CSC alum finds rhythm in Rutland
Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 21:02
At Café Terra in Rutland, Castleton State College alumnus Julian DeFelice is about to perform. It's 10 minutes until the first of three acts from his independent record label, Indiaman Traitor Judah Magdeline Records, is to play. The 25-year-old will be on stage for the second and third.
That's not to say he'll be idle while the first act is on stage. The first performer is Jensen Ellen, who doubles as Sparklebox's lead singer. She's a gently-framed, shy-smiling, leading-lady and DeFelice is with her the whole way through.
DeFelice wears many hats while his label's talent performs. He's programmer, producer, back-up musician, sound guy and audience member. He adjusts the levels while Ellen sings, applauds when she's done playing, and chats up the band with audience members between the songs.
Lily Ames seems surprised by the sound coming from Ellen, and trails-off mid sentence as she sang.
"She's really good, I knew she could sing but…" the co-owner of the café said smiling and shaking her head.
Ellen's stage presence is reserved, but her voice carries. Her guitar, a deep-brown acoustic with a squared patch of pink in the center, looks as unassuming as she.
Her songs come with a heavy dose of reverb-laden-lyrics on the microphone, accompanied by reserved chords from the guitar. The singing gets most of the attention. The notes she sings are echoes over echoes of ghostly longing. There's emotion in those notes, and Ellen is not afraid to let it out.
When she isn't working on her voice and her guitar chops, Ellen is a barista for Ames at the coffee shop. "I knew she played, but never heard her like this," said Ames. "It's awesome, and the show came together so quickly."
Credit that to DeFelice, a veteran when it comes to playing at this venue. Jacob Pluta, the café's other owner, said DeFelice's performances are legendary there.
"Julian's first show was probably the biggest one we've ever had," he said.
As Ellen wraps her final song, she remains on stage - if it can be called as much. Tsables and chairs are pulled from the front of the shop, to carve out a small square by the windows, which face outside to a quiet hill on Center Street, in downtown Rutland.
The audience applauds and Harry "Gingles" Dulaney, drummer for Sparklebox, walks to the drum kit in the corner. DeFelice, outside smoking on the steps in front of Café Terra, notices the players.
"It's their band," says DeFelice about Sparklebox, "I'm just jumping in for a song or two."
What he calls jumping in, would be better suited if called shy contribution. He's not even standing with the band. Rather, he sits, first row, in the crowd facing the band, with an electric bass over nonchalantly-crossed legs.
From the bar it'd be impossible to tell he's with them.
Marc Latzky, a Rutland-based promoter who works, and occasionally plays, with DeFelice and company, has an explanation for his contribution. "We'll all work together, during shows," says Latzke. "We‘re all about the same thing."
Meanwhile, Sparklebox is raging on. Ellen's vocals have transitioned from whisper-soft, Fiona-Apple-folk to Karen-O-attitude. Behind her, sits Dulaney who mostly pounds the floor-tom, fast and ferocious enough to match her energy.
Dulaney had previously been taking his hacks playing music in Boston, where he cultivated his attitude on music. "It's a do-it-yourself style now, and I love it," he said. "It's friends playing together, not on stages, they're in basements, and loving to do it."