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.

grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at ron@ourcommunityplace.org.

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 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!

Bryan_Elijah_Smith02 Bryan_Elijah_Smith04 Bryan_Elijah_Smith13 Bryan_Elijah_Smith40Bryan_Elijah_Smith49 Bryan_Elijah_Smith57 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater04 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater09 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater13 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater17

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.

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!

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