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.
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.
The arts, lifestyle and culture blog of the Vermont Cynic