Snapping their fingers under lights of purple, blue, and yellow hues, Julia Spelman, Lilly Dukich and Erika Polner spend the majority of a Friday night set perfecting harmonies as a powerful vocal trio, while reserving a few songs for solo performances highlighting individual strengths.
Rose Street Collective, a new band consisting of five UVM students, surrounds the three singers while playing songs the group has meticulously mastered.
Filling two venues in one weekend, the Skinny Pancake and Radio Bean, the Collective shares their own perspective on jazz by playing both original and familiar tunes.
Since November, the band has played about 10 shows and is quickly becoming a staple of the Burlington music scene.
The magic of Rose Street Collective lies in their ability to pay tribute to the history of jazz by taking the audience through a dynamic tour of the genre, from Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues” to a nostalgic yet energetic rendition of Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things” and, finally, covers of today’s hit indie songs.
The band consists of Adam Sullivan on keys, Ian Mack on guitar, Kevin Nikolaides on bass, Ethan Shafron on drums, and Rayne Bick playing the alto sax.
Members share a respect for jazz’s rich history, a reverence that resurged years after taking lessons as kids.
“It has always been a part of our lives, even when we didn’t realize it,” Spelman said.
Most of the members met through the UVM jazz ensemble, while Mack and Bick connected with the group later on through mutual friends.
The ensemble helped them further develop their skills and the group quickly became eager to branch out from campus once they recognized their common love of many different genres of music, from soul to funk to rock.
The group’s ultimate goal was to mimic their favorite musicians, incorporating classical jazz standards into the modern music they listen to.
Their interpretation of funk group Vulfpeck’s hit song “Back Pocket” illustrates this perfectly as they replace keys with an alto sax and turn the volume up, taking the song to a new level.
While it may seem that there is a meticulous strategy to their setlist, it mostly just pays tribute to the songs they all love, which they compile into a Spotify collaborative playlist or suggest via Facebook messenger, Shafron said.
Nikolaides uses Google Sheets faithfully in order to avoid chaos, keeping ideas and song choices organized.
At the show, the band members seemed completely in their element on stage, exchanging glances and smiles in the midst of their solos.
They’re quickly making their way from one Burlington venue to the next each weekend, which helps to immerse them into the “hopping” music community, Spelman said.
To keep up with their movements, the band suggests liking them on Facebook and possibly following their Instagram in the near future, Shafron said. They have a show this coming Thursday, February 16th at Radio Bean, 11:00 pm.
Because of the WRUV graveyard shifts, the Davis Center is the UVM facility that never sleeps.
The graveyards, late night shifts reserved for new and training DJ’s, are a mixture of scary and fun, said first-year Ashley Claude.
Though being in the Davis Center late at night can be a bit daunting, especially for a student who knows how lively and active the place typically is, there is a sense of liberty that comes along with the experience, said junior Wren Tuten, who has just recently completed her last graveyard shift.
“You’re alone with the music at an intimate time,” Tuten said.
Claude has been long done with her graveyard requirements, but still has a soft spot for the private, early-morning hours at Davis. “I loved having my own space to blare my own music and be able to dance and sing in the booth without various onlookers,” Claude said.
But there’s no denying the freaky factor. “When you’re incredibly tired, you start thinking you hear or see things,” she said.
First-year Jack Lustig, whose show “How Much Art” airs every Wednesday from midnight to 2 a.m., doesn’t mind the time.
“I get to be more liberal with what I play because I know not a lot of people tune in,” Lustig said. “It also cuts out the stress of having to answer the phone.”
The late night factor, however, doesn’t stop friends and family of the DJs from listening.
“It means more when people tune in at this time, like calls from my mom listening next to my dad snoring in bed,” Tuten said.
Her brother, works late nights as a restaurant manager in Key West, and often calls in or gives feedback. “It makes the whole experience much more personal and special,” she said.
Similarly, Claude said her biggest and most dedicated fan is her grandfather, who “usually wakes up in the middle of the night anyway.” On top of that, Claude’s friends and family in different timezones often listen, sometimes using WRUV’s “Chat the DJ” messaging feature to mess around with her.
Lustig’s friends from his hometown of Washington, D.C. often call in, and it’s not uncommon for him to put them on air to tell a joke. During songs, he’ll even FaceTime with people to fill the silence.
Even if the phone lines are quiet, filling the time isn’t a problem.
“I always dance to the songs I play, with my boyfriend or by myself,” Tuten said.
Looking for facts to share during the on-air segments also keeps her awake. “You know I like the gross facts,” she said to her listeners. The facts Tuten shares range from strange biological nuances to the odds of getting struck by lightning while driving.
“I just love having a conversation with all of Burlington,” Tuten said. Having a show late at night or early in the morning means she can have her conversation without a script or unnecessary stress. This is likely why she said her personality shines through so clearly.
“What can I say? I love to talk!” she said.
Though Lustig chooses to limit his on-air time as much as possible, he manages to make the most out of it. On top of sharing local weather and the most recently played songs, Lustig broadcasts a wide variety of news stories, like updates on the baby panda at the National Zoo and information about the latest maple syrup crisis in Vermont.
Because the Davis Center closes at midnight, few souls wander past the studio. But between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m., the cleaning staff passes by while cleaning the floor.
“We wave,” Tuten said.
She also said the is quiet in an eerie but also peaceful manner.
“It makes me think clearly,” Tuten said.
For some, the late night factor definitely has an influence on what is played.
“My immediate interest was always to play something soft and chill because I was so tired, but I would end up playing more rock heavy stuff to avoid falling asleep,” Claude said.
Lustig’s set gradually turns more hardcore as the night goes on.
“If I aired in the afternoon, I probably would play less metal,” he said.
Tuten said she loves to play dance and sentimental music, but not with the intention of keeping her awake. She said her set will most likely be the same once she plays afternoon slots.
“The music I play depends more on the mood I’m in, not so much time,” Tuten said. But she can’t deny that there will be more stress involved, considering more people will be listening.
DJing late at night affects the whole day leading up to it. Lustig relies on caffeine, whether in the form of coffee or Earl Grey tea.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what percentage of my blood is still blood at this point,” he said.
Tuten and Claude both prefer taking naps before their shifts. “I definitely tried to plan my day around the graveyard a little bit, and usually went to bed sort of early so I could wake up a few hours later,” Claude said.
It can be difficult to imagine who tunes in at such late hours, but Tuten said she imagines it is most likely a combination of truck drivers, insomniacs who turn on the radio as a last resort to fall asleep, and her mom.
There are aspects of the graveyard shift Claude misses.
“Although it was very difficult to get out of bed at two in the morning and bike in the rain to the Davis Center, I kind of miss the adventure of it,” she said. “It was the kind of miserable you could laugh about.”
Although Tuten has only just recently ended her graveyard shifts, she anticipates missing the intimacy. Plus, listeners are more accepting of mistakes at 2 a.m. than 2 p.m., which makes the experience feel “safer and more fun,” Claude said.
But as she is studying to be a nurse during the night shift, Tuten said she knows there is no escaping the time slot, but this is a reality she is okay with.
Cricket Blue 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
“Get Low,” by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz, feat. the Ying Yang Twins
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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…”
The arts, lifestyle and culture blog of the Vermont Cynic