We’d last seen Caleb Stine at Clementine with Andy Friedman. He was promoting his intimately straightforward album I Wasn’t Built for a Life Like This. So when we heard he was headed this way again, we made a point to attend–this time at Plan B in Broadway. Okay, so it’s not actually in Harrisonburg, but Plan B is a local business that serves local food and coffee and promotes lots of local music and art. In fact, we covered them once before, when No Strings Attached performed there, remember? Anyway, Plan B has this genius tactic when it comes to booking musicians. They watch for bands that will be passing through this area, traveling from one gig to the next, and they ask them if they’d like to make a stopover in Broadway. They’ve gotten some really great acts with this method, so be sure to keep your eye on the Plan B calendar. Who woulda thought, in little ole Broadway?
As a bonus, Caleb Stine is currently accompanying the Honey Dewdrops on their tour (the new album is called Silver Lining and it’s excellent), so we got to hear some of Caleb’s stuff, some of the Dewdrops’ stuff, and some stuff they’ve collaborated on. The Honey Dewdrops are a folk duo from Charlottesville-ish who’ve released three albums. They’re no strangers to Plan B, having played there a year ago at the grand opening. A variety of stringed instruments (banjo, guitar, mandolin) and their perfectly harmonized voices define their Americana/Appalachia style, but their lyrics reflect the joy and despair of modern life. They somehow manage to sing songs that are both happy and sad at the same time–conveying the beautiful tension of love and life itself. Caleb Stine does the same thing, so it’s no wonder they complement each other.
It was rainy and stormy that night, and I worried the weather might keep people from coming out. My kids and I met Brandy at Plan B at about 7. Caleb and Brandy have a mutual friend in Maryland, so he came right over to catch up with her. Bree and Cal love Caleb’s music, and my daughter wasted no time asking him to please play her favorite song, “Riverside.” With extra hoots, yee hee hees, and haw haws. And can you play it first?
People trickled in, shook out their umbrellas, ordered drinks and took their seats. Employees handed out free popcorn popped in one of those big, old-fashioned movie popcorn machines. The musicians’ suitcases sat on a table modestly displaying their goods for sale.
We settled in at a table in front of the stage and the musicians took to the stage. There was Laura, looking really pretty in a periwinkle dress and cute sandals, and her husband in jeans, a button-down shirt, and endearing bare feet… and Caleb, in a muscle shirt, camo shorts, and Crocs.
Sure enough, he started with “Riverside,” and both kids were mesmerized. I think it took Cal a few seconds to realize we weren’t listening to the iPod. Then his mouth opened and he started to clap… realized he was in a room full of people and started laughing… called Caleb Stine “silly” and then sorta mouthed the rest of the song to himself. When it was over, he tottered off to the toy area. Bree, enthralled, sat with us for several more songs. That’s my girl.
Their next song was Stine’s “No Harm in Being Crazy” from his latest album, in which he lists lots of “crazy” things… dialing 911 “just to talk to someone,” and looking at photos of a previous life, and answering “fine” when someone asks how you’re doing. I guess we’re all a little crazy.
Next they sang several songs from the Honey Dewdrops’ new album and songs they wrote together. One is called “I’m Falling in Love With You,” and I furiously scribbled its breathtaking words: “I’ll keep spinning that mix that you made for my car and that way we’ll be singing together” and “Our love is a newborn, wobbly-legged child–let’s watch as it trots through the heather. You’re a kind-hearted lover and such a good friend and I’m falling in love with you.” <swoon>
At this point, Cal got thirsty from all that popcorn, so he climbed up on a stool at the bar and ordered a water. On the rocks. And back to the toys he went.
After a few more songs, they played “My Service Isn’t Needed Anymore,” another one of those clever, bittersweet, funny/tragic songs at which you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. About how life can turn on a dime… one minute you’re mopping the floor of the grocery store where you work until “something went missin’ from the register drawer, and my service wasn’t needed anymore.” Or you’re enjoying the exhilaration of new love until “something ’bout the way that she closed the door said my service wasn’t needed anymore.” All that time invested for no return, really.
One of my favorite numbers of the evening was called “Together Tied,” one of those happy/sad songs I’ve been talking about that seemed to saturate the experience. The title sounds sweet and happy enough, but lines like “home is just a place you can never get back to” remind us that we don’t appreciate the time we have together until we’re not together, and so when we remember home, we aren’t just recalling things that happened there… we’re remembering what we miss about home and about that period of life. As they put it, “home is in the leavin’, the last words around the table.” The same goes for the song “Happiness,” which, as it turns out, “has got nothing to do with happiness.” I was also touched by the next number, “It’s Hard to Pray,” because Laura’s 87-year-old grandfather (“granddaddy”) memorized it and sang along when she and Kagey visited him recently. It’s a song about faith, about believing and praying even when your prayers aren’t answered.
Then I heard some shouting in the back and realized it was MY KIDS. Oh dear. So at the end of the song, I had to scoot back there and do some shushing and whispered scolding. I told my son, “Honey, you’re not at home.” And I think he, in that moment, realized he was in a public place. “Oh,” he said. “Woops.” It wasn’t too much longer before we left. It was half past eight, the kids are usually in bed by then, and we still had to drive thirty minutes to get home. But we stayed til the end of the first set, and I’m glad, because I got to hear my favorite, “The Eternal Present.” Stine called it his “State of the Union for Yourself” song. It’s another paradoxical song, where he explores the peace of living in the present moment, but also, the loneliness of never putting down roots. You can’t have both, I guess. Still, at the end of the song, he reminds us that “every atom is connected and no one stands alone.” And that certainly helps.
I didn’t get to stay for the second set, but Caleb, Laura, and Kagey had said that it was a special set–cover songs. An entire album. We were intrigued. Who would it be? Led Zeppelin? Bob Dylan? Bob Marley? It turned out to be… The Beatles. I wish I’d seen it. And the crowd perked up, too, as the night wore on. Looks like a lot of hee-hawing and dancing ensued:
The Honey Dewdrops will return to Plan B on September 1st for the cafe’s one-year anniversary, so put on your Crocs and camo shorts and git yer hineys up to Broadway that evening. Plan B is located at 202 N. Main Street, Broadway. Visit soon!
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