Sunday, August 30, 2009

Music Review: Andrew Parker-Renga

Apologies are in order for the long break in posts; I've been in the midst of moving, a process that culminated in ten solid hours of loading up my roommate's belongings yesterday and seeing her off to Massachusetts. I then celebrated the end of an era by going down to Nectar's for some live music from Justin Levinson and Andrew Parker-Renga.

A few initial thoughts:

1. If you go to see Justin's shows, I suggest requesting the song "Daisy May". Just do it.
2. The true test of a musician is making him sing quiet indie folk to a bar full of partying rugby players.
3. Drunk guys trying to take pictures on their cell phones should make sure they don't nearly sit on the singer's fiance when she's trying to watch the show. Seriously, drunk guys of Burlington, just try to watch where you're going.

Now down to details:

I first saw Andrew play last January, at an Inauguration party at the Half Lounge with Zach duPont, and I was pretty much instantly hooked on his sound. More than that, it was while watching Andrew play that I was finally able to define what I love most about live music; Andrew is an expressive musician, and watching him play made me realize that a great artist holds nothing back in their art form. On stage, you can see someone's true passion expressed without regret or apology. Too few people find that passion in their lives, and even fewer have the courage to let it out.

So it's a treat to discover local artists who can deliver that kind of experience, and Andrew is one of them. With his current album, Emily, recently out and highly recommended by this writer, I was psyched to hear some new tunes at Nectar's last night (particularly "Drawing Dead", which I hope Andrew will put up on his MySpace soon! Hint.) Sadly, there was no beat-boxing; if you are truly lucky, you will hear Andrew beat-box during a show. But there were plenty of the soulful vocals I've come to expect of him, and even a little extra spice on some of his staple songs (particularly the Work Song). The show was well worth both overcoming my exhaustion and crowding in with the rugby party.

Andrew will be touring later this fall, so be sure to catch his next local show September 26th at The Skinny Pancake. For more info, show dates, and songs, check out his MySpace page at

Photo by Reid Crosby.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The first time I ever went to the Flynn Theater, I was five years old. It was just before Christmas, and my mother took me to see the Nutcracker Ballet. I recall loving the music and being traumatized by the giant rat costumes. But I also recall being in absolute awe of the theater itself; the size, grandeur, and the whiff of nostalgia.

The Flynn opened in 1930, to provide the residents of Burlington a venue for vaudeville acts and also to keep with the times and showcase the up-and-coming "talkies" that were fast gaining popularity. The original program cover is pure Art Deco bliss, and the designs inside the theater, to this day, continue that trend.

You can't watch "talkies" there anymore, but you can still see some incredible live acts. From plays, to dance performances, to live musical acts, the Flynn features a varied line-up every fall. Live performances have become under-appreciated in my view. Don't get me wrong, I love movies as much as anyone - but a film remains the same each time you view it. A live performance is an organic entity, filled with unique moments (both subtle and major), and provides an intimacy with the performers that you can't get off of a screen.

As a music venue, it's my favorite in Burlington. I've mentioned before, if I'm going to a music performance, I'm going to listen; and this is especially true if I've dropped money on a ticket. From that point of view, I am not a fan of Higher Ground, which in my experience is little better than a bar in terms of the musical acts competing with general noise. (In addition, I appreciate seated venues immensely, having wrecked my knee in a mountain biking accident when I was fifteen...but that's a totally personal issue.)

In addition to loving the space itself, I've seen some of my favorite musicians play at the Flynn, including Feist, Loreena McKennitt, and (just recently) Neko Case. In terms of dance, which I'm also a huge fan of, the Flynn appears to alternate every year with performances from sister companies Pilobolus and Momix (both highly recommended) and last season featured a truly incredible show from Cirque Eloise.

Don't let any of the traditional hang-ups about legitimate theater put you off. The dress code is casual. You see everything from jeans and t-shirts, to adorable elderly couples in their best finery; I feel like I can go comfy or play dress-up, as the mood suits me. Tickets range in price, depending on the act, and you can go ground floor or balconey (personally, I like the balconey front row - it gives you an encompassing view of the entire stage).

The current Flynn schedule can be found on their website: Treat yourself!