All posts by Caroline Shea

Wit and Wisdom with Matteo Lane

Matteo Lane is a master of many trades: he’s a painter, an illustrator, an opera singer and now, a stand-up comedian. Lane will be at the Vermont Comedy Club Sept. 9 and 10, treating audiences to his trademark sarcastic wit.

Opera may not seem like the traditional path to comedy, but for Matteo Lane, everything is connected.

“I tried to get my start as a singer in Chicago and i joined a group of drag queens and strippers and it was a year and a half of hell,” Lane said, “so stand up seemed glamorous in comparison.”

His past experience continues to influence his stand-up today. He told me he’s found similarities in all his artistic pursuits.

“The most important thing in all art forms is to surround yourself with people better than you. That’s the only way to get better at any art,” Lane said.

His transition to stand-up was inspired in part by his large Italian-American family.

“I’m mostly shaped by my family. They’re the funniest people on the planet,” Lane said, “You have to compete; you learn what is and isn’t funny. You learn your timing at a very young age.”

Lane paused here to refill his coffee and tell me the fried chicken he was enjoying from the comfort of an NYC diner was delicious, before we began to talk about what makes stand-up unique as a form of entertainment.

“Stand-up is one of the rawest forms of performance,” Lane said, “it just requires a microphone, your thoughts, and a lot of hard work; singing, you can hide behind the music, acting behind the character. Stand up is just a dialogue between you and the audience.”

This “rawness” Lane values in stand-up, which he compared it to a combination of sexting and Catholic confession, has increasingly allowed more and more diverse voices to break into the business.  

“I think there’s been a shift even in the past five years in what people in the industry are interested in,” Lane said, “I’m not someone who’s like ‘straight white men suck,’ but I do find it refreshing that more people are seeing themselves reflected on stage.”

His experiences as a gay man have provided material for his stand-up. Lane particularly values comedy as a kind of coming to terms with his past.

“I’ve found humor in healing all the shame I held onto as a child,” he said, “the stage will heal whatever I’m going through.”

Although Lane unapologetically embraces all aspects of his identity, the comedian also does not feel the need to limit himself to only performing to certain audiences when speaking on certain issues.

“I don’t think of myself as a spokesperson for anything but I’ve gotten a lot of outreach from kids in the closet and it means a lot to them to see me,” he said, “if you’re LGBT, you’re doing a lot just by being yourself. Anything else is extra.”.

Lane’s ability to create humor from  the shameful, the scary and the awkward is what has allowed him to connect with so many audiences, from his work on MTV’s GirlCode to his growing career as a touring comedian.

“When you are really honest, it’s not so much shocking as it is interesting,” he said, “I’ve said things that make people’s skin peel off them. But it’s a relief to say them. It can be dark and intense but life is dark and you have to find the light in it.”

(Leather)Bound for Glory

Local indie-folk band The Leatherbound Books played a show March 15 at Higher Ground, their largest venue yet. With new music out and plans to get back in the studio to record, 2015 is shaping up to be a milestone year in the band’s career.

Two nights earlier, the band and I walked into Downtown Threads to do some shopping and talk about their first EP, “Tender My Hopes,” which came out early February.

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Drummer Charlie Smyrks and Vocalist/Guitarist Eric Daniels shop at Downtown Threads. The Leatherbound Books are a Burlington based indie folk group.

 The clerk eyed us as we tried to make small talk clustered around a clothes rack in the center of the thrift store. The shop was empty except for our motley group: guitarist and lead singer Eric Daniels, bassist and singer Jackie Buttolph, fiddler Tuck Hanson, drummer Charlie Smyrk and me.

I watched the band tease each other and try on pairs of ridiculous sunglasses. Hanson pulled a traffic-cone orange shirt from the rack and asked us if we thought he should dye his hair to match. His bandmates were less enthusiastic about the idea than he was.

 I asked them what thrift-store essential best represented the spirit of The Leatherbound Books.

“We’re kind of like a cardigan band,” Buttolph answered. “Frumpy and comfortable.”

 

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Fiddler and vocalist Tuck Hanson looking fly at Downtown Threads. The group’s EP was released to praise from Seven Days, The Burlington Free Press, and the Rutland Herald

Hanson described recording their first EP as a learning experience. They often had to deal with conflicting schedules, the depressing Vermont winter and what Buttolph called “the catch-22 of the Burlington music scene.”

The catch is this: to get gigs, you have to have a product to showcase to venues, but to have the funds to record and produce music, you have to be making money by performing.

Despite this challenge inherent in their line of work, the band has been doing better than ever. Daniels said that he’s excited to see how their sound will change when they get back in the studio.

“This is the stuff we’ll diverge from,” he said of the new EP as we browsed through the store’s collection of denim leotards.

Smyrk summed up the band’s vibe best when he called them “darkly optimistic.” Although this seems contradictory, it’s an apt description of the band’s grim humor that coexists with their relentless, inspiring hopefulness.

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Guitarist Jackie Buttolph eyes a denim leotard with disgust. The band was started by the group of friends in Burlington.

“Tender My Hopes,” a folksy and lyrically complex collection of songs, showcases this contradiction through Daniels’ vocals — reminiscent of the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle’s — and lyrics influenced by the clever wordplay of artists like Andrew Bird.

 “If the fruits that they give you are rotten, make wine,” he sings on the EP.

 “What if they give you rotten lemons?” Hanson asked.

 As she paid for a blue tunic bedazzled with gold jewels and puffy paint, Buttolph was quick to reply.

“Then you throw them out and buy a six pack,” she said.

 

 

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Winter Carnival

 

 

All floors of the Davis Center were popping with student-oriented activities during the University Program Board’s Winter Carnival.

 

The frigid temperatures outside attracted skiers and snowboarders for the Rail Jam, a freestyle competition where  students showed off their sweet skills on a man-made slope outside of the Bailey/Howe Library.

 

For those who prefer the indoors on a cold night, there were plenty of activities in the Davis Center. The second floor hosted  a chili cook-off and a DIY craft space where  students could make their own stuffed animals.

 

“We saw this and we were like, got to  go there. I loved stuffed animals when I was little,” first-year Liz Barrett said.

 

Students on the first floor were dancing and chatting while participating in carnival activities.

 

tudents were especially enthusiastic about the games.

 

“I’ve been winning hats and chewing gum, but unfortunately I’m all out of gum,” first-year Christian DeKett said.

 

Free food was also on the first floor for all students.

 

“I haven’t had a hot dog yet, but I don’t deserve a hot dog yet, cause I haven’t won a hat,” first-year Jack Lynch said.

 

“Winter can be depressing and this boosts my mood substantially, exponentially to be frank,” Lynch said.

The sold-out concert started at 10 p.m. in the Grand Maple Ballroom, where Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band opened for New York-based indie-pop band, MisterWives.

 

“I really like Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band and I just know one or two songs of MisterWives,” first-year Louisa Jerome said.

 

Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band are a local band that has made appearances at venues around Burlington including Radio Bean and Higher Ground. They are known for their strong instrumentals and soulful lead singer.

 

MisterWives are relatively new to the music scene, but are making strides to a larger fan base. They will be touring the country soon for their debut album “Our Own House.”

Their indie-pop songs paired with the lead singer’s energetic stage presence and funky bandmates, made for a great concert.