here’s to old friends: rocktown beer and music festival 2013.

*beer mug shown is actual size.

*beer mug shown is actual size.

Me and beer, we go way back. Been friends a loooooong time. Waaaay back.

I mean, back to my earliest memory. I was born in a hospital like most people, but Beer… he was born in a field. A field! Which made him a hardy, scrappy little feller. I first met Beer at daycare; he was a hoppy kid, bubbly, you know, cheersful. With always a little streak of rascal. On our first day of kindergarten, Beer fell off the monkey bars. The principal had to drive Beer to the E.R. (he was accident prone; ya can’t spell Beer without e-r.) X-rays revealed a broken arm, and he had to get a cask, which he used to terrorize everyone on the playground.

Yep, we was best buds through all them important milestones. Went through school together… on the weekends me and Beer would sneak outta my parents’ house and brew up all sorts of trouble. I remember learning to drive with him. He bout gave the driving instructor a heart attack; Beer never was the best driver… seemed to get a ticket ever time he got behind the wheel! I remember meeting him at Senior Prom and dancing to our Senior Class Song: “Stout, Stout” by Beers for Fears. Y’all remember that one, dontcha?

Then we graduated high school and went off to college. Beer joined a fraternity (Iota Rho Alpha, or IPA), which I thought was good for him. He was right popular and did pretty well for a while. But then, for some reason, Beer just up and quit. Then, of all thangs, he got drafted! And he went away for a while…

Rocktown Beer fest fearWhen Beer got back, he wasn’t the same. He wasn’t that same light and bubbly kid anymore; he’d gotten hard and dark and bitter. He wouldn’t talk much about it though — kept his feelins’ bottled up. We lost touch after that… but I heard through the grapevine that he joined this gang called the Aleraisers. They rode around all night on their Barley Davidsons and had many a close call with the law. Beer finally left the gang after a particularly bad bar fight one night with Three Brothers. I think that lifestyle scared him a bit, so he tried to settle down with a girl named Ginny. Only, they didn’t mix too well. Even more, he knew somethin’ was wrong when their little black and tan baby came along. I mean, he was a Pilsner. Still, she divorced him anyway cuz he was so hopped up on grass all the time.

I think Beer hit rock bottom when he was arrested for stealing a 40oz at the local 7-Eleven. I saw his mug shot on the news… Beer looked really pale. The last call I got from Beer was not long ago, invitin’ me to some Beer and Music Festival. And so I met him there, and we rekindled our friendship. I hope I never lose him again.

This year’s Rocktown Beer and Music Festival was PERFECT. Getting through the line couldn’t have been easier, the vendors and volunteers couldn’t have been friendlier, and the day couldn’t have been gorgeouser.

Rocktown Beer fest officers Rocktown Beer fest line Rocktown Beer fest vols2Rocktown Beer fest volsOnce Brandy, Michael, and I had our bracelets on and mugs in hand, we plopped our gear down on the grass and high-tailed it into the Turner Pavilion, where 31 breweries awaited our patronage. Soooo many choices, it was hard to know where to start; but with five and a half hours to spend and ten naked notches on our wrists, we felt no pressure at all. Early on we sampled the Parkway Get Bent Mountain IPA,  Left Hand‘s The Stranger, and Public by DC Brau. We also tried the St. George IPA (the volunteer at that station, Sir James, dubbed me a cool person and gave me a bottle opener), Epic‘s Brainless Belgium, Foothills Hoppyum IPA and the Peak Organic Simcoe Spring. Then I sorta lost track, partly because it was hard to hold the beer and take notes, and partly because I spilled salsa on my notebook and can’t make out anything else on this page. But there were some beers with clever names — like Hell or High Watermelon from 21st Amendment, Lagunitas’ Undercover Investigation Shut-Down, Mama’s Little Yella Pils by Oskar Blues, and the Terrapin Wake ‘N’ Bake. And of course Harrisonburg’s own Three Brothers Brewing Co. was there with their Admiral and Elementary Porter, both exceptionally tasty. They seemed to get busier as the festival wore on, and at one point their line got INSANE and after finally getting my sample, I had to carefully navigate through the throngs of people with my teeny beer. I felt like I was carrying a fragile baby bird to safety.

Rocktown Beer fest mug2It wasn’t long before I was HONGRY. What choices! Rick’s Cantina brought Hard Shell Gringo Tacos and steamed pork or veggie tamales. Local Chop and Grill House offered a tender local BBQ pork sandwich. Chanello’s Pizza was also there, because duh — pizza and beer, people. And Jack Brown’s rounded out the menu with Kobe Beef burgers, fries, and those freaking addicting fried Oreos. While in line at the Rick’s tent, I put my beer down… and walked away. When I got back to my seat, I realized my horrifying mistake. I ran back, yelling, “Emergency! I put my beer down!” They smiled and said, “We knew you’d be back,” and handed me my mug. Ahhh, the Friendly City saves the day, again!

Rocktown Beer fest food1 Rocktown Beer fest food2Rocktown Beer fest salsaLet’s not forget the other “half” of the Beer and Music Festival — the music. The Judy Chops were up first, a perfect sunny – day band. And people were dancin’! You can catch the Judy Chops at Harrisonburg’s Fridays On the Square on July 19.

Rocktown Beer fest JCNext up was The Steel Wheels. We simply can’t say enough about this band. They’re great indoors and out, live and on CD, whatever mood you’re in. We’ve seen them lots of times, forged forever memories, and can’t wait to see them again. They’ll be at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival in July.

Rocktown Beer Fest SW Rocktown Beer fest SW2Last up was Love Canon, out of Charlottesville. This band was a great closer for re-energizing the crowd and refreshing some old tunes that everyone could sing along to. And sing we did!

Rocktown Beer fest danceRocktown Beer fest Love CanonThank you, festival organizers, volunteers, supporters, and attendees. You outdid yourselves, for the third time. Now, everyone, please check back with us every day this week for several more eye-candy slideshows. You might see yourself or someone you know! And now that you’re all feeling warm and buzzy, I mean fuzzy, don’t forget to hug your bud!

Rocktown Beer fest high5Rocktown Beer fest BK*these photos ^ by Rachel Herr

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.

local man “never played baseball.”

Being the youngest child in a family has its ups and downs. On the one hand, the baby of the family gets cuddled a little more, excused a little farther, and pushed a little more gently. No one wants to see the baby grow up and move out, so he/she is encouraged to remain childlike and youthful. To the baby, this is fun! (I should know — I’m the baby in my family.) On the other hand, being the youngest is lonely. The baby gets dragged around to older siblings’ activities, is told, “Aw, honey, you’re too young,” and learns to occupy him- or herself at such uninteresting events. Then the siblings grow up and move out, leaving the baby alone in the nest. The youngest can be an outsider, but also… independent and resourceful.

This is what I thought when I saw the cover and read the preface of Chris Howdyshell’s new book (yes, you read that right) I Never Played Baseball. He goes on to discuss aging, ultimately explaining the reason people get grumpier with time is because our bodies slow down while life maintains its speed. In fact, he almost named the book Old People Are Pissed, but perhaps it wouldn’t have matched the photo on the cover, of his son watching a baseball game. Maybe he didn’t have a picture of pissed off old people at the time. And I guess baseball is more timely for spring, wouldn’t you agree?

book on phoneThe book is roughly divided into sections. If it had a table of contents, it would read something like this:

Contents

A Series of Positive Poems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pages 1 – 27
Jokes I Wrote . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 29
<untitled section> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pages 31 – 50
The Last Point . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 51

And over the course of its fifty-couple pages, it goes way farther than baseball or childhood memories. Common themes include age, disillusionment, technology, love, war, God (I think), human interaction, and Elton John.

I must mention a few notable parts, like the part about Tuggs the bastard child of Lilly McCoy, raised by bears. “Jibber Jabber,” which reads either like a dream or like a situation involving too much Theraflu, contains Ralph Sampson, newspaper-eating creatures, Julia Child, a witch, leprechauns, ogres, unicorns, and a VW bus. All at Reddish Knob. And “What It’s All About” — a really sweet piece about… well, the meaning of life: “It’s about being thankful/it’s about being here.” Presence and gratitude.

Chris and kidsBut I have to say my favorite part is called “Attic,” a frame story-ish piece that starts with how he’s never been in his own attic either because a) there are bees up there, or b) he’s too lazy to get the ladder, and ends with the idea of finding a (small) treasure chest or even a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Sometimes you gotta fight your fear and/or laziness and haul yourself up in that stuffy space!

Things you will come to understand about Chris after reading the book, if you didn’t already know: Chris loves his home (except the attic) and he loves his family. He’s happy where he is, not because it’s “perfect,” but because he sees life as a gift. He hates bees and war, and he loves music and people. And, he never played baseball. Who knew?

You can find Chris’s book here on Lulu. It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s poignant and confusing, sentimental and sad. Download it, read it, and be inspired to share your story/poems/joke/anecdote/lyrics/musings/ramblings/weird dreams!

Howdyshell FamilyCopyright © 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.

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.

spring loaded: larkin arts.

Like cutting into a head of iceberg lettuce, like riding a bike downhill, like the snap of a beer can opening, like biting into a York peppermint patty. FINALLY. Spring in the valley. A gorgeous, reviving, sunny day. For a moment I noticed it was cold in the shade, but I quickly pushed that sensation away, refusing to acknowledge our lingering winter any longer, and basked in the heat of the warm sidewalk and my steaming cup of coffee. The natural radiance of the day was appropriately punctuated by beautiful and striking works of art generated by our sizable local art community. It couldn’t have been a finer day. Plus, it was nice not to be out in the rain or snow or wearing my clunky boots and my old gray coat.

harrisonburg springtimeA dozen or so local artists set up displays of their work at Larkin Arts’ first ever Art Market, held right there on the Court Square and spilling over into the Denton building parking lot. Even before its official start at noon, folks who were clearly on their way somewhere felt compelled to pause, peruse, and talk with the artists.

Here’s a little snapshot of the artists there that day.

Trip Madison wasn’t actually present, because he was out of town, but his work made it to the market: prints of acrylic and ink on wood and printed on metallic paper. To the left of his table was Daniel Suter and his bearded demons and monsters. I guess they are scary looking creatures, except for their lovely, flowing, feather-drop beards, but one — the purple one — didn’t seem so demonic. He seemed benign, wistful, even sympathetic. I wanted to take him home.

daniel suter larkin artsAround the corner we found Paul Somers displaying multiple photographs, including Polaroids that carry such nostalgia, like stumbling on an old forgotten box of photos in your parents’ attic. Paul shared a table with Chris Fulmer, whose work was also tangibly personal — like photocopies of his journal, for example — and, therefore ironically, free.

artists at marketMorgan Fink displayed prints of her oil paintings and drawings done in pen & ink with colored pencil, and Angus Carter shared an immeasurable variety of work with those who browsed his table. I liked that “What a Fox” fox portrait, and pretty much everything in the box labeled TESTS & DOODLES.

There was also some recycled art work: Andi Senatro of Andi’s Green Art displayed mosaics, guitar picks, and other items made entirely of chopped up Starbucks gift cards, and Kelley Shradley-Horst made all sorts of items from clock and watch parts.

kelli horst clock workBruce Rosenwasser was there; he has a thing for hearts. In fact, last year he sold some 600 hand-carved wooden hearts. He told me how one year he made all these wooden Christmas ornaments in various shapes, and some ladies sifted through the entire inventory and bought all the heart-shaped ones. Now he can’t seem to make enough of them. But he also creates frames, earrings, wall hangings, even portaits, all from locally reclaimed scrap wood.

I really enjoyed Pam Ulmer’s photos — so bright and crisp, some of nature or serene locations, some of interesting historic landmarks, statues, old buildings. Lynda Bostrom’s large display featured drawings, paintings, and graphic designs in subtle colors. Brandy picked up a couple from her:
Lynda Bostrom

works by lynda bostromLast but not least was Denise Allen and her table of drawings and watercolor paintings, hand-made coloring books with a free hand-made, star-shaped crayon (!), and even seed packets, all in brown paper packaging, signifying favorite things. You know what one of my favorite things is? Pretty much anything made by Denise. And Denise herself.

denise allen crayonsHere’s to more beautiful sunny days with beautiful sunny people! Happy spring!

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.

major artery: larkin arts.

larkin arts ellaRemember when Studio Art Shop was downtown? This was way back when Dave’s Taverna was on Water Street and Main, and Jokers (now the Blue Nile) was the hot spot for local music. Studio Art Shop was located where Oasis Gallery is now… I remember that art store fondly… the smell of paint and canvas, rows of colorful bottles, rainbows of oil pastels, stacks of naked sketch books, jars of never-used brushes with smooth wooden handles, neat paper bags of rabbit skin glue, Gesso, tubs of Gojo. Simply walking in there would inspire even the least artistic of us (like me) to create.

Needing more space, Studio Art Shop expanded to a larger store on Neff Avenue and became the place for art students to purchase supplies each semester. Lamentably, Studio Art Shop closed its doors for good a few years ago.

No doubt Valerie Smith remembers Studio Art Shop, too, and thanks to her, her hubby Scott, Lynda Bostrom, and many other local art supporters, Harrisonburg once again has a full-service art supply store on the Court Square… an apt location in the heart of a city that loves and values art of all kinds.

larkin arts val and scottBut Larkin Arts is not just a source of supplies; it’s also a gallery, a school, and a studio–a place for learning, creating, and displaying art. The store itself carries thousands of products for the new, developing, or veteran artist, and a cozy lounge area where one can sit and sketch or peruse hundreds of art books from their library, all the while listening to albums on the old-school stereo system, from Loggins and Messina to Talking Heads to Fugazi, the Beatles, or even “Latin for Lovers.” :) And, even if you’re not an “artist,” many of their items make lovely, unique gifts for people of all ages and for any occasion, really.

larkin arts1In the space adjacent to the store is the gallery and reception area. Two large, open, bright spaces regularly feature curated, juried, or group exhibitions.

larkin arts denise larkin arts food larkin arts reception2Down the hall to the right are three (three!) classrooms hosting a variety of classes. Every Monday from 6:30 to 8:30pm the public is welcome to attend live figure drawing. Children ages 4 – 12 can attend classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, weaving, and art history. What a great way to spend dark, chilly afternoons, and when the weather is warm and school’s out, kids can attend week-long art classes — even one taught by our own Brandy Somers! — during the 2013 Youth Summer Art Program.

The left side of the hallway houses local artists’ studios. Large, bright, open rooms with closets and plenty of space to haul out your supplies and make a big ole mess.

In the last couple of months, Brandy and I have visited Larkin Arts a number of times. Back in December, we did some Christmas shopping there. More recently, we’ve gone to visit the gallery. Nathan Shearer’s simply framed photographs of LEGOs blew me away. One, I love LEGOs — I even have a LEGO room in my house. Two, the scenes he depicts in the photos are both realistic and imaginative. Three, his attention to detail, posing little LEGO figures in front of less playful backgrounds, getting the scale just right so that the photo is as believable as a portrait. And four, the colors! I wish I could have bought every one of them and hung them all together on a single wall in my house. You couldn’t be unhappy in that space. To see more of Nathan’s photos, please check out Katie Schmidt’s photos, here.

larkin arts nathan s nathan shearer bwThe other exhibit we attended was that of Jade Webber, an artist currently studying at JMU after completing a degree in Fine Art at New Mexico State University. Her large, heavily textured paintings depict the natural world, which is, as she describes it, a blend of “the metaphysical, the supernatural, and the ineffable.” Her work particularly reflects a love of animals, who “remind us that we, too, are animals. We are subject to forces beyond our control.” In this way she underscores how natural art is to the human experience: it springs organically from the artist herself; tools of wood and hair and metal push around hues of the outside world we see every day, resulting in a connection between artist and viewer that is not forced, but… ineffably genuine. You can see Jade’s work at Larkin Arts through the end of February.

jade webber notes jade webber 7 jade webber 5 jade webber 1The kids were with us, of course, and what would an ilovemyburg post be without the antics of children? Let’s see. Bree dropped her cupcake on the floor, icing side down (major tragedy). A couple of the Judy Chops were there to perform (because, let’s face it — all of ’em would have caused a sonic boom-ish catastrophe knocking the artwork right off the walls), and so lots of giggly, dizzying dancing ensued. Scott whipped out some brown Model Magic for the kids to “play with.”

larkin arts cupcake larkin arts blake ella judy chops 3 larkin arts brownAnd Cal left a note on Brandy’s car that said, “Your butt looks really good.” She laughed and acted like it was silly, but I bet she taped that thing to her bathroom mirror. Ha ha!! After she previewed this post, she clarified that it is NOT on her bathroom mirror. It’s on her fridge. :)

Congratulations to Valerie and Scott for opening this Harrisonburg gem. We hope you will visit soon and see why it’s so, so special. It’s yet another reason we love our burg.

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.

set the record(s) straight: honky tonk happy hour at the blue nile.

In the car on the way there, we listened to some Johnny Cash. “Cry, Cry, Cry” came on; Bree asked, “Why does this song have to be so sad?” Because it does, I told her. Because it’s raw. Because it’s how he felt at that time, with no shiny gloss or double talk or self-pity. “He wants you to feel what he felt,” I told her.

“Well, I feel it,” she assured me.
Then, “I’m hungry. Are we there yet?”

We were on our way to Honky Tonk Happy Hour at the Blue Nile, hosted by DJ Real Gone (a.k.a., Jason Summer), and I was bracing myself for the likes of George Jones, Kitty Wells, and Buck Owen… songs about love and betrayal, about heartbreak and loneliness, about drinking and riding your lawnmower to the bar.

We arrived and there was Jason, ready to spin some old time, twangy vinyl… not behind the sound booth, but instead under the bright lights of the stage, where those musicians infinitely deserve to be.

He carefully thumbed through the albums which no doubt have brought him solace, hoping perhaps to transfer, through needles and grooves, the same impression to us.

Customarily, my kids started running around, and I sharply snapped, “Stop running! Where do you think you are??” To which Cal replied, “I really don’t know.” Fair enough. A few minutes later, Cal asked Brandy and me for “a tape.” “Tape? What do you need tape for?” “No,” he said, “a tip.” Ah. Money for the bowling video game.

We sat at the bar and listened to the full-bodied words of Loretta Lynn, Johnny Paycheck, and Hank Williams, and felt strangely uplifted. It’s like reading a book with a plot that just worsens and worsens, and at the end there’s absolutely no redemption. Most people like a happy ending. But unhappy endings make you feel better about your own reality.

This is not to say that all the songs were “sad.” Not all of them put a tear in your beer. Some were funny, some were romantic, some were feisty. But none were understated or devoid of intent. Music back then was simple and straightforward, both instrumentally and lyrically. Meant to be heard and listened to, not just enjoyed as some kind of sedating backdrop. People think music today is “explicit”… but vacantly, meaninglessly so. These old songs have an inescapable intimate quality that make one’s eyes moisten and one’s heart sting. These tunes SAY something, and often it’s something we really don’t want to hear because we already know it’s true. They not only shine a light which provides a path through the darkness, but which also causes our scars to glow white hot. And when everyone around you glows like that, you know you’re not alone.

You can catch Jason this and each Wednesday in the basement of the Blue Nile from 7 – 9pm. Leave your thick skin at home. It won’t work.

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.

free spirits: rocktown wine and dine festival.

It was a weeee bit rainy. A tad splashy. A tish bit damp, if you will. And as my hair erupted into its requisite rainy day Ronald McDonald wig of frizz, Brandy arrived with a floaty strapped to her back pack.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Duh, for FLOATING. Because it’s raining. A LOT.” <eye roll>

I guess I’m so accustomed to it raining at ALL our events that I don’t even think to prepare for it. But others did, too. Like these gals:

And this lady… sort of.

Umbrella casualty.

We might have actually needed that floaty. Not that the three of us could ride on it… but Brandy informed Michael and me that there was even a chance of tornadic activity. Good grief, Auntie Em. “Do you get some kind of alert for every weather situation?” I asked her. She answered, “I get that from my Nanny, okay? I used to call her for the weather.” Awwww… Nanny :)

Anyhoo, at three o’clock on the dot, one could hear a chorus of corks popping against the harmonious backdrop of rain and The Woodshedders, this old-time, bluegrass, jazz-country quintet who warmed things up for us quite cozily. The first Rocktown Wine and Dine Festival had commenced! And with neat-o wine sampling glasses in hand, we were off!

A note of clarification before I delve into all the deliciousness of that afternoon. The Wine and Dine Festival was different from the Beer and Music Festival of last April (and coming again April 20, 2013!!) in that the wine vendors served pairings–samples of a particular wine accompanied by a complementary dish. (Local chefs Alex Fitzgerald and Jon Alley created the appetizers and Brock Cappers from Robins Cellars picked perfect wines for each.) It wasn’t like the Beer and Music Festival where you filled up your mug and wandered around for a bit. It was more like an art exhibit, where you move through the gallery, stopping at each piece and eating/drinking the display. So the three of us, along with everyone else, were under the pavilion for quite some time, sampling the goods at all ELEVEN tables.

Also, as you perused the goods, if there were any (and believe me, there were) wines that you wanted to buy, you could go to the Downtown Wine and Gourmet table, place an order, and then pick up your wine the following Saturday at the shop. And Jay and Amanda offered substantial discounts if you ordered one, three, or five mix & match cases. A lot of people in my life are getting wine for Christmas this year.

Okay, Table One: World Premier Wines. Here we sampled the Paul Cluver Close Encounters Riesling from South Africa… and the Paul Cluver Gewurtztraminer paired with a southwestern chicken egg roll. The spicy egg roll with the crisp, apple-y sweet wine was a lovely start to the afternoon. Thumbs up.

Next was the Robert Kacher table, where we tried the Tariquet Classic–dry and fruity from France–paired with a traditional gazpacho. We also tried their Andre Brunel VDP Grenache, which was refreshing and really reasonably priced.

Frontier Wine Imports offered a grilled chorizo (sausage) with their Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 from Spain–man was that a good combination. I ate a few of those little spicy things. And might I add, it was at this table that WE FOUND PORT. Aaaaggggghhhhhh <drool>. The Feist Madeira Full Rich Port AND the Feist Tawny Port. From PORTugal. Ha. I think I left that table about ten degrees warmer.

Danielle, servin’ it up.

The fourth table was also a favorite in our little group–Small Vineyards served their Palama Negroamaro with these yummy little shredded pork barbeque sliders. Yowee. It was one of those slow-motion moments: We saw the wine. We saw the sliders. We started over there. People would not get out of the way. And when at last we skidded to the table, the sliders were gone! No worries–we just stood there and waited, and soon another batch arrived, all warm and fresh. We also tried their Tre Donne La Perlina Moscato and their Bibbiani Chianti. At this point we were really digging the festival.

The Avery Quinn table had these shrimp things–money bags, spring rolls, and wontons, along with a very nice California chardonnay. That combo was so good I burned my mouth–twice. We liked that table.

Bluestone Vineyard, one of the hosts of the festival, along with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Downtown Wine and Gourmet, presented a reeeeallly good cabernet franc ($25-a-bottle good) and one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life: bacon-wrapped sausage bites, rolled in aged chili peppers and sweet brown sugar. I admit that for the rest of the evening, I stalked that table for meat like Hannibal Lecter. I apologize for the creepiness of it. Anyway, Bluestone also debuted their new Moscato at the festival–a sweet, kinda fizzy fruity number. It’s a good thing there were no chairs under the pavilion or we may not have moved for days.

Around this time, the Woodshedders finished up and Chatham County Line took the stage. These guys have been around for thirteen-ish years, from Raleigh, and recently finished up a tour in Europe. Here they were in little old Harrisonburg, providing a warm and lively soundtrack to a now sunny evening.

B&L Brands was a fun table, not only because all their wines were great (and among the three of us, I think we tried them all), but because many of their wines have literary names–like “Foreshadow” and “Bookmark.” The nerd in me appreciates that. They offered Rooiberg Chenin Blanc (South Africa) with assorted cheese.

Vici Wine, our eighth stop, offered several South American wines (Chile and Argentina) including the Oveja Negra Chardonnay/Viognier and the Chilensis Chardonnay, and one from South Africa–the Obwika Moscato–paired with Bananas Foster Bites served with warm caramel sauce. Apparently I wasn’t the only food stalker there because we never did get a bite, and after all that meat I really needed some dessert :) Our friend Seth was working that table:

Cave Ridge and Cross Keys shared a table, which suited us just fine because we love those vineyards. Cave Ridge is the vineyard that runs Wine on Water, which offers tastings daily at its downtown location and houses Cuban Burger; Cross Keys Vineyard is a really great place to visit for a first date or an anniversary or a ladies’ nite out or an after-golf outing. The terrace is beautiful and the view is breathtaking, and if you get a chance to take the tour, you should. We sampled pretty much everything at that table and chatted it up with Katrina and Debbie. The pairing was the Cave Ridge Viognier with assorted fruit, but we also had their Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. Cross Keys served their Joy White–one of my favorites of all time– and Joy Red, and the luxurious Meritage.

William Harrison Imports had several Argentinian selections and a few from France. And just before my sausage high wore off, they rescued me with a grilled kielbasa with mustard paired with the Don Manuel Malbec, a really hearty, spicy number that was a good end-of-festival selection.

And although we were “stuffed to the collarbone,” we couldn’t say no to the final table of the evening, Castle Rock Winery. Brandy and I sipped on the Mendocino Zinfandel and had gotten really mingle-y, wandering around, chatty and sorta unfocused. But they had a really good appetizer, too–chicken skewers with a tangy molasses barbeque sauce–and after an amount of time I’m just not sure of, Michael emerged from the crowd, marching toward us triumphantly, holding three chicken skewers high over head. We thanked him excitedly and then I, in my haste, stabbed my throat with the skewer.

Time for a break.

Having sampled all the pairings, and feeling quite satisfied, we moseyed to the lawn with our chairs to listen to the band play. We noticed the patch of earth that was torn apart by revelers at the Beer and Music Festival last spring–it was covered with hay to protect the tiny grasslings growing beneath. But it didn’t stay covered long, as an army of small human plows arrived and started making a hay pile. I mean, that’s what you do with hay–you gather it up into a pile. As the kids jumped on the hay pile and shouted and squished their feet in the mucky lawn, one of the band members asked them, “Which one of you is the Lord of the Flies?”

And so we watched the kids. And we listened to Chatham County Line. And Michael decided they needed a sample, too, so he commandeered four glasses and brought them a round. As the singer graciously accepted his wine, he said, “You know, I see a lot of signs that say ‘No bracelet, no wine,’ but… (brandishing his bare wrists)… come get me!” And they played on. Later he said, “Don’t discriminate, my brother. Integrate. That’s why God invented rosé.”

Amen. Let it all mingle–bacon and sausage and shrimp and bananas and cheese and cabernets and merlots and rieslings and zinfandels and mud and skin and hair and clothing and rain. Let it all mingle!

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.

music lessons: chris howdyshell and superfriends and their ground-breaking rock-n-rollishness at clementine cafe.

It was an educational evening, indeed.

Of course, it started stupid enough–the two of us yakking it up at the bar, gossiping and such about things I can’t memorialize on the Interwebs–sorry. I can say that at one point the chatter veered back to our visit to Wine on Water and how we look forward to cooler weather and going back there for some PORT. In fact, Brandy declared, “I want to drink port in a scarf,” and I (here comes a stupid part) imagined her fashioning some kind of fabric drinking vessel. How cultural, I mused, wondering if perhaps in some exotic country, people drink wine this way.

Then I got it.

We were soon rescued from our idiocy. That night Clementine served up something mind expanding for sure, something called Chris Howdyshell and SuperFriends and Their Ground-Breaking Rock-N-Rollishness.

The first of the SuperFriends was Ellen Atwood. And even though she’s young–just a junior in high school–I think I will dub her Queen of the SuperFriends. One, it was her first public solo gig, ever. Two, she’s a one-woman show, just her keyboard and her voice. Three, her voice is… angelic. She was goosebumps-on-your-face good. She played and sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” (Coldplay), and one of her originals. And four, she’s just a kid yet. And being a teacher and a general fan of teenagers, I love to see a kid who’s been able to cultivate her passion and talent in spite of all her school responsibilities and pressures and just the agony and emotional clumsiness that pervades adolescence, and still have the guts to share it with a room of (mostly) strangers. Yet there she was, shining in the hot white light. And after three short songs, I was quite moved. So thank you for that, Ellen.

Then the rest of the SuperFriends took the stage. It wasn’t quite the Dish Dogs because Michael Bowman and Lara Mack weren’t there… but it also wasn’t the new band, Dr. How (whom you can see here at Clementine on September 22)–it was… just… the SuperFriends. Namely, Chris Howdyshell, Mike Howdyshell, Ashley Hunter, Josh Vana, Doug Pitts, and Kyle Oehmke once his shift in the kitchen ended and he could join them. Untie the apron, strap on the bass. Chris had on his bedazzled hat and every person in the band wore glasses. Not, like, sunglasses, but actual “I need these to see” glasses. I could make some kind of “gettin’ old” joke, but really it was endearing because we’re all just humans with flaws doing the best we can. As Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home,” even if we can’t see where the hell we’re going.

They played a couple of old Dish Dog favorites, and things really picked up after “Tom Weights.” It seems like a hundred more people came in during “It’s Not Your Fault.” Drew, Harrisonburg’s resident hugger, danced in front of the stage (we love Drew!); more people joined the dancing during “Bird” and “She’s An Artist” and “The Tuning Song”–ha ha. And Chris took a moment to say he had two things to ask of us:
1) “You’re here.” (check!) and
2) “Don’t be afraid to dance. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your feet on the floor!”

In walked several  young men in suits, to whom he commanded, “Men In Suits–DANCE!” Which they did. Then he came down and danced with Alice, and Ashley came down and danced, and Grayson and Annie danced, and other folks I don’t know… and I remembered a New Year’s Eve Dish Dogs performance… there was this couple dancing. They’d obviously been together a long time. She danced with her eyes closed, and I thought that was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen–how they knew each other so well…

Nothing like that happened at this show, but it sure was fun!!

And educational. Remember when I said that earlier? Because between numbers, Chris would tell us interesting facts and use impressive vocabulary. Like “evolutionarily.” EV-UH-LOO-SHUN-AIR-UH-LEE. Something about woodpeckers and black flies and how, evolutionarily, they strayed from the norm and neither fared well. His lesson: “Do what you always do or you’ll die, at least in woodpecker world.” I also learned that Lance Armstrong ate oatmeal “filled with oxygen.” And most importantly, “Every time you eat bacon, you’re only losing a year of your life you didn’t care about in the first place.” Plus you get to eat bacon.

And he closed with this thought: “I really want a dog, but I don’t want to clean up the poop.” Amen to that.

The evening wound down with a smattering of other songs, including “Whiskey’s More Warm Than A Girl” and one about forgetting things (I don’t remember the title–seriously) during which Josh Vana played slide with a piece of broken glass. You gotta do what you gotta do, MacGyver.

So Dr. How debuts at Clementine on September 22 and will feature at least some of the SuperFriends. And I hope you’ll all attend.
Because you will learn stuff.
And you will dance.

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.

thanks a brunch: taste of downtown at clementine.

It occurred to me as I parked the car and dashed through the rain with my kids that we’ve had a pretty rainy spring and summer. And I have proof of it right here in these pages. It rained when we covered Bongo Restaurant, it rained A LOT at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival, and it absolutely poured at First Friday in June at the Yellow Button. It rained at Fridays on the Square with the Judy Chops, and when we visited Cat’s Cradle, and for Blake’s LEGO Art in the Park. The rain just barely held off for the Brew-B-Que and for Art Lotto, but the Caleb Stine show was rainy, and so was our latest adventure. As a teacher, I can only hope this moisture continues and translates into feet of snow this winter. !

We decided to go to Clementine Cafe last Sunday because Taste of Downtown was coming to an end and their brunch deal looked really good: one of three brunch dishes plus a carafe of Bloody Mary or Mimosa for $12. The choices were two eggs cooked to order, a frittata, or a burrito, each with side items. We couldn’t choose, as usual, so we got one frittata–it has avocado–and one burrito–it has spicy yumminess. Plus one of each carafe. And the kids split an order of pancakes. It was all delicious–fresh and cooked perfectly and just the right amount.

We gobbled it down quickly and finished up what the kids left behind. They’d brought along a veritable arts and crafts station, what with scissors, paper, tape, markers–and they worked happily for quite some time, but then they got  antsy, and Brandy and I still had lots of chit-chatting to do, so she sent them on a scavenger hunt!

Some of the items they had to find and draw a picture of were
* something blue (a painting called “Jupiter Storms”)
* something green (a skull and crossbones)
* something related to children (some sort of winged, cherub-like angel thing)
* something small (we can’t remember that one, or make out the drawing)
* something related to food but not edible (a blender)
* the names of two people who work there (for this, Bree wrote down “Sit on it!” Ouch!)
* their favorite piece of art (the drawing looks like a fish with giant teeth, but I can’t guarantee that).

That kept them busy and also gave them a chance to explore the place, including the upstairs bathroom. Have you seen it? With its luxurious velvety chair and that sleek sink? That was Bree’s favorite thing in the whole joint. That and the disco ball.

But there’s more about Clementine that we love:
1. The avocado-bacon burger, which is usually what I order when I’m there. It’s the best I’ve ever had, hands down.
2. The portions. They give you just enough food, so that you don’t have to wrap it up or waste it. And then you can enjoy dessert without being “full up to the collarbone.”
3. They use the local-est ingredients they can, and if that means rotating seasonal items in and out of the menu, that’s what they do. Fresh and local are priorities.
4. Music. Between the two of us, Brandy and I have seen zillions of great shows there, from Yarn and Larry Keel and Steel Wheels to Caleb Stine and Andy Friedman and Invisible Hand, and two of my favorite bands I saw first at Clementine: Lake Street Dive and Kopecky Family Band.
5. While we’re on that topic, Brandy appreciates the restaurant’s use of color: the brightly painted stage backdrop unlike no other, and even the use of complimentary colors outside (yellow and purple). Brandy uses a photo of the storefront when she teaches that concept in her art classes.

6. And let’s not forget Ruby’s Lounge downstairs and their awesome specialty nights. Tuesday through Thursday you can find $2 and $3 specials!
7. The beautiful new patio!
8. We also like how they advertise tons of local events and happenings in the lobby. Clearly, they love their burg, too. :)

We finished our carafes and gossip and waited out the rain as long as we could, but it just didn’t seem to stop that day. You can join them for brunch on Sundays from 10 – 3pm. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can come tonight at 9–Chris Howdyshell will be making a bunch of noise with a mess of people… Or Blue Rock on Saturday night… should be pretty fun. See you out and about!

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.

county lines: caleb stine and the honey dewdrops at plan b.

We’d last seen Caleb Stine at Clementine with Andy Friedman. He was promoting his intimately straightforward album I Wasn’t Built for a Life Like This. So when we heard he was headed this way again, we made a point to attend–this time at Plan B in Broadway. Okay, so it’s not actually in Harrisonburg, but Plan B is a local business that serves local food and coffee and promotes lots of local music and art. In fact, we covered them once before, when No Strings Attached performed there, remember? Anyway, Plan B has this genius tactic when it comes to booking musicians. They watch for bands that will be passing through this area, traveling from one gig to the next, and they ask them if they’d like to make a stopover in Broadway. They’ve gotten some really great acts with this method, so be sure to keep your eye on the Plan B calendar. Who woulda thought, in little ole Broadway?

As a bonus, Caleb Stine is currently accompanying the Honey Dewdrops on their tour (the new album is called Silver Lining and it’s excellent), so we got to hear some of Caleb’s stuff, some of the Dewdrops’ stuff, and some stuff they’ve collaborated on. The Honey Dewdrops are a folk duo from Charlottesville-ish who’ve released three albums. They’re no strangers to Plan B, having played there a year ago at the grand opening. A variety of stringed instruments (banjo, guitar, mandolin) and their perfectly harmonized voices define their Americana/Appalachia style, but their lyrics reflect the joy and despair of modern life. They somehow manage to sing songs that are both happy and sad at the same time–conveying the beautiful tension of love and life itself. Caleb Stine does the same thing, so it’s no wonder they complement each other.

It was rainy and stormy that night, and I worried the weather might keep people from coming out. My kids and I met Brandy at Plan B at about 7. Caleb and Brandy have a mutual friend in Maryland, so he came right over to catch up with her. Bree and Cal love Caleb’s music, and my daughter wasted no time asking him to please play her favorite song, “Riverside.” With extra hoots, yee hee hees, and haw haws. And can you play it first?

People trickled in, shook out their umbrellas, ordered drinks and took their seats. Employees handed out free popcorn popped in one of those big, old-fashioned movie popcorn machines. The musicians’ suitcases sat on a table modestly displaying their goods for sale.

We settled in at a table in front of the stage and the musicians took to the stage. There was Laura, looking really pretty in a periwinkle dress and cute sandals, and her husband in jeans, a button-down shirt, and endearing bare feet… and Caleb, in a muscle shirt, camo shorts, and Crocs.

Sure enough, he started with “Riverside,” and both kids were mesmerized. I think it took Cal a few seconds to realize we weren’t listening to the iPod. Then his mouth opened and he started to clap… realized he was in a room full of people and started laughing… called Caleb Stine “silly” and then sorta mouthed the rest of the song to himself. When it was over, he tottered off to the toy area. Bree, enthralled, sat with us for several more songs. That’s my girl.

Their next song was Stine’s “No Harm in Being Crazy” from his latest album, in which he lists lots of “crazy” things… dialing 911 “just to talk to someone,” and looking at photos of a previous life, and answering “fine” when someone asks how you’re doing. I guess we’re all a little crazy.

Next they sang several songs from the Honey Dewdrops’ new album and songs they wrote together. One is called “I’m Falling in Love With You,” and I furiously scribbled its breathtaking words: “I’ll keep spinning that mix that you made for my car and that way we’ll be singing together” and “Our love is a newborn, wobbly-legged child–let’s watch as it trots through the heather. You’re a kind-hearted lover and such a good friend and I’m falling in love with you.” <swoon>

At this point, Cal got thirsty from all that popcorn, so he climbed up on a stool at the bar and ordered a water. On the rocks. And back to the toys he went.

After a few more songs, they played “My Service Isn’t Needed Anymore,” another one of those clever, bittersweet, funny/tragic songs at which you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. About how life can turn on a dime… one minute you’re mopping the floor of the grocery store where you work until “something went missin’ from the register drawer, and my service wasn’t needed anymore.” Or you’re enjoying the exhilaration of new love until “something ’bout the way that she closed the door said my service wasn’t needed anymore.” All that time invested for no return, really.

One of my favorite numbers of the evening was called “Together Tied,” one of those happy/sad songs I’ve been talking about that seemed to saturate the experience. The title sounds sweet and happy enough, but lines like “home is just a place you can never get back to” remind us that we don’t appreciate the time we have together until we’re not together, and so when we remember home, we aren’t just recalling things that happened there… we’re remembering what we miss about home and about that period of life. As they put it, “home is in the leavin’, the last words around the table.” The same goes for the song “Happiness,” which, as it turns out, “has got nothing to do with happiness.” I was also touched by the next number, “It’s Hard to Pray,” because Laura’s 87-year-old grandfather (“granddaddy”) memorized it and sang along when she and Kagey visited him recently. It’s a song about faith, about believing and praying even when your prayers aren’t answered.

Then I heard some shouting in the back and realized it was MY KIDS. Oh dear. So at the end of the song, I had to scoot back there and do some shushing and whispered scolding. I told my son, “Honey, you’re not at home.” And I think he, in that moment, realized he was in a public place. “Oh,” he said. “Woops.” It wasn’t too much longer before we left. It was half past eight, the kids are usually in bed by then, and we still had to drive thirty minutes to get home. But we stayed til the end of the first set, and I’m glad, because I got to hear my favorite, “The Eternal Present.” Stine called it his “State of the Union for Yourself” song. It’s another paradoxical song, where he explores the peace of living in the present moment, but also, the loneliness of never putting down roots. You can’t have both, I guess. Still, at the end of the song, he reminds us that “every atom is connected and no one stands alone.” And that certainly helps.

I didn’t get to stay for the second set, but Caleb, Laura, and Kagey had said that it was a special set–cover songs. An entire album. We were intrigued. Who would it be? Led Zeppelin? Bob Dylan? Bob Marley? It turned out to be… The Beatles. I wish I’d seen it. And the crowd perked up, too, as the night wore on. Looks like a lot of hee-hawing and dancing ensued:

The Honey Dewdrops will return to Plan B on September 1st for the cafe’s one-year anniversary, so put on your Crocs and camo shorts and git yer hineys up to Broadway that evening. Plan B is located at 202 N. Main Street, Broadway. Visit soon!

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.

basted, roasted, smoked, and sauced: jacktown’s brew-b-que throwdown.

The day started ominously. It was rainy that July morning and unusually cool. I remember because it was the morning of Art in the Park with Blake Somers and LEGOs. (By the way, he is still collecting LEGO donations, and he won’t stop until he has enough for his sculpture, so now’s as good a time as any to give him some.) And, we all remember Harrisonburg’s last beer fest back in April… who can forget that downpour and the nature-made slip-n-slide? Would Jacktown’s Brew-B-Que Throwdown suffer the same messy fate?

Thankfully, no. At least, by the time we got there it was warm and sunny and all shades of happy. The event took place in the lot next to Jack Brown’s. For a mere $10 admission, you got a beer (provided by Abita) and a plate of food–pork butt, chicken wings, or pulled chicken. If you wanted more, you could purchase more wooden nickels.

Folks were eating and drinking, playing corn hole, hula hooping, and dancing to a reggae band, Inner Visions. I liked them. They were so positive and smiley.

We ran into lots of folks we know, starting with Jake Melvin, who recently returned from Belize and who’s been a nomad of sorts for quite some time. He’s been to forty-nine state, and when we asked which one he’d not visited, he replied, “The one that’s not attached.” To which Brandy and I simultaneously blurted, “Alaska!”

Turns out it was Hawaii. I always forget about that little guy, all tucked away in the middle of the Pacific.

Then this bizarre “Six Degrees of Brandy and Katie” thing occurred, starting with Shannon Dean, whom we work with. Then we saw former BHS students Katrina Hudy and Daniel Mumbauer. You might know Katrina from Wine on Water where she works as a manager. We did a post about them not long ago. Daniel and I commiserated for a bit about always being remembered as the tall one… “You know, she’s that tall girl…” I get that a lot.  Then we ran into Phil Carr, who graduated high school with Brandy. What you might not know is that I was a long-term substitute for Brandy’s twelfth-grade English class. Phil Carr was in that class, too. And when the regular teacher returned from maternity leave, the class presented me with a cake that said, “Get The Hell Out.” It was really touching. And delicious.

there’s sassy Shannon, what with her wedges and her wrist band pushed up! :)

phil and friends.

And then we saw someone who seemed so familiar… he knew Jeremiah Jenkins, whom we also know… and I threatened to refer to him in this post as Nicodemus Schmidt if he didn’t just tell us his name already. Tim. And then when we told him where we work, it all fell into place. Turns out we work with his dad, Jim Peters. Tim was instantly mortified and begged us not to tell his dad that he’d said a couple bad words. Heh heh. School’s back in in a couple of weeks, my friend! :)

we know your dad!

All this socializing was making me hungry, so we gobbled down some wings with blueberry sauce and pulled chicken with buffalo sauce. YUM. All locally sourced and very fresh. And we listened to the band and chatted, and before long it was all over.

Thank you, Aaron and Jeremiah and the Jacktown staff for an evening of succulent food and mellow music, interesting conversations and weird coincidences. Can’t wait to do that again, so plan something soon, will ya? Before it gets cold.

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.

a rollicking good time: fridays on the square.

I love a stand-up bass and a drummer decked out in a mini-skirt and cowgirl boots.

It was Friday on the Square in Harrisonburg–a downtown outdoor film and music event presented by Citizens for Downtown and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and (this particular week) sponsored by Alexiou Hearing and Sinus Center and Davenport Windows and Doors. We were stoked to get outside and see the Judy Chops perform: the week had been nauseatingly hot. On this breezy, beautiful evening, the heat finally broke and the city itself exhaled in relief.
We’d gotten to the courthouse early and set up our chairs and blankets so we wouldn’t have to carry them as we walked to Cat’s Cradle–which we featured on the blog a couple weeks ago (you can find that post here). Ducking into The Corner for a quick snack and drink, we noticed some portentous clouds rolling in and remembered all our stuff sitting on the square. Then some chugging and gobbling occurred, and six sets of feet scurried up the sidewalk to the barren courthouse lawn. Everyone else, including the band, had moved to Turner Pavilion (home of the Harrisonburg Farmers Market) and made themselves at home. As the band warmed up, we set up camp: chairs, blankets, lunchbox dinners, crayons, markers, and the like.

Brandy got into her human tripod position and I settled into my chair with my notebook. Among the couple hundred folks in attendance, I saw familiar downtown faces, like Anne Juarez, Mariana Bowling and Chris Howdyshell with their two cuties, Steve McClay from No Strings Attached with his family, the always-fun Sarah Murphy and legendary sound guru, Dave Beaver.

The band started playing. The Judy Chops are a six-piece band out of Staunton who perform in the Burg pretty regularly. They feature a drummer, an upright-bass player, and several guitar strummers/banjo pickers/fiddle pluckers and what have you, and they encourage (literally–by suggesting so, and figuratively through their mirthful demeanor) foot-stompin’ and dancin’ and sangin’ and howlin’ and whistlin’ and clappin’ and cluckin’ and hootin’. Yes, everyone was sitting in chairs at the start of the show, but it didn’t take the Judy Chops long to inspire some movement in the crowd. And you know? It’s always the older generation that starts the dancing. They’ve finally reached the nirvana of “oh, what the hell!” And so a couple of folks started to dance, and a few more joined in, and Sarah Murphy roped three of our kids into dancing with her (God bless that woman!)… they were linking arms and kicking up their feet, smiling and laughing, spinning in a large circle. It must be the Harrisonburg dance because I got swept up in it at The Little Grill Open Mic Night back in September. Wheeee! Needless to say, everyone was completely entertained by the band.
Meanwhile, in the grassy lot, kids were running wild. This is another reason I love my Burg: kids are so comfy hanging out here. They were playing tag and frisbee and throwing baseballs, they were climbing trees and dancing and spinning… there was giggling and (mild) taunting and hugging and stick swords… In fact, Ella got a little miffed at my son, and when Brandy asked her about it, she said “Cal thinks tagging people is stabbing them in the stomach with a stick.” :( Ooooch. Sorry! <cringe>

Parents rotated in and out of the grassy lot, taking turns supervising the youngsters. We all felt a collective responsibility for the kids, no matter whom they belonged to, and I really love that about this town. Not that I would ever let my kids get too far away from me, but I appreciate being able to take the kids places and not worry about their safety the whole time. We look out for each other here. It’s what we do.
This coming Friday on the Square, you can catch films from the 2011 SuperGr8 Film Festival. These three-and-a-half minute films made by local residents might just inspire you to pick up a super 8 camera and start rolling for this year’s festival, which will take place in November. There were more than 40 films last fall, and because Friday’s viewing is only one night, there’s not time for them all. The folks at SuperGr8 carefully selected a balance of color and black and white films for your enjoyment. They are as follows:

Black and White
1. Overcome by Ernie Didot (Winner of best Black and White Film)
2. The Park Bench by Elwood S. Madison III
3. Raveler by Brandy Somers (Winner of best B/W Actress)
4. A Year of Dying by Jeremiah Knupp & Holly Marcus (Winner of Best B/W Cinematography)
5. The Wrestler of Casus by Michael Trocchia
6. Noir Justice by The Brothers Sedeen
7. Drew by Brent Finnegan (Winner of Audience Choice for Best B/W Film)
Color
8. Chasing Shadows by Nicole Martorana
9. Myddfai by Martin Rees
10. My Love is Blind by Tim Estep & April Sedeen Estep (Winner of Best Color Film)
11. You Go To My Head by Lynda Bostrom
12. How To Reinvent Yourself by Jay Zehr (Winner of Best Color Cinematography)
13. Something Else by Chris Whitmore (Winner of Best of the Festival)
14. The Ride by Elliott Downs

The show starts at sundown on the courthouse lawn. See you there!

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.

the happiest place on earth no. 21: rocktown beer and music festival.

It was a day of music, singing, and dancing; of froth and foam and cheers-ing; of sideways rain and tropical-storm winds gusting; of sunshine and warmth and rainbows shining; of laughter and smiles and happy loving; of food and friends and mud-stained frolicking… it was, quite simply, a perfect day. The most wonderful day of the year. The day of the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival.

From 2:30 til 9pm on April 21st, throngs of music-loving, beer-craving people of all ages, from tiny tots to retirees, college girls and frat boys to yuppies, hippies, parents, and all the rest, assembled at the Turner Pavilion to sample beer from 30 breweries, hear music from Yarn, the No BS! Brass Band, and The War on Drugs, and nibble freshly prepared dishes from the Joshua Wilton House, Jack Brown’s, Dave’s Taverna, Billy Jack’s, Clementine, and Hank’s Barbeque.

Having purchased our tickets ahead of time (the event sold out earlier that week), getting into the festival was a snap and much more efficient than last year (not that last year was inefficient… just sayin’). While we were still in line in front of the municipal building, volunteers came along and checked our IDs, took our tickets, and installed our wristbands.

The gates opened and everyone just walked in, easy-peasy. We received our mugs and programs and although we both wanted to make a bee line to the beer vendors, we decide to lug our stuff to the grass and get set up. We knew the weather forecast; at this point it was sunny and gorgeous, and Brandy wanted to take as many photos as she could before the rain came.

The No BS Brass Band was on first, and although I really didn’t know much about them before the festival, I really really liked them. Especially the number that sounded like something the Ladies Man might sing to a lady friend over a glass of courvoisier. I also enjoyed the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.”

Next up was Yarn, and it was during this performance, if I’m not mistaken, that the rains came. People go absolutely crazy for Yarn. The band is so happy and high energy, people just start moving and spinning around, almost like a flash mob. There they all are, innocently milling around, and at the first note by Yarn, everyone’s in front of the stage boogying down.

We watched as clouds ominously advanced. We were armed with extra clothes, a rain jacket, and two umbrellas. Other things to remember to bring or wear to an all-day festival: chapstick. Sunscreen. A hat. Comfy underpants. Eh. Anyway, when the rain started, we decided (I forget why) to stay in our seats on the lawn. Brandy stuffed her camera under her shirt (the lens hung out the bottom and it was kinda funny looking–hee hee!) and we huddled under umbrellas in our seats. Brandy couldn’t resist sneaking the camera out a few times to take some shots of how ridiculous the rain was. I mean, we were drenched. Wringing wet.

I remember screaming. It was somehow raining upwards, under the umbrellas. And then we finally decided to run under the pavilion with the other 2998 people. It was packed. I remember thinking, “Man, the fire marshal would NOT like this.” Except that we were outside. And it was raining.

Snakes of people slithered through the crowd to reach beer vendors for a refill. This is where trust becomes important. In any situation involving crowds and a small space, I usually wonder how long it’ll be before someone goes psycho and causes some kind of ruckus. But here, in our friendly city, nothing like that occurred. Everyone was patient and happy and kind, and polite–lots of “excuse me”s and “sorry!”s and “woopsie”s, and one girl who kept repeating the word “willow” to us. We tried so hard to understand what she meant so we could help her or answer her.

Then, because we were wet, we were cold. Rachel Jenner and Brandy had to help me figure out how to put on a shirt under my wet shirt, and leggings on under my soaked skirt, without completely disrobing in front of everyone. I never would have accomplished it without them. At any rate, the rain stopped, the music continued, the beer flowed, and we were all warm and fuzzy again before too long. And you know? When there’s a mud puddle nearby, everyone becomes the same age: four and a half. Brandy and I did not slide belly down through the mud puddle pool (although we did let our feet get quite squishy), but we loved watching everyone else get down and dirty. We saw children splashing and dancing in the mud; we witnessed the destruction of many gorgeous sundresses worn by young women who lost their footing; we watched a grandma fall allll the way down, onto her back, and still get up and keep dancing with the grandkids! We loved it! Every single moment, every droplet of mud, every smile and person there… we loved it all. Our city.

By now, The War on Drugs had hit the stage. What a treat they were. They were a great pick-me-up for weary revelers, re-energizing the crowd as the sun went down. Honestly, all three bands were fantastic, and the combination of bands couldn’t have been better. Just before sundown–a rainbow. Can I get a “hallelujah”?!

Later as we walked to the Nile to see Cinnamon Band, we talked about the day–the people, the fun, the spirit, and yes–the beer. What did we like best about the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival? Everything. Everything.

Already looking forward to next year! Stay tuned all week for more photos from the Fest!

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.

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.

 

that’s why it’s called ROCKtown: MaCRoCk 2012.

When I handed Brandy the press pass, she actually squealed. And the night only got better from there. Well, except that she kept flashing that thing like she was the fire marshall or something. As if people don’t already get out of her way when they see her coming with that monstrous camera.

It’s been at least ten years since I’ve attended MACRoCk, definitely before my kids were born, and it’s even awesome-er now than back when I didn’t tire out so quickly. Brandy and I went on the first night (Friday, April 6) because it was also First Friday downtown (post forthcoming!) and there were so many cool things to do. How do two girls on one night cover an event that spans thirty-one hours and showcases more than eighty bands? We really can’t. Child protective services would be at my door (JUST KIDDING.), Brandy’s camera would explode, and my notebook just isn’t that big. Sorry. But we can do the best we can and have fun. With so so many bands participating and no clones of ourselves, we had to be focused and disciplined. We wanted to see a couple of local bands, for sure, so we let that goal carve a path for us that evening.

First up, Elephant Child at Downtown 34. This local three-piece suit features John Hostetter (guitar and vocals), Aaron Propst (bass), and Scott Whitten (drums). The crowd grew as the performance continued, and soon the place was full of fans all nodding their heads to the music. Which of course is a sign of approval, but it might also have been involuntary because those three guys were so chest-thumping loud, the whole place was vibrating.

Sidebar: I love music, I love live music, and I love loud music, but I’ve noticed that spectators do strange things at shows. Like clapping. From a very young age we are taught to bang our hands together. Why do we clap? When and where did this start? I mean, who was the very first clapper, and how did clapping evolve into the custom it is today? Don’t get me wrong… I clap, too. Enthusiastically. But I find it strange. And sometimes I watch myself clapping and think, “How odd of me to do this.”

Okay. “Beehive” was a great number… “We drove out to the canyon and we lost our minds…” Heads nodding, hands clapping… we wish we’d gotten more than forty minutes of them.

It was dinner time, so we grabbed some food. It didn’t take as long as we thought, so we had time to meander from the path and go to Court Square Theater for a couple of shows. Once there, Brandy’s press pass suddenly acquired magical powers, because I looked up and she was just gone. I think she teleported in there or something. Anyway, the band that was playing–The La De Les, from Ohio–had already started, and I entered the theater just as they finished a number. Now, I embarrassed Brandy when I said loudly, “BRANDY SOMERS,” but I was not going to scan all those hundreds of people, looking for the back of her head. And where was she? Front row. Yep–press pass. Once I was finally settled in, we really liked the performance. Again it was just three people–Jocelyn, Aaron, and Cody–and they sort of all played everything.

Jocelyn sang and played keyboards; Aaron played a bass, a drum, and his Mac, all in bare feet… he even recorded a drum track as he played; and Cody sang and played guitar. Their sound was like, according to the MaCRoCk program, “golden beams of light shining through huge white fluffy clouds.” I’d say that sounds about right. I love all the technology they used and how they played with sound. Lots of layering of sounds that distilled into this ethereal, melodic effect.

We stayed put for the next band–Timbre out of Nashville. As soon as I saw the harp, I knew two things: I’d love this band, and I’d cry at some point. Timbre, the female harpist, wore a gown and a long braid and reminded me vocally of Leslie Feist plus Joni Mitchell (my all-time fave, by the way). Her frighteningly massive range revealed a pure and unfaltering voice. There was also a cellist and a percussionist, and I was absolutely glued to their performance.

There was no head-nodding, no clapping… not a sound anywhere but on stage. I think we all stopped breathing. They closed with a gauzy, goose-bump inducing cover of Radiohead’s “Like Spinning Plates.” After their set, Brandy and I sat there stunned, then looked at each other and said, “Damn. That was good.”

It was time to head to Clementine to catch Invisible Hand from Charlottesville. The place was PACKED and just kept getting packed-er.

It was 10pm. We’d started our adventure at 6:30, and the evening itself was shaped like a piece of music–an energetic, yet low-key beginning, followed by an emotional bridge, and now crescendoing into a beautiful crowd of happy people all smushed together to see this four-piece blow the roof off.

Brandy flashed the pass and wiggled her way to the front. And anywhere else she wanted, for that matter. They had two drummers–one standing and one seated–two guitars, and a bass. Loud and fun and quirky and dedicated, they were very much loved by the crowd.

At this point, I must admit, I was TIRED. Happy, but tired. And though I wanted to see Valkyrie at the Nile, I didn’t. Brandy, however, was NOT out of energy,  and she went. Infused with the power of the mighty press pass, she found the endurance needed to see MaCRoCk Night 1 through to the end. She said Valkyrie was awesome, so awesome that “everyone went crazy and I feared for the safety of… my camera.” No worries–she got some shots of them and got out with no scratches or cracks.

I was unable to go again on Saturday, but Brandy did–and you can see photos of The Cinnamon Band, Bison, Bib-bi, The Turlocks, Psychic Teens, and The Beets at her photography page here. Wowee–that woman is busy!!

MaCRoCk staff and participants, thank you for a crazy night of talent. Ya blew our minds.

little city BIG TALENT no. 12: rock lotto 2012.

I am always amazed by musicians. And not just people who can “play an instrument.” I took piano lessons for years; I could read music and touch the right keys. But I’m not a musician. Musicians can improvise. They can hear a tune and mimic it. They can tell you how they feel through music. They communicate in the same language as their instruments, and that understanding conveys to other instruments. If they learn one instrument, it’s like they unlock the door to several. For example, a musician who plays the piano can most likely play any keyed instrument–accordion, xylophone, glockenspiel–because he gets his instrument. And musicians, just like other artists, create.

Harrisonburg’s got some crazy good musicians. And I was privileged to watch them work on March 16 during the acoustic night of Rock Lotto.

This year–Rock Lotto’s fourth year since its hiatus back in 1997–the event took place over two nights at the Blue Nile, one for acoustic acts and one for electric.

We had our own pre-show warm up, with the lovely Lynda.

In brief, here’s how the whole lotto thing works: a whole bunch of local musicians throw their names in a hat, and depending on how they’re drawn, they form bands. Bands of relative strangers. Bands of people who’ve maybe never played together before at all. You people are brave. Then for two months-ish, they work together to write 25 minutes of original music. (Bands are allowed to play one cover, but only one.) I say for two months, but remember that these people all have jobs and lives and responsibilities and other projects, so finding a time–or multiple times–when they can all get together to write, practice, and rehearse is quite a challenge. After all the performances, the audience “votes” for their favorite using quarters. I thought this was a neat idea, until I remembered that I didn’t have any quarters, because every time I go to Kroger or Food Lion, my kids ransack my wallet for quarters for the gumball machine. Dang it! Despite my lack of change, the event raised more than $2500 for local music programs.

I love Harrisonburg.

On acoustic night, there were four bands: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; Shoelace Face; Strange Fruits and Creative Juices; and Space Sex and Robots. The place was packed, inside and out, and while Brandy took photos, I scooted around and asked for people’s names and set lists. In the craziness I wasn’t able to talk to everyone, so this is only a partial list of participants, and if I’ve left you out, please comment… but we did see Brent Finnegan, whose band performed first. They were fantastic and I was quite impressed with Brent’s vocals–hadn’t heard him sing before. Also in attendance were Megan Tiller, Marybeth Kananen, Heidi Smith, Wes Harper, and Old Stevie; Garrett Stern, Sarah Murphy, and Sheila Newman; Ashley Hunter’s group performed fourth, and two brothers–Josh and John Yoder–performed, but in different bands. This was interesting to their parents, who sat next to me that evening. They were so nice to talk to–so excited to hear their boys play… and if memory serves, both of their sons play the drums.

The photos of this night really tell the story–Brandy is so good at that. I’ll leave you with a few moments that moved me in some way:
1. The lyric, “You’ll be just another woman that I used to know.”
2. The cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man.”
3. The cover of Nancy Griffith’s “Looking for the Time (Workin’ Girl).” That was freaking amazing.
4. The insane instrument switching. Again, these were musicians.
5. The crowd chanting “Shoelace Face! Shoelace Face!”
6. The use of a washboard.
7. The joy on everyone’s faces… including my own.
One last thing, Brandy took tons of gorgeous photos at this event, so we’ll be featuring groups of them all week. Congratulations to everyone who participated and to the organizers of this event. This is one Harrisonburg tradition that MUST continue.

See you soon!

city noise no. 6: massanutten regional library with jmu steel drum band.

“You don’t look like hell.” Those were Brandy’s words to me when we met at the library on a recent Saturday. Ha.

That’s okay—it’s compliment enough for me. I’ll take it. Then she made me search her bangs for the one strand of hair that had flopped over her part. I couldn’t find it. I didn’t have my glasses.

On this day, we were at the Massanutten Regional Library to (check out forty pounds of books and) see the James Madison University Steel Drum Band perform. The event was organized by MRL’s Clare Eakin, who serves as the Youth Services Coordinator and has an awesome haircut. Brandy and I took the kids (this time we both had our kids with us) into the meeting room and sat in some chairs that had been arranged in a semicircle. The kids plopped on the floor, and as other kids arrived, they started making cute conversation, such as “What are your guys’s names?” “I like your shirt,” and “Smell my hand.”

The JMU Steel Drum Band, comprised of six female and four male students, is led by Michael Overman, who before starting the concert, gave the kids some steel drum history. He asked the group, “Where do steel drums come from?” and one kid shouted, “Trash cans!” (Actually, he explained, they are oil barrels.) Alas, he was really asking a geographical question, so he tried again: “Where in the world were steel drums first made?” Another kid answered, “A factory!” Ha! I LOVE that kid. (Really, it’s Trinidad.) Anyway, then he talked about the hammers and pounding and dents required to make the instrument, and he explained that the steel drum is the only instrument which, when you hit it, vibrates as a whole—the entire drum contributes to the sound.

Then he went back further, before the steel drum, and talked about the primitive instruments of an oppressed culture—how they were not allowed to possess instruments, so they made what they could, usually bamboo sticks they’d beat against various surfaces… but that they also used the sticks for “nefarious purposes,” often sharpening the ends of their “instruments” (you have to picture Michael’s air-quotes here), like Roger in Lord of the Flies. It’s all fun and dancing until someone sharpens his bamboo stick….

Anyway, the bamboo sticks evolved into biscuit tins and then, at the end of WWII, oil barrels left behind at the base in Trinidad. Cool, huh?

So they played several numbers. The first was called “Steel Drum Paradise,” and this adorable kid in an orange shirt started breakdancing. I LOVE that kid. The kids kept on wiggling through “Zombie Jamboree”–they must have happy zombies in Trinidad because the tune was NOT scary at all. Next was “Island in the Sun,” which Michael said would sound familiar if we were Harry Belafonte fans. Well, I had to research that, and sure enough, click here.

Everyone loved it when they played “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”–the kids danced, the grown-ups sang…. Brandy asked her daughter, “Would it embarrass you if I got up and started dancing?” Ella shook her head “no,” but inside she was, “HELL, YES.” Brandy refrained. At this point I was longing for flip flops and a drink that’s served in a coconut, and I thought if I ever have another, ahem, “big event” in my life, I’d hire these people so they could play “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” all night.

The fifth number was “Everybody Loves a Saturday Night” (yes), which we all sang once we learned the lyrics, and you know? You have to sing really loudly to hear yourself over those drums.

Between songs, the instructor let the children walk through and touch the drums, except for the one kid who was asleep. Who falls asleep during a steel drum performance? That kid. I LOVE that kid. Anyway, the kids had a chance to play the drums and interact with the musicians, which they loved.

Kudos to Clare Eakin for another great kids’ event at the library (we’ve also attended events involving horses and llamas). Click here to see more about children’s activities at the library. And many thanks to Michael Overman and his steel drum band for their educational performance. You can find a schedule of performances by the JMU percussion ensemble here. Be sure to catch them before the semester ends!