Tag Archives: Burlington

A Night Out with Rose Street Collective

Snapping their fingers under lights of purple, blue, and yellow hues, Julia Spelman, Lilly Dukich and Erika Polner spend the majority of a Friday night set perfecting harmonies as a powerful vocal trio, while reserving a few songs for solo performances highlighting individual strengths.

 Rose Street Collective, a new band consisting of five UVM students, surrounds the three singers while playing songs the group has meticulously mastered.

Filling two venues in one weekend, the Skinny Pancake and Radio Bean, the Collective shares their own perspective on jazz by playing both original and familiar tunes.

MAX MCCURDY. B-Side. From left: Lilly Dukich, Julia Spelman and Erika Polner performing at the Skinny Pancake on February 3rd.

Since November, the band has played about 10 shows and is quickly becoming a  staple of the Burlington music scene.

The magic of Rose Street Collective lies in their ability to pay tribute to the history of jazz by taking the audience through a dynamic tour of the genre, from Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues” to a nostalgic yet energetic rendition of Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things” and, finally,  covers of today’s hit indie songs.

The band consists of Adam Sullivan on keys, Ian Mack on guitar, Kevin Nikolaides on bass, Ethan Shafron on drums, and Rayne Bick playing the alto sax.

Members share a respect for jazz’s rich history, a reverence that resurged years after taking lessons as kids.

“It has always been a part of our lives, even when we didn’t realize it,” Spelman said.

Most of the members met through the UVM jazz ensemble, while Mack and Bick connected with the group later on through mutual friends.

The ensemble helped them further develop their skills and the group quickly became eager to branch out from campus once they recognized their common love of many different genres of music, from soul to funk to rock.

The group’s ultimate goal was to mimic their favorite musicians, incorporating classical jazz standards into the modern music they listen to.

MAX MCCURDY. B-Side. Rose Street Collective at the Skinny Pancake on February 3rd.

Their interpretation of funk group Vulfpeck’s hit song “Back Pocket” illustrates this perfectly as they replace keys with an alto sax and turn the volume up, taking the song to a new level.  

While it may seem that there is a meticulous strategy to their setlist, it mostly just pays tribute to the songs they all love, which they compile into a Spotify collaborative playlist or suggest via Facebook messenger, Shafron said.

Nikolaides uses Google Sheets faithfully in order to avoid chaos, keeping ideas and song choices organized. 

At the show, the band members seemed completely in their element on stage, exchanging glances and smiles in the midst of their solos.

They’re quickly making their way from one Burlington venue to the next each weekend, which helps to immerse them into the “hopping” music community, Spelman said.

To keep up with their movements, the band suggests liking them on Facebook and possibly following their Instagram in the near future, Shafron said. They have a show this coming Thursday, February 16th at Radio Bean, 11:00 pm.

The Anti-Sport

     Skateboarding is set to be in the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo. I’m confused. The Olympics are for usually for sports, and skateboarding can’t be a sport. Seeing skateboarding in the olympics is akin to McDonald’s offering dry cleaning. Skateboarding can’t be a sport, sports have clear objectives and points. In a basketball game, everyone knows what they should be doing: trying their darndest to get the ball in the net. When they do, they don’t wonder what happens next, they know they will get points for it.

   Skateboarding is nothing like that. Skateboards don’t come with instructions. Some people choose to use a skateboard purely as transportation. Some people decide to ride huge boards exclusively down steep hills. Some people aim only to flip their board in complex ways. Some people strive to hop down huge sets of stairs. The only wrong way to approach skateboarding is to not approach it.

    There are no points in skateboarding. When I landed my first ollie, there wasn’t a scoreboard flashing numbers at me. There’s no way to score skateboarding. Some people can naturally do things without trying, while it might take someone else years to learn. That one guy at the skatepark that’s struggling to kickflip may turn around and do something twice as hard.

   Sports encourage competition. Competition encourages animosity and hostility amongst competitors. Every time a team celebrates scoring a goal, there’s another team that hates them for doing it. Skateboarding is the opposite: it encourages camaraderie and friendship. When I see someone do some trick I’ve always wanted to do, I can’t be mad at them, I can only be excited for them.

   Calling skateboarding a sport is like calling a grilled cheese a burger. Or calling high heels tennis shoes. Or calling 9 hours of sleep a nap. While they may share some minor similarities,the connection is not quite there. I propose a new word, something to signify an activity that requires physical exertion and developed skills, but does not contain an inherent goal or point system. How about ‘hobby’? Skateboarding is a hobby. I’m all for making an Olympics of hobbies, but I’d like to keep skateboarding out of the current hyper-jockish, athlete-childhood-extinguishing Olympic culture.

And The Kids Share Lovers

“I’m trying to wrangle everyone into a group costume…but it’s a secret!,” said And The Kids frontwoman Hannah Mohan. Mohan and her bandmates are gearing up for a two-night run at Signal Kitchen Thursday and Friday, excitedly rallying friends and assembling outfits for the weekend’s festivities.

“We love playing in Vermont, there are so many amazing bands playing with us,” Mohan said, “I have all my best friends so it’s really fun.”

The band has been touring with their new album, “Friends Share Lovers,” for the better part of 2016, and are finishing off the year with shows in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They’re coming back home to New England with friends to see and old times to revisit.

Mohan hails from western Massachusetts, where she and the band spent their formative years living in tents, playing residencies and growing together. “When we started the band, we decided ‘ok, no jobs for us, we’re not gonna pay rent,’” Mohan said. “We found this piece of land in Hadley right on the [Connecticut] river and payed this guy 100 bucks a month to live on the property while we were on tour.”

And The Kids. COURTNEY CHAVANELL.
And The Kids. COURTNEY CHAVANELL.

With a makeshift practice space crafted from a Pods container, Mohan and drummer Rebecca Lasaporano roughed it during the band’s inception. Mohan testified to the importance of place in her life ever since, which seeps into her music as well.

“I’m a cancer and our whole thing is we revolve around home,” she said. “I’m also a crab, so my home is on my back. There’s a huge inspiration for me to write about habitat.”

Even on tour, Mohan’s connection to place inspires her. “Out of nowhere, I loved Madison, Wisconsin,” she said, “I got really attached — we bought a tape deck at this vintage store, I just really didn’t want to leave.”

Anchoring to home has been problematic for And The Kids, too, as Canadian synth player Megan Miller’s visa troubles have kept her from touring with the band in the U.S. “We wrote “Friends Share Lovers” before our keyboard player got deported, so there are some songs about her,” Mohan said, “we had to come up with power songs we could play as a two piece.” 

And The Kids. COURTNEY CHAVANELL.
And The Kids. COURTNEY CHAVANELL.

Despite Miller’s absence on tour, she is anything but missing from the album. Her synth riffs float through the album’s most atmospheric tracks, like “Creeper” and “Picture” with exquisite and ethereal spookiness.

“Creeper is my favorite because of Megan’s fucking synth part at the end,” Mohan said.

“We went deeper into the ocean of experimenting with sonic shit on this album,” she said, “We recorded it on tape, too, so that’s fucking amazing.”

The album is nebulous and playful, resounding with anxious emotion and confusion, yet remarkable sophistication. “We were trying to have more of a concept linking all the songs on this one,” said Mohan.

Along with strikingly evocative sounds is And The Kids’ glittering and gorgeous album art by Brooklyn, New York  artist Chase Carlisle.

“Aesthetics are really difficult because we have different visions, some of us want a more mature look and some want sketchy drawings,” Mohan said. “Now I just want fucking gorgeous stuff that doesn’t take two seconds to make.”

“I’m gonna hang out with a bunch of my friends and go to my old house in Colchester, maybe build a fire,” Mohan said. “We’re trying to make a music video with Joey Pizza Slice too, he makes awesome VHS videos.”

Gone, sadly, is their trademark inflatable deer, Andrea, that Mohan rescued from the woods in Washington, D.C.

“Andrea the deer…she had a really rough tour with Ra Ra Riot and she’s kind of out of commission now,” she said. Regardless, And The Kids has incredible music, lovable antics and a guaranteed sprinkling of glitter to offer when they return to Vermont. Catch the band at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 27 and 28 at Signal Kitchen and in the station at WRUV Friday at noon.

Cricket Blue’s Io: An Exploration of Music, Myth and Agency

“Myths and old stories feel unresolved. You want to explain them,” Taylor Smith told me as we sat down to discuss Burlington folk duo Cricket Blue’s new EP “Io.”

Their new EP opens as Smith and the duo’s other half Laura Heaberlin softly croon: “When the woods were full of wolves, the girls tied back their hair. They covered up their hands because it gave away their age.”

With this first track, “Angela Carter,” Heaberlin said they were “emulating Angela Carter’s  weird fractured fairytales.”

Carter’s fiction, with its combination of feminism and magical realism, is the perfect fit for Cricket Blue’s mythological folk.

This desire to explore and complicate traditional myths and fairytales is an undercurrent in much of Cricket Blue’s music, from earlier work like “Forsythia,” a love story set in the garden of Eden, to “Angela Carter’s” investigation of what lurks after the words “once upon a time.”

Their lyrics read like missives from another time or place. They remind the listener that the myths and stories they were raised on often have a dark underbelly lurking behind their apparent innocence.

“I think I have sort of a tendency to mythologize places,” Smith said.

This attention to place is evident on “Kentucky,” a song inspired by the state where Smith spent his formative years. He both wrote the lyrics and arranged an impressive cello part for the song.

Lyrics like “lost like a boy with his lord bound around him with cords” and “the staff and the rod of the terror of God have finally gotten to you” are almost visceral in the way the violence they discuss is made concrete through metaphor.

However, even at their most melancholic, Cricket Blue does not make music for cynics. In “Kentucky,” kernels of hope glimmer as Smith and Heaberlin sing wistfully: “Let all that is old be made new.”

Unlike Smith, who is more influenced by place, Heaberlin said she thinks she is more influenced by the theme of time when she writes.

““For me, it’s not so much place, as era,” Heaberlin. “I write in the past a lot.”  

The influence of past eras on Cricket Blue’s work are obvious not only in their fondness for myth but in their song “Eleanor,” a ballad of young wife who has an affair when her husband ships off to war.

One of Smith’s personal favorites of the album, the song exemplifies the eerie and complex harmonies that make Cricket Blue so intriguing.

Although “Io” has much in common with their previous work – the attention to mythological detail, the bluesy orchestration, the recurrence of the figure of “Eve” (“because feminism,” Heaberlin quipped) – it also is a departure from their previous work.

This is the first album the duo has recorded in studio, and because of this they were able to collaborate with other musicians and had access to more resources than they have had in the past.

“We were a little worried about bringing a creative partner in, but it was wonderful,” Smith said of their experience working with Beehive Productions.

Thematically, “Io” is more “character driven,” than their previous EP Heaberlin told me.

Named after a myth where Zeus pursued a woman against her will, only to transform her into a cow in order to hide her from his wife, “Io” takes up the plight of the downtrodden and trapped.

“We were writing about characters who had lost agency in one way or another,” Heaberlin said.

From the fairytale women who so often are reduced to archetypes, to Eleanor the suffocated 1950s housewife, to the namesake of their album, Cricket Blue uses their music to provide a voice to those who have been rendered voiceless.

This reclamation of agency is what makes their music so interesting to return to. You’re lulled in by the sweetness of their melodies that are reminiscent of traditional Appalachian folk or literary indie rock like Andrew Bird and find yourself suddenly surprised by the epiphanies that their songs so often crescendo to.

“We haven’t run out of stuff. We don’t get sick of each other,” Heaberlin said when I asked what it was like to work with Smith.
“Io” is something else you can count on not getting sick of. The EP is replete with literary and mythological references that don’t yield themselves up upon first listen. “Io” begs to be played over and over.

Graveyard Shift: A Night at WRUV

Because of the WRUV graveyard shifts, the Davis Center is the UVM facility that never sleeps.

The graveyards, late night shifts reserved for new and training DJ’s,  are a mixture of scary and fun, said first-year Ashley Claude.

Though being in the Davis Center late at night can be a bit daunting, especially for a student who knows how lively and active the place typically is, there is a sense of liberty that comes along with the experience, said junior Wren Tuten, who has just recently completed her last graveyard shift.

WRUV station. FRANCES KING. B-Side.
WRUV station. FRANCES KING. B-Side.

“You’re alone with the music at an intimate time,” Tuten said.

Claude has been long done with her graveyard requirements, but still has a soft spot for the private, early-morning hours at Davis. “I loved having my own space to blare my own music and be able to dance and sing in the booth without various onlookers,” Claude said.

But there’s no denying the freaky factor. “When you’re incredibly tired, you start thinking you hear or see things,” she said.

First-year Jack Lustig, whose show “How Much Art” airs every Wednesday from midnight to 2 a.m., doesn’t mind the time.

WRUV DJ Jack Lustig. FRANCES KING. B-Side.
WRUV DJ Jack Lustig. FRANCES KING. B-Side.

“I get to be more liberal with what I play because I know not a lot of people tune in,” Lustig said. “It also cuts out the stress of having to answer the phone.”

The late night factor, however, doesn’t stop friends and family of the DJs from listening.

“It means more when people tune in at this time, like calls from my mom listening next to my dad snoring in bed,” Tuten said.

Her brother, works late nights as a restaurant manager in Key West, and often calls in or gives feedback. “It makes the whole experience much more personal and special,” she said.

Similarly, Claude said her biggest and most dedicated fan is her grandfather, who “usually wakes up in the middle of the night anyway.” On top of that, Claude’s friends and family in different timezones often listen, sometimes using WRUV’s “Chat the DJ” messaging feature to mess around with her.

Lustig’s friends from his hometown of Washington, D.C. often call in, and it’s not uncommon for him to put them on air to tell a joke. During songs, he’ll even FaceTime with people to fill the silence.

Even if the phone lines are quiet, filling the time isn’t a problem.

WRUV station controls. FRANCES KING. B-Side.
WRUV station controls. FRANCES KING. B-Side.

“I always dance to the songs I play, with my boyfriend or by myself,” Tuten said.

Looking for facts to share during the on-air segments also keeps her awake. “You know I like the gross facts,” she said to her listeners. The facts Tuten shares range from strange biological nuances to the odds of getting struck by lightning while driving.

“I just love having a conversation with all of Burlington,” Tuten said. Having a show late at night or early in the morning means she can have her conversation without a script or unnecessary stress. This is likely why she said her personality shines through so clearly.

“What can I say? I love to talk!” she said.

Though Lustig chooses to limit his on-air time as much as possible, he manages to make the most out of it. On top of sharing local weather and the most recently played songs, Lustig broadcasts a wide variety of news stories, like updates on the baby panda at the National Zoo and information about the latest maple syrup crisis in Vermont.

Because the Davis Center closes at midnight, few souls wander past the studio. But between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m., the cleaning staff  passes by while cleaning the floor.

“We wave,” Tuten said.

She also said the is quiet in an eerie but also peaceful manner.

WRUV station. FRANCES KING. B-Side.
WRUV station. FRANCES KING. B-Side.

“It makes me think clearly,” Tuten said.

For some, the late night factor definitely has an influence on what is played.

“My immediate interest was always to play something soft and chill because I was so tired, but I would end up playing more rock heavy stuff to avoid falling asleep,” Claude said.

Lustig’s set gradually turns more hardcore as the night goes on.

“If I aired in the afternoon, I probably would play less metal,” he said.

Tuten said she loves to play dance and sentimental music, but not with the intention of keeping her awake. She said her set will most likely be the same once she plays afternoon slots.

“The music I play depends more on the mood I’m in, not so much time,” Tuten said. But she can’t deny that there will be more stress involved, considering more people will be listening.

DJing late at night affects the whole day leading up to it. Lustig relies on caffeine, whether in the form of coffee or Earl Grey tea.

“Honestly, I’m not sure what percentage of my blood is still blood at this point,” he said.

Tuten and Claude both prefer taking naps before their shifts. “I definitely tried to plan my day around the graveyard a little bit, and usually went to bed sort of early so I could wake up a few hours later,” Claude said.

It can be difficult to imagine who tunes in at such late hours, but Tuten said she imagines it is most likely a combination of truck drivers, insomniacs who turn on the radio as a last resort to fall asleep, and her mom.

There are aspects of the graveyard shift Claude misses.

“Although it was very difficult to get out of bed at two in the morning and bike in the rain to the Davis Center, I kind of miss the adventure of it,” she said. “It was the kind of miserable you could laugh about.”

Although Tuten has only just recently ended her graveyard shifts, she anticipates missing the intimacy. Plus, listeners are more accepting of mistakes at 2 a.m. than 2 p.m., which makes the experience feel “safer and more fun,” Claude said.

But as she is studying to be a nurse during the night shift, Tuten said she knows there is no escaping the time slot, but this is a reality she is okay with.

Cricket Blue Haunts with Ethereal Folk

    Cricket Blue makes exactly the kind of music you would expect when you hear their name.

    The folk duo is comprised of Middlebury College alumni Laura Heaberlin and Taylor Smith, who play what they have deemed “botanical, spooky, umbilically-resonant folk.” With soft vocal harmonies and carefully constructed guitar rhythms, Heaberlin and Smith craft a fine balance of eerie mystery and intriguing warmth that engulfs listeners.

      Cricket Blue’s allusive and poetic folk music is rooted in Heaberlin and Smith’s long-standing love of writing. Poetry was Heaberlin’s main focus at Middlebury, with a book of poems serving as her final thesis. Poetry, for her, started “as a tortured unrequited love,” said Heaberlin, which evolved into a fascination with the art.

laura and taylor
Taylor Smith and Laura Heaberlin of Cricket Blue. SAM HELLER. The Vermont Cynic.

    Despite their seemingly similar natures, Heaberlin insists that poetry and songwriting are not as connected as they may seem. Poetry tends to be “more abstract with more room for free-writing,” she said, while lyrics tend to come from more of an “emotional base.” In fact, Heaberlin’s career as a songwriter didn’t begin until after her graduation from Middlebury in 2012.  

        While it’s not uncommon for Heaberlin to draw upon her free-writing notebook for inspiration after figuring out the instrumental elements, the opposite is true for Smith. Most of the time, the words come to him before the melody. Sometimes, however, the two come together as a package.

       “There is something special about the marriage of words and music,” Smith said. While poetry tends to be “static,” with words on a page, the melody “makes the words more active,” he said. Both Heaberlin and Smith agree that poetry and songwriting occupy, as Smith said, “different parts of the brain.”

        Regardless of how the duo writes the lyrics, it’s clear from their self-titled EP that they are well-versed in literature. Their songs make allusions to mythology, and explore themes such as  “love, wishes, disappointment, friendship, potential future and the ends of things,” according to Cricket Blue’s Bandcamp bio.

      With lyrics like “Forsooth, forsythia! Yellow and sad / You lost all your blossoms in May / But take it from me – a forsythia tree – / our love comes the strongest too late,” Cricket Blue manages to convey through fictional imagery a strong sense of relatable remorse, with a melody that matches.  

Taylor Smith. SAM HELLER. The Vermont Cynic.
Taylor Smith. SAM HELLER. The Vermont Cynic.

        For Smith and Heaberlin, writing is always a personal matter, and can’t be done together. Instead, they present songs to one another once the songs are 75 percent complete; never less and never more. A certain creative balance between Smith and Heaberlin makes the song writing and editing process easier. Smith, who said he feels “energized by meeting new people and discovering new places,” practices improvisation and experiences “rapid bursts of inspiration.” However, Heaberlin, who “likes to go home at the end of the night,” leans towards quietude and takes her time on each word when songwriting.

        Perhaps the combination of extroversion and introversion is why they work so well together. Even after many long car rides they “still find new things to talk about,” Smith said, in part because they both enjoy exploring and observing the quirks of the towns they perform in. In fact, they’ve created an excel sheet with random observations to base judgement off of. For example, a small town in Pennsylvania was especially memorable because “parking was cheap and everyone in the coffee shop was having a deep conversation,” Heaberlin said.

        Given that they do what they do so well, it’s surprising to learn they experiment with different sounds in their free time. Smith describes his earlier music as more raw, loud and “complaining,” truly epitomizing teenage angst.

Today Smith remains dedicated to the Cricket Blue project, but also plays saxophone in four alternative bands on the side, including Abbie Morin, The Peasant Dramatic and Grundlefunk. Heaberlin said she feels less of a need to play around with different genres. When Smith is touring with his other bands, Heaberlin often plays solo shows performing Cricket Blue’s music.

        It’s evident from the logistical standpoint that Cricket Blue is on the rise. Their first and only EP was recorded at home on a laptop. Their second up-and-coming EP, which has no release date yet, was recorded with the record label Beehive at a studio in Saranac Lake, where Smith and Heaberlin perform separately. However, there hasn’t been one specific breakthrough moment for them; the progression has felt gradual, Smith said.

        Part of this is because they can foresee the next big thing, such as an EP release or an exciting show, and they worked hard to achieve their milestones, Smith said. The pursuit of success is not always as glamorous as it may seem. Even though they have no doubt that they’re living their dreams, the reality is that they “still have to write emails,” said Smith.

“More time is spent on the business side and driving than actually performing the music,” Heaberlin said.

        Both Heaberlin and Smith celebrate every little step. For example, Cricket Blue has started to get “a lot of cool junk mail, like watches to sell at shows,” said Heaberlin. The band now also has its own bank account, further proving the band is growing up.

        What makes a Cricket Blue listener?

      “A genuine love for lyrics and wordplay,”  Heaberlin said.

   “People who like stories, ideas, and feeling a little melancholy,” Smith said.

     Heaberlin and Smith said they have a lot of respect and gratitude for their listeners, as they got the band to where they are today. This is one of the reasons why they veer away from the word “fan” in general, which implies a “weird power structure,” Smith said. In the end, nothing means more to them than people truly paying attention to their music.

Taylor Smith of Cricket Blue. SAM HELLER. The Vermont Cynic.
Taylor Smith of Cricket Blue. SAM HELLER. The Vermont Cynic.

    Afterall, having “four people really listening to the music is more meaningful than having 70 people talking,” Heaberlin said.

   “One person really liking it makes all the difference,” Smith said.

    Smith said he often feels inspired by songs where “one line can just hit you.” The irony is that with lyrics like “I’ve loved you for years—glad to finally meet” and  “I wanna give in, I wanna make waves,” Cricket Blue essentially creates exactly these kinds of songs.

    When addressing the Burlington music scene, Smith said it is a “fantastic scene that differs from our sound.” Performing frequently in the local area at venues like The Skinny Pancake and Radio Bean, Cricket Blue is in high demand and seems to have captured the hearts of music lovers throughout Burlington.

Extra Spice in the Old North End 

Central Market Taste of Asia. RYAN THORNTON. The Vermont Cynic.
Central Market Taste of Asia. RYAN THORNTON. The Vermont Cynic.

“I’ll do medium spice, just to be safe,” said the server at Central Market Taste of Asia on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington’s North End. I tried again.

“No, I really do want it hot. I liked the curry you made me last time.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “It has chilies in it.” I continued to emphasize that, yes, this was the level of spice I wanted, and after a fairly lengthy discussion she wrote “Hot” on the order slip and brought it out to the kitchen.

The issues I wanted to address during our discussion concerned whether or not I was doing something unusual. As a white American in a rural state, I realize that members of my demographic had probably come in before and been overwhelmed by spicy dishes— or, suspecting that they might be, had been careful to ask about a dish’s spiciness beforehand. I don’t blame my server, then, for exhibiting a bit of extra caution. Most of those inquiries had probably been followed by requests that the spiciness of an order of shrimp vindaloo or chicken tikka masala be toned down somewhat, to avoid undue discomfort.

On my first and third visits, I had apparently made the mistake of asking that same question. The first time, an otherwise delicious chicken curry arrived completely devoid of the bracing heat I’d anticipated. Its intact flavors were well-balanced and its chunks of chicken thigh were tender, but the lack of fire left me disappointed. I resolved to try again.

The second time, I ordered chicken shahi korma, a creamy curry dish with nuts and vegetables. I requested “hot,” without prefacing the request with any sort of question. I was asked to confirm my choice, and said yes with what must have been the right amount of confidence. The shahi korma was, indeed, blazingly hot. Small orange flecks of chili were visible throughout the pale sauce. On its own, the curry would have approached — but not yet reached — an uncomfortable level of heat. Accompanied by papadums, (thin, shatteringly crisp wafers of legume flour), white rice and pleasantly stretchy naan bread, the balance of heat and flavor was wonderful.

My third visit and subsequent order led to the conversation excerpted above. I had arrived with a question in mind, one I’d been mulling over since the first meal: Had my expectations of Nepalese food been skewed unrealistically toward the fiery side of things? The try-hard Westerner who seeks to prove himself by trying a foreign cuisine at its most “other” is a well-known foodie stereotype. He (for this diner is almost invariably male) is closely related to the seasoning-averse lightweight. Neither will appreciate another culture’s food except on their own terms, and neither is something I’d like to be.

veggies
Central Market Taste of Asia. RYAN THORNTON. The Vermont Cynic.

Andy Ricker, a white American restaurateur and Thai food expert known for a nearly unique deference to the culture that created his livelihood, has often suggested asking restaurant staff to “make [a dish] as you would for a Thai person.” He offers a translation of this phrase into Thai; lacking confidence in my off-the-cuff Nepali, I settled for English.

“Would a Nepalese person want this dish to be spicy?” I asked.

“Yes,” my server replied. “Nepalese people like very spicy food.” Whew. Reassured that this order would be the real deal and not just some crass stunt, I thanked her and joined my photographer, Ryan, to look through the shop’s grocery section.

Because we got to Central Market Taste of Asia toward the end of their kitchen’s operating hours, seating was not available and we had to take our order to go. To avoid a similar experience, readers should take note of the fact that Central Market sometimes closes earlier than their sign states (9:00); additionally, the kitchen closes at 8:30 and sometimes before then.

After perusing a burstingly diverse array of pan-Asian produce, packaged foods, and housewares (highlights included coconut-flavored larva-shaped cookies, perfect for Halloween; stark white cans of butane gas labeled with a red and orange explosion graphic and the word “POWER;” and a tall, slim glass bottle of fuchsia-hued “Houston Cowboy” lychee-flavored syrup, product of Thailand, complete with illustrated cartoon namesake– perhaps a placebo substitute for Houston’s better-known purple concoction?), Ryan and I collected our food and ventured outdoors in search of a place to eat.

Central Market Taste of Asia. RYAN THORNTON. The Vermont Cynic.
Central Market Taste of Asia. RYAN THORNTON. The Vermont Cynic.

Tungsten streetlights lent a sleazy glow to the Old North End as we walked, and it soon became apparent that our food would grow cold before we found a table with natural lighting. We sat down to eat on the sidewalk by an African market, in full view of passing cars.

The thali platter I’d ordered included chicken and lamb curries, both assertive and complex, with tender and flavorful meat; lentil soup, whose float of orange chilies gave it a fruity, almost floral lift; the aforementioned pappadum, along with poori (a deep-fried whole-wheat bread puffed from within by steam); the creamy yogurt sauce raita, which was sweeter and thicker than Indian versions I’d had in the past; the ever-present white rice; and gulab jamun, a spherical dessert made of milk solids and soaked in cardamom-scented rosewater syrup. All were terrific. Ryan’s order of onion bhaji was enjoyable as well, although a tad greasy. We used part of the substantial portion to improvise a sort of quasi-Nepalese take on poutine, pouring a small amount of curry over the sweet, battered fried onion. It would probably have been better with some paneer to stand in for the traditional cheese curds.

All in all, I’m mostly pleased with the establishment that has replaced 99 Asian Market at 242 North Winooski Avenue. What was once Burlington’s most underrated bowl of pho has given way to an array of rich, well-spiced stews, as well as a number of noodle dishes I have yet to try. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future; already, Central Market Taste of Asia seems likely to inherit its predecessor’s place as an Old North End standby.

Indie Films Showcase Labor and Love at Vermont Filmmaker’s Showcase

“Indie filmmaking has never had it so good,” John Summa told me. We were sitting in his Old Mill office, surrounded by stacks of towering books. Summa, an Economics professor at UVM, wrote one of the films featured at the Vermont International Film Festival’s Vermont Filmmaker’s Showcase.

His documentary, The Resurrection of Victor Jara, received the Ben & Jerry Award Friday October 23. This recent success is the result of a process that was anything but easy.

“It’s hard to have the money to do it right,” Summa said.

Because of a tight budget, Summa edited the entire documentary himself in the Old Mill basement. He spoke about the time he spent laboring over the film as “1000 hours of love pay.”

This is a challenge many of his fellow Vermont filmmakers also faced. After the screening of two locally made short films on Friday October 23, members of the production teams of both films hosted a question and answer session.

Both crews pointed to low budgets as the biggest hurdle they overcame during production. Annelise Sanders, the screenwriter for The Fairies’ Child, said many scenes were filmed in her backyard in Shelburne.  

Joel Walter, the director of photography for Celina Brogan’s striking film mens rea, told the audience he had to stand outside filming on a frozen Lake Champlain to capture one of the film’s most crucial scenes. When her hands got too numb, their lead actress ducked inside  Walter’s car, not a fancy Hollywood trailer.

Summa and his crew also faced a unique complication while filming Victor Jara: translation. The film centers around the life of Latin American singer and activist Victor Jara, so much of it is Spanish.

Before the short film screenings during the Vermont Filmmaker’s Showcase, I ran into Juan Carlos Vallejo in the lobby of the Black Box Theater. He saw my conspicuous note pad (most of the other patrons were holding wine glasses or plates of hor d’oeuvres) and beckoned me over.

Vallejo worked with Summa on the subtitles of The Resurrection of Victor Jara.

“A good translator isn’t literal. They interpret what the director wants to say, not what they show,” Vallejo told me.

Summa also spoke to this challenge, telling me before he rewrote the subtitles, his brother had to watch an early test of the film twice. Once to actually watch the the documentary, and once to read the subtitles.

“Good subtitles need to be looked at, instantly understood, and then your eyes can wander back to the image,” Summa said.

Despite all the difficulties of making Indie films, as awards were announced in the Lake Lobby of Main Street Landing, the passion and love these filmmakers have for their work was evident in the familial atmosphere of the room.

Friends hugged, colleagues had animated discussions and congratulations were exchanged.

“I almost don’t want it [the filmmaking process] to end because it enriched my life in so many ways. Yes, I have scars from it, but I didn’t get divorced,” Summa confessed, laughing.

“It’s a labor of love,” Summa said.

After spending my weekend at the Vermont Filmmaker’s showcase, I have gotten an opportunity to see both the labor and the love inherent in this craft.

Filmmaking, especially as an Indie filmmaker, is hard work. But Summa doesn’t think that should scare people off.

“You don’t have to be a film guru to be a good filmmaker. Anybody can do it. It’s more about the determination.”

“Bald Bill” Henshaw: Inside the Mind of a Body Artist

My parents started placing bets on what my first tattoo would be after I left for college. I’m still leaving them hanging. Bill Henshaw, affectionately known as “Bald Bill” by his friends and coworkers, guesses he’s a little bit ahead of me. He’s been tattooed by over 100 tattoo artists and estimates he’s 80 percent tattoo.

Henshaw opened Yankee Tattoo in 1996 on the same day that tattooing was legalized in Vermont. Although he’s an icon in the Burlington body art scene today, winning local and national awards, his road here has been anything but straightforward.

“I did a lot of hand poking as a kid. Then I went into the navy, drew a lot of tattoos for friends,” Henshaw said. Not only was this where he first discovered his love for tattooing, but it’s also where he was inspired to name his shop Yankee Tattoo.

Born and raised in Boston, Bald Bill is a self-identified Yankee. “When I was in the Navy, every time I opened my mouth I had to fight the Civil War,” he said. Although it’s faded since he’s moved to Vermont, you can still hear a hint of a Boston accent in Henshaw’s voice.

After leaving the Navy, Henshaw worked for a telephone company, eventually transferring to the art department. Designing art for the Yellow Pages by day and tattooing by night, he quit his day job in 1986 and decided to go into tattooing full time.

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Henshaw said. When I asked him if this bothered him, he just laughed.

Tattooing is serious business for Henshaw. He and his staff go through extensive training and he attends professional industry events around the country with world-renowned tattoo artists.

“I’ve met and rubbed shoulders and partied with them,” Henshaw said. “I know many, many famous tattoo artists and they know me.”

The most difficult part of his job, though? The customers.

“Fucking soul-suckers. Customers always think they’re right,” Henshaw said, shaking his head. “But for all those difficult clients, there are so many more that are great.”

Although tattooing has gained popularity in recent years, there’s still a niche counter-culture community formed around body art. “People at the top of the food chain put their noses up and look down on us,” Henshaw said. He and his friends, he explained, have even been pulled aside for security checks at airports because of their tattoos.

Despite the stubborn customers, judgmental outsiders and changing times, there’s nothing else “Bald Bill” Henshaw would rather be doing.

“The best part of my job is I make people happy,” he told me. “Everyday, with my art, I make people happy. That’s why I want to work until I fucking die.”

The unique appeal of tattooing has caused many people, like Henshaw, to fall in love with the art form. A 2012 Harris poll found that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have tattoos.

“The whole country, the whole world, is going tattoo,” Henshaw said.

Walking around downtown Burlington, or UVM’s campus, his words seem to ring true. For our generation, tattooing has increasingly become incorporated into youth culture.

I asked Bill if he had any advice for those considering getting inked for the first time.

“Research what you want. There’s nothing worse than getting tattooed by an asshole,” Henshaw said.

Yankee Tattoo doesn’t bombard their followers on social media and their shop is tucked away on Pearl Street, making it less central than some of their competitors’ shops.

They’ve also won the 7 Daysies award for 13 years in a row and Bill won both the people’s choice and judges award for best sleeve at the National Tattoo Association Convention this past year.

Yankee seems to prove the old adage, “a picture (or a tattoo) is worth a thousand words.” Their art and their expertise speak for themselves.

As I packed up my bag to leave Yankee Tattoo and make my way back to campus for class, Henshaw started to speak again. “We try to do our best. Everybody always asks us: what’s the best work you’ve ever done? And I always say my next one,” Henshaw said.

Eat a Real Donut: Ren Wiener at Scout & Co

Nicksmithsig[dropcap style=”normal or inverse or boxed”]D[/dropcap]o you ever find yourself dwelling on cartoon depictions of ordinary food items, taking in their eye-popping colors and lushly plump contours and wishing that they’d leap into your hand from the television screen? More specifically, have you sympathized with Homer Simpson’s opinion of the doughnut as rendered by Matt Groening, but been unable to find a suitable, tangible equivalent? The typical real-life doughnut has nothing on those bewitching pink-topped things.

Luckily, the word typical needn’t apply to your doughnut intake if you live in the Burlington area. Just head over to cult coffee shop Scout & Co, in the North End. There’s a Winooski, Vermont location too, but you’ll really want to visit the original spot if you have doughnuts on the brain.

 

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RYAN THORNTON The Vermont Cynic: A successful vegan adaptation of the popular Girl Scout cookie, the Samoa, into doughnut form.

[dropcap style=”normal or inverse or boxed”]E[/dropcap]very Saturday, the Winooski-area pastry expert and all-around culinary marvel Ren Weiner delivers four varieties of doughnuts to Scout. These doughnuts are a throwback to her time at Misery Loves Co., a Winooski eatery where Scout owners Tom Green and Andrew Burke have also worked in the past.

Since setting out on her own several months ago as the one-woman baking company Miss Weinerz, Weiner has had plenty of opportunities to experiment and refine her recipes. “Doughnuts are awesome. Everyone knows what a doughnut is. With doughnuts as a base I can play with new fillings, flavors and techniques but still have a product that is approachable.”

That approachability helps Weiner’s donuts stand out among equally delicious but higher-concept offerings like Scout’s fingerling potatoes with oyster mayonnaise, pickled mustard seeds, pine oil and sumac.

 

 

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RYAN THORNTON The Vermont Cynic: The perfect topping for this fresh blueberry frosted doughnut. Weiner hand-cuts every rainbow sprinkle to the proper size.

 

[dropcap style=”normal or inverse or boxed”]W[/dropcap]hen I arrived at Scout & Co, the doughnuts available were Blueberry Joy, with picturesque icing that lent a slight, dark tartness to the yeasty pastry, and cheerfully bright sprinkles hand-rolled and cut into charming pieces by Wiener herself; Orange Cream, an almost impossibly bright-tasting confection bursting with orange zest and coated with coarse sugar for a hypnotic textural contrast; Vegan Samoa, which managed to surpass both its Girl Scout-distributed namesake and the expectations of this non-vegan; and finally, Boozy Irish Cream, which lived up deliciously to every aspect of its name.

 

Of all these flavors, I was perhaps happiest to see Orange Cream, which I’d been fiending for ever since Weiner still made them for Misery Loves Co. Bakeshop. I was afraid that they’d disappeared for good when she left there, and was profoundly relieved to learn that this doughnut flavor was still available.

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RYAN THORNTON The Vermont Cynic: The orange cream-filled doughnut is coated with granulated sugar and a pinch of orange zest.

 

[dropcap style=”normal or inverse or boxed”]T[/dropcap]he numerous hip parents who brought their children into Scout for doughnuts that Saturday morning must have been relieved, too, to discover a somewhat less guilt-inducing treat. Weiner said she prides herself on using the most sustainable ingredients she can source.

“[I use] cultured butters and fresh fruits, local and organic milk and eggs,” Weiner said. “The dough itself [is] made with natural yeasts and set slowly to rise over a two-day fermentation cycle.”

The benefits of this cycle, Weiner said, are significant.

“Because of [the fermentation process], my dough uses less sugar than most other recipes and has an amazing texture.”

 

 

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RYAN THORNTON The Vermont Cynic: The boozy irish cream filled doughnut, for those who want their after-dinner coffee in the morning. Topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

 

 

If you’re interested in seeing some more great photos of Weiner’s work and want an up-to-the-moment heads-up as to what her latest creations are, check her out on Instagram. She has gained a strong following on the site, which she said is like “having a cheerleading squad in your pocket.”

Join the squad. Track down a doughnut. You won’t regret it.

 

http://www.missweinerz.com/Scout O.N.E.

237 North Ave, Burlington, VT 05401

Open Monday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday – Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Doughnuts are delivered at 11 a.m. Saturday, and served as supplies last.