An Eclectic Evening with Friends + Family

             On a recent Sunday night, local arts institution Burlington City Arts and whimsically charming music collective Friends + Family collided in a raw display of talent and passion.

            The night’s lineup included an eclectic handful of bands, including highlights bass-driven duo C.E. Schneider Topical and the experimental, spoken-word reggae project of Hartley C. White.

            Warm greetings filled the air of the gallery’s second floor space as friends and (literal) family of the bands filtered in two by two with 8-ounce coffee cups in hand. I couldn’t help but notice that this friendly crowd was populated with my former environmental studies teaching assistants, familiar faces from around campus, as well as the sweater-clad crew who had made my coffee at Uncommon Grounds a few hours earlier.

            Huge antique windows peering down to Church Street below served as the backdrop for a living-room style pow wow of a concert. The environment was warm and welcoming, as were the Friends + Family collective members chatting amongst themselves, waiting for the show to start.

            “Is this too loud for you, Mom?” asked Zach Phillips, bassist of C.E. Schneider as he kicked off the band’s set. Phillips and vocalist Christina Schneider went on to play a collection of breezy, short and sweet jams.

            C.E. Schneider’s pithy, ethereal tracks gave way to a poetic and politically charged set by Hartley C. White. “Believe what you believe and accept what you know,” front man White said, setting the tone for the group’s performance.

            White and his accompanying artists Angie Rodriguez and Larry McDonald delivered powerful messages denouncing the music industry and police brutality with songs like “Let’s Play Politics” and “Everybody Loves a Winner.”

            The group delivered cutting lines like “What will tomorrow bring/when we have learned nothing,” and “What’s the charge? I can’t speak or say something.” White diffused these pockets of emotional intensity by sprinkling in playful banter in between songs. “A secret between you, me and the walls, I change the lyrics sometimes to trip [the band] up,” he said.

            To meld the two best sets of the evening, C.E. Schneider and Hartley C. White threw together a duet to knock it out of the park. Phillip’s rich bass riffs, White’s soft speech, Schneider’s delicate vocals, and McDonald’s spunky percussion blended seamlessly as the show drifted into intermission.

            After the bands’ collaboration, the pack of friends, kin and passers-by disbanded into the evening for a cigarette and coffee break before the evening’s next chapter.


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