Green Mountain State of Mind

Green Mountain State of Mind

Apr. 10 – Scott Tournet / Joshua Panda with Ian Thomas Band (Nectar’s – Burlington, VT)

Apr. 11 – Sam Amidon (Hooker-Dunham Theater – Brattleboro, VT)

Contributing Writer : Garret K. Woodward [ ]

Contributing Photographer : Andrew “Dirty Santa” Wyatt [ ]

Apr. 10 – Scott Tournet / Joshua Panda with Ian Thomas Band (Nectar’s – Burlington, VT)

The crisp early spring breeze cascaded off Lake Champlain.

The ferry chugged along towards Burlington, Vermont. Behind me, the quiet city of Plattsburgh, New York- surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. The ice of a frozen winter was long gone. All that remained was a never-ending blue sky and a weary land emerging from the depths- ready to bloom into the inevitable beauty only attained by Mother Nature.

Sunshine trickled into the dusty vehicle. We franticly sped into the Queen City.

Nectar’s, a renowned New England music venue (birthplace of Phish and one-of-a-kind gravy fries), played host to rock guitarist Scott Tournet (Grace Potter & The Noctunals / Blues & Lasers) and soul sensation Joshua Panda w/Ian Thomas Band.

Filled with freewheelin’ hipsters, weekend warriors, local transients, and tourists checking out what Fromer’s recommended, the Nocturnal channeled his inner Bad Blake with a stripped down, casual, yet heartfelt, show of talent and hunger he relentlessly seeks.

It’s refreshing to see Tournet (who was later joined onstage by another Nocturnal- guitarist Benny Yurco) left vulnerable to the crowd- without all the attention focused on Ms. Potter. Standing alone, his true power as a leading ax-man (an acoustic player) comes full-circle.

Old material (“Sitting Here Too Long”) and fresh ideas from the forthcoming Blues & Lasers album surfaced. Handclaps and manic whistling followed each offering. It was a tranquil evening. One of those rare nights where a musician bares his soul in front of those who know him best.

On the flip side of the coin, subsequent act Joshua Panda made girls wet and men jealous with envy. With the gyrating hips of Elvis Presley, the attire of Jake Blues, the roar of Sly Stone, and the sweaty, glorious passion of James Brown, Panda evokes a sensation in our legs scarce in the art of modern music.

Serenading his girlfriend (“Still Crazy About Rue”), raising his Zappa freak flag, and tackling barrel-chested blues classics (“Wang Dang Doodle”), it is quite a sight to witness firsthand. Backed by the alt-country blues meltdown that is the Ian Thomas Band, it is a force to reckoned with.

As if taking on this Simon Says or Pied Piper persona, Panda commands the audience in a language universal to any- music. The jacket comes off and soon he takes on this John Belushi energy between his stage antics and hypnotic control of the listener (at one point he had the mass of people split in two, in an effort to see which side of the floor could sing-along louder). You simply cannot avert your eyes.

If Grace Potter is the Soul Queen of Burlington, then Joshua Panda is King.


Apr. 11 – Sam Amidon (Hooker-Dunham Theater – Brattleboro, VT)

I awoke on the floor in an apartment I did not recognize. It took me a moment, but sanity was discovered. Friendly faces arose from sleepy corners and warm covers.

Time was of the essence. The aging Honda puttered down I-89 South. We were ahead of schedule- a beer at the Skinny Pancake in Montpelier was in order.

Sipping the Switchback ale, clear skies once again greeted Vermont. Dirty Santa held his beverage high- saluting the day.

Entering the Hooker-Dunham Theater, the 99-seat venue quickly reached capacity. It was a hometown performance for Amidon, the Americana wiz kid (who had just arrived from New York City, flying back to the States from London the day before).

Taking somewhat forgotten (“Wedding Dress”}, dearly cherished folk songs (“Cold, Rain, and Snow”) or completely random melodies (“Relief” by R. Kelly), he dusts them off. Interpreting them in his unique fashion.

Amidom immediately draws the listener in through note after haunting note on his acoustic guitar. Joined by jack-of-all-trades musician Shahzad Ismaily, the duo silences the audience with a blend of heartache, redemption, and progression through exploration of mankind’s wide spectrum of emotion.

Yet, just when you think there are two performers, the entire room is asked to participate in more than a few numbers. Singing, laughing, and remembering what it’s like to truly be moved by a piece of music (“How Come That Blood” / “Way Go Lily”).

The sound ricochets off the ancient stonewall lining the theater. The crowd, a mix of young curiosity and mature appreciation, smiles and, at times, tears up. One starts to think of people lost in their memories, not seen in ages, but conjured between the lines sung before us.

Sam Amidon is a human history book. With his captivating presence, he is a storyteller of the highest regard. Between his showmanship and clear conscience, he is a sparkling diamond amid the coalmines and rugged characters he sings not only about, but also for.

It is a lost art. One that Amidon harnesses and radiates to the world like a shining beacon of light to ships sailing the high seas of life.

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