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The Ins & Outs: Countdown to the Festival on the Green

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a blog about music, visual arts, entertainment and everything in between
by tamara hilmes, intern

moira smiley logo

Today is Thursday, July 9, which means just three days stand between this Addison Independent intern and the famed Festival on the Green. For the past four weeks, we have been counting down to the start of the week-long summer music event that leaves the lawns surrounding the gazaebo in the center of town matted and worn down from blanket-sitting and the townspeople begging for more. In a quest to highlight a band a week and showcase the multi-flavored talent that will be featured in this year's festival, we have selected a band a week to feature in the Ins & Outs blog. Though we haven't been able to cover them all, we have managed to at least open your eyes to the various strands of sound that will be heard in the coming week. From alternative bluegrass to jazz, we've covered it all. This week, we look to a startling, and yet logical, Eastern-European-infused rootsy sound signed, sealed and delivered by Moira Smiley and her female trio, known as VOCO.

Moira Smiley & VOCO

Vermont native and her trio of harmonic sirens hail from Los Angeles, from which they travel all over the world, performing and touring in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Though most well-known for their astounding acapella, with one-of-a-kind harmonies arranged by Smiley herself (along with performing, she's also a teacher and performer), the group also threads in banjo, cello, accordion and "rompin' stompin'" body percussion (according to their Web site) on occasion. Does the phrase "body percussion" make you a tad bit nervous? Don't worry, you're not alone. According to several rave reviews, including one from 7 Days Vermont, their habit of clapping, slapping, snapping and pounding is truly a sight to behold--think Stomp, without all of the recyclables. And if their unique means of percussion isn't enough of a draw, their striking harmonies certainly are.

Silky, yet dissonant, the blending of these womens' voices may very well send a shiver up your spine, whether during a ballad or a knee-slapping romp. Expect to be more moved by the harmonies than by the lyrics--many of their songs are in various Eastern European languages, such as "A Sto Cemo Ljubav Kriti," a tragically beautiful Croatian folk song about hesitant love, and well, I'm making an educated guess that I'm not the only one who isn't fluent in the language. Thank goodness for us, Smiley translates the lyrics for her audiences before diving in.

Though Smiley's worldly influences seep into many of VOCO's tracks, the traditional Southern Americana song can also be found among the group's repetoire. "Carolina Pines," off of their latest album circle, square, diamond and flag which was released this Spring and featured on NPR's "Harmonia" is a perfect example. The acapella tune sounds like a folk-acapella version of Wilson-Phillips. "Hold On," backwoods-Carolina style, it sounds like calico-print sun dresses and lemonade on the porch of a deserted house. Why you would be drinking lemonade at an abandoned house, I do not know, but take a listen and you'll hear what I mean.

"Bring Me Little Water, Silvy," from the same album, showcases the group's affinity for the aforementioned "body percussion." If you miss the hand-clapping games of yesteryear that occupied many a recess, you may find yourself taken back in time while tuning into this one. If you're hankering for some non-body instrumentation, however, look no further than "The Cuckoo," whose twangy banjo and soulful yet bright harmonies are anything but bland.

So whether you're curious about body percussion, or merely anxious to hear some good old-fashioned acapella (you still don't know why you ever quit that barbershop quartet...), be sure to stop by the Green at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.

And though this is our final installment of the Countdown, don't forget to check back here next week for additional Festival Coverage, as yours truly will be reporting live (and getting her groove on) from the Green all next week.

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