A New Twist on Some Familiar Sounds

By Brian L. Knight

The last few weeks have brought two very interesting nights of music to the Burlington area. Club Toast boasted two separate evenings of non-traditional band lineups. The first concert was a new incarnation called New York, and two weeks later, a tour called "The Merry Danksters" came to the town.

On a fine spring night, a band called New York was slated to play at Club Toast. By looking at the band's lineup, it should have been called Burlington, as New York is a new hybrid consisting of the Pants!' Ted Lawson and Paul Jaffe, jazz trombonist James Harvey and Phish's Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon.

These guys have played with each other before. Before Lawson and Jaffe formed the Pants!, they played in the The Chainsaws of Babylon during the late 1980s. Throughout those years, Phish and the Chainsaws of Babylon would often cross paths. More recently, Phish shared the stage with James Harvey during Phish's Benefit for Lake Champlain at the Flynn Theater.

New York had practiced a couple of times and even managed to write a few songs before the evening's surprise performance. As word spread through the town, many Phish fans began to line up the door of Club Toast, hoping to see the members of Phish playing in a small venue once again.

New York's performance surprised the majority of the crowd who were unsure of the sounds they were to hear that night. Was it going to be jazz/bluegrass/rock fusion of Phish? Was it going to be James Harvey jazz? Or was it to be the alternative rock jams of the Pants? I believe the Pants! won. New York's songs, such as "Big Bird", "Dirt", and "2,000", were definitely hard rocking with an aggressive edge. New York also jammed out some interesting covers like Sly and Family Stone's "Stand", and tunes by Frank Black, Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine. The night's best performance was a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Isabella" which was undoubtedly chosen in honor of Anastasio's newly arrived baby girl, Isabella.

The other interesting concert to come to town was called "The Merry Danksters," based on the 1960's traveling troupe who were led by Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary and Neil Cassady. "The Merry Danksters " provided an evening of four separate acoustic performances. The evening began with Gibb Droll of the Gibb Droll Band. Playing many acoustic versions of the songs from his album Narrow Mouth Jar, Droll kept the audience entertained with his rhthymic guitar work.

Next on the agenda was Burlington's own Gordon Stone Trio. With the brilliant Gordon Stone on banjo, the trio also boasts Andy Cotton on bass and Doug Perkins on guitar. You can see Cotton and Perkins in other bands such as The Green Note Quartet and Smokin' Grass, respectively.

After The Gordon Stone Trio played an hour of fine jazz/bluegrass originals, an acoustic incarnation of Strangefolk hit the stage. Minus drummer Luke Smith, Eric Glockler, Reid Genauer and John Trafton all picked up their acoustic guitars and played their signature combination of intense instrumentals and fine harmonies.

Towards the end of the evening, "The Merry Danksters" headliner, David Gans, arrived on stage. David Gans may be most famous for his syndicated radio show, The Grateful Dead Hour. For years, Gans has kept Deadheads happy with his weekly show that consisted of band news and interviews and most importantly: amazing recordings of the band's live performances. Much to many a person's surprise, David Gans is a musician as well. Gans hit the stage with his acoustic guitar and was accompanied by guitarist Al Garvey of Moe. and mandolinist David Ruck. Once again, the crowd was treated to more great acoustic music.

It was a month of "alternative music." I don't mean "alternative" as in the sounds of Seattle, but more in the sense that we got to see musicians play music they don't normally play. The boys from Phish exposed their love for garage music, and traditional electric groove bands such as Gibb Droll Band and Moe showed their acoustic side. David Gans showed the world that he not only likes to play music on the radio, but that he is pretty good at creating it too.