Four men in suits ran on stage, looking like a band of dads who had hurrying from a business meeting to this gig.
For a second I wondered what I was getting myself into. Then I felt the pulse of the bass and heard the hearty strums of a guitar.
On Wednesday, April 18, the Mountain Goats graced the Higher Ground in South Burlington, which although not quite sold out, was packed.
While the Mountain Goats may look tame at a glance, their indie-folk sound is heavily influenced by the goth, punk and metal bands that lead singer John Darnielle listened to in his youth, according to a 2017 Noisey interview.
The band was formed in 1991 by Darnielle and has since released 16 full-length albums, most recently “Goths”, which was released May 19, 2017.
Language is a powerful form of representation, and one that is largely absent on this campus for our students in recovery.
Professors banter about the consumption of alcoholic beverages in class, students openly recount drunken evenings on the bus and people jokingly self-identify as “alcoholics.”
Comments from professors — including one who said all heroin users are lost causes and should be locked up — are swept under the rug. Students and professors often neglect to realize there are numerous students in recovery from substance use disorders who are regularly marginalized on campus.
UVM supports these students through the Catamount Recovery Program, founded in 2009.
Amy Boyd Austin, the director and founder of CRP, worked tirelessly to create the program after a faculty member informed her of students struggling with substance use on campus.
“We realized that ours [program] was about building community and connection – a safe haven for students that celebrates recovery and honors recovery as a model of wellness,” Boyd Austin said.
The program follows five pillars: recovery, community, academics, service and advocacy. CRP consists of over thirty students, but Boyd Austin said she is in contact with fifty or more additional students interested in the program.
Senior Zachary Wyatt, a personable and tenacious psychology major in CRP, discusses his recovery as an identity with fervent authenticity.
“I think deep down, people want to share, but don’t because of the stigma. It’s an identity I hold, it’s part of who I am,” Wyatt said. “It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and why wouldn’t I be immensely of proud of that?”
Anonymity and recovery have been coupled for decades since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. CRP strives to empower those in recovery rather than promote anonymity.
Members of CRP are looking at the similarities with acceptance, learning from the ways in which the gay rights movement gained traction and removed the stigma that being queer was a choice.
Austin, while speaking about university programs in relation to CRP stated, “I honestly feel more connection to some of the other identity centers than I do to policies like dry campus or Wellness Environment, because I feel like those centers are working hard to support identities that are marginalized and that generally aren’t seen or understood and are expected to be able to just deal with the norms of college life.”
CRP is challenging this stigma by offering classes in community engagement and encouraging students in recovery to find confidence and strength through their personal stories of adversity.
Wyatt, along with other CRP members, finds advocacy to be an important aspect of recovery. “It’s taught me that speaking up about things takes the power away from them and that confidence and empowerment always follow.”
Universities, in addition to selling an education, are selling a college experience. Senior Joy Solomon, a thoughtful special education student in CRP, vocalized this idea.
“I think in a systemic way, this institution from orientation day has this college experience … UVM is a brand and the brand is for a very specific college student,” Solomon said.
Solomon said she received a booklet for off campus housing options, but even these came filled with assumptions.
“It just assumes that you’re going to be too loud for your neighbors and that there are certain things that you’re going to experience and encounter,” said Solomon.
Assumptions about partying and a culture of excess that are enforced through this type of language has consequences in that it doesn’t represent those in recovery.
Through University marketing and everyday language, Boyd Austin laments that we have accepted that substance abuse is a given on many college campuses.
When asked about how our institution could better support the CRP and our students who are in recovery, Boyd Austin said, “I think that UVM could improve in supporting the program by recognizing it as another form of diversity. This is an underrepresented identity on college campuses and can be really invisible.”
Through institutional policies and the normalization of substance use culture, UVM perpetuates this invisibility.
While the university could make major improvements in diversity surrounding both recovery and marginalized identities at large, students and faculty should also take on the role of creating a truly inclusivecampus.
Our community can also participate by shifting our biases from an anti-recovery attitude to one that appreciates and engages with those in recovery.
CRP has helped countless students thrive in a college setting, but isn’t by any means operating at its full capacity. Representation of this community allows for more students struggling with substance abuse to use this extraordinary program.
Whether it be through social media or in everyday language, moving away from a culture of normalized excess substance use can help ensure that there is enough room for everyone to be represented and have an equitable college experience.
Food is culture. I am a first-generation Romanian-American, but I don’t know much about Romanian food. My father fled the country in the height of Ceausescu’s dictatorship, and once he moved to the United States, he was dedicated to being an American.
He won’t speak Romanian around my brother or me often, and when we eat together, we usually go out for noodles. Sometimes he will talk fondly of his grandparents’ farm, how they would grow plums and eggplants and he would help care for the animals. He still goes back there at least once a year to see the family that lives there now.
My cooking has never been very culturally inspired, only driven by local availability, price and my deep love for fresh vegetables. I know how to prepare zucchini, and I have developed some second-natured intuition for the tenderness of oven-roasted root vegetables.
For years I’ve been committed to the leafy greens and squashes of farmers’ markets. I have spent many afternoons perfecting my vegetable hash, a recipe-less medley of seasonal produce, dusted generously with salt and pepper and cooked in stages, so that the potatoes are golden-brown and the kale isn’t crispy or the garlic burned.
Once, in an attempt to be more creative in the kitchen, I bought the prettiest vegetable I had ever seen at the farmer’s market. It was an eggplant: oblong and shiny, a deep magenta with delicate white stripes. I had eaten plenty of eggplants before, but I had never cooked them myself.
I excitedly brought the eggplant home, treating it more like a new houseplant than a food, and placed it on my kitchen counter. Overconfident and more accustomed to cooking straight-forward potatoes, I chopped the eggplant into chunks and threw it into a pan of hot oil.
The skin quickly turned grayish, and the once-spongy white flesh absorbed all of the oil within seconds. I had no intuition for the vegetable. It wouldn’t sizzle. It wasn’t firming or softening. I seasoned it, waited and then reluctantly forked the pieces onto my plate. Whatever I had done was not right. I had naively mistaken it for any simple fry-until-golden-brown kind of vegetable.
I soon became fascinated with the art of cooking eggplant. It started with a phone call to my mom. She joked I was living my Romanian grandmother’s dream — Mica loved eggplants, she told me. My great-grandparents grew them on their farm outside of Bucharest, and Mica used to make a luscious Salată de Vinete, a traditional Romanian eggplant spread.
I had only met Mica once, when she came to the United States to see how my brother and I had grown and could only say “hello” and “I love you.” When she died a couple years later, the farm was left to my father, a self-proclaimed city boy. He grew up in a town outside of Bucharest infrequently visiting his grandparents’ farm, and never spent enough time in the kitchen to know the magic behind his mother’s eggplant dishes.
Having about as much knowledge of my cultural heritage as I did the proper preparation of the eggplant, my affinity for the vegetable only grew. Online, I found countless recipes, histories and iconographies.
I read every nostalgic narrative that accompanied traditional recipes, with stories of growing up eating eggplants cooked in Romania, Turkey, Egypt and India. Despite all of my research, when it was just me with a cutting board and a four-burner in my tiny kitchen, I was intimidated.
For the next eggplant I bought, I wouldn’t begin with any attempt at my grandmother’s Salată de Vinete. I would try and cook it in a pan, like I had before, but this time I was aiming for the velvety richness I had read about. I stood at my kitchen counter, and slowly sliced through the dark purple skin and cut the flesh into thin, spongy white ovals.
Each piece had to be salted, soaked in a colander, rinsed and then left to dry on paper towels. I heated up the oil in the pan, carefully placed the slices one-by-one, and waited. Every recipe said eggplants take time. My mother told me that once, when my grandmother came to visit, the oven became so hot from her eggplants roasting for such a long time that the window above the stove shattered.
Some recipes online described the transition from firm and spongy to soft and luscious as “the collapse.” I waited for the collapse. I added a little bit of salt and pepper. I flipped them. I started to see them soften. I didn’t break any windows.
I sat with my plate; the slices of eggplant were cooked through. Though my dish wasn’t all that interesting, the vegetable itself was. I felt connected to my father, to Mica, to my great-grandparents. One day, I’ll try and make the Salată de Vinete. One day, I’ll go to Romania with my father, I’ll see the farm and eat the eggplants of my ancestors. For now, I’ll sit alone in my kitchen with an eggplant, sliced thinly and cooked to collapse, salted and peppered and with every intention to cook another one tomorrow.
Those are what I’d consider my three most potent needs to be.
When Glenn Walter, owner of Three Needs Taproom & Brewery in downtown Burlington, saw the sign that is currently hanging above Three Needs in a dream, he hadn’t anticipated the significance of those words for the local community.
“The name was a sign above a door in a dream,” Walter said. “I woke up. I drew it. I wrote it out and many years later when I had a bar, well… boom.”
It’s common practice for those entering the establishment to ponder their own ‘three needs.” So much so that Monique Ford, operating manager and bartender, has compiled notebooks filled with customers’ own needs.
“For years I’ve been keeping notebooks where people write down what their three needs are, and I have probably 10 notebooks,” Ford said. “I like to tell people that they can come back and add new ones because needs are always changing.”
Though there is no explicit algorithm, Ford has come up with categories which most people’s needs fall under.
“Most of them can be broken down into a variation of a theme of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll,” Ford said. “So it’s the type of sex they like, the type of way to like to vibe — even if it’s camping or a natural high — and what type of music they’re obsessed with at the moment.”
These needs aren’t inherently American, either — although, upon the inspection of one of Ford’s books, one patron may have actually predicted the Eagles’ Super Bowl win back in 2016. “There was a group of British guys who came in, and between them being tipsy and their own jargon, I didn’t understand what some of their needs were,” Ford said.
Ford was reluctant to share her own needs, but if someone can figure them out, she’ll buy them a drink.As for Walter, “at the moment… vacation. Vacation, vacation and money for vacation,” he said.
In addition to providing a space for pondering deep desires, Three Needs has another special attraction: Duff Hour.
Every Monday through Friday beginning at 4 p.m. Three Needs sells $1 pints of beer from a freshly tapped keg. Called Duff Hour, the $1 dollar beers lasts as long as the keg does.
There’s a lesser-known reason behind Duff Hour’s name, Walter said. When Three Needs was a smaller bar at its initial College Street location, the TV show “The Simpsons” used to come on everyday at 4 p.m., Ford said. Thus, the hour was fondly named after the fictional beer on the show.
“People would just watch while drinking the dollar draft,” Ford said. “And when they were on commercial, we would play music. Otherwise, we would have the sound on the TVs cranked up and you could hear a pin drop because people would be so focused unless they were laughing.”
Duff Hour was a tradition in the early days of Three Needs.
“It was much a part of the attraction as the beer honestly,” Ford said.
Walter said he holds the hour near to his heart.
“People from out of town would be coming in and you’d have fifty people in a bar totally silent watching the TV,” Walter said. “They were reciting the lines because they had seen the episodes so many times.”
Although “The Simpsons” isn’t on a constant loop at Needs anymore, the Duff Hour we’ve grown to love today abides by the same rules: cheap beers until the keg kicks; and there’s a “Simpsons” memorabilia wall hiding behind the bar to remind us of the origins of the hour.
Despite all the talk of buzzing patrons, televisions blasting and roaring laughter, walking through the grand entrance of Needs felt entirely different during off-hours.
I began to notice all of the memorabilia, photographs and small details in the design and decoration of the building that I was not conscious of before in my adventures within those great wooden walls.
It was quiet except for Ford, Walter and I chatting away at a booth near the pool table. The light was seeping through the window, creating beautiful shadows on my glass.
There is one last aspect that puts Needs above the rest: their homemade pizza. It was missing during my twelve o’clock visit – I longed for the smell of pizza wafting throughout the downstairs section of the bar.
As for the reason behind it, Walter said he wanted to give back to the community by creating an establishment that has affordable food and beverages.
“When I was in college I would always go to bars like this that have the free tacos and that’s sort of how I fed myself,” Walter said. “It’s for the benefit for the college kids who don’t have a lot of money. They come and can get two beers, a slice of pizza, and still tip for cheap.”
Senior Pablo Murphy-Torres, a frequent customer of Three Needs, has only praise to offer about the Burlington establishment.
“I think Needs is just a great community spot. Sometimes in the early afternoon, I like to get a booth and spread out to do work and grab a beer or two and a slice of pizza,” he said, “The university and ‘townie’ populations can congregate and enjoy quality pizza and beer, and that’s why it’s so invaluable and integral to Burlington’s personality.”
Senior Caroline Shea says “it’s cozy and feels like you’re chilling in a friend’s basement but with better drinks and lighting.”
In his desire to make the bar a part of the community, Walter has begun a collection of artwork patrons have drawn on pizza plates.
“This is honestly some of the best artwork I’ve ever seen,” Walter said.
Both Walter and Ford said they love being located in a college town.
“[The college kids] keep things up and vibrant, with a lot of energy and a lot of intellect, good conversations always occur,” Walter said.
Whether those conversations are truly intellectual or not, I’ll have to investigate further during normal business hours. I can attest to having incredible friends who are willing to share their three most important needs.
“Frosted Flakes, Ramen, gold four loko” – Daniel B.
“Twisted Tea, sex in weird places, pop punk” – Amanda L.
“Yoga, sleeping in late, fuzzy animals” – Julia O.“Mac n’ Cheese, Pepcid, my phone” – Alison C.
“Humble bragging, bougie groceries, laughing at my own jokes” – Bridgette M.
“Nature, Katherine Heigel, my dog” – Garrett C.
With our ever revolving lives, Ford suggests writing your needs down so you can look back and see how you have changed throughout your life.
Vermont Custom Tattoo and Piercing is tucked a flight of stairs above Cosmic Grind Coffee at 104 Church Street Marketplace, Suite 2A.
You might just miss it if it weren’t for a plastic sign on the brick walk outside. The shop makes the most of a small space, with orange and teal-painted walls adorned with a murals of a sailor girl and a dragon — and sheets upon sheets of tattoo designs.
When Aja Briana introduces herself, the first thing that is apparent is her radiant personality. There’s an immediate warmth about her as she introduces herself, one that would make any nervous client looking for a tattoo feel instantly at ease. The only outward marker of her career in the tattoo industry is a dainty hand inked onto her forearm just visible under her sweater.
The 22-year-old tattoo artist is a new member of the team— she started her apprenticeship in October of 2016 and has now joined their team as a full-time artist. Equipped with two rotary machines that she bought from fellow Vermont Custom tattoo artist Joe Demers during her apprenticeship, she has made a career out of putting art on skin.
Vermont Custom’s website displays a gallery of her beautiful art on a dozens of bodies; from hummingbirds to mountain ranges to stunning floral arrangements to dog portraits. Her favorite tattoos to create are the product of personal consultations with clients, creating something uniquely for their body. One of the pieces she enjoyed working on the most was a John Milton poem that a client brought in and allowed her to draw out.
Briana was drawing before she began to write, and in her childhood was invested in writing, art and music. The sight of inked skin sparked her interest in the path she eventually chose: “When I was 7, I saw someone with a tattoo and thought about being the person to put art on someone else’s body.”
Briana, who hails from Las Vegas, ended up in Vermont a few years ago to be closer to her younger sister. She was unable to attend college for financial reasons and, following a PTSD diagnosis, “basically came to Vermont for [her] mental health.”
“The tattoo industry is a white male industry. As a Latina female, I feel lucky to work with people my age.” She says she believes the current generation will destigmatize tattoos, embracing them as art.
As a Panamanian-American queer woman, she’s an outlier in her field, especially in Vermont. According to the July 2016 census, Vermont’s population was 93.1 percent persons of white ethnicity with no hispanic origin. With fair skin and a male partner currently, she is able to appear straight and white for the most part. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t necessarily have the same relationships with coworkers”, she says.
“I’m certainly very white-passing,” she said, “I’m freckled with typically light skin. But I think I take extra strides to assert that.”
“I’m outspoken about my sexuality because there’s so much discrimination against LGBT people. As a queer person and a Latina person, I will always be outspoken. I will always say that Black Lives Matter.”
She says that she is “In the very special position of having white privilege while still being a minority. I want to use it in a strong, powerful way.”
“ If you have white privilege, fucking use it. It’s a tool that can be used to point a finger to the voice that isn’t being listened to; a neon arrow to the people that aren’t being heard, but need to.”
Her passion for social justice is a driving force behind her work. “I’m still finding my grounds and bearings, but I want to be part of an inclusive community. I hope that in 100 years, this industry is dominated by people who are passionate about the fact that people come with the vulnerability of wanting permanent art on their skin.”
Right now, her womanhood is the thing that “sticks out” the most, Briana said. “When someone calls asking if there’s a female artist, I carry in mind that this is an experience that they chose to share with me.”
She’s thrilled to be a queer woman who is able to relate with those who might otherwise feel intimidated by tattoo artists. She comments on the fact that women inking intimate areas of their body might feel more comfortable with a woman doing the work, while queer people may feel more comfortable with an artist who is part of their community.
She says “I want people to be able to share with their artist. It’s so important to feel accepted in such a vulnerable situation.”
Beyond her artistic prowess, Briana is great at what she does because she gives so much care to each and every client she takes in. “I see a lot of beautiful humans and have the utmost honor that they choose to share this transformative experience with me,” she says.
The meticulousness she once considered a weakness has worked to her benefit as a tattoo artist. “I remind myself to take my time,” she said.
“I was always the last one to finish tests, the last one to finish in art class.” The fact that she is patient with details makes her tattoos beautiful and intricate, every stroke made with full intention.
This career has also forced her to roll with the punches and make the best out of things that don’t turn out perfectly. “I have learned so much through this form of art. I used to struggle with finishing projects. If a line doesn’t turn out, I can’t crumple up a person and throw them away. I’m more accepting of my own mistakes. It’s a funny job for one with anxiety, but everything happens for a reason. Hiccups are a component that help it become a work of art.”
“One of my first tattoos, the girl laughed and it messed up the line I was working on.” She was nervous telling the client what happened, but ultimately, the hiccups inked onto her body “stuck out as a joyful personality.”
One of her recent clients was a “flamboyant” 18-year-old from Puerto Rico who came into the shop with a friend who was getting a piercing, and asked for a tattoo on a whim. He decided on his sister’s birthdate in Roman numerals, only to return a few hours later upon the realization that he had gotten one digit incorrect.
His thought? “The universe wanted us to spend more time together!” They eventually figured out a way to cover the error with a heart. “He was beautiful and gracious, and smiled the whole time,” she said,” I honor that day and that boy.”
Tattoos are taxing and painful; and not everyone reacts well to the experience. “We get told we should be first responders,” she says of herself and fellow artists at the shop. Some clients “throw up, faint, seize, but we still want them to leave here feeling as comfortable as possible. I like to think that people usually feel comfortable here.”
A huge component of maintaining her job is self-care. “You can’t come in hungover or on half a night’s rest,” Briana said. “I give myself time to sit and breathe, not bringing any negativity to the client.”
As a tattoo artist and collector herself, she has plenty of advice for those looking to get inked. “RESEARCH YOUR ARTIST. Write that in all caps.” she said. “Find someone whose work you like.”
Getting a tattoo in itself can be a healing experience. It’s taking ownership of one’s own body. “Tattoos are for no one but yourself” she said. And after a client leaves the shop, it’s up to them to take care of their body modifications and ensure that they heal safely.
“Tattoos heal like sunburns; they peel and flake, and usually heal in about 3 weeks,” Briana said. “Healing is an afterglow of the process— it’s up to you once you leave the shop. It’s a great practice of self love to take care of this decision that you made.”
During a difficult time, she tattooed a snake on her thigh and now she says it looks a bit scaly.
“I have regretted every single one of my tattoos at some point,” she explains. “But trust the self that put ink on you. Even if it’s bad, it’s a bookmark of your past self.”
She’s given herself 3 tattoos in addition to the snake: the first was a pie which her sister had said looked delicious from Crockett Johnson’s children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. After the Las Vegas shooting this past October, she tattooed a cactus on her achilles as a tribute to her hometown and gave the same tattoo to a few friends as well. Just the other day, she gave herself a tiny white-ink eye on her finger for fun.
Her eyes light up as she describes her younger sister: a spunky, artistic 10-year-old. She said she took her to a water park, and it was the first time she had worn a bathing suit since she got a tattoo of a maple creemee — a staple of Vermont culture — on her butt. Seeing it, her sister said “Your life is complete,” perhaps a nod to the fact that the new generation is celebrating tattoos.
The first DIY show I went to was a hardcore show in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was hosted in a Veterans of Foreign Wars center.
There were kids that looked like they could beat the shit out of me, but who were all probably just as awkward as me. The masking tape on the floor was the only thing separating the bands from the audience, but the crowd wasn’t letting that hold them back.
I tried to wade in the middle of it all, but ended up getting pushed towards the front, where the bass amps would make my ears ring and my head throb.
It was amazing. I’d never been in an environment like that before. Coming from a small, sports focused town in the suburbs of Massachusetts, it was a whole new world.
DIY is exactly what you probably know it to be, a Do It Yourself mentality. Modern DIY culture manifests itself in people putting on shows in their basements, supporting local artists, and a strong community of people who appreciate loud music.
Those who have been a part of DIY scenes in other areas will often say the Burlington scene is underdeveloped. After a period of venue shutdowns that left an absence of places to play and an overabundance of bands, there’s been a revival in the scene.
New people are introduced to DIY every day, and new organizations are popping up to uplift the community, such as Friends + Family and Tuned In. People who are involved with these groups want to rebuild the scene, and with that comes a sense of duty to do it “right.” But, as this is a community based off of “Doing It Yourself,” there’s no exact right way to do it.
Creating these new spaces necessitates dialogue in our community, one that addresses difficult issues like sexual assault that may jeopardize the integrity of a space that is intended to be fun and inclusive.
It’s a familiar story: a person goes to a show, or a party or anywhere, and someone makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Sophomore Kenzie Hines is a member of the DIY scene; she attends shows regularly and is familiar with some of the bands.
The UVM Cross Country house is “a place notorious for sketchy dudes,” according to Hines.
“It was more mellow that night, and people weren’t really moshing that hard,” she said. “I had plenty of space but this guy really scooted to me.”
“He came up from behind me and was like, ‘Hey, I’m Henry,’ and then he put one hand in my back pocket and one hand on my left breast.”
She said he leaned into her and ground his pelvis into her, without her consent.
“At that moment I was tired; I was trying to dance,” Hines said. “It’s like, if you want to dance with me, ask — I might say yeah,” she said. “I just hate being on that defense when I’m trying to have fun. It’s almost like I’ve been trained to be constantly aware.”
Senior Aaron Lucci declined to comment on behalf of the Cross Country house.
Mariel DiMidio, a junior who co-runs the popular DIY collective Friends + Family, agrees that it feels like everyone has to go through this “training.”
“When you are raised as a man, these codes of masculinity just completely ignore body language,” she said. “I feel like because men are not educated in emotional intelligence as women are, they’re missing this important training.”
Friends + Family is volunteer-run and intended to be a “space for the artists that are noisy, loud, avant-garde, goofy and generally out of the norm,” according to their Facebook page.
DiMidio also talked about Tuned In, a newer music organization in the Burlington scene that’s started up about a year ago, that is a “member-owned cooperative dedicated to prioritizing women and non-binary musicians,” according to their Facebook page.
Senior Marley Zollman is a member of Tuned In. She’s said that she enjoys the emphasis the group puts on intersectional feminism, as well as their confrontation of sexism in the general music industry. They run “Snuggled Up” shows where femme and non-binary musicians perform to femme and non-binary audiences and open mics in order to foster a supportive environment where people can build their confidence in a safe place.
For DiMidio, DIY is a “wholesome community where [she’s] met a lot of really cool people.”
These organizations, and the people who run them, love this community. They want to see it flourish and become a place where everyone can feel safe, have fun and feel like they belong. DIY encourages active involvement, and people are here to fulfill that role.
Senior Casey Little co-runs Red Handed Records, a new DIY venue that is active in the community and wants to help with this problem.
“People like myself who run these DIY venues can’t help but feel agitated that people don’t want to come out to our shows because there are people out there who wish [them] harm. We want nothing less than a friendly, hospitable place for people to get their jams on,” Little said.
At a recent meeting of DIY Burlington, another collective, I met up with Little, Brian LaClair of Jim’s Basement and Senior Haley Quinn of RatHaus to discuss the community and how it addresses sexual assault.
“Somehow we need to come together as a collective and recognize the people (the accused) when others know they will be around,” Little said. “Someone who is an unbiased source, who can stand up to scrutiny and keep an eye on said individuals and report those incidents to someone.”
DiMidio said the answer is not to immediately blacklist people who are either accused of or are guilty of sexual assault, but instead to offer some form of redemption or learning opportunity.
“If you’re trying to make change then you can’t just create a prison model,” she said.
“There has to be a space for learning and coming to terms that’s not just kicking people out, but I think there should be some form of restorative justice.”
DIY is like everything your mother wanted and didn’t want for you all at the same time. I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known through this community. I’ve also been punched in the face in the mosh pit and slammed against sweaty basement walls. It’s a weird dichotomy of love and pain.
This issue isn’t one that will ever be completely resolved. Discrimination will live on for a long time after our generation of basement-going has moved on. Just last week, I was called a “cunt” and a “bitch” because I was running doors for a show and couldn’t let someone in because the venue was over capacity.
But if there’s any take-away from this, it’s that DIY is a community that attracts people from all walks of life.
And the people who truly care about cultivating and pushing the scene forward are willing to listen, discuss and take action in order to create a space in which people can feel loved, welcome and safe.
While winter slept stubbornly through the early days of December, my friend and I spent our Saturday scraping the icy slopes of Sugarbush.
We arrived late in the morning and found the elements at the base of the mountain caught in a fierce war.
The muddy earth and wilting meadows were battling snowfield troops down the slopes from their wintery kingdom.
Despite the fake snow blowing from cannons, the woods and far edges of the lower trails clung to the earthen fall palettes, refusing to allow skiers more than a few icy routes down to the lift.
Before we set out, we hobbled down the iron steps to pick up our ski passes, clinging to the handrail as our early season legs tripped along.
After a brief wait among the few hungry enough for those scarce early winter tracks, we climbed back up the gauntlet of stairs and rode our first lift to the peak.
The contrast in climate between elevations can be magnificent, especially during the first weeks of winter. In minutes, the stubborn grassland and rushing streams gave way to a sheet of white coating the trees and wooded glades.
All the energy and warmth of the base is locked in an icy cast of winter placidity. We pushed off the lift only halfway to the summit, already in a different world.
Our skis’ worn edges struggled to find purchase in the ice on the first few turns. As we moved through the groups of skiers, we found that the best snow lined the trail’s edges in thin strips.
After a few decent runs we turned our attention to the summit hidden above us beyond the rolling clouds.
The Heaven’s Gate lift brought us closer to winter; each foot of elevation added a new layer of drift to the trees and trails below.
As we rounded the peak, we were transported to a spot above the clouds. Each fir tree lining the crystalline hills was coated in its own shell, drooping under the heavy ice.
Before adventuring down the more promising summit trails, I shed my skis and clambered to the top of the lift to rest and look around.
In the warmer months when snowless slopes call for hiking, I have to work for every inch of altitude. Hiking demands an appreciation for the mountain views; every rock, root and stream I pass is a milestone in my climb. I feel a certain intimacy with the rock beneath my feet.
Each time the trees part and give way to the rolling hills and adjoining peaks, I have no choice but to stop and look. In winter, as I sat there on the summit, I made the resolution to sit and reflect every mountain day, regardless of the season.
Later in the afternoon, our unconditioned legs wobbled. We watched others filter into the lodge to spend their paychecks on fries, but we unclipped our skis and took to the woods instead.
We walked off-trail to a spot among the trees. With a stacked pile of birch tinder and dead twigs, we fired up a wood-burning stove and cooked a mountain feast.
Every meal tastes better on the mountain, and this one was no different.
As we ate, we discussed our adventures so far, planned a few more runs and basked in the glowing contentment that always follows a day in the clouds.
The snow was sparse, the day was short, but the reward of just getting out was unmistakable.
I vividly remember the first time I dreamed of visiting the Koffee Kup factory. It was winter of 2015, I was a sophomore and lived in Sichel Hall, a part of the distant Back Five on Trinity Campus.
Sometime around midnight, I was on the lawn in front of Sichel with my roommate and his girlfriend, and we were enjoying the crisp winter air (as well as certain substances that lead to a yearning for baked goods).
At some point in our dazed conversation, I froze and swore that I clearly smelled the wondrous odor of donuts. I expected them to burst into laughter and joke about how I’d had enough, but they both agreed.
At that point, my roommate’s girlfriend Caitlin—a year older than me and a Vermont native—informed me that the heavenly aroma was likely coming from the Koffee Kup donut factory less than a mile away.
I spent the rest of the night speculating about what the factory might be like, wondering if it had a commercial bakery at which I could buy their donuts in the freshest state possible, or if it was still open at 1 a.m. Caitlin didn’t have any answers for my inquiries, so I went to bed that night longing for answers (and donuts).
Since that wondrous night two years ago I’ve enjoyed countless Koffee Kup donuts, but never had the motivation to go check out the factory first hand, until recently. Whether it was caused subliminally by an especially good batch of donuts, or just something in the air, a few weeks ago my fascination with this baking institution was reawakened. So, after a short email back-and-forth with the head of HR, Hannah Fanton, we scheduled a time to make my dreams come true by touring the mysterious factory.
The whole day leading up to the tour of the factory, my excitement was viceral. I had already bragged about this opportunity to my roommates for several days and eaten a lighter-than-usual lunch in anticipation of any free samples. Somehow, the tour lived up to my sky-high expectations.
First and foremost, while gearing up into factory-approved safety gear, I was flattered by Fanton—now acting as a tour guide—insisting I needed a facial hair net to protect the donuts from my “beard” (in truth, no longer or more impressive than that of a newly-shaved chihuahua). After gearing up, we entered the factory floor, as the familiarly tantalizing aroma of fattening dough pierced my face net.
Besides having fun and smelling sweet odors, I learned a lot on the tour. I learned what a 30 foot tall constantly-spinning donut-drying rack looks like. I saw that dough moves throughout the factory not by hand or by cart, but by small conveyor belts about 10 feet in the air, right above my head. I saw that the donuts are fried by taking a short trip into an oil-filled lazy river-type contraption, with a water-wheel-style donut-flipping device halfway through the ride.
After years of failed relationships, I finally learned what true heartbreak looked like when I saw a number of powdered donuts on the floor that had fallen off the conveyor belt. Perhaps sensing my looming sadness at seeing so many beautiful donut lives cut short, my tour guide gave me a free bag of crullers right off the factory line: likely the freshest donuts I have ever eaten.
After my transformative tour, I got to have a quick debrief with my tour guide to answer the myriad of lingering questions I still had. I found out that my personal favorite donut, the maple glaze, was originally a limited-edition seasonal product, but was so successful it turned permanent. I learned that the cruller, an often overlooked staple of the Koffee Kup line, was the first donut they made. I learned that the Koffee Kup brand started over 75 years ago by one man who would bake donuts at night then deliver them by bicycle the next morning.
When I told Fanton about my smell-induced motivation to tour the factory, she nodded her head understandingly. “We have employees here who grew up smelling the donuts and breads,” she replied. And if that sentiment wasn’t heart-warming enough, sharing those free crullers with my roommates that night certainly was.
In the end, I felt somewhat of a full-circle moment as my two-year-long curiosity with Koffee Kup came to a close. I recalled that my fascination with donuts spanned back far beyond even my own memory, according to a story my parents loved to tell me growing up. I was only a few years old, sitting in my high chair at the table with my two lovely parents who were enjoying some donuts.
While discussing how they planned to keep their children sugar-free for at least a few years, they briefly left the room to grab something. Upon returning, they found me on the table, covered in powdered sugar next to a now-empty donut box. Their initial parental instinct of panic soon gave way to laughter, as they realized their son’s love of donuts could not be tamed by the restraining seat belts in your average high chair.
I like to think of all these experiences as analogous, separated only by time. Whether it be the top of the dining room table during my binge-eating moment as a baby, or an industrial-scale donut factory following my night-altering experience of smells, one thing has stayed the same: my love of donuts has brought me to places I once thought were unreachable. And for that, I thank my lovely parents, their decision to buy a box of donuts that day and Hannah Fanton at Koffee Kup for making my dreams become a reality.
Since the March release of their latest studio LP “A Hairshirt of Purpose,” the Boston band has been busy delivering their unique brand of frenetic and asymmetrical post-hardcore to audiences across Europe and North America.
Extensive touring hasn’t been the only thing on Pile’s plate this year. The band was recently presented Boston Magazine’s Best in Boston award for Artist of the Year. As the magazine’s blurb boasts, “Maguire’s drawl and octave yawps soar over a cacophony of compulsively listenable tunes” – a glowing review for a band whose accomplishments have sometimes seemed muted by their dependence on word-of-mouth promotion and seemingly deliberate cult status.
“A Hairshirt of Purpose” is Pile’s fifth full-length record and third official release with their current label, Exploding in Sound. Pile, however, was originally conceived as the solo project of guitarist, lead vocalist and primary songwriter Rick Maguire.
An Acton, Massachusetts native, Maguire spent time living and working around Boston after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a degree in music performance. Though he admits feeling somewhat discouraged by professors from playing in bands, Maguire said he considers his time at UMass formative and ultimately beneficial. Although, he is quick to admit, “I really learned more about myself there than any of the things they were trying to teach me.”
Maguire went on to devote his post-collegiate years to playing in bands around Boston and, particularly towards the end of the 2000s, to his own solo material, self-releasing a handful of albums under the name Pile, including 2006s “Demonstration”and 2009s “Jerk Routine.” Around late 2009, while working at a local grocery store, Maguire was introduced to a then previously unknown fellow coworker: future drummer Kris Kuss.
With the addition of bassist Matt Connery and guitarist Matt Becker later that year, Pile officially become a collective project and followed quickly with the release of their self-produced 2010 LP, “Magic Isn’t Real.”
Maguire has since quit his job at the grocery store following the release of 2015’s You’re Better Than This. Using his newfound freedom as an opportunity to devote himself fully to the band and its endeavors, Maguire moved out of his apartment and converted the band’s practice space into his new bedroom, a professional decision which informs the significant creative progress Pile has made in the years since.
Nowadays, as the band’s chief songwriter and lyricist, Maguire generally supplies the rest of the group with the raw material that eventually becomes what we hear on record. Maguire admits, with an air of frankness and humility, “if I did a good job, there’s not a whole lot to alter,” but “if I haven’t, we need to do some work.”
Maguire says that these periods of collective writer’s block don’t generate a feeling of “I don’t have any good ideas,” but more so of “I don’t like any of my ideas.”
Translated to the group setting, this can prove stifling. “When you labor over a song so much in practice,” Maguire explains, “it’s pretty tough to garner the same enthusiasm the next time around,” Although, he candidly admits, “it usually helps if there are few a beers involved.”
But when cracking open a cold one with the boys isn’t enough to get Pile’s collective creative juices flowing, the band has a set of routines that Maguire says help tremendously with maintaining a healthy creative output.
Maguire says that his own process generally involves working in the morning with a cup of coffee, a book and a guitar, while strategically avoiding the internet. As a rule, he tries to “either be writing or reading,” in order to remain open to creativity.
The majority of this time constitutes what Maguire considers to be “direct” work – that is, the actual substantive processes of practicing, writing and recording his music – though he is careful to note the importance of more “indirect” processes like going to the gym regularly, getting enough sleep, and, in particular: reading.
When pressed about what exactly he’s reading, Maguire lights up. His list of texts is diverse, with topics ranging from neuroscience to musicology to chess strategy. At the forefront of this list currently sits Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century,” a brief but dense book on the dangers of latent authoritarianism that Maguire claims he felt was “a good choice given our current landscape,” while also being just short enough to read in the van.
When asked about his recent listening history, however, Maguire takes a momentary pause to collect himself. “I listen to a lot of mellow stuff,” he says, breaking the silence, “a lot of piano-based music and electronic music like Aphex Twin and Mount Eerie – basically music with sonic textures that are sort of uncommon for rock music.”
Given the ambiguity of what constitutes “rock music”, Maguire offers his own working definition. “In general,” he says, “rock music is some sort of vocalist talking about their feelings against some kind of melody – either singing or yelling or screaming – underlain by some sort of a pulse,” he stops short before adding, “ and there’s usually a guitar involved at least somewhere.”
According to those criteria, Pile might just be the quintessential “rock band.”
As for the musical interests of the rest of the group, Maguire admits, “Our tastes are growing somewhat more disparate” – be it Matt Connery’s unique preference for crust punk or Maguire’s own love for mellower, less conventionally rock music – “but I think that ultimately it’s a good thing in that it allows us to all be able to bring something new and exciting to the table when we sit down to write.”
The sheer range of interests among the members of the band is immediately evident from their live shows, and Pile’s recent performance last at Burlington’s Club Metronome Thursday, October 7 stands as no exception. As wildly unpredictable as they are emotionally sincere, Pile have always been a group that shines more on stage than on wax.
Songs simmer, swell, lurch, and collapse as Maguire oscillates rather frantically between moments of subtle tenderness and explosive tenacity. With technical prowess that borders on the obscene, Kuss commands authority from behind the kit and provides a crucial backbone to the band’s often dizzying and cacophonous arrangements, themselves performed diligently by Becker and Connery.
Given the power, professionalism, and intensity of emotion that each member brings to every performance Pile gives, it is understandably difficult to imagine them doing anything else. To the hypothetical and existentially challenging question of what other career paths the band might consider in Pile’s absence, Maguire chuckles, “Well I kinda put my eggs in one basket.”
In his own regard, Maguire is well known for having done just that. Since quitting his full time job in 2012, he has been notorious for taking little time off from the group, writing and recording regularly and maintaining a near constant touring regimen, whether with Pile or under his solo monicker, Rick From Pile.
But when not on tour, he says that he and the rest of the band stay pretty busy, each member choosing to work part time,punk Connery working at a local guitar shop, Kris, part time at a movie theater. Even Maguire finds time to work a few hours a week at a used book store.
“But ideally,” Maguire says,“ if the whole Pile thing didn’t work out, I’d hopefully be doing something to make the world a better place.”
With that, Maguire grows slightly sentimental and the tone of our conversation begins to hush. Posed with the question of what advice he might offer the average struggling DIY musician, he muses, “Always be willing to do it yourself until there’s something that comes along that seems like a better deal.”
“But ultimately,” he finishes, considering his words for a moment, “don’t expect anybody to do anything for you.”
Be sure to pick up, stream, or sample “A Hairshirt of Purpose”and, especially if you missed their set last week, make sure you don’t miss Pile on their extended east coast tour this fall. You won’t regret it.
The air was hot and thick as I stumbled outside of my Northwest Washington, D.C. home and into the golden morning light of a mid-July day.
At nine years old, I had big ambitions on my summer swim team and at my Corcoran Art School summer camp, so I packed up my pint-sized duffel bag and hopped into my dad’s 2004 Volvo s60 to zip across town in time for practice. The car smelled like a potent cocktail of Dentyne Ice and moldy summer rain from the night before and the CD rack holding a handful of classic rock anthologies was filled with gum I’d not-so-successfully hidden stuck to their plastic sleeves.
I sifted through my favorites, but what I wanted to find was already in the disc drive. As we turned right off of 30th Street and headed into Rock Creek Park, the opening chords of Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” filled the musty atmosphere of our car.
We blasted the AC and opened all the windows as we wound down past the creek and under the vast oak trees lining Beech Drive all the way to the Maryland state line and beyond, passing vistas of the National Monument and the Basilica across Georgia Avenue all the while.
One of those few Washington mornings in July when the sun isn’t already oppressively hot, it was a polaroid perfect summer moment as I jumped in the pool for my first lap. A flawless Tom Petty day.
Years later at 17 on a Tuesday afternoon in Marin County I sat next to my mom on Redwood Highway barreling toward Point Reyes with those same chords ringing out from our shaky little rental car. Here we were among the golden hills and vast blue skies of Petty’s California, and no other soundtrack would have been fitting.
We veered off to explore country roads snaking down coastal mountainsides and dipping in and out of redwood forests before reaching the great Pacific. A thick fog passed over us for about an hour or so as we stared into the abyss to the Farallon Islands barely discernable in the distance before a brilliant sun greeted us again for our ride back to San Francisco. An unmistakable Tom Petty day.
At 21, Oct. 2, I’m biking furiously on a Tuesday afternoon as far north as I can get before the sun goes down. “Full Moon Fever” blasts in my cheap headphones and I swerve between joggers, dog walkers and slow cyclists up the Burlington bike path with Lake Champlain glistening at golden hour, dotted with late season sailors and the occasional whitecap.
The Adirondacks hang tall and triumphant as I peek over my shoulder to take in the view for a second before dipping back into the deep woods. I peel back some forgotten fences to ride the newly paved sections of the trail, and coasting along I pass couples playing with perfect puppies and families walking hand-in-hand to the closest overlook before sunset.
Finally, I break the trees at Maye’s Landing not too high above the Winooski River and stop on the same wood and steel bridge I speed past almost every weekend on this ride. Somehow this view looks more brilliant, more blue, more delicious than it ever has. Those same old songs are still ringing in my ears as I take a deep breath and say goodbye to an old friend, a companion on so many sunny days, the voice in my head telling me to keep running down a dream.
The arts, lifestyle and culture blog of the Vermont Cynic