It’s hard for me to separate which subject to talk about and how to ‘weight’ the mix. We have two really exciting (and not just to me, I am quite sure) things going on here at Grizzly’s Pub atop the base lodge at Stratton Mountain.
One, of course, is strictly musical, as in great music and listening greatly; the other is more about the business end of the music business. In both cases, the positive words (and vibes) to follow will be muchly about growth and building a brand.
Brickdrop, the up-and-coming “smooth funk” band from Burlington, is playing an afternoon set here at Stratton, which (in my ever-so-humble opinion/assessment) is an up-and-coming music venue. Credit where it’s due, and right quick: Andy McQuerry came on here as a Food & Beverage Manager a year and a half ago or so, and within a couple-few months he began constructing and executing a brilliant scheme. Judging by how well it’s going so far, we can only hope that he doesn’t go for world domination as his end game- or that he does, maybe. Last year and the year or two before, we came here a bunch of times to see Twiddle on some weekend nights; these shows were a pretty big deal and pretty much exceptions to the rule for this situation. Successful they were, though, and packed to bursting, with waiting lines at the foot (feet?) of the stairs all through the night. The resort also did a few music things throughout the year, as many of ’em do to bring in some traffic in the ‘other’ seasons. Such activity was pretty well capped-off and maxed-out at its level, though. We can guess that the balance of budget, effort and return was about at the threshold of ‘just enough’ to justify the moderate, perhaps ‘obligatory’ point of saturation to keep sufficient prescence in the marketplace, and we might further surmise that the ‘system’ as it then stood had become customary and sufficient. As such, without reach or growth, the usual course will become one of status quo and stagnancy- not to mention, the ‘establishment’ mentality and ‘entrenchment’ dynamic that settles in, locking the whole thing in to a complacent state of dormancy, thinly-veiled frustration, and a feigned appearance of satisfaction. Just spitballing, here- all none of our business, anyway.
And so, along comes Andy- a young chap with vision, energy, and such pleasant disposition that he brings just the right mix to the mix. Somehow, the guy manages to work from a regular Manager’s job, and then communicate his ideas and convey his enthusiasm so that the powers-that-be were sufficiently swayed to give him some reign, whereupon he began building the concept of this location as an actual music venue, one to compete in a whole ‘nother segment beyond just off-season resorts. No alpine slides, waterparks, or mountain-biking camps are necessary here- although, top management can certainly still conduct and combine such ventures. And the golf school here at Stratton (tennis, too, right?) has been a matter of well-repute for a good long while now, anyway.
I’m talking too much. You get the idea. The thing is growing, and Burlington-based Brickdrop is charting a parallel course as they track their way along the rungs of exposure and name-recognition that any aspiring artist must, and they have such a talented musicality going for them that we can observe this development with no qualms or questions. This is a band that warrants and deserves good things, even if only as a matter of Reward for their artistic integrity. Anybody remember a certain humble scribe describing their then-nascent sound and style, and singing their praises numerously- and not least for playing according to their own calling? This is cool stuff, and most folks dig it once they hear it (how can they not?), but there ain’t a whole lotta phat-city radio-bands playing the kind of almost entirely instrumental, highly listenable and decidedly danceable ‘smooth funk’ that follows in a wispy and barely-discernable ‘tradition’ that might be said to descend from the adventurous roots of early ‘cool’ and through the paths of Miles Davis, as further explored by the likes of Herbie Hancock, stepping aside of the voluminous ‘fusion’ genre (with perhaps a nod to Weather Report, f’rinstance) before arriving at a place of stimulating and entertaing balance.
This ‘balance’ is more juxtaposition really, as the elements or ‘threads’ that are wound together are a surprising (but not at all shocking) combination. The whole, sonic and conceptual outcome of it all is at once exciting and listenable. This latter term, ‘listenable’ will usually carry a connotation something like ‘pleasant’ – like elevator music. Not so here! Take that pleasantness, that smoothness, weave in a distinct and phat thread of groove and the further punch of solid funk, and add in an occasional atmospheric waft and tie it all together with a group of musicians that respect their art, take some risks, and follow their Muse- then, consider that all of this shows through in the element of Composition. We almost can’t quite parse out which of their songs are versions- it’s all so uniformly characteristic, without the dreaded aspect of ‘sameness’ that might plague a less skilled and creative group. It’s one of those sum-as-greater-than-its-parts things.
So, it looks to this observer like this band and this venue are on just about parallel paths, with each building up steam at similar rates. Grizzly’s has actually opened up the ‘wings’ on its upstairs floor, and they took out the extra-huge stairs that took up the whole middle of the space; plus, they moved the stage. Even so, the place is purt-near packed. And likewise, Brickdrop has consolidated or maybe focused their personnel and their sound, swapping-out the keyboards for a second sax. Two, being one more than one, constitutes a ‘section,’ as in “horn section,” and thusly are they now qualified to call themselves a Funk Band. If they want to. Cuz they are, for sure. But they’re a whole lot more, and other, too. Kinda like a ski resort/lodge that turns into a bona-fide live music venue- that’d be ‘more,’ certainly!
One more thing- and I already said it in person, so… we’re good! Couple o’ times now, we’ve seen/heard Megan sing. This would have been at Mahattan Pizza in Burlington- fun place, but packed to the gills like sardines, with the band stuffed into the corner, literally- poor Rob, all walled in and hardly no elbow room; it’s always the drummer suffers most. So, under this less-than-ideal sonic setup, and maybe fighting for amperage with the keyboards at the time, her voice -or rather her singing, at any rate- was at least adequate and perfectly pleasant; nothing at all to complain about for the occasional departure from strictly instrumentals. This time, however… we got a new attitude! The lady sings with soul, like she has a soulful spin to her vocalizations, and it’s a similar sound to what’s real popular on the charts these days. So, just in case if these young ‘uns wanna put that kinda swang in their thang… it’s a could-be!
And, once again, my speech exceeds my swath… or, my reach my grasp… I’m the last one out, even after the band- except for Andy!
Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable