Burlington venue attracts UVM students

Since opening in 1998, one music venue has been a standby for UVM students and Burlington residents alike.

“I think Higher Ground more than elsewhere is for calmer crowds,”  sophomore Gemma Rossi said. “The shows are kind of for everyone.” Higher Ground, on Williston Road, attracts concert goers and musicians from all walks of life.

“I think it’s a good balance of better and lesser known artists,”  sophomore Sarah Cuprewich said. “It’s the first Burlington music venue that comes to mind.” 

One of these better known acts is hip-hop duo, Atmosphere.  The duo headlined SpringFest 2014 and has played at Higher Ground seven times, said Sean “Slug” Daley, who forms half of Atmosphere.   Daley said it’s the venue that keeps him coming back to Burlington.

 

“I appreciate the venue first and foremost,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite venues in the country actually.”

 

Daley said the audience at Higher Ground is one of his favorites, and one with the least amount of fighting. “I appreciate the way it’s built, the way they treat us,” Daley said. “At Higher Ground, it’s always a day when you can love your job.” Atmosphere is playing at Higher Ground May 5, though Daley said he’s unsure when they might come back after that show. “I can’t wait,” Daley said. “I look forward to all the smiling faces.”

Kevin Statesir, owner of Higher Ground, said they try to showcase both national and smaller local acts. “I think we’re at a good period for local music,” he said. “And we try to represent that as much as the national acts.” Higher Ground can act as a venue for local artists to get started, he said. “We get people that are up and coming before they get big,” he said. “To see a band grow like that is a really good feeling for us because we’ve helped foster them a bit.”

No matter who’s playing, Statesir said Higher Ground’s concerts focus on the music itself. “We didn’t want Higher Ground be considered wrapped up in the downtown scene when founding it, underage drinking or whatever it might be,” he said. “Nothing against that, but we wanted people to come here for the music.” Statesir said UVM students are respectful of their policies. “The word quickly gets out that you can’t mess around at Higher Ground,” he said. “I think if a band someone likes is playing, they should be able to enjoy it, whether or not they’re in an altered state.”

Higher Ground aims for that enjoyment in all their shows, he said. “I really like it when I go downstairs when people are jumping up and down and smiling,” Statesir said. “It makes my day to see we’re presenting something that can bring great joy to people.” UVM students help him and Higher Ground learn about new acts, Statesir said. “College students are how we find out about new stuff,” he said. “There’s a hundred kids who know about every different kind of band.”

Having hosted more than 4,000 shows over 17 years, Higher Ground has connections to some nationally known bands. “Trey [Anastasio] of Phish wrote about an hour and half of music for the opening of Higher Ground back in 1998,” he said. “Those songs became a big part of the Phish repertoire.” The energy of both the crowd and the performers is what makes any show great, he said. “Even if you’re in the last row of Higher Ground, you’re close to the show,” Statesir said.