved inside to the Champlain Valley Exposition. Ick. With Mitch's mom and partner visiting that weekend, the highlight was to be a repeat of the glorious time we had the week before. But, it is true that too much of a good thing is never allowed. So we packed it up like true flatlanders turned Vermonters (well, I am 5th gen, twice removed) and headed far from Charlotte to the land of the fair.

We got there early so we could still have a bit of our spread and watched the event unfold with amusement. Yes, it was wet, crowded, and inside a concrete building plastered with corporate marketing banners. But it was different, in a surprisingly, musical way.

Now, I'm not going to lie - there is something purely magical in filling up with wine, cheese, grapes, and salad and using a cloth napkin to brush away the crumbs followed by watching the sun set and filling your entire body with quintessential classical music. What I find to be so lovely at the outside venues I found the lack of to be extremely musically enhancing inside. Outside the music is mixed with trees swaying, birds chirping, bugs buzzing, people watching, sky gazing and every other thing imaginable when not closing your eyes in musical interlude. But inside there were not such distractions. Oh sure, there were distractions - especially the rude people obviously so annoyed at the situation and unable to just shwill a bit more wine and chill out. Since the inside distractions were not at all enjoyable, it really forced you to close your eyes and listen and feel the music. And all of it. Not just the parts when you weren't caught daydreaming while watching a dragonfly. Mitch and I both exclaimed the rain was a blessing in disguise because we focused on each note and nuance of each movement in each set. It made a wet, potentially dissatisfying evening a complete harmony of music in our hearts and heads.

Once again, I look forward to planning my outings to both the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Vermont Mozart Festival next year - rain or shine indeed.

Before I close out, I must mention, plug, and promote one other summer festival in Vermont. And this one is in my own backyard yet again. Kingsland Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh is hosting the 25th Champlain Valley Folk Festival this weekend, August 1-3. While I cannot attend for the whole weekend (although I am making it a point to do so next year) I will be heading over on Saturday and possibly Friday night. If the VSO and Mozart Festival are the heart of Vermont musical experiences, the Champlain Valley Folk Festival is the soul. Please support this Vermont live music experience and take a moment to be thankful for what we have here in the Green Mountains.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blueberries Revisited

I wrote a blog around this time last summer about Mitch and I's delightful excursion to Owl's Head Blueberry Farm in Richmond where we picked 6 quarts of blueberries and picnicked to the tunes of Gordon Stone. We drank wine and laid in the grass. It was one of the most romantic evening's Mitch and I have shared to date.

Well, this year we shall return again - in two days actually to enjoy the tunes of Filk - an obscure rock band playing "covers you've never heard of so you think they're originals." Filk is headed up by my PR buddy, Erik Filkorn - we became friends while networking PR shop talk at Dobra Tea, although I always had the feeling he would much rather be drinking a beer. The band is a cast of talented Vermont musicians and the music is "picked" by Erik. When asking Erik what this meant I learned the story in the story being that Erik was an "Almost Famous" and "Spinal Tap" sort of character - talent scout of bands before they made it big or more often than not before they didn't make it big.

While Erik scouted he learned and collected the songs he liked, most of which have never been heard of beyond obscure college radio in the late 80's and early 90's. But even more interesting was the movie-like scenarios he would pop up in - eating a cheeseburger backstage with Bob Weir, sharing a Caesar salad with Sarah McLachlan, or finishing a bottle of Jack Daniels over a deli tray with Eddie Van Halen. Erik's rule about picking songs is he has to have had at least one beer with the person who wrote or taught him the song.

Come check it out at Owl's Head this Thursday - it's free if you buy at least 2 quarts of blueberries. And if you want to buy more - you can freeze them and they taste fresh in the winter - I did it - yum!!
Freezing Tip: Freeze on a cookie sheet first and then put in a container or freezer bag - then they won't smoosh.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Live Music Rants

Maybe it is because my computer's motherboard is busted or maybe it's because I have not seen enough live music lately, but I must share another rant. It is a rant disguised as praise for an up-and-coming awesome singer in Vermont. That would be Myra Flynn - and we're talking diva material here. Check her out on her My Space - or better yet keep an ear out to watch her live. You can also stay updated with her activities and performances on her blog - Idol Time.

The following post is a rant directly from Myra but which I sympathize with completely and I believe most of my readers will as well so I felt the need to share - check it:

The Seven Deadly Sins of Concert Etiquette

#1 Cell phones are not lighters ... or cameras

If you have replaced the soft glow of a lighter with the iridescent glow of your cell phone, you are officially on my list. You are never going to get a decent camera shot, movie clip, or sound sample with a cell phone. The best thing you can get out of a cell phone is a phone call, and I don’t even have the energy to explain the annoyance of the person holding the phone up to the show shouting, “Can you hear them?! They rock. Wait, can you hear them now?!?” Here’s a tip: Either buy the equipment to actually translate your experience or leave the phone at home. Some of us go out to shows to...oh, I don’t know, listen to music!

#2 Outlandish dancing during inappropriate times

Believe me, I grew up in the days when throwing your musically charged body into a ring of people with their fists and feet awaiting the chance to pummel you was a cool thing. I have nothing against moshing, head banging and other forms of gyrating, but when you are attempting to start a mosh pit at an Anais Mitchell concert, that’s when I have beef. It’s a folk show! Stop head banging, people don’t want to eat your hair. Yet there is always that one person who drinks too many beers and cannot even begin to comprehend moving to music without flailing around in complete disregard for people’s personal space

#3 Hey, do you know how to play “Free Bird”?

This sin comes from being a musician. My band plays soul music and although it’s obvious that we have a clear and organized set list arranged, we can’t seem to transition from one song to the other without someone shouting out their favorite Stevie Wonder or Al Green tune. First of all, not all soul music consists of singers like these two and all rock musicians do not know “Free Bird.” Secondly, the band did not ask to take requests. Unless you’re at a wedding, let the band take you on whatever ride they want. If this is a problem, there are plenty of dive bars with jukeboxes. All you need is a quarter and you can shout requests to your heart’s content.

#4 Story Telling

“Dude, I was at a (fill in the blank) show last fall and it kind of reminds me of (fill in the blank) except the guitar player is taller with better sideburns but, man, can he ever wail, it’s almost like whoa! How does he do it? But I know how he does it because I have a buddy in Texas who can rock pretty hard, he wanted me to be in his band but I was like way too musically above them to play in some crap band so instead of flying out there to audition I exchanged my plane tickets for these concert tickets and here I am! Rockin!” Need I say more?

#5 Push and Shove

Seriously, why can’t most people just accept their place in a crowd? Yes, the guy next to you is holding up his cell phone and the girl next to you is trying to start a mosh pit, but if you think the solution is shoving your way towards the front, you are wrong. Awaiting your arrival at the front is another guy with a cell phone and another girl starting a mosh pit. In between your travels, however, you have managed to upset four or five strangers who are now ready to grab you by the back of your shirt and yank you back to your appropriate position.

#6 Heckling? Really?

I’ll never understand those who yell “Boo” at concerts. If you are at the concert, that means you bought the tickets. What’s the issue? Unless that band has all of sudden decided to launch flaming balls of fire into the audience (although I realize that this is a standard for some bands) then why the need to shout at them? You’re not at a “Night at the Apollo” where heckling is not only accepted but encouraged, you’re watching groups of people bare their souls on stage. Even if you don’t like their music, booing them is unlikely to make it better. I suggest that if you need a place to vent your musical frustrations, try becoming a columnist for a newspaper and write one called “The Seven Deadly Sins of Band Etiquette.” It’s very refreshing.

#7 Smoking

I don’t think I ever realized how poisonous cigarettes really are until I spent four hours at an Erykah Badu concert in Montreal, inhaling more second hand smoke than I could handle. Almost everybody my age in Montreal seems to be a smoker and regardless of the venue, they continue to puff away. The first two hours weren’t so bad. After that, I began coughing and clearing my throat. By the time I walked out of there my hair was dry and brittle, my skin felt the same and my glands were swollen. I’m not usually one to tell people they can’t smoke, but in an atmosphere where there is already so little oxygen to go around it’s almost selfish to steal the rest.

(as seen in The Burlington Free Press on Myra's Blog - Idol Time with Myra.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

93.7 FM SUX!!!

Jerks. They play Phish on stupid studio album rotation for days and say something Phishy is coming Tuesday at noon. And at noon the station is launched into an Oldies station called Cruisin' or some stupid crap. Lame, Lame, Lame. I hate marketing ploys that are under false pretenses! Well, yet another reason why I don't listen to the radio.
PS - the station is WSUX - coincidence?