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Man of The Hours, An Intimate Look at Joe Adler | April 2011

Photography by Bear Cieri

When I find Joe Adler to sit down for our interview, he’s at the soundboard, plugging cables in, talking to the others involved in setting the stage up for a performance at Parima Thai Restaurant in Burlington, where he’s become the official “Talent Buyer”. He’s dressed casually, more so than he usually is, often bedecked in scarves, sleek sweaters, and tonight his curly hair is pulled tightly back into a ponytail. Usually, his hair flows down the back of his neck, as free as his demeanor. Joe is the epitome of laid back.

And why not? His job is to play music, work with musicians, organize and host performances, and he works with the incredible team at Parima. He gets to drink wine, to eat delicious food, and to play guitar. He keeps in contact with some unbelievably talented touring acts. He’s an artist, an amigo, and damn good at his job.

If you haven’t been to Parima, or if you’re not part of the local singer/songwriter scene, you may not know Joe, or that he’s reshaping Burlington’s music scene. His sense of class and professionalism treats local musicians and the larger acts rolling through town as the same, that is to say, makers of music and therefore builders of community. It’s because of this reshaping, and Joe’s utterly nonexistent ego, that I felt compelled to learn his story, to see what keeps him going night after night, and why, no matter the time of day or the event going on, his smile is ever-intact.

Joe grew up in Washington D.C., always into music and always writing and playing. “I studied Philosophy in college,” he tells me. “In one of the 101 classes the professor was like, ‘Look, if you don’t have a serious personal identity crisis within the next couple of years, then you’re not doing your work.’ I was like, ‘I’m here to learn, but I’m not here to deconstruct myself.’ But a year into it, my God. You get beyond those comfortable things you perceive as comfortable. When you think about how similar we all are, and how helpless we all are, there’s no real way to communicate. We’re sitting here talking now, but what I’m thinking, trying to convey to you, just five percent of that is coming through. We’re utterly our own universes trapped in bodies. We can’t ever let it all out.”

This is how Joe operates. In many ways, what he learned about philosophy, about our impulses and basic needs- and that self-deconstruction he mentioned- taught him to just be himself.

Due to his introspection, as well as timing his collegiate years with the rise of Phish, Joe found himself following the jam quartet on their 1995 tour. He and his friend Nicole drove up to see the Vermont group’s famous Clifford Ball performance. “We said, ‘Let’s not go straight to Plattsburg.’ The band’s from Burlington, so we came up and stayed at a campground in Shelburne.” At the campground they met “A local dude” working at a farmers market, which they went to, and were given latkes and gazpacho.

“I was from a big city, and Nicole was from Lexington, Kentucky,” Joe muses. “We get up here and, Wow. The whole trip had been great, but this felt- not like we were on the road- but home.”

On their way to the concert they stopped at a bank to ask for directions. “Everybody working came together and debated the best route. In D.C., you go into a bank- the receptionist is going to wave you off.”

In his own Joe fashion, he adds, “I mean, there are good people everywhere, but, my God.”


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