royal treatment: 2015 progressive party.

burgProgressiveWEB01An hour before the event, I finished mowing the lawn for what I PRAY is the last time this year. Twenty miles away, Brandy was likely folding something, or mopping something, or editing something. Yet somehow, without the help of mice, bluebirds, or a magic wand, we managed to slink into our fancy duds, drape our skin in jewels, and apply a fine sheen of lip gloss in anticipation of a fairy tale evening — the Arts Council’s Annual Progressive Party! The purpose of the Progressive Party is simple — to celebrate the arts and raise funds so the Council can continue to provide art opportunities to the Harrisonburg community through Court Square TheaterAdvancing the Arts GrantsFirst Fridays Downtown, Smith House Gallery exhibitions, and community-based collaborations.

This year’s theme (Your Artistic Adventure: the Progressive Party with a Twist) sent guests on a two-destination journey: the dazzling home of Dan Newberry for the event launch party, and then one of seven host homes for more merrymaking.

burgProgressiveWEB31At Dan’s, we all converged to hear the music of Kelly May Brown, meet the evening’s featured artists, enjoy beverages from Pale Fire Brewing and Vintage Wines, and indulge in appetizers provided by A Little Something Special. Of particular note were the jelly “flight” and the butter “flight” — assortments of both spreads to be sampled on bread and crackers. One even tasted like bacon. Who knew this was a thing?

burgProgressiveWEB41 burgProgressiveWEB04 burgProgressiveWEB28burgProgressiveWEB47We Cinderellas were also excited about the raffle drawing for a diamond from James McHone and custom setting from Hugo Kohl. After a lovely cocktail hour on luxurious property, everyone loaded up in their chariots and proceeded to one of the seven host homes, each of which had live music and the work of a featured artist. Brandy and I got the royal treatment when we were permitted to go to TWO homes! We ate like Queens!

We were so excited when we arrived at our first home, owned by the charming Randy Harman, to see our smiling friend, Praserth Saesow of Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, who had prepared this incredible feast. Floral decorations by Teri Dean of The Wishing Well accentuated the beautiful art work of Wendy Lam. Live music by Moon (based in Staunton) floated toward the vaulted ceilings and filled the space, while conversations flourished.

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4385 burgProgressiveWEB58burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4371 burgProgressiveWEB62 ProgressiveWEB56-2burgProgressiveWEB57 burgProgressiveWEB63With one eye on the clock, we wolfed down a second plate of Praserth’s food and headed to our next, and final, destination: the home of Rob and Peggy McKearney, where we were completely spoiled with beef and pork tenderloin, salmon, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. At one point, Brandy was double fisting with macaroons. Erin Murray’s vivid and too-real-to-be-real paintings spoke to us all, and Chad Hanger crooned from the living room. I swear, his voice is somehow better every time I hear him. All of it at that house — so rich and alive!

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4403 burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4423 burgProgressiveWEB68 burgProgressiveWEB73 burgProgressiveWEB74 burgProgressiveWEB82burgProgressiveWEB71Before we knew it, it was time to click our heels and get home before our babysitters turned into pumpkins (there might be a mix-up in there). And so we dashed out into the night, while the music and laughter receded in the rearview mirror.

We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed this enchanted evening. Everyone involved loves and actively supports the arts in our community, demonstrated by their selfless gifts of time, hospitality, talent, and dollars that will allow for continued growth of the Council’s initiatives. After all, beautiful things must be constantly sown and tended. Art, and the proliferation of it, takes diligence and commitment.

Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

full alert: edible fest.

burgIMG_0507Trying to schedule an outing usually goes like this:

Katie: We need to get out soon.
Brandy: Agreed. How about Tuesday?
Katie: No can do, Bree’s got a meet. What about Wednesday?
Brandy: I’ve got a photo shoot.
Katie: Okay. Friday?
Brandy: Blake’s got a band thing. How about next Monday?
Katie: I have a hair appointment.

Still, as you and the rest of our readers can see, we do manage to get out occasionally. And on a very rare occasion, we are able to attend an all-day event. When that happens, man – do we milk it for everything it’s worth!

So a few weeks ago Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I were fortunate enough to attend the Fourth Annual Edible Fest in Orange, Virginia. Driving from Harrisonburg, careening through Shenandoah National Park, traversing the curves and mountains of Greene County before crossing into Orange County, home of Montpelier and Barboursville and punctuated by corn fields and kudzu dinosaurs, provided ample and much-needed time to talk and catch up with each other, to breathe and simply sit – restricted by the seatbelt from doing anything at all but sitting side by side. There’s something beautifully restful about a drive.

Once there, we parked and took a shuttle just a couple blocks to the site, right on Main Street in downtown Orange. Presented by edible Blue Ridge Magazine, the Orange Downtown Alliance, and the AV Company, the day-long festival includes Chef Demos with food tastings, a huge open-air market, live music, food trucks, beer and wine, DIY seminars, and kids’ activities. The whole time we were there, we kept saying, “Harrisonburg could TOTALLY do this!” and we really hope that happens soooon!

burgIMG_0543burgIMG_0456Here’s how it was set up: On one end were two large tents with a closed-circuit TV, a microphone, and about 100 seats in each. These were for the Chef Demos, and the two tents took turns so that patrons wouldn’t miss half of the demonstrations. Running at staggered times in a third tent were DIY seminars on topics ranging from making Kombucha to cooking with mushrooms to beer brewing. The chefs included Dwayne Edwards from Keswick Hall; Jason Daniels from Vintage Restaurant at The Inn at Willow Grove; Curtis Shaver from Hamiltons’ First and Main; Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange; Ralph Brown from RBC Institute; Tucker Yoder from Eljogaha; Angelo Vangelopoulos from The Ivy Inn Restaurant; Pete Woods from Merrior and Rappahannock Oyster Co.; Ken Notari from Nude Fude; and Martha Stafford from Charlottesville Cooking School. The chefs’ demos lasted from 10:30am until 4:45pm, so if you wanted to, you could just scoot back and forth between those two tents and spend the entire day watching these incredibly talented chefs and sampling TONS of amazing food.

On the other end of the festival site was a covered dining area with plenty of tables and chairs and a bandstand for the three bands who played (Michael Coleman, John Kelly, and Erin Lunsford). Between the two ends (chef tents and dining area) were ZILLIONS of vendors of most anything you can imagine. Plus food trucks (nine of ’em!!) and a beer truck. I can’t remember all the beers offered, but Pale Fire was one of them, and I remained faithful!

burgIMG_0479And so finally getting to the story, here’s what we did:
First we saw Chef Dwayne Edwards and his assistant from Keswick Hall make a succulent watermelon salad with lavender, sea salt, chili flakes, goat cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, tangerine oil, oak barrel aged vinegar, fennel pollen, and basil. Mind you, I didn’t know what HALF those things were, at all, but this tattooed chef in his pinstriped apron narrated every step and it was quite educational. I learned a lot – a new way to chop up a watermelon (my way is pretty efficient, too, I must say, but his added a ninja element), a new way to choose a watermelon (I’ve been drumming on it like a bongo all this time, but apparently you should look for bumps on the “ground side” of the watermelon), and a crazy amount of information about all the different kinds of salt, and even the origin of the word “salary,” which appealed to the word-nerd in me.

burgIMG_0316 burgIMG_0328 burgIMG_0344 burgIMG_0354Next in Tent 2, Chef Tucker Yoder and his assistant Angelo were whipping up Sprouted Grain Salad with Seasonal Veggies and Duck Ham from a local farm. All the chefs used locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes, and Chef Yoder makes most all of his sauces and spreads from scratch – a nice nod to sustainability and craftsmanship that’s usually absent in chain restaurants – resulting in fresh and vibrant flavors.

burgIMG_0368 burgIMG_0372 burgIMG_0379Back in Tent 1, Chef Jason Daniels and his assistant Anthony put together a Pan Roasted Pork Loin (dear gaaaaahhhhd) with Yellow Squash Casserole, Baby Spinach, and Blueberry Salsa. That dish smelled SO good while it was cooking I could barely resist climbing onto the countertop. The casserole included sauteed yellow squash, olive oil, butter, scallions and onion, salt and pepper, sugar, flour, a whole bunch of cheese and heavy cream. While that baked, he made the salsa from red onion, jalapenos, blueberries, garlic, mint and cilantro, and simple syrup – all smushed by hand. The pork sizzled in its skillet in brine. Then it all went together in a happy little cup. Unbelievable.

burgIMG_0397After that demo, we ventured out into vendor-land. So many products. So many samples. So much gooooood. I couldn’t possible list them all, but we saw insect repellant soap by Eastham Farms, Bloody Mary mix (three varieties) by Back Pocket Provisions. Their “Bloody Bangkok” is a throat kicker! Hot Jelly Pot brought 72 flavors of jams and jellies, including their number one seller, Pineapple Pepper. There were Wakefield Peanuts and Hickory (not maple!) Syrups. Mushroom spawn kits. Barefoot Bucha and culinary herbs. Beautiful wooden and ceramic products from Madeira and Lifeware. Tea for all occasions from Fairweather Farm Tea with names like “What the Fxxx Happened,” “Chill the Fxxx Out,” and “Calm the Fxxx Down.” No, I’m not kidding. It was awesome. Coffee, cheese, wine, vinegar, honey, produce, meat, pies, all of it!

burgIMG_0408 burgIMG_0416 burgIMG_0432 burgIMG_0449burgIMG_0462 burgIMG_0467 burgIMG_0468We made it to the end of the marketplace and found the food trucks. We all found something refreshing and reviving and sat down together to enjoy the music. Kids who’d gotten a smoothie from Maui Wowi flashed blue smiles at each other, knowingly, like a secret handshake. Feeling rejuvenated, we decided to try to catch one more chef demo.

This time, it was Chef Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange and his Sweet Corn and Bacon. It was after 2pm. People had been there a while and were relaxed and jovial. You could feel the excitement; the tent seemed hotter. We all clapped when he pulled out the giant slab of bacon; we cheered when he said “butter”! His biggest piece of advice when cooking the meat was to “control the flame” at all times. Don’t let the pan get too hot; don’t lose control of that flame. So it was especially funny when his towel caught fire. And when he handed out the sample of that sweet corn and bacon, it was like Oprah’s Favorite Things: “YOU get bacon! And YOU get bacon! AND YOU GET BACON!” People went crazy! Lots of laughing and clapping and yum-ing – what an awesome day.

burgIMG_0511 burgIMG_0514 burgIMG_0522 burgIMG_0531burgIMG_0538All in all, this was a fantastic festival and something WE KNOW Harrisonburg could pull off. Who’s in?

burgIMG_0493 burgIMG_0494Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

cold off the press: old hill hard cider.

burgIMG_8204 by BlakeI can’t think of any fruit, or food even, with the cultural and historical significance of the apple. Think about it: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge… three apples supposedly caused the series of events that led to the Trojan War… William Tell terrorized his poor child with an apple and a crossbow… Snow White was poisoned by an apple. Apples are everywhere in the story of humanity! And no one on the planet would be eating them if some other stories had not risen up to challenge all these nightmarish myths. For example, Newton allegedly discovered gravity when he saw an apple fall, and where would we be without that discovery, huh? And Johnny Appleseed — what an environmentalist, planting all those apple trees! If you’re breathing oxygen right now, you can thank him for that! And the Big Apple — everyone loves New York! Even the laptop on which I’m typing this right now has a big, white apple on it. Kids love to give apples to their teachers (maybe a few poisoned ones here and there), and we’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So our recent trip to Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville did not conjure thoughts of starting a war or causing the demise of the entire human race. No. Instead, I arrived at this very carefully and logically crafted conclusion: Since apples keep the doctor away, they must be meant for teachers because making a sub plan when you’re sick is such a dang pain; therefore, drinking hard cider every day is necessary to the health of teachers everywhere, including Brandy and me! And the fact that Sarah Showalter taught school for many years only solidifies this theory.

burgIMG_8274 by BlakeburgIMG_8304We arrived at Showalter’s Orchard, home of Old Hill Hard Cider, on a warm summer evening, accompanied by our friends Danielle, Jess, and Jennica, and a small army of children. When I was a child, I wandered and explored. I’d ride my bike up and down these dirt hills surrounding my neighborhood, I’d build dams in the creek, I’d make forts in the woods and play “house.” Walking the grounds of the orchard made me think of those joyous times, staying outside all day long until the bottoms of my feet turned absolutely black and my mom’s far-away voice called me in for the night, my sprint back home lit by fireflies. Ah, to be a child again and run through the orchard rows, picking up too-ripe apples and pitching them into the sunset! Or this:

burgIMG_8296 by BlakeThe tables on the cool, shady patio were nearly full as we made our way to the tasting room. Inside we sidled up to the bar for a tasting. The tasting included six varieties of cider:
1. The Yesteryear — an echo of our forefathers, created with ingredients used ages ago at Monticello, it’s a clean, tart cider you could pair with nearly everything and would make a great mimosa.
2. The Heritage — this one was my favorite that day. A fair amount of tannins makes it dry, but it’s still smooth and creamy.
3. The Farmhand — this is a special batch variety, where no two batches ever taste exactly the same. It was such a big hit at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival that the Showalters sold out and had to return to the cidery to get more!
4. Cidermaker’s Barrel — Shannon Showalter calls this his “rebel of the group” with its vanilla-meets-charred-oak flavor, and it’s their number two seller.
5. Betwixt — True to its name, this one is halfway between a micro and a wine style cider. It’s their most popular variety.
6. Season’s Finish — the dessert cider for all you sweet-teeth out there. It goes great with a cinnamon liquor.

burgIMG_8189 burgIMG_8186Having tried them all, we settled on a couple bottles of Betwixt, Yesteryear, and Heritage and headed outside. Nestled in to our table, sipping cider, eating Gaudi chicken sandwiches from Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, listening to tunes by The Mash, hearing the laughter of the kids in the distance (Jess’ daughter sounds just like Boo when she giggles), we were happier than Slinkies on an escalator. Happier than kittens under a leaky cow. Happier than teachers on summer vacation. Oh, wait.
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burgIMG_8220burgIMG_8231 burgIMG_8233 burgIMG_8235burgIMG_8241You may or may not know that the orchard has been in business since 1965. 1965! They grow 26 varieties of apples that you can pick and purchase — harvest usually begins in August and goes through November. You can also buy plants from their Greenhouse in the spring and fall. They offer gardening classes from time to time, and there are always events going on: greenhouse tours, charity fundraisers, festivals, growler night most Thursdays, and Thirsty Third Thursday with Mama’s Caboose gourmet food truck and live local music.
The best news: Showalter’s Orchard will celebrate their FIFTIETH anniversary this month, on August 22 to be exact. There will be apple and peach picking, food trucks, live music, and activities for the kiddos! If you’ve never been to the orchard, mark your calendars now because that will be the day to visit. If you have been there, take some time to celebrate this milestone with them! See y’all there!

burgIMG_8256 by BlakeburgIMG_8212Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

tap dance: brothers craft brewing music festival.

burgIMG_8619Well, that was one of the happiest days ever!

This past Saturday, Brandy and I slathered on the sunscreen and the loose, lightweight clothes and braved the scorching heat to attend two – TWO – local music events that happened to be just a block apart. First up was the Annual Lawn Jam at Our Community Place, which will be the subject of our next post. But right up the street from that was Brothers Craft Brewing’s Summer Festival featuring three bands and food from Mashita, Wing It, and Branch’s Soft Serve.

burgIMG_8609 burgIMG_8611burgIMG_8625We headed inside the taproom to cool off a bit with an ice cold brew, knowing we had about thirty minutes before the music would start. I tried the Pilsnerd because the name resonated with me – it’s a Southern German pilsner with an Atari-ish label – and it was perfect for a hot summer day. We talked about their event coming up this Friday: Run, Sweat, and Beers, a collaboration with VA Momentum in which participants choose a 1-, 3-, or 5-mile “fun run” and then get a discounted beer as a consolation prize. The Brothers have lots of collaborations, actually. There’s also the Brothers Craft Brewing Three Miler (a relay race happening August 29 to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters) and Casks for a Cause (third Friday of every month), where they donate the proceeds from a specially crafted beer to a pre-selected charity; they’ve collaborated with the SPCA for Barks and Brews, where you can actually adopt a pet in the taproom; and coming up September 24 is a beer dinner with the Chop House! Those brothers are always busy planning things for you and the rest of our Harrisonburg family.

burgIMG_8683 burgIMG_8682 burgIMG_8679Outside Maple Union was getting started, so we walked around to the loading dock/music stage. Originally from Harrisonburg, Maple Union’s singer Josh Henderson now lives in Baltimore, so the band only reunites here once a year-ish. How lucky we are that they’re still performing together, and even luckier that we got to see them on this day! Still playing with Josh are Jared Tampa, Andrew Hassler, and Jonathan Woods. Their set seemed to zip by, prompting everyone to go inside for a refill or grab some food from Mashita or Wing It.

burgIMG_8692 burgIMG_8631 burgIMG_8638burgIMG_8622burgIMG_8693burgIMG_8748Next up were some of our favorite people. Maybe that’s sounds a little biased, and it is, for sure. Because exactly 66.67% of the members of Many Nights Ahead were members of my classroom in tenth grade, and I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see awkward 15 year olds grow up to be this talented and downright cool. And might I add, Broadway High School is like a talent factory or something. Harrisonburg’s music scene is crawling with BHS grads, and I’m really proud to be at least peripherally affiliated with all of ’em. And I’m not the only one – two other BHS teachers, Shirley and all-the-way-from-Russia Anne were also there, tapping their fingers and stomping their feet.

burgIMG_8743burgIMG_8737 burgIMG_8725 burgIMG_8717burgIMG_8667Just when everyone thought it was cooling down a little, Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts took the stage. Heat rolls off them like steam from a highway after a summer storm.We’re totally bummed we had to scoot out so early, but it was time to relieve the babysitter. We’ll catch them again soon, though, because those guys tour like crazy.

As I mentioned before, THIS Friday, July 24, is Run, Sweat, and Beers at Brothers Craft Brewing. Show up at 5pm, complete your run, and reward yourself with a discounted brew and some grub from Wing It!

burgIMG_8696 burgIMG_8703 burgIMG_8710 burgIMG_8695 burgIMG_8694Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

heart attack: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

More photos of Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts! Read the whole story here!

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Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

follow your hearts: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

Bryan_Elijah_Smith20Earlier this spring, possibly even the first day of spring, Brandy and I busted out of our winter-battered houses, boots, and souls and headed out of town for a day of unbridled adventure. The warm, sunny day actually required sunscreen and we looked forward to a day outside and a night of live music with two of our favorite local musicians. First up was a trip to the Richmond Zoo to try out their Treetop Zoofari which is just a really cheesy name for a ropes course. For a reasonable fee, you guide yourself along 40-ish challenges, sometimes balancing your Jell-o legs across some strung together two-by-fours, sometimes climbing a twenty-foot completely vertical ladder to a two-foot square platform a hundred feet in the air, and sometimes zipping on a line perched just high enough that zoo animals can noisily chase, but not catch, you. There were some white-knuckle moments, yes, but the level of concentration it required made us forget everything for a couple hours. The wind was crisp and bright. Everything felt new. The best part was when we approached the final stop where we’d unhook and remove all our gear, and the employee smiled at us and said, “Oh, are you two enjoying a mother-daughter day?” Perhaps Brandy shot him a warning glance, because he slowly backed up, as if we were bears on his trail, and then disappeared. Back in the car, we applied make-up and changed clothes for phase two: Jack Brown’s over on Grove Avenue! And who did we see there? Ol’ Matt Abraham who used to work at the Harrisonburg location. We sat on the lively patio with other first-of-spring revelers and caught up with our friend Sarah. burgIMG_7325 burgIMG_7330But the icing on our cake that day was a trip to Culpeper to see Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts perform. Beers in hand, we made our way to the front row, eager to see both Bryan and his opener, Justin Jones, also of the Burg. Justin performed alone, him and his guitar and his harmonica, but his laughter and his humor and his perfect, pulpy, tender voice filled the stage, disarming and hushing the enamored crowd. burgIMG_7334burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7341 burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7361Not only did I get to see Bryan’s performance that night, but not long thereafter, I had a chance to chat with him. Sitting across from him, I realized I’d only ever seen him holding a guitar, leaning into a microphone. On that day he held a flimsy cup of coffee and rubbed fatigue from his eyes. I reminded myself that this average-sized, soft spoken man in front of me was the same one who blows the roof off every place I see him play, with his loud, five-piece band The Wild Hearts and his giant thunder voice. Bryan_Elijah_Smith30Born and raised in Dayton, Virginia – the land of horse-drawn buggies, farmers’ markets, and redbuds just south of Harrisonburg – Bryan first cut his musical teeth playing guitar at age five, then in the awkward realm of middle school band. The band director, using some kind of one-size-fits-all questionnaire, tried to peg him as a trumpet player, but Bryan insisted on percussion. Later he played guitar in Turner Ashby High School’s Jazz Ensemble. In late high school he took guitar lessons, and even scored a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. When I asked, “And then?” he answered, “And then? And then I just started writing songs.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith14Bryan and current band-mate Jeff Miller (banjo) formed a band called Albuquerque for about three years with Michael Stover (now of Shenandoah Alley). After Albuquerque (circa 2007), Bryan quit performing live for a bit and instead worked on a farm milking cows to save up some cash, then recorded a truckload of music (according to Bryan, about ten albums worth), a fraction of which comprised his first Bryan Elijah Smith solo album Forever On My Mind (2009). He toured Virginia and the southeast coast on his own, promoting the record, and linked up with Staunton-based musician Nathan Moore to tour the northeast. The Wild Hearts formed in 2010, and over the years the band has evolved to include, in addition to Bryan and Jeff, Jay Austin (violin), Justin Shifflett (drums), and Blanks Blankenship (2014). Now more than a decade into his career, Bryan has played all over the U.S. and even toured Australia last year – a long stretch from a cattle farm in Dayton where he owns a production studio, Empty Sound Productions, that allows him to balance his love of writing and performing with his love of recording and producing his music. Describing himself as “obsessed” with learning the methods of his favorite producers and staying abreast of emerging technologies, excitement shone on his face as he talked about his recent analog/digital studio overhaul: “Being able to paint a sonic picture that I see in my mind is worth a million words to me.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith45His most recent release, These American Hearts, involved a year and a half of writing more than 100 songs, followed by a grueling selection process, but resulting in what he calls an honest album. All his music is “honest,” per se, he explained – it’s all “true to the time and head space I was in when I made it,” but with age and experience he’s stopped trying to make songs adhere to a particular label or category and just let the songs be what they are when they “come to me.” Indeed, he’s hard to pin down when you ask him what music he likes to listen to. He’ll list Dylan, Waits, and Springsteen as influences; newer artists, though, like Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, and War on Drugs are never too far from his stereo. Likewise, his own music is neither country nor rock, neither blues nor bluegrass. He is all those things, authentically, and he believes his most honest record is still out there, in the ether, waiting for the right time to descend. Bryan_Elijah_Smith43Bryan remembers fondly the local basement shows of the early days – the Crayola House, little restaurants and pubs — which gave way to festivals, and theaters, his favorite venue. So when Brandy and I saw him and The Wild Hearts at the State Theatre in Culpeper – a grand old space where their sound had room to stretch and songs could morph into twenty-minute jams – we witnessed the full expression of them as musicians. Fibers hung from Jay Austin’s exhausted bow like long strands of corn silk. The whole place rumbled like a train platform, every seat abandoned after the first song. Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater02 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater03 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater07 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater14Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts have a busy summer lined up, with performances all over Virginia, including several area vineyards, Wintergreen Resort, and The Southern in Charlottesville, to name a few, before Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the spectacular creation of Harrisonburg Action Figure Jeremiah Jenkins that brings together upwards of forty bands for three glorious days at Natural Chimneys State Park in Mt. Solon. Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts hit the Southern Stage at 2pm on Friday, July 10. Bryan_Elijah_Smith11Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

close-knit pickers: bradford lee folk and the bluegrass playboys.

a few more shots from our afternoon with this fine group of people! 

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Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

take your pick: bradford lee folk and the bluegrass playboys.

bradfordleefolk1A couple weeks ago Brandy and I were invited to a really special event: the first of what Megan Tiller hopes is many, many more “pop up shows” to come. Megan’s owned her own business, Tiller Strings, for a few years now. She specializes in stringed instrument sales, rentals, and repair, strings and accessories, Suzuki materials, books and sheet music, and even lessons. She makes a conscious effort to partner with local luthiers, craftsmen, and other musicians as much as possible, and she’s made a name for herself in the business of stringed instruments. However, because she doesn’t have a store front, there’s one thing she had struggled to offer until recently – live music performances. Rather than let her building limitations constrain her desires, she reached out to local folks who wouldn’t mind hosting a “pop up” show at their home… and she found such generous folks (thanks, Joelle and Tom!), and then she reached out to a bluegrass outfit and they agreed to come!
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burgIMG_8328And so it was a thing. A thing at The Farm at Willow Run, where people brought kids and dogs and food, and where we ate and chatted and strolled around the property on a cool, sunny day. It was a casual affair, so no one was really worried about the time, but when the band, Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys, hadn’t arrived by 4:30, we began to casually wonder if they were all right. After all, they were coming directly from the East Village in New York (which, according to Folk, has “infrastructure like Baghdad”) to a patch of unmarked farmland in small town Virginia. As guests continued to arrive, there were reports of a slow-moving white van bouncing along the country lane, and before long the Playboys stumbled upon the party.
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burgIMG_8318 burgIMG_8317 burgIMG_8253Megan cleared a space for them to play in the farmhouse’s charming and century-old parlor. She crammed as many seats as she could into the space, and it was truly the perfect venue for the four-piece band out of Nashville. Bradford Lee Folk (aptly named) sings and plays guitar; his bandmates – Nathan Swartz on mandolin, Robert Trapp on banjo, and Daniel Hyberger on double bass – bring decades of experience and musical precision. At first I think they were a bit surprised at the locale — there was no stage, per se, no microphones or amplifiers, and the chairs didn’t match, yet they seemed impressed that a bunch of people drinking beer in a farmhouse would clap for them. People sat with plates of barbecue in their laps, tapped their feet, and listened to Bradford sing about loneliness and isolation, fear and faith, and love and innocence. The absence of a microphone caused Bradford to step in front of the instrument voices singing behind him… his voice is clear and pure like gold, but it also has a quiet, child-like quality. The lyrics are so solid, the themes so relatable, that he doesn’t need to shout… and his crisp, shiny voice blends in with the band like a warm violin.

burgIMG_8363 burgIMG_8303burgIMG_8347burgIMG_8289The band played three sets — one before supper, then a couple afterwards — and included several songs from their new album Somewhere Far Away (which they brought with them to sell, along with stickers and hair combs). They sang about the loneliness of the road, about the fear of taking chances that might “come undone” in “The Wood Swan”; they sang about the majesty of love, even when it seems a “foolish game,” or even when part-time love is all you can get. They sang about the isolation of Daniel’s lion’s den and the faith required to escape it: “Walls of stone, all alone/Hard to find a friend in the lion’s den.” And in my favorite tune of the evening, they sang about “a little bit of everything” and advised us, “If you can give yourself to someone, you should.”

burgIMG_8344 burgIMG_8337 burgIMG_8310 burgIMG_8302Before long we were full of food, bluegrass, and joy, and it was getting on time to go. The kids were energized by the experience and by each other’s company, but I could tell they were getting tired. Plus, everyone was filthy and needed a bath before another busy week started the next day. On the way out, my son said, “Do we really have to leave this place? Where the wind blows and the music plays?”

burgIMG_8365 burgIMG_8228 Coming up, Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys will perform in Nashville in early May, but if you can’t make that trip, you can buy their latest CD online. And keep your eye on the Tiller Strings FB page for the next pop-up show! For information about Tiller Strings’ services, you can visit the web site or email Megan at info@tillerstrings.com.

burgIMG_8280Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

take me to cask: casks for a cause at three brothers.

burgIMG_5408bwI love genius combinations.

Some of you might remember the old commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: “Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” And while the actual invention of the super-popular candy didn’t happen in the ’80s as the commercial suggests (nor was it nearly as sexy [hello, wah-wah pedal] — it was merely created by a guy named Reese in the 1920s who was just experimenting with candy recipes), it certainly is one of the greatest genius combinations of all time. There have been others. Like putting Velcro on children’s shoes. And the most recent pair of sneakers I purchased have memory foam in them. MEMORY FOAM! Or, for example, my son’s eggheaded idea to make a chess board out of LEGO. Even if you have to get up and move the board mid game, the pieces stay put. And Instagram would never have happened if someone hadn’t come up with the camera phone.

So recently I discovered another mind-blowing combination. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, you CAN be good to yourself and good to others simultaneously. It’s called Casks for a Cause, a monthly event at Three Brothers Brewing that benefits a local charity or initiative. The brothers design a specialty beer and donate a whole keg to the cause, and all the money from the sales of drafts from that keg go to the lucky organization.

burgIMG_5405This particular Cask for a Cause featured lots of genius combinations. First of all, the “cause” was Spitzer Art Center, and we all know that art and beer is a winning combo. The special cask of the night was Three Brothers Slide infused with honey and cayenne, a concoction that was smoooooth going down and then slapped you in the throat. And Mama’s Caboose was there serving up cayenne-chocolate brownies. THAT combo was ridickers yummy. And don’t forget the music: Jason Summer (DJ Real Gone) followed by Jeff Gorman is a combination I hope to hear again in the near future.

burg3bros4 burgIMG_5418Spitzer Art Center provides workshops and classes to the general public, such as oil and pastel painting, silk painting, and metal making. The center hosts a variety of art shows and speakers and provides studio space for seven local artists. This Friday, January 16, Spitzer Art Center will honor Barb Gautcher, featuring works by her and by many of her former students, including Todd Yoder, Molly Whitmore of Molly Whitmore Photography, Zachary Nafziger of ZN Stained Glass, Steven Stauffer, Bomb Proof, Ashley Miller of Ashley Sauder Miller Art, Elizabeth Frey Davis , and Kimberly Juda Souder. Barb is the recent winner of the Shenandoah Valley High School Art Teacher of the Year award AND the High School Art Teacher of Virginia Award. And on February 6, you can see ANOTHER genius combination called WORD: A Juried Show Uniting Writing and Visual Art, in which artists “write an original poem or short prose piece in any style, about any subject, and then use any medium to display/frame/decorate the words and/or the space around them.”

With the sale of the cask, the Spitzer membership drive, brownie sales, and generous donations, Spitzer far exceeded their fundraising goal. Three Brothers have supported numerous organizations in this way, like the Wounded Warrior Project, RISE, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. If your desire to be charitable and your desire to drink a beer happens on the third Friday of the month, save yourself one trip and just go to Casks for a Cause at Three Brothers.

burgIMG_5406Three Brothers Brewing is located at 800 North Main Street, just north of and across the street from The Little Grill. Spitzer Art Center is located at 486 West Market Street, a couple blocks west of Court Square.

Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

time flies: red wing roots music festival, 2014.

RedWingKidsDay three brought a new element to the Red Wing Roots Music Festival: my children.

Honestly, I was so excited they’d get to attend that I couldn’t get there fast enough that Sunday. In case you didn’t know, kids get in free at Red Wing, and there’s plenty for them to do. But I really wanted Bree and Cal to hear some music. So many times when bands perform, it’s way past bedtime. Great music shouldn’t be reserved for just the 18 and older crowd. I prefer to start influencing/molding/controlling their music interests EARLY. You’ll never find “Barney’s Greatest Hits” in this mama’s car. EVER.

We parked and started the trek to the Local Roots Stage, where we looked forward to seeing Bourbon Barrel Congress and Bryan Elijah Smith. I worried for a moment that the walk from the car would be a little long for the children… but who am I kidding? They’re young and strong and enthusiastic. Cal found a walking stick and that’s all he needed. Bree was fascinated by the sheer number of people and their cozy campsites. At the gate, one of the volunteers recognized the three of us — she’d seen our faces right here on this web site — and said she feels like she’s watched Bree and Cal grow up and then asked, “Do your kids just never argue?” And I could proudly say, “It’s rare.” Another volunteer suggested I write my cell number on the kids’ wristbands in case they get lost. But… my cell phone was useless out there, so I quickly scrawled “BRING ME TO THE STUMP” and said a quick prayer about the kindness of strangers.

On we went. We were a bit early for Bourbon Barrel Congress, so I showed them where the stump was — our meeting place should we get separated — and we got some Kline’s ice cream and an iced coffee from Lucas Roasting Company.

LucasRoasting JP Harris and the Tough Choices were on the South Stage, with that voice that could melt steel and sounds that could slice through it. I could see Brandy snaking her way closer to the stage, and the kids and I wiggled our way through the sweaty crowd to join her. We caught the last few numbers of JP’s performance, including the very first song he ever wrote, “If There Ain’t No Honky-Tonks in Heaven.” It made me think of Harper Lee and how she won the Pulitzer for her very first book. Why bother writing anything else when you hit a home run the first time at bat? Perhaps in JP’s case, because PEOPLE WANT MORE, for one. That band was awesome. Their new album, Home Is Where the Hurt Is (amen) comes out in a couple weeks, and you can catch them TONIGHT (!!) at Clementine in Harrisonburg. And I will see you there :)

JPHarris5 JPHarris6 JPHarris7Then we moved to the Local Roots Stage for Bourbon Barrel Congress. Thankfully we were able to sit in the shade, but still it was hot enough to shed about eight pounds of fluid while performing. But the heat didn’t slow these guys down; rather, it seemed to ignite their spirit and, likewise, the crowd’s. Soon everyone was clapping and stomping to the bellow of Chris Davis’ upright base, the squeals of Rene’s Devito’s fiddle, and the laughter of John Spangler’s banjo. On and on they barreled indeed, through an impressive eight numbers… lively instrumentals alternated with songs embroidered with Ethan Hawkins’ like-freshly-Windexed-glass voice. Cleeeaaan. Bourbon Barrel Congress will play at Harrisonburg’s Local Chop and Grill House October 17!

BourbonBarrelCongress3 BourbonBarrelCongress2BourbonBarrelCongress4When at last Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts, accompanied by singer/writer Krista Polvere, climbed up on stage, I felt both happy and sad. For me, this was the finale of the festival. After their performance, the kids and I would have to hit the road. So we savored every last note of their set. Their sound was huge — almost too big for the Local Roots Stage — and it felt like the amps would blow the tent down at times. But the warm sound lassoed us, hugged us all, and like a hypnotist’s spell, compelled us to stay put.

Since that performance I’ve purchased every single album of theirs, and I can’t help hear a bit of Dylan — both Jakob and Bob — in Bryan’s love-worn-leather voice and timeless words, paired with the band’s unique yet diversely broad instrumental style. If you liked what you heard that day, too, you can celebrate the release of their latest album, These American Hearts, at Clementine on September 12th. The show is proudly presented by our local Friendly City Food Co-op, Lucas Roasting Company, WMRA, and Three Brothers Brewing. It’ll be a good ol’ hometown party.

BryanElijahSmith1 BryanElijahSmith3 BryanElijahSmith4 BryanElijahSmith7On the way back to the car, the kids’ broad smiles and cute comments brightened each step.
“I want to see those bands again!”
“I can’t believe how loud that was!”
“When can we go to another festival??” and
“Mom, can I bring this rock home?” No. (Because, we sorta have a lot of rocks already at the house, you see.)
“Okay. See you next year, Rock!”

RedWingrockSee you next year, indeed!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

that’ll leave a mark: three notch’d brewing company.

three notchd signThere’s something about sitting at a rough-hewn wooden slab in front of a tray of Three Notch’d beer samples that makes you want to spill your guts. Perhaps it hearkens back to the days of my beer-swilling ancestors in Ireland and Germany, when men would fill their steins to the brim and vent about a crazy day on the battlefield. It’s in my blood. And so after the casual chit chat that marks the beginning of every visit, Brandy and I delved into a deep discussion of religion as a human construct, what it means to believe, the illusion of time, and all sorts of other topics like life on other planets, photon torpedoes, and David Blaine. Our musings were accompanied by the acoustic stylings of Jeff Gorman and decorated by the works of Erin Murray hanging throughout the rustic taproom.

three notchd lounge three notchd musicNamed as a tribute to the historic Three Notch’d Road in Central Virginia, Three Notch’d Brewery offers a simple yet warm and beautiful tasting room with ample room for beer fans. Sometimes one of Harrisonburg’s awesome food trucks will make an appearance and fill everyone’s bellies. And even though they’re new to town, they’ve already shown their support of the arts by sponsoring this year’s Art Lotto!

three notchd bw three notchd collageThe six beers before us carefully paced out our thoughts and sentences. We leisurely made our way through the Hydraulion Irish Red, the No Veto English Brown, the Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout, The Trader Crystal-Hopped Saison, the Gray Ghost Pale Ale, and my favorite, the 40 Mile IPA. They also have, from time to time, the Bloody Roots Brown Ale, the Citra Wheat Ale, Jack’s Java Stout, the Rauchig Fuchs Smoked (gesundheit!), the Scot Notch’d Scotch Ale, and debuting this week, the Raucous Honey Double IPA! Just imagine all the philosophical conversations you can have with that selection!

three notchd islandthree notchd tapsSomehow our conversation digressed to the documentary Mortified Nation,which I haven’t seen. It’s about adults who share things they wrote as kids… really embarrassing, humiliating things that happened to them and left a mark. It sounds more cringe-worthy than an episode of the BBC’s version of The Office. Eeek. I made a mental note to soon fill my growler with Three Notch’d IPA and white-knuckle my way through that documentary.

three notchd nuts three notchd samplesAnd then we somehow aged about 25 years and started swapping medical stories. I told her about the first time I ever had an eye exam. Prior to the appointment, they told me on the phone that my eyes would be dilated. “Sound great!” I said.

I had no idea what that meant.

I drove myself there, alone. It had recently snowed, and it was a beautiful, BRIGHT, sunny day. Long story short, I tried wrapping my head in my scarf, ninja-style, so I was peeking through a tiny slit while driving the slippery roads home. But I ended up skidding into the Kroger parking lot and calling my then-husband to come get me. I was convinced my eyes were bleeding. Brandy had a similar story except no one could come get her. She sat in her car for an hour waiting for her eyes to “sober up.”

The music continued and by now we were crying (from laughing) over our twelve empty sample glasses. People were starting to stare and it was getting on time to go. Three Notch’d is located at 241 East Market St and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Visit them now!

three notchd staffCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

grin and beer it: rocktown beer and music festival 2014.

rocktown beer fest wooAfter having attended the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival all four years, and having documented it on this site for three of those four, I’ve come to understand that the Beer Fest — now a beloved Harrisonburg tradition — is really just a large family reunion, minus the awkwardness. Beer is the ultimate social lubricant, after all.

You won’t run into eccentric relatives, like your Aunt Norma who always asks, “When are you ever going to have a baby?” Or your great Aunt Phyllis who’s determined to tell you about all twenty-three of her cats. Your teenage niece, who was so cute and fun at the last reunion but is now all brooding and angst-y and Snapchat-y. Or that relative you don’t know at all, who’s parked himself at the chips and dip. And Aunt Norma’s new hubby, who sneaks out to hide in his car until it’s all over.

You won’t run into that relative who constantly brags/complains about his all-important job, or the one who constantly brags/complains about his corns, bunions, sciatica, and that punk who moved in down the street. And the reunion ambles along a path that eventually arrives at the collective question: WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO??

Nope. You won’t find any of that at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival. But here’s what you will find.

1. Your buddies. You’ll see people you haven’t seen since last year’s Fest, and people you just saw yesterday. I run into my old friend Melissa every single year. I worked with her ages ago at Clayborne’s, and I never, ever see her anywhere… except the Beer Fest.

rocktown beer fest group2. Music. This year, Rocktown Beer and Music Festival welcomed three bands: Harrisonburg favorites The Deadmen out of DC; the mood-elevating Bronze Radio Returnfrom Connecticut; and the versatile jam-band out of Baltimore, the Kelly Bell Band.

rocktown beer fest bronze radio rocktown beer fest deadmenrocktown beer fest dance3. Food. Patrons enjoyed delectables from ClementineJack Brown’s, the Local Chop and Grill House, and Union Station. This is some of the best food in the city, making the Beer Fest way classier than your family reunion at picnic shelter #4, no offense.

4. And finally, duh, the beer. More than thirty breweries to sample, including seven from Virginia: Blue Mountain BreweryBold Rock CiderChampion BrewingDevil’s Backbone Brewing Co.St. George Brewing Co., Three Notch’d Brewing Co. (who just opened at tap room here in Harrisonburg, in the Urban Exchange building!!), and our hometown heroesThree Brothers Brewing Co. I’ve been thinking about those small mugs the Beer Fest gives to its guests, and I’m just gonna put this suggestion out there for what it’s worth. Some people like a wide variety of beer and like having ten 4-oz samples. However, I’m an IPA fan, and I would appreciate being able to get an 8-oz mug filled five times, since I know I’m sticking to IPA. Maybe in the future, we can select our preferred mug size when we order tickets?

rocktown beer fest  couple1 rocktown beer fest couple2 rocktown beer fest couples rocktown beer fest crowd collage5. The staff. You get friends, music, food, beer, and people who will help you. The Beer Fest’s more than 150 volunteers keep the lines moving, the music playing, and the place clean and safe.

rocktown beer fest staff 1 rocktown beer fest staff2And now here is something exciting: Rocktown Beer and Music Festival Fall Edition!! Yep! September 20, 2014, come on down to the Turner Pavilion for another festival. So far they’ve lined up thirty breweries; the band lineup will be announced by June 1st, and tickets go on sale July 1st. And hey, maybe Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Pale Fire Brewing, will ready by then! If you ask me, I think it would be wise to just go ahead and have your family reunion here. Everyone will get along much better, trust me.

rocktown beer fest crowd collage2 rocktown beer fest loungerocktown beer fest hugCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

home is where the art is: arts council progressive party, 2014.

progressive party signHarrisonburg, you know how to throw a good shin-dig. I’ve been to some that were all pulled pork and PBR. Some that were wine and cheese and silent films. Some that were champagne and eggs benedict. Some that were margaritas and enchiladas. Some that were craft beer and local food. I even hosted one that was sushi lessons and gourmet cake. But this one was something brand new.

I went to my first-ever Progressive Party with Brandy and I LOVE the concept. A progressive party is one in which guests move from one home to another to enjoy a multi-course meal. Cocktails and appetizers at one location, dinner at the next, coffee and dessert at yet another, and so on. Until a couple weeks ago, my only experience with such a thing has been at my own house. I sorta have my own version of the progressive party… snacks for the kids on the coffee table, then dinner at the kitchen table, followed by maybe a popsicle or ice cream sandwich on the porch. And cocktails for me throughout. Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “party,” but there usually is a fair amount of laughing, dancing, and spilling. And yes, I have been known to make a meal out of cheese, crackers, and rolled up salami held together with those little festive toothpicks.

Anyway, Brandy and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Arts Council’s Fourth Annual Progressive Party. Because our lives are a sitcom, the evening started out strangely. First, the people we’d invited as our “dates” for the evening both succumbed to last-minute illness. Thankfully, Brandy’s sister Brook was available, and that woman went from sweat pants to cocktail dress and drove thirty miles in like 43 minutes. Then, we weren’t sure where exactly we were going, so there’s that. That, and trying to explain the location to Brook. Once there, Brandy managed to get her purse caught in the lace of her dress and then pointed out the three holes in her pantyhose. Meanwhile, I regretted choosing to wear my “superbra” because I couldn’t stop tugging at that thing.

Now, it’s hard for a herd of 260 partiers to eat dinner at one person’s house, so this Progressive Party deviated from the norm a bit. All the guests assembled for happy hour at the home of Chuck and Geri Barker (co-hosted by Keri and Joel Davis). Their spacious home, patio, and garden perfectly accommodated all of us, and we enjoyed a lovely selection of beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres. We saw lots of friends there, like Mike and Suzi, and Lindsay and Don, and Rachel and Andrew. I complimented Patrice on her dress, and then I learned that apparently, you can RENT clothes. I mean, clothes that are not a tuxedo. You can rent a dress for an evening. And by “rent,” I don’t mean buy it, wear it, spray it with Febreze and return it for a refund the next day. I mean, you can RENT a dress. Perhaps the inventor of rent-a-dress and the inventor of the progressive party are one and the same.

progressive party lawn progressive party patio progressive party patio2At about six o’clock, we were instructed to move to our dinner location. All 260 guests were divided among roughly twenty host homes for a home-cooked meal. Brandy, Brook, and I were assigned to Meg and Bill Wightman’s. In a typical progressive party, Meg and Bill would just serve us the next course, like salad, and then we’d go to another home. But because of the crazy number of people involved in this thing, we stayed put at the Wightman’s for SIX more courses, to be deliciously outlined in the photos that follow. Prepare to drool.

While we waited for everyone in our group to arrive, we looked around their adorable home. The kitchen is gorgeous, and that coupled with Meg and Bill’s unbelievable calmness assured me we were in for a good meal. We admired precious art work by their kids, Alice and Liam, like the butter dish Alice made at You Made It. And we saw Bill’s collection of defaced dollar bills. He would buy defaced bills from the bank, rescuing them from certain shredding.

progressive party butter dish progressive party dollarsprogressive party dinner tableEveryone arrived, and to our delight, we were joined by Chuck and Geri Barker (from whose house we’d just come) and Lindsay and Don Denny. So our group consisted of Meg, Bill, Lindsay, Don, Chuck, Geri, Brook, Brandy, and me. Then the food started. First, this martini glass filled with pink snapper and mango salsa plus jalapeno — yow! Man, that was delish. They get their fish from Pickford’s Fresh Seafood — it’s overnight-ed from Hawaii!! And wine from Vintage Wines — both stores are across from Costco. Oh, and Vintage Wines has tastings on Fridays and Saturdays.

progressive party mangoNext up was spaghetti with Pecorino cheese and pork and some other things I missed because I was eating noisily. Then a salad of baby greens, homemade Hawaiian bread croutons, and goat cheese.

progressive party pastaBetween courses, we chatted about family and friends, about death and legacy (Geri’s mom had recently passed), about kids, and about nearly dying from canoe-related mishaps, which nearly everyone at the table had experienced.

progressive party gals progressive party guestsThen came THE MEAT. Omgahd, the meat. Lordy. Bill grilled these lamb chops and served them over this butternut squash, red lentil, and coconut puree, and I think there was spinach and garlic in there somewhere, and heavens-to-Betsy, it was SO SCRUMPTIOUS. And the little flatbreads with coriander chutney — Lord.

progressive party lambAfter that Meg asked, “Is anyone else hot, or is it just my stage in life?” Or maybe it’s that she’d been running in and out of the kitchen all night. At any rate, the next course cooled us off: a grapefruit champagne sorbet. And finally, dessert. A blueberry-white chocolate bread pudding with amaretto sauce. You wouldn’t believe the reaction. Everyone just wanted to move in. We all fell in love with the Wightman’s at the first bite.

progressive party bread puddingLamentably, the meal ended, even though I was stuffed to the gills and couldn’t possibly have eaten more. Except maybe one more lamb chop. Or five. At any rate, the final “course” of the progressive party was a performance by Blue Label at Court Square Theater. They played songs by artists from Elvis to Stevie Wonder to Lady Gaga. We heard “Happy” and “Footloose” and “PYT.” And people were dancing like CRAZY. I was seriously trying not to scald someone with my coffee as I wiggled my way down the aisle. And once I felt I had safely digested most of that delicious meal, Brandy, Brook and I cut a rug, too! In another part of town, in fact just a few yards away, MACRoCk was raging… but I’m pretty sure we had just as much fun.

progressive party concert1 progressive party concert2If you ever get a chance to attend the Arts Council Progressive Party, you won’t regret it. Not only will you be treated to an exquisite meal, but you’ll have warm conversations with friends old and new, you’ll get to dress up (even if you have to rent it, girl), you’ll get to hear some music and dance your feet off, and most importantly, you’ll be helping the Arts Council continue to provide Harrisonburg with meaningful art experiences. Hope to see you next time!

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

happy blogiversary, with love: little grill collective.

little grill menusIn case you didn’t know, today isn’t just Valentine’s Day. It’s ilovemyburg.com’s 2nd anniversary! Yep — Brandy and I launched the site exactly two years ago, on a date we felt appropriately expressed our feelings for the Burg. Of course, we all love this city all the time, not just on one day of the year, but it sure is fun to celebrate milestones. In our second year, we published 156 posts, each one a testament to Harrisonburg’s awesomeness. Our readership exploded. Most importantly, our friendship grew in ways that make me ever grateful for my life, my home, Brandy, and the countless loved ones who shared in our experiences… including you. You, who keeps coming back here to read about our shenanigans. We love you!

So a celebration was in order. Brandy lovingly put together an album of our favorite moments from 2013, and we decided to go on a double date at one of Harrisonburg’s oldest and dearest loves, the Little Grill Collective. That place has been a part of my life since I moved here when I was just twenty-one. Brandy and Ben have memories of the Grill that reach way farther back than that. And Michael and I had our first date there. Needless to say, it’s pretty special.

Although it was only Tuesday, we’d all had the sort of week that makes you want to poke yourself in the eye. Thankfully, we were in a place that hugs you as soon as you walk in. Even more thankfully, I was about to smother my problems with all-you-can-eat tacos. Mexi Nite fixes everything!

little grill table foodIf you haven’t been to Mexi Nite (and it kinda scares me if you haven’t), you’re served a lovely plate containing (and these are my terms, so pardon me) two tacos, a potato roll up, a delicious delicacy I like to call “the floppy,” beans, and rice. And when you finish, they bring you MORE! And MORE again! And because the Grill is always conscious about waste, you can order your plate without certain items if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it all. So I got my plate with no rice. Michael got his with no tomatoes but added a bit of chicken. Brandy added some guac, and Ben ordered his straight up. We also ordered a bucket of Negro Modelo. Yes, a bucket. There was so much love at that table I thought I would pop.

little grill beer bucketThe boys were a bit chatty, so chatty that Brandy and I silently plowed through plate number one and ordered a second lickety split. We were a little more leisurely with our second helping and managed to have a conversation. It had been a couple months since I was in there, and they’ve made some upgrades! First, their gorgeous new tables, made by  Aaron Harper Johnston and Kurt Rosenberger. Also, there’s a staircase near the restroom. I think it goes up to their sound booth, or maybe to a secret fort. They revamped their cash register area (did I see a COMPUTER?) and now bring your tab to your table for you. Fancy! The bathroom’s been painted, and instead of the scrawled graffiti, it’s all been framed and organized.

little grill registerOf course, some of the things we love haven’t changed. Like the Dylan painting. The giant bulletin board of announcements and happenings around town. The Go Ask Alyce (I love that lemon tahini!). BRUNCH. Trivia cards. Yoda. Jesus. Metal lunch boxes full of notes and photos. Beer buckets. And that cute little window into the kitchen.

little grill dylanlittle grill little window2All of it caused us to think about the past and the present. What’s the same and what has changed. All the beautiful things still to come. Then we looked at the time and had to scoot: Team Trivia was starting at Clementine in like fifteen minutes (that post will be up next week!). If you’re still looking for something to do tonight for Valentine’s Day, you can head on down to the Grill and see The Leeroys perform at 8pm! It’s also Down Home Night, so get there a bit early for some good old-fashioned southern home cookin’!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Harrisonburg. YOU ARE LOVED.

little grill sign1Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all in a day’s (and a night’s) work: the 24-hour project.

24-hour project mike and laurieAfter the awesomeness of Friday at the 24-Hour Project, Brandy and I decided that Saturday we’d return, this time with Michael and some of the kiddos in tow. We scoured the program, reading through the descriptions of the 24 performances scheduled for day two, and with input from all involved, decided to try to make it to the theater in time for Mike Hudson at 1pm, because according to the program, he was “a guy you haven’t heard of” who “plays songs on the piano that you haven’t heard, in ways you haven’t heard.” Our curiosity wouldn’t allow us to miss THAT.

So after some breakneck-speed sledding down a steeper-than-we-thought hill, we raced home to put on dry clothes and then raced to Court Square Theater. We managed to score seats right up front again. I don’t know why more people don’t sit in the front row. We love the front row: I love the leg room, and Brandy likes to be able to get where she’s going without awkwardly squeezing between seats, bonking people on the back of the head with that giant lens.

Mike did exactly as promised: he played songs on the piano — some we’d never heard. A sad one called “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face” about a quiet exit from a relationship. An unusual assortment of other covers, from “Music for a Found Harmonium” (Penguin Cafe Orchestra — you might recognize it from Napoleon Dynamite) to a Belle and Sebastian song, to Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” As many times as I’ve heard that old number, I’d honestly never heard the lyrics so clearly as when Mike sang it. A primitive protest song. At one point Mike told the sound booth he’d “feel a lot more confident if I could get a little more in the monitor.” They made the adjustment, but take it from us in the front row: we detected no such lack of confidence.

The female vocal ensemble Shekinah (which means, roughly, God’s presence among the people) performed next, bringing with them only a bongo, a tambourine, and a chair. At first I thought the chair was just in case the pregnant lady needed to sit down… but no, it was for the bongo player. Brandy and I saw these ladies at the Our Community Place Christmas Concert in 2012. Cal was enthralled and loved their purple dresses. I remember he asked me if he could “pet” them. ??? Anyway, they dressed in purple on this day, too.

Shekinah proves with their voices that the human being is the greatest musical instrument in existence. I can’t understand the concentration required to do what they do. Each of them must somehow hear only herself, because each woman seems to sing a distinct part, but she must also pay attention to the group so she doesn’t veer off and end up somewhere else. Not only that, but they sang ten songs in seven different languages, including a Dolly Parton cover, a traditional Irish children’s song, a Finnish song based on Psalm 100, and a sassy Bulgarian number.

After Shekinah, we took a little break at the Explore More Children’s Museum. The beauty (well, one of the many beauties) of the 24-Hour Project is that you could come and go. When the kids finally got all their wiggles out, we returned in time to see the Ears to the Ground Family take the stage.

ears to the ground family 1Any time you get a chance to see this band, you MUST. I mean this sincerely — I can’t believe how great they sound. Beautiful harmonies, clear as bells, never a sour note, never a lackluster performance. It’s probably not a priority to be “famous” or whatever, but they totally could be.

They have a few instruments — guitar, trumpet, bongo — but they also make use of their hands and feet, shoes and skin. My favorite of their set was Nichole’s song for her mom, in which she repeats, almost chants, like a prayer, “With a love like this, I will not despair.” Also, “Prison Cells,” a song about, essentially, forgiveness (and hypocrisy) inspired by a judicial system that just won’t “let them forget what they done wrong.” And the song about time: “Why waste so much precious time when we can float downstream in the living water, be grafted to the vine?” Thank you for that reminder!

ears to the ground 2Lastly, Chris Howdyshell took the stage. Yes, he was the last performer. The closer. By this point, a certain… euphoria hung in the air. Maybe it was sheer loopiness emanating from everyone who’d been up for 24 hours. It became clear that Chris’ job was to keep everyone from keeling over in exhaustion. He was their Red Bull. And really, there’s no better person for that task.

chris howdyshell 1He sang a few songs… “He Is a Friend of Mine,” accompanied by the story of Oliver’s birth. The one for Mariana, with the Alan Watts backstory. The song about workin’ and money and family — mighta been called “Walkin’ With the Devil.” But no, it’s actually called “Happiness.” But mostly he just talked to us. He entertained with a string of meandering anecdotes, like how he once ran into Nick Melas at the community health center, and even with a mask on, Nick was the “best looking guy in the place.” He also recalled the history of Open Mic at Little Grill… let’s see, it started with Ron Copeland, then Jay Zehr hosted it, but “only for a year because he got old,” and then Chris took over in the year 2000 until he left the Grill a year or two ago to become a restaurant manager.

chris howdyshell 2Which led to a story of his near-death experience. He’s taking phlebotomy classes, and during class, students “practice” on each other, and someone accidentally pushed IN on the syringe. Chris expected to die instantly, but he didn’t (obviously)… but his hand, where the needle went in, did swell up and get huge and black and horrifying… and after that big, long story he reminded us that he “paid money for that!” And the last thing I remember was  something about a wicked book from elementary school that scarred him for LIFE.

I wonder, next year… could there be a 36-hour project? Or 48? <cringe> Or, how about this — have a 24-hour project every quarter. This one was so much fun, I’m sure people will be eager to participate and attend the next. Here’s hoping that happens soooooon!

24-hour project survivors 2Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

 

a feel good time: the walking roots band.

walking roots band windowThey showed up in uniform, if you count suspenders, the color blue, leather shoes, and facial hair as a uniform. And possibly the last name Yoder.

Well, except for the ladies, of course. But only in the facial hair category. You’d expect a group of people in uniform to work together toward a common goal. All there for the same purpose, performing as a team, complementing each other. And this past Friday, the Walking Roots Band delivered on that expectation. Brandy and I were privileged to have attended their CD pre-release concert — a celebration of their long-awaited album Carry Your Heart.

walking roots band sing1This eight-piece outfit squeezed themselves and their arsenal of instruments into the far end of Greenberry’s Coffee Co. for a cozy performance in front of roughly a hundred onlookers of all ages. We all sat elbow-rubbing close to one another, and the band members huddled naturally around an old-timey microphone. For a couple of friendly, heart-warming, and sentimental hours, we enjoyed the musical symmetry of Seth Crissman, Jackson Maust, Adam Schmid, Greg & Kristina Yoder, Lauren & Mitch Yoder, and Michael Yoder.

walking roots band crowd BWJust as their uniform was likely unintentional, they seem to play off one another as if by instinct rather than rehearsal. They’re obviously very giving people — during the introductions I learned that they’re all teachers and nurses and philanthropic types with qualities reflected in the music they write. They write about humanity: about God and love, dancing and freedom and nature, but also pain and suffering and loneliness — all parts of life’s grand song. Their voices oblige each other in delicate harmonies about bein’ poor and country girls and moonshine and honey. They sing about havin’ money (or not havin’ it) in a Partridge Family-esque ditty: “little things mean the most, and the little things are free.” And they steer from negativity, even in humorous ways: “You can take your sorry glasses…”

At one point they conducted an informal sound check by simply asking the audience if everything sounded okay. Someone yelled, “More bass!” and Jackson quickly suggested the spectator move to the seat right in front. :) Adam sang a song about the one who got away… a song he admitted he didn’t fully understand, because the one he wanted didn’t get away: his dear Katie.

walking roots band sing2Out of nowhere, amid an accordion, a harmonica, a mandolin, and other such instruments, came a rap song with full-on gesturing called “Sweater Weather.” Yes, it was funny and most certainly a crowd pleaser… but I don’t know. I see some real crossover possibilities, what with Greg lookin’ all Eminem-ish and the rest of the group channeling Dobie Gray in the chorus.

Then Adam totally shifted gears when he sang a song about dying. He first asked us, “Do you want to hear a sad song, or one about how love can really mess with a man?” Uhhh… is there a difference? And the sad song was sad, yes, about someone who’s ill and dealing with the confinement of pain, suffering, and regret, who’s “wishin’ to feel free,” but who also takes solace in knowing he’s “goin’ home to Jesus.” Hope is an ingredient of every one of their songs.

walking roots band BWThey continued, singing about community and apiaries, moonlit meadows, and gratitude. They played three songs from their “Sacred Songs” project. In one of them, they combine three Psalms from three centuries. The kids especially liked “The Gardening Song” which tells the tale of a wascally wabbit who eats the farmers greens, and the fox who kills the hens, and the bear who steals the honey… and the farmer who recognizes they’re just doin’ what they do. After that, it was nudging bedtime for our little ones, and we left the warm cafe, condensation running down the windows, and stepped out into the chill night, happy.

walking roots band accordionNow, go like these folks on Facebook so you’ll be informed when they’re performing nearby again. They’ll warm you up!

walking roots band outsideCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

loud & clear: MACRoCk 2013.

MACRoCk tee shirtOn Sunday, April 7, I saw this post on Facebook and laughed out loud:
macrock facebookIt was like 8pm.

Not surprising. God bless those folks who once again brought this two-day music conference and thousands of people to Harrisonburg. I can’t even imagine where to start putting something like that together. If I can get rice, chicken, and green beans to be ready at the same time, I’m impressed with myself.

We attended MACRoCk on Saturday, the second night. And actually, the day started early, at the Larkin Arts first-ever Art Market (read about that here). More than a dozen artists plunked their wares on tables outside the Denton building. It was sunny and bright, people were chatty and cheerful, and the burg was a-bustle with locals and visitors alike. A happy morning.

Many Nights AheadAfter a bit we made our way to the Blue Nile for the label expo, where we saw books and upcycled clothing, tee shirts, buttons and stickers, pottery and “animal-friendly taxidermy,” and, refreshingly, lots of vinyl.

Label ExpoLabel Expo Label ExpoThen Brandy had to scoot out for a bit, and Michael and I headed to the Dodger. By now it was 2:30. We’d already been downtown for four hours and had ten hours yet to go. When we arrived there, Pachangacha was on stage and the place was packed. We found a tiny sliver of space at the bar. It was funny to watch the crowd come and go. After Pachangacha finished, this massive throng of people vacated, chasing the next show, and some seats opened up. We quick planted ourselves at a table. We enjoyed a performance by Amanda X — three ladies out of Philly: Cat Park, Kat Bean, and Tiff Yoon. They released their first EP back in August. Have a listen! Then sure enough, the mass of spectators shoved through the doors, and this time we scored a booth!!

Artful DodgerNext up was a band from New York called Lvl Up whose latest album Extra Worlds had JUST been released that very day. And they were loud as ohmyfreakinears. In a good way. And with quiet segments that would build to some kind of sonic boom. They’ve got two guitars, a bass, and drums, and they took turns singing or sometimes all three of them sang. I heard a little hint of Weezer at times. They were really great, and it stands to reason that we liked the next band, too — Sirs — because the two bands share some band mates.

MACRoCk Dodger 8 MACRoCk Dodger6Seat update: After Lvl Up we snagged the coveted “circle booth” at the Dodger. We knew Brandy would be coming with Danielle and Ben, and I was right tickled to know that everyone would have a seat. So we moved ourselves and all our stuff one last time, and stayed there through two more bands.

Artful Dodger 3As I was saying, Sirs played next and then Monument, from Maryland. Both bands were awesome, freakishly loud, extraordinarily tight. Brandy (sporting her MACRoCk press pass…. eeeeeee!), Ben, and Danielle arrived and we all mouthed “hello” to each other. Then we had a conversation about where to go for dinner by passing around a spiral notebook. Yes, it was that loud. Louder even. I felt like I was stuffed with cotton. In a good way.

press passIt should come as a surprise to no one who ever reads this thing that we ended up at Beyond. I don’t remember a whole lot about our dinner conversation, probably because I couldn’t hear ANY of it. But a good portion of it was devoted to the fact that Beyond had just gotten a keg of Juju Ginger beer, and Brandy got THE FIRST GLASS OF THE SEASON. This was better than the press pass, I think.

Juju JujuWe also talked about the band descriptions in the MACRoCk program. Some of our faves:

Black Mask – If you’ve never been curb stomped, Black Mask is probably the closest you’ll come without doing the deed. Metallic hardcore from Punxsutawney, PA for fans of early Converge, Nails, and Black Breath. Makes you wanna puke blood in the best way.

Barbelith – Atmospheric depressive black metal inspired by the wrathful elder gods, soiled by the scummy streets of Baltimore.

Borrowed Beams of Light – Borrowed Beams are a soundtrack to the perfect sunny summer indie-rock barbeque that you and all of your friends want to get drunk at.

Dope Body – Noise-rock freakcore from Baltimore. Do you ever think that your punk could use a little more metal and your metal could use a little more funk and that your funk really should be garage rock and not funk? You’re on this band’s wavelength then. Noisy guitar spazzouts are cut with freak hybrids of punk and funk rhythms.

Legs Like Tree Trunks – Mellow guitars with a side of reverb-heavy twinkles and soft-sung, dreamy vocals. Sounds like taking your shoes off after a long day of work.

Shat Shorts (omg) – Very, very weird punk. Blends hardcore, noise-rock, and thrash into one ridiculously chaotic package. Rhythms jump and shift drastically, and this one guitar is just spazzing out the whole time.

Other than that, the only really notable part of the conversation was when Brandy asked, “Wait. Is Jimmy short for James?”
Beyond Restaurant Beyond sushi

fansUnlike the hordes of people who zigzagged through downtown, moving in and out of venues like kids on a scavenger hunt, we tended to stay a while. So our second and last stop of the evening was Court Square Theater, where we saw Wynter Poe, Half Circles, and Timbre. That place is so comfy, what with its cushioned rocking chair-ish seats, age-defying lighting, and beer, there’s just no good reason to leave. We got there at about 7:15 and found seats on the front row. Good for photographs, and good for leg room.

Wynter Poe was unexpectedly awesome. I mean, we really had no expectations, but she impressed the crowd. The band — four people including Wynter — played at least five instruments: a couple of guitars, a bass, drums, a dulcimer. Here and there they sounded a bit like The Sundays, and Wynter’s vocal quality reminded me of Christina Perri. Other than that, the band defies comparison.

Wynter Poe Wynter PoeWynter Poe Wynter PoeIt was fun to see Half Circles, an eclectic Harrisonburg band who played far more instruments than they collectively had hands for. The guitar at times smacked of The Cure; another description that comes to mind is “bluesy Smashing Pumpkins,” but neither of those comparisons can pin down their multi-dimensional sound because suddenly there’d be a melodica or a xylophone or a flute to change my mind. Honey-laced vocals by Dan Baker and the unassuming, hands-in-pockets Amanda Styer led each tune and provided a solid foundation for their instrumental concoctions.

Half Circles Half CirclesWe fell in love with Timbre last year and couldn’t wait to see her again. And hear her, too, of course. But part of a live show is the visual aspect. And when one band member is seated behind a cello, one is seated behind a harp, and one behind a drum kit, you might not expect much in terms of a visual experience. BUT, that cellist was amazing to watch, Timbre looked beautiful in her gown behind that gleaming harp, and the drummer (who played a gorgeous wooden Whitney kit) actually danced while he played. They were all obviously quite happy on stage and love what they do. So they looked great. Add to that their incredible, crystal clear sound. They are made for live performance because their hypnotic music fills the space so well.

Timbre TimbreAdd to THAT their lyrics. Lines like “No one will know you long enough to sing your song back to you when you’ve lost the tune” juxtaposed with “Pain can be beautiful, my dear.” And a song inspired by the George MacDonald story “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” about light and dark and how they came to discover each other. The song centers around her perspective, from her dark cave. Her lamp, and the only light she’s ever known, breaks. She finds a way out of the cave and sees the moon for the first time. Then she meets Day Boy, and he shows her the sun. She wants the light, even if it hurts or kills her. He wants to be unafraid of the dark. They need each other’s strength. As the song says, “If I have seen only the night, can I imagine the day?” We see what we know; we know what we see. Sometimes we must step out blindly, even when it’s scary.

And on that “note,” (oh, ha!), we stepped out into the dark night with the moon shining and music playing in the distance and people laughing and our minds buzzing and our ears ringing. In a good way.

See you next year, MACRoCK!!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

boxcar burgthday: the steel wheels with red molly.

steel wheels red molly 2We knew what to expect from The Steel Wheels when we saw them last month at Clementine: a packed house, invigorating and contagious energy, weighty yet lucid lyrics wrapped in poetic harmonies, unbridled talent, and beatboxing. (wait… ?) But we weren’t so prepared for the opening band — Red Molly.

red molly 2When we got there at 8ish, we found a tiny open space at the bar, right in front of the beer taps, which was both lucky and convenient, since I was still ON FIRE from our dinner at Indian American Cafe. The ladies hit the stage shortly — Abbie, Laurie, and Molly, dressed in frocks and boots and surrounded by assorted stringed instruments like the banjo, Dobro, and guitar.

Red Molly’s first number, “Dear Someone,” silenced the unsettled crowd, their clear, expansive voices ringing like church bells on Christmas Day. They performed a cappella, which speaks to their level of talent. No warm up needed — they were perfect from the first note to the last. I guess making sixteen albums (sixteen!) — some as Red Molly, some as individual artists — makes you great at what you do. They played several songs from their most recent LP Light In the Sky (which they’re promoting right now on their Australian tour. I think it’s crazy that I saw the same band that someone else is seeing right now half a world away — here in Harrisonburg.). “Hold It All” — described as a lullaby — is a lovely number about love’s paradox: “It seems there’s no escape/We are part beauty and part heartbreak/But I want to hold it all.” We have to. Either that, or hold nothing.

red molly 1They followed it with a ditty by Dolly Parton called “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” that got everyone’s feet tapping again, and by the sixth song, hair stuck to Molly’s sweaty face like cat whiskers. One of their final songs was Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen,” appropriately punctuated by the kitchen employee who walked through the crowd for some high-fives. :)

By the time Trent Wagler and The Steel Wheels began, the stage was slick with sweat and tears and hot as asphalt trousers in July. In Arizona. They didn’t care one little speck!

Fun facts about The Steel Wheels:
1. Their new album No More Rain comes out next month!
2. They’re headlining their Red Wing Roots Music Festival at Natural Chimneys in July! (featuring Yarn, Larry Keel, Scott Miller, Justin Jones, the Judy Chops, and more)
3. Trent and Brian started their musical relationship as a duo at Dave’s Taverna.
4. Jay and Eric have known each other since preschool.
5. Some of them bear an eerie resemblance to other people. Like Trent and Will Farrell, for instance. :-)

steel wheels 4They started their set with an expert rendition of Tom Waits’ “Walk Away,” which is just about as ballsy as Red Molly’s opening song. They ripped through several songs from their previous release Lay Down Lay Low, including the title track, which, depending on how you feel at the moment, is about surrender… or defeat. Sometimes you want to “finally fall down” because “it’s quiet there.” Other times you give up just to find some peace, even if it’s alone. And then later in the show, the song with beatboxing. Yes, beatboxing. Called “Spider Wings,” which reminded me a lot (thematically) of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” The line that made my pen meet the paper is “You got too much, you don’t got anything.” I love lyrics that obliterate meaning. Joni does that a lot, too. Ah, futility. How insignificantly full life would be without you.

steel wheels 3 steel wheels 1Although Brandy and I had consumed a heaping helping of bluegrass, for dessert we thoroughly enjoyed a boot-stomping, knee-slapping, yee-hawing finale comprised of both bands and a fat dollop of twang. I think Brandy’s shoes can testify to the fun we had with these two bands and their enthusiastic followers! Looking forward to more boot – shredding shows!

dancing feetCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

family outing no. 15: kopecky family band.

Remember years ago before Clementine existed (wait–there was life before Clementine??), when it was Main Street Bar and Grill? I saw Dokken there. Yes–Dokken. And Don Dokken wore a white feather boa and it was AWESOME. It was a comeback tour, and there were only two original band members, but man, it took me back. I bet you didn’t peg me for a metal fan, huh?

Well, this might blow your mind, but I think I liked Kopecky Family Band‘s performance at Clementine last month ever better. I’d seen them a few other times–twice at Clementine (yep)–the first time I was actually there to see Dear Wolfgang perform because a friend of mine was in that band; KFB took the stage after them. I loved it. Brandy was with me the next time–one winter night more than a year ago. Just before this most recent show, I’d seen them at a bar called PJ Kelly’s. Since that first show, they’ve played larger and larger venues, including Bonnaroo, the Dave Matthews Caravan, SXSW, and the CMJ Music Marathon, and they’ve even toured with bands like Givers and Gomez. And this year? LOLLAPALOOZA! What?! So it’s super-nice of them to visit little ol’ Harrisonburg. I think they like us.

The group is made of six self-proclaimed choir- and band-geeks: Kelsey, Gabe, Markus, Corey, Steven, and David. On this night, Brandy and I scored a prime photo location at the bar and ordered a Paulaner and a Ranger IPA. The band opened with a song from their soon-to-be-released fourth album (eeeeeeeek!!), then followed with a few familiar ones. There are a couple main reasons we love this band so much. One, they are all uber-talented. I think they’re better live than recorded because a track on a CD just can’t contain the sound and the energy they produce on stage. They each play like a zillion instruments. Well, I counted fourteen instruments, to be exact. Six people ÷ fourteen instruments = ridiculous skill. For example, Gabe sings, plays guitar, and plays trombone AT THE SAME TIME. Corey, too. At one point I think Kelsey was singing and playing the keyboards (or maybe the accordion), a tambourine, and a drum SIMULTANEOUSLY. And they pick ’em up and set ’em down like it’s nothing. Markus will be one moment sitting there regally playing his cello, then suddenly throw the bow down, jump up on a chair, and start beating the mess out of a tambourine.

 A tambourine has never looked so manly. Must be the tattoo.

Their sound is rich and crisp, and layered and loud… some songs, like “Embraces” and “Disaster” (by the way, I swear I hear a little early Radiohead influence in there) start slowly and build to an emotional, perfectly layered and harmonious, yet raw, finale. Others, like “Little Baby Sister” are just sweet the whole way through.

If you’d like to see/hear a little snippet, here are a couple links to some new songs, “Angry Eyes” and “My Way.”

It’s crowded on the stage with all those people and equipment. There were a few close calls with Markus’ tambourine and Kelsey’s head. But, and this is reason number 2, they’re so fun to watch. All that instrument switching calls for a lot of movement on stage–crawling, crouching, kneeling, wedging, sneaking, scooting… it’s really a sight to see if you ever get the chance. While we’re at it, why not check out their tour dates, right here?

One last note, in addition to designing the album artwork and posters for the band, Kelsey’s also involved in another project called Feather and Belle, in which she collaborates with her friend Laura on their debut album, Pockets Run Deep. They played at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. This got us to thinking, and Brandy suggested having a “all-girls band” night featuring as many female bands as possible. Wouldn’t that be fun?? Give us your feedback and let’s get that ball rollin’!

Thanks to Clementine and Kopecky Family Band for another fun evening. Can’t wait to see you all again!

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.