One venue, two nights, two stages and two bands. Well, four bands, to be precise. Rubblebucket and Royal Canoe hit Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT, this week with a double date. For the past three years, Rubblebucket has come home to Burlington to play a New Year’s Eve show. Because they’re taking this year off, they doubled up on their way through town on tour for their latest release, Survival Sounds. We managed to hit both shows with local openers And The Kids and Swale on Thursday and Friday night respectively. Higher Ground is actually two different venues under the same roof, the smaller Showcase Lounge and the main-stage Ballroom. Thursday’s show was in the more intimate setting of the Showcase Lounge, while Friday’s sold-out show took advantage of the greater capacity of the Ballroom. As such, the two shows had quite different vibes.
Thursday night opened up with Northampton trio And The Kids, who were on their way up north to kick off a tour with Sallie Ford and Crooked Fingers in Montreal. Hannah Mohan, Rebecca Lasaponaro, and Megan Miller have a bit of a following up here, and for good reason. Their self-described “unconscious, accessible, existential, indie, glitter, popsicle, crisis” sound was a great lead-in for the touring acts. If that description isn’t clear enough for you (and even if it is), check out their latest release, Neighbors, just below.
Next up was a band we’re particularly fond of here at IYS, Manitobin sextet Royal Canoe. As one of the band’s two Matts pointed out, this was not Royal Canoe’s first time in Queen City. Last time, they played to a whopping eight people. This time around, plenty more gathered around to listen to them play. We caught them a couple of times while we were down at Bonnaroo this year, following up on our review of their debut LP Today We’re Believers. This was the first time we were able to actually enjoy their full set, though; and enjoy it we did. Thursday night was a fluid set, one that ran together smoothly.
There is no back row at a Rubblebucket show. Sure, it’s fun up in the front, but if don’t get there soon enough to make it there, Rubblebucket will come to you. Most people will tell you that Rubblebucket is in the indie-dance genre. They’ll tell you that they’re “visual, visual, visual,” and they most certainly are. They’re an act you have to see live because you just can’t fully appreciate their art until you have. As explosive as they are on stage, they don’t stay up there. Instead, they make their way into the crowd. Thursday, it was several times. The end of the night found the band, with some recruited members of Royal Canoe, winding their way through the crowd to end up sitting smack dab in the middle with drums and horns and tambourines and Kalmia on her baritone sax, playing up a storm all the way up through to the finish.
So, on to night two. We arrived in time to catch a bit of local opener Swale. Their set was a little uneven, but they finished out strong. They’ve been together since 2002, with a couple hiatuses along the way. Most recently, they’ve self-released their second full-length record, The Next Instead. The crowd for them was a bit thin, filling in a bit more for Royal Canoe.
Royal Canoe's set didn’t feel quite as comfortable as the previous night's, due to a couple of factors. For one, the different venue. The Ballroom is bigger, harder to fill, with more distance between the stage and the audience. The opening bands also weren’t able to do full sound checks, meaning that the balance wasn’t as good as it could have been. Additionally, as can tend to happen in larger venues, there was a sort of impatient anticipation building up for the main act. The crowd on Friday was there solely to dance around with Rubblebucket, meaning it was harder to get them to engage as well with the openers. Nonetheless, Royal Canoe still pulled out a solid enough set, finishing up with an intense take of “Nightcrawlin’”
Finishing out the two day extravaganza, Rubblebucket picked up again from the night before (apparently with a little more ink!). There was something about the smaller setting on Thursday. That feeling that you’re in on something special, part of an experience. Having been to that show, Friday just couldn’t compare. Without a doubt, it was a still a lot of fun, and we’re glad we got to do it all over again!