Tag Archives: Cynic

Meandering Stowe’s Main Street & Beyond

        Sometimes, you just need to take the day and get out of town. After a long week of running from Colchester to College Street, walking down a different Vermont Main comes as a much-needed change of pace. On a relatively balmy, brilliantly beautiful January afternoon my friend Eva and I headed southeast on I-89 into the mountains to Stowe.

        For skiers and riders, Stowe has an obvious appeal; the resort has 460 acres holding 98 trails and 11 lifts. But for those who prefer to admire the trails snaking down Mount Mansfield from afar, Stowe’s Main Street establishments offer a cozy change of pace from hanging out at Bailey/Howe.

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Main Street, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        The road to Stowe is predictably gorgeous, from the first 180-degree vista of the Green Mountain peaks near Williston to the cruise up Route 100 snugly situated besides Mount Hunger.

     On either side of the road nestled in pine forests sit local, artisan cheese and wine shops, craft breweries, and outdoor gear outfitters in typical Vermont fashion.   

        As the road snakes into town, it passes snow-coated golf courses etched with Nordic tracks, fly-fishing creeks, and charming saltbox chalets. Downtown Stowe greets visitors with historic inns, white-steeple churches, and general stores stocked with everything from canned tuna to children’s books.  

        Approaching Stowe, you’ll first come up on the Vermont Ski and Snowboard museum housed in a classic white clapboard town hall.  Here, you can learn all about everything from snow bunny fashion to slope maintenance through the years of Vermont ski history.

Make a left turn and you’ll swing up to the sprawling Stowe Resort by way of mountain road as it meanders over covered bridges and past small shops and markets.

Black Cap Coffee, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.
Black Cap Coffee, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        Just down the street, Black Cap Coffee sits warm and welcoming on the corner of Main & School streets. The painted red brick café is homey and bright, filled with paintings and pottery by local artists. Black Cap roasts excellent coffee in-house, and its baristas can whip up a killer maple latte.

        If you’re hungry for some savories, head to Jamie’s on Main. The staff is lovely and so is the food—you can stay and hang out or grab a to-go snack for the mountains.

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Main Street, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

After we’d had our fill of good coffee and Stowe sightseeing, Eva and I headed a few miles up the road to Putnam State forest. The quiet woods, hidden amongst gorgeous mountain estates and small family farms, are filled with waterfalls, young pine forests, mountain streams and stunning views.

        We got out of the car and tramped along the lowland marsh trail up Moss Glen Falls: snowed-over and frozen, but with clear blue water still rushing underneath. In the summer months, the falls get plenty of visitors but in the middle of winter you’re likely to be alone in the woods.

        Grabbing hold of protruding roots and scooting slowly past ice patches, we reached the top of the waterfall and looked out west. The evergreens frame flawlessly a delicious view of Mansfield’s western slopes and the valley in its shadow.

Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.
Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        From the falls, you can wander deep into the forest on a well-kept trail covered in pine needles in the summer, and packed snow in the winter. Or, you can head back down the hill, get in the car and explore the country roads, harmlessly trespassing through some beautiful backyards.

Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.
Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        Whether you’re skiing or not, spending a day in Stowe is a treat. It’s just far enough away from the campus routine to feel like an adventure, and there’s plenty to do whether you’re pining for a quiet woodland hike, locally roasted coffee, or a snapshot of smaller-town Vermont life.

           

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.

Comedy Finds a Home in Burlington 

Courtesy of Vermont Comedy Club.
Courtesy of Vermont Comedy Club.

Nathan Hartswick eagerly joined me at my table at Muddy Waters one Thursday afternoon, after weeks of trying to meet. We were finally able to sit down and discuss the opening of his new Burlington establishment, the Vermont Comedy Club. I looked forward to hearing about the new place and all the comedy shows it would bring to the area in the future, but I didn’t expect that I would walk away with a new knowledge of comedy and its role in the entertainment realm of Burlington

Hartswick’s involvement in the performing arts began with an interest in theater and musicals at a young age. Throughout his time in college, he took an interest in comedy and spent time in stand-up and improv classes, and wrote comedy when he wasn’t working. It was only when he was about thirty years old that he actually began performing for audiences outside of the classroom. Since then, Hartswick said, he and his wife, Natalie Miller, made it their mission to not only give themselves a place and chance to perform, but provide the community with the same opportunities.

For the past five years, Hartswick said, he and Miller have been producing shows through their booking agency, the Vermont Comedy Club. They’ve set up shows wherever they could find the space, including “music venues, churches, attics, basements, tents and bowling alleys,” according to the VCC’s website. Now they’re opening a new venue at the Armory on 101 Main Street.

“The people of Burlington are hungry for more variety in the local arts scene,” Hartswick said, “There’s a big pull for a home for comedy in the city.”

Courtesy of Vermont Comedy Club
Courtesy of Vermont Comedy Club

Now, after two years of drafting a business plan, shopping for investors and seeking available spaces, Hartswick said the space is finally ready for opening day. The club itself is 6,000 square feet, and includes a showroom, a separate bar room, a classroom and a small kitchen. The idea of the space, Hartswick said, is that people will have the option of being able move between the bar room and showroom depending on whether they want to visit with their friends, enjoy some comedy, or both.

As far as popular comedy goes, Hartswick immediately thought of George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld, during his stand-up days. Hartswick also enjoys the work of John Dore, who he describes as “off the wall” and distinctively “alternative.”

Courtesy of Vermont Comedy Club
Courtesy of Vermont Comedy Club

Hartswick explained that after years of being in the comedy business, he’s able to tell exactly when the punch line of a stand-up routine is coming. Now he’s looking for something different: comics that surprise him.

Hartswick said that in his classes, he teaches his students that no subject is strictly off limits. He states that it’s the way that you present the comedy to the audience, and their reaction that tells you whether you’ve crossed the line. He uses Louis C.K. as an example of a comedian who constantly crosses boundaries, but manages to “win” the audience back immediately and keep his shows positive. The bottom line, Hartswick said, is to make your audience laugh, not feel “utterly uncomfortable.”

Hartswick said that the people of Burlington could use a laugh. Most residents can name one of the many music venues, theatres, or art galleries in the city, but good comedy is harder to find. With the VCC, Hartswick hopes to fill that niche. Hartswick looks forward to collaborating with existing clubs in the city to fill out Burlington’s arts scene. He envisions a future in which people can experience both live music and live comedy in the same night.

The Vermont Comedy Club is set to open officially Nov. 18. By then, you can expect to find great classes for kids and adults, where you can explore a new interest or potential passion. You can also expect to find both local and nationally recognized improv groups as well as stand-up performers, for a chance to both learn and be entertained. Hartswick and Miller expect that the festivals and competitions they’ll hold at 101 Main will draw big crowds and get people excited about comedy in a different way. With this many events in store, Hartswick said, you’re guaranteed to find “something different the next time you come, but something equally as fun.”

Burlington’s Haunted History

Halloween season is in full swing and it’s not unusual to see ghosts prowling the streets, usually sporting bedsheets and various party paraphernalia. However, collegiate mischief is not the only spooky thing afoot in Burlington.

PHOTO BY EVA BARTELS
PHOTO BY EVA BARTELS

“Surprisingly, Burlington has more haunted restaurants in one place than many other cities I’ve visited,” said Thea Lewis, an expert on all things spooky in Burlington.

Lewis, an author and historian, runs Burlington’s Queen City Ghostwalks. One of the most haunted places in town is American Flatbread, she said.

“There was a time, when a previous restaurant was in that location, when female servers were not allowed to go into the basement alone due to the paranormal activity,” Lewis said. “Lights going off. Objects moving. Even ghosts getting physical with those who ventured down alone.”

Paranormal activity has also been reported closer to campus. Converse Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus, is known for being haunted.

Traditionally, the story goes that an unhappy student named Henry, terrified of failing his exams, hanged himself in the Converse attic.

“He’s been accused of spooking students by moving objects in their rooms and startling them when they are doing things they shouldn’t,” Lewis said.

Henry must have a busy schedule.

Most residents in Converse take a lighthearted view of their neighborhood ghost–residents joke that the recent spate of fire drills or the malfunctioning lights are the result of Henry’s antics. However, his story continues to be passed down through generations of students.

“There’s a lot of the universe we can’t begin to understand,” Lewis said. “We only use a fraction of what our brains are capable of. Whether you’re dealing with spirits or other phenomena, it pays to be open minded.”

Her advice, regardless of your view of the paranormal, seems sound. Whether dealing with paranormal activity or just the abnormal activity of those around us, keeping an open mind can work wonders.

Witches Get Snitches

Where can you play the most lighthearted, full-contact sport on campus? Only through club quidditch, the most unique sports craze to sweep college campuses in the last decade.

Quidditch, originally a fictional sport from the “Harry Potter” series — played with flying broomsticks — was adapted for “muggles” in the early 2000s and is now played by over 200 teams nationwide.

“The most enjoyable thing was how much it caught me off guard,” said junior and club president Connor Umsted. “I met all of my close friends through quidditch, it’s legitimately a great club.”

At seven years old, the UVM quidditch team is one of the oldest in the country, and frequently travels throughout the Northeast to compete against other collegiate teams. The team practices and competes year-round, moving indoors to astro-turf fields from mid-October to the end of the academic year.

“We love playing in the snow, and deep snow is the best,” senior Jenna Hurley said. “Everyone slides around and it’s a great time.”

Quidditch is played with 15 players on the field at a time: seven individuals from each team along with one neutral player, also known as the snitch. Teams consist of three chasers, who attempt to score by putting volleyballs (also known as quaffles) through three different hoops, all guarded by a keeper. Additionally, there are two beaters, who use dodgeballs to tag other players out. If a player is hit by a dodgeball, they must run back to their own goal before they are considered in play again.

“It’s a full contact sport, it gets pretty rough,” Umsted said. “There are a lot of injuries, a lot of broken brooms.”

There is also one seeker per team, whose goal is to catch the snitch runner — a neutral player wearing a gold uniform whose capture ends the game.

“The snitch is usually a cross country runner,” Hurley said. “It’s one of the most athletic positions.”

The snitch — which Umsted described “hilarious” — is one of the most lighthearted parts of the game. Seekers attempt to grab a ball in a sock that has been tucked into the snitch runner’s waistband, all while keeping their own brooms between their legs.

Although quidditch is described as being co-ed, U.S. Quidditch (the governing body of competitive quidditch) implemented a policy called “Title 9 ¾,” referencing Title IX and the famous 9 ¾ train platform seen in the “Harry Potter” books. Instead of dividing men and women into different teams, USQ policy states that each team is allowed no more than four players that identify as the same gender on the pitch at any given time.

The policy seeks to be more inclusive of transgender players and hopes to inspire similar gender policies in other sports.

The UVM quidditch team was a member of USQ, which hosts sanctioned events and even a national tournament, during the 2014-2015 season but recently left the league due to increasing rule changes. They now play other colleges without concern for rankings.

Quidditch takes players year-round with no tryouts necessary; matches are BYOB (bring your own broom). Contact president Connor Umsted (cumsted@uvm.edu) or check out them out on Facebook for information on joining.

“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.

The Internet at Signal Kitchen

If you have never heard of Odd Future or Tyler the Creator, then you’ve missed some truly artful hip hop. Tyler, specifically, has been brought into the spotlight for his satirical crudeness.

His tracks are either rowdy and full of hyperbolic violence towards women and himself, or serious reflections on race and his own experience growing up as a hyperactive child without a father. Odd Future is a record label and extensive rap group created by Tyler and features many talented rappers like Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt.

Within Odd Future, there are many subgroups that have broken off to establish their own style. One of the most well-known of these groups is The Internet.

The Internet PHOTO COURTESY OF
The Internet pictured PHOTO COURTESY radiowebitalia.net

The group features Syd the Kid, who has become the official DJ behind all of Odd Future’s beats. It also features Odd Future’s Matt Martians. Non-Future members of The Internet include Jameel Bruner, Christopher A. Smith, Patrick Paige, and Steve Lacy.

Seeing the Internet last Saturday was a night of firsts. It was my first time seeing The Internet and my first time at Signal Kitchen and I was impressed to say the least. It was by far the smallest venue I’ve been in but the crowd filled the space up and brought it to life. The small intimate space and energy from the crowd created immersive heat, a stark contrast from the chill outside where many patrons broke for a cigarette throughout the night.

It was also my first time seeing the opener, Moonchild, who opened with easy-going, sensual beats reminiscent of the electronic chillwave genre. They paired electric guitar, sax and keyboard back ups with smooth melodious jazz vocals over top that brought in the euphoria of dream pop. The crowd swayed to the sexy, soulful energy. Amongst the euphoric chill a killer drum solo kicked out, somehow still coinciding perfectly with the sax.

Moonchild exited the stage and the anticipation began to build as the crew began to set up for the Internet. Everyone was clearly trying to save some energy, having a drink and sitting down for a while. All the same, people started dancing and jamming to the tracks played during the long setup. The venue played the R&B and trip hop that is expected at such a show, with some Drake and Lil Wayne peppered in.

Finally, the Internet came out and everyone went nuts. No greeting was necessary from the band, so they jumped right into their first song, which I actually had never heard before. It was grungy like Naked and Famous but with a funk and jazz twist. Pinkish purple lights mostly stayed still and focused on the group and its minimalist set. The rest of the concert continued with their classic funky and jazzy R&B style. They played their more well known classics, like “Girl,” “Under Control,” “Fast Lane” and “Special Affair.” Beyond that, the set mostly consisted of their more recent tracks off of “Ego Death.”

The crowd was going wild. Everyone was getting into the music, filling the room with the signature energy of the Internet. Part of the crowd started getting into the sensuality of their music and grabbed someone to get funky with. Everyone in the room was either swaying, thrashing (no joke), grinding, shaking their ass or some combination of the four.

The night ended and everyone left, some with people they didn’t arrive with. The Internet minus Syd the Kid actually exited the venue shortly following the crowd. This sent the final wave of excitement through the patrons, getting an upclose and personal experience before we all had to trek home after a killer show.

 

Lit Club at the Light Club

Walk into the Light Club Lamp Shop on any night and you’ll be greeted with an immediate sense of serenity.

The intimate space, with its dark wooden bar counter and lamp-lined walls, stays quieter on most nights than its adjacent older siblings, ¡Duino! (Duende) and Radio Bean. But on Monday nights, the quiet calm of the Light Club Lamp Shop is underlied by a contagious effervescence of creative energy. These days, something new and very much alive has brought even more light to the lamp shop: poetry.

Lit Club Poster
Lit Club Poster PHOTO COURTESY OF NICK BUCCI

A new spoken word event, free and open to the public, has taken over Monday evenings at the lamp shop. This weekly convergence of poetic minds is known as Lit Club at the Light Club, and it is the brainchild of UVM junior and writer Addison Bale.

The event, a spoken word open mic punctuated by featured performers and the occasional drink break, is a collaboration between Bale and Lee Anderson, the mastermind behind Radio Bean, the Light Club Lamp Shop and ¡Duino! (Duende).

“I don’t think it’s always the poetry bringing people in,” Bale said. “I think it’s more the night itself — the whole atmosphere. That’s more important to me than any one poem.”

The atmosphere of the night is entrancing. The venue itself, its walls and ceiling covered in lamps of all shapes and sizes, holds a certain magic. There are no stark spotlights, and the onstage microphone is kept at a comfortable enough volume that every poet seems to be not so much performing as sharing — opening a conversation with an eager and attentive audience.

The schedule and format of the event, with its five-minute sets and weekly featured poets, is modeled after a similar event held at Au Chat Noir in Paris, the city that Bale recently called home for four months. He cites the poetry open mic nights of Au Chat Noir as having an enormous effect on his sense of community and connection while abroad.

“I moved to Paris alone, and I was never alone,” he said. “[Au Chat Noir] was formative for me.”

Upon returning to the States, Bale said, he felt compelled to create a scene reminiscent of the one he had left behind in Paris. He set his sights on the Light Club.

“The intimacy and quirkiness of the Light Club lends itself so well to a creative environment,” Bale said. In July, he pitched his idea to Anderson, a lover of poetry whose restaurant, ¡Duino! (Duende), is named after poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s famous Duino Elegies. Anderson agreed to oversee and provide a venue for the event. With a venue in place, Lit Club at the Light Club was born.

In September, with the return of college students and summer travelers, the event took off. In a short time, it developed a solid reputation amongst the Burlington literati. Although at first Bale and Anderson had to often reach out to poets they knew in order to find each week’s featured poets, Bale said that things have since changed.

Charlie Sheppard pictured performing with Addison Bale PHOTO BY NICK BUCCI
Charlie Sheppard pictured performing with Addison Bale PHOTO BY NICK BUCCI

“Now, featured artists contact me,” he said. “Traveling artists hear about us now, mostly thanks to [local publisher] Ben Aleshire and Honeybee Press. Ben’s been coming out to support us and then spreading the word.”

The diversity of poetic styles at Lit Club flourishes in its environment, which is one of empathy, acceptance and eagerness to listen. Bale works hard to keep it that way. He insists that performers stick to roughly five-minute sets and that they “keep it to the word, and keep it poetic.” But he does not discourage people from expressing themselves boldly and unapologetically.

Alex Weiss pictured PHOTO BY NICK BUCCI/The Vermont Cynic
Alex Weiss pictured PHOTO BY NICK BUCCI/The Vermont Cynic

“Sometimes people are provoked by another person’s work, and feel compelled to share their own work. And that’s kind of the idea,” he said. “Every now and then, you just get these moments of magic.”

With the welcoming atmosphere, diversity of styles and voices and consistently friendly faces, Lit Club at the Light Club is the hip new kid on the performance poetry block. Poets can sign up for a five minute slot by coming at 8 p.m. or slightly earlier.

Whether you’re looking for a place to share poetry or just to sit quietly, have a drink and listen, Lit Club is the new place to be. More information can be found on the Lit Club’s official Facebook page.

Ying Yang Twins Come to UVM

In the Harris-Millis dining hall last week, I overheard a snippet of conversation above the din of the crowd.

“Are you going to see the Ying Yang Brothers?” asked a voice directly behind me.

“Nah, they’re, like, outdated,” said the voice’s counterpart. Both voices had the lilting, spliff-cured huskiness that often indicates an intense and unironic appreciation for Kid Ink. Instinctively, my hand moved toward the hot ceramic dish of macaroni and cheese sitting on the table in front of me, which a conscious effort prevented me from tossing blindly over my shoulder.

Let me explain: At the age of fourteen, I owned a burned CD whose tracklist was as follows:

  1. “Get Low,” by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz, feat. the Ying Yang Twins
  2. “Salt Shaker,” by the Ying Yang Twins feat. Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz.

Those two songs, which I’d been requesting to no avail at local radio stations for several months prior, had come to my attention through slightly unusual channels. One of my dad’s best friends from high school had gone on to work in the adult film industry. At a related event that the two had attended together, the Ying Yang Twins had performed, and my dad returned home with a certain chorus stuck in his head. I didn’t believe a professional rap group would urge their audience to “shake it like a salt shaker” until I heard it on a Boston-area radio station shortly after.

In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic
In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic

“Get Low” appeared in a back issue of Spin that I must have read twenty (or “fifty-’leven”*) times. The issue focused mainly on early ‘00s indie favorites like Interpol and The Hives, but also included an exhaustively detailed history of the goth subculture and, most importantly, a glowing recommendation of that “spectacularly vulgar hit.” Once I’d heard “Get Low,” I couldn’t imagine why any of my peers preferred Weezer.

Nearly a decade later, when UVM announced that the Ying Yang Twins were performing at FallFest, I was incredulous. It had to be a joke. Surely no would-be Burlingtonite would have requested this rowdy Atlanta crunk group. Maybe Atmosphere would arrive wearing Ying Yang Twin masks, and all the fans of Real Lyrical Hip-Hop would rejoice as their enlightenment remained intact.

The Twins’ schedule was tight, so I couldn’t get an interview with them. There was no opportunity to see beforehand whether they were real, or to ask whether they still lived in the house with the “ocean room” they’d shown off on MTV Cribs, or what had happened to their three pet fish, “Kudzu,” “Fuck You,” and “Money Green.” Nor was there a chance to ask them whether they’d ever be open to a collaboration with Kanye West or French Montana, both of whom they claim appropriated their “Haaaanh” ad-lib.

This initial disappointment gave way to exhilaration when the Ying Yang Twins finally stepped onto the FallFest stage. There had been a couple of opening acts and a bunch of Future-heavy dance medleys before them, but I was reassured to see that most of the audience had their priorities straight.

When the Twins emerged, chanting and gyrating as they had years ago, the already excited crowd lost its collective shit. Smoke rose in columns from the densely packed crush of people. Any doubts I’d had about the student body’s appreciation for Kaine and D-Roc evaporated above the thronging, pulsating mob.

In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic
In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic

The Ying Yang Twins are known for their featured verses just as much as for their own tracks. Songs like “Get Low” and Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ms. New Booty” might as well belong to the Twins; likewise, even songs with high-profile features, like the Wyclef Jean-assisted club anthem “Dangerous,” sounded no worse without their guests onstage. A large, vocal percentage of the audience knew most of the hooks and plenty of the verses, and shouted along gleefully.

The crowd was packed tightly, and moved furiously to each deafening composition. Groups of dancers formed, sometimes at odds with one another, and at several points I had to maneuver my way through clusters of people who were moshing and twerking at the same damn time. Kingbread kept materializing several paces away from me; a tallish guy in a Donald Trump campaign hat (“Make America Great Again!”) drifted in and out of sight, his head bobbing and vanishing among the rising human tides.

Unfortunately, attendees reported two instances of violence during the show. One woman was escorted from the crowd by her male companion and a security guard as things got particularly tumultuous. An email alert sent the following day to UVM students indicated that she had been sexually assaulted by an audience member (described as “a black male, approximately 5’ 8”- 5’ 9” tall with with a medium build, a muscular face, and an angled jaw”). A later alert described a similar assault on a male concertgoer by “an Asian man between 5’ 4” and 5’ 8” tall.”

Despite these occurrences, the concert continued; luckily, no other individuals appear to have been harmed during the event.

In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic
In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic

Kaine and D-Roc, it should probably be noted, are 37 and 36 years old, respectively. This is no longer particularly old for a rapper; most Wu-Tang Clan members are in their forties and can still put on a high-energy show. It is, however, a point at which a change of direction is sometimes necessary. The track “Thundercat,” a collaboration with EDM artist Pyramid Scheme, may be the Twins’ only concession to this idea. “Thundercat” makes sense when considering that their contemporary Lil Jon and the more recent Atlanta rappers Waka Flocka Flame and Trinidad James have also made forays into the genre.

The energy the Ying Yang Twins displayed certainly did not disappoint. Their body language is at once comical and compelling; they pace the stage with frenetic vigor, shuffling and stomping, shaking their hips and thrusting their elbows outward as they sway bawdily to bass-heavy beats and encourage their audience to do the same.

Their vocals, which alternated between guttural growls and high-pitched nasal blares, were true to my memories of their heyday. Many rappers, especially those who perform a lot of party songs, are not particularly good in concert because they shout their lyrics over a vocally complete backing track. The Twins, thankfully, do no such thing.

In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic
In Defense of the Ying Yang Twins DAYNA WYCKOFF/The Vermont Cynic

After the concert, I boarded a clamorous off-campus bus and made my way downtown, content to have finally seen D-Roc and Kaine and, having done so, reached a milestone I’d been waiting the better part of a decade to achieve. The only song from my formative years that they hadn’t played was “Jigglin’;” having that song on autoplay had somehow been the least embarrassing aspect of my Myspace page as a high school freshman. I didn’t really mind, though. The Ying Yang Twins had come to Vermont. I guess now I’d better work on freeing Gucci Mane from prison in time for SpringFest.

*From “Get Low:” “…only came to the club ‘bout fifty-’leven times…”