fine tuning: many nights ahead and david wax museum.

Copy of burgIMG_1437During the hours prior to the David Wax Museum/Many Nights Ahead concert at Court Square Theater, Brandy and I had been talking about the usual random insignificant crap, like that Brandy likes to read with the show Friends on in the background so she feels like she’s reading in a coffee shop, and the fact that the entire left side of my body is smaller than the right. But somehow the conversation morphed into something much grander. We talked about recommitting to personal goals and progress, about staving off the inertia that smothers our spirits during winter. It’s a force that pins me to the sofa and makes me feel guilty for wasting time. For me, I think it’s about more than just laziness and comfortable sweatpants. Fear lives in there somewhere, coupled with loneliness. So we talked about courage… where it goes… where to find it… how to get it back. Having unknowingly primed our hearts and souls for that night’s performance, we arrived at Court Square Theater, shook off the winter chill we’d accumulated all day long, and settled in for a great show.

Copy of burgIMG_1428Court Square Theater has brought us such delightful events as the Super Gr8 Film Festival, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Valley Playhouse productions, tons of Oscar-winning films, and more. This night’s performance, part of the Arts Council of the Valley’s Music Series, was sponsored by Capital Ale House, James McHone Jewelry, WMRA, and the Stonewall Jackson Inn, whose contributions will provide a string of amazing concerts in 2018.

Many Nights Ahead warmed us with nine songs that ranged from nostalgic to lonesome to just foot stomping wild. Amy’s throaty and panoramic voice sang to us about “dancin’ like fools by the river” — finding happiness in what’s simple. Band mates Bucky, Walker, Dan, and Ross arranged themselves in a circle to hammer out a long and multi-layered instrumental number written by Bucky, the type of song that’ll carry you someplace else if you close your eyes. Talent is not something you can fake in a live performance, and this piece, “Bucky’s Break,” would most definitely shine a light on any and all shortcomings. There were none. Each instrument — the banjo, the dobro, the guitar, the bass — sang its part with perfect clarity. When Amy’s not singing, she conducts the band with arm motions and hair swings.

Copy of burgIMG_1457Copy of burgIMG_1487Some folks were visibly surprised when this young bluegrass band unleashed Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” but honestly, Amy’s voice is made for this song (sorry, Bill). And I have to wonder how long she’s been singing it. Like, did she hear it in her mom’s car in middle school and then sing it into her hairbrush? Because it sounds like she was born singing it. This choice of song also shows that “bluegrass” is not an adequate label for Many Nights Ahead. Sure, they play bluegrass instruments, but there’s blues in their soul and funk in their feet, laced with some old time gospel.

Copy of burgIMG_1467Copy of burgIMG_1506My favorite song of the evening was “Train Bound to Nowhere.” I think we’ve all ridden this train at some point. It’s about being “all alone now,” losing the one you love and not knowing “what it’s like without you.” Only… we do know. We just forget how lonely we were before we found love, and when that happens, gratitude falls victim to complacency… inertia sets in. We get so numbed by what’s in front of us. Where’s the jumpstart? What’s the defibrillator?? Eventually the whole thing flatlines, and then you’re “trying to get on without you,” but getting nowhere.

Copy of burgIMG_1518Copy of burgIMG_1549Copy of burgIMG_1572After a quick intermission warranting a fresh beer, David Wax Museum hit the stage. David Wax and Suz Slezak, now married, started the band ten years and eight records ago and recently performed their 1000th show together. Between songs, they told us parts of their endearing story, like how one time in Mexico, David and Suz were just trying to get to a cantina when they got swept up in a Virgin Mary pilgrimage with thousands of people. Their song “Maria” was born of that experience. Indeed, many of their songs are influenced by their time in Mexico and Mexican folk music. They also described the early years of the band, squatting in a hovel with no heat or water, which ultimately turned into the song “Don’t Lose Heart” (Guesthouse, 2015): “no money in the bank, no gas in the tank… we’re barely afloat, I should care but I don’t,” the title wailed in an attempt to convince themselves it’ll work out. COURAGE. Then they break into cheerful na-na-nas and la-la-las with no warning at all. The early days also involved a good deal of bartering and garnered them, among other weird items, a shank of lamb, some round steak, and a 2-months-old ziploc bag of crumbled cookies. You take what you can get, I suppose.

Copy of burgIMG_1614Copy of burgIMG_1590If you get a chance to see this band live, you must. First of all, I think it’s the only place you’ll see a denim camisole and gingham pants side by side. But more importantly, their sound is so much bigger in person. Each band member plays multiple instruments, picking them up and putting them down as if switching from one language to another mid-sentence. And sometimes they play more than one instrument at a time! Suz started on the squeezebox, which is like an entire brass band in a box, then switched to her fiddle, and then jumped up on a wooden box which she stomped with her boot heels while playing the fiddle AND SINGING. David’s big voice accompanies his ukulele and guitar in perfect proportion. As individuals, they are obviously skilled and talented… but on stage together, they perform with the intimacy they sing about, both facing each other and sharing a microphone, the heat between them challenging the harsh winter just outside with lines like “Turn on the light when we kiss” (“Lavender Street,” Everything Is Saved, 2011).

Copy of burgIMG_1642Copy of burgIMG_1671Copy of burgIMG_1596David and Suz — they are poets of circumstance. The audience got to sing along with them on “Harder Before It Gets Easier” (Knock Knock Get Up, 2012), a song about “sobbing so hard you can barely breathe…stitching your heart on the outside of your sleeve,” about “being wrung out and then doused with grief,” the painful circumstances that befall us sometimes. And like the title says, it’s not going to get easier any time soon, because fate just doesn’t care. But, David and Suz remind us the “moment will be brief” and one’s burden “will lift” … eventually. Have COURAGE!

Copy of burgIMG_1706Copy of burgIMG_1591I admit there were times (during both bands)  I was enjoying the music so much that my pen slipped from my fingers and entire songs went by without my writing down a word. One of the last songs of the night was “Guesthouse,” the title track from their 2015 album, in which the speaker asks about 100 times, “Can I stay in your guesthouse?” The song describes the life of a nomadic musician, constantly searching for places to crash for the night. And maybe that’s exactly what it’s about — literally staying in someone’s guesthouse. But those of us who aren’t traveling performers might ascribe a different meaning to it. Maybe it’s about bridging the gap between two lonely souls, about finding the courage to move one step closer to companionship, about finally leaving behind whatever tragedy drove us to solitude in the first place. Maybe it’s about baby steps back to normalcy. Maybe it’s about looking at intimacy straight on.

Or maybe it’s about couch surfing. What do I know.

Copy of burgIMG_1691In short…
1) When it’s cold (outside, or in your heart, or when life is cold), be together.
2) The inertia you feel… it won’t last. It’s no match for your soul.
3) Have courage!

The Arts Council of the Valley’s Music Series will continue with The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band (date to be announced), Bethany Yarrow and Rufus Cappadocia on March 10, and Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out on March 17. Also check out the Concert to Benefit Bridge of Hope, with The Walking Roots Band and Low Volume coming up on March 2. And don’t forget to check the movie schedule — Court Square Theater gets the best ones!

See you there soon!

Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · Words 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.

pick me up: red wing roots music festival 2014.

More Day Two photos of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, 2014

redwingrootsdance5 redwingrootsfans4 redwingrootsjennica redwingrootslarkin4 redwingrootsmisstess redwingrootssarah3 redwingrootssteelwheels6 redwingrootssteelwheels7 redwingrootssteelwheels9 redwingrootssteelwheels10 redwingrootssteelwheels12Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

home bass: red wing roots music festival 2014.

redwingrootscrowd1Day Two of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival began with a discussion about the bird and the bees and at what age to let your kids in on the Great Secret. I’ve always believed that if a child is old enough to ask, she’s old enough to know (at least for this topic). When my daughter was seven, she asked WHY there were anatomical differences between boys and girls, and I said, “Because that’s how you tell what they are when they’re born.” Duh. Because, you know, they’re bald and all. She waved her index finger at me and replied, “I KNOW there’s more to it than that.” So I took a deep breath and I told her. I was SO NERVOUS. And when I was all done fumbling and stuttering and sweating over it, she said, “Well, that makes sense. Is that it?”

Then I had to tell her it’s kinda like Santa: other kids might not know yet, so don’t go blabbing and ruin it for them.

This was our conversation over a refreshing beer in the Blue Mountain Brew Garden before we snaked our way through throngs of people crowded in front of the South Stage to see Miss Tess and the Talkbacks. Don’t let the floral dress fool ya – that gal is fierce. They played several heart-pounding, dance-inducing numbers, plus “Hold Back the Tears” by Neil Young. In trying to describe their sound, the words country and funk both come to mind. With a modern-vintage vibe. So it’s like a modern-vintage funktry. Brandy and Ben attempted to dance and I wish I coulda hijacked the camera. Ha. I saw some students from my school, too, and I felt strangely proud to see them in the world outside of class.

redwingrootsmisstess2 redwingrootsmisstess3Over by the Local Roots Stage, kids were enjoying all kinds of art activities hosted by Larkin Arts and Artery. Sweet Denise Allen was facilitating the creation of a large, adorable, collective painting, while kids at the Larkin tent enjoyed bubble wands, coloring pages, puzzles, board games, printmaking, face painting, hair braiding, nail art, and even a scavenger hunt. There was also a Polaroid photo booth and a caricature artist! If you have kids and you’re looking for a kid friendly music festival, put Red Wing on your list.

redwingrootslarkin1redwingrootslarkin2redwingrootslarkin3redwingrootskidsbubbleSarah Jarosz has a haunting sound… perhaps not something you’d expect at a roots music festival filled with banjos and fiddles and ukuleles. She and her band mates – Alex and Nathaniel – toss around five or six instruments among the three of them and create a sound that is both gauzy and downhome, beautiful yet energizing. People like to be amazed at how young she is… and she is young and that’s impressive… but talent like hers doesn’t wait. We should not be surprised her gift showed up early. Just grateful.

redwingrootssarahThe first song she played – “Over the Edge” – I recognized right away because I think I’ve heard it on the radio. She also performed Radiohead’s “The Tourist” (WOW!!), an instrumental number by John Hartford called “Squirrel Hunters,” and one of my long-ago favorites, “The Wind” by Cat Stevens. What versatility!

redwingrootssarah2I need to dedicate at least a paragraph to all the amazing food we ate. There were at least a dozen vendors including Lucas Roasting Company to cool you down, warm you up, or re-energize you; Old Hill Cider; Blue Mountain Brewery; Grilled Cheese Mania; Jon Boyz BBQ Shack; Jack Brown’s; A Bowl of Good; Blue Ridge Pizza Co.; Goatocado; Cristina’s Café; and many others. I had a Carolina BBQ sandwich from Jon Boyz (yum!!) and two (yes, at the same time) Jack Brown’s burgers. At the condiment table I asked, “What’s this?” holding up a squirt bottle of whitish sauce. “That?” replied the girl on duty. “Oh, that’s liquid crack in a bottle. You definitely want that!” And I could eat that Crazy Cuban burrito from Cristina’s every day. Even Kline’s Ice Cream was there. All the comforts of home.

redwingrootsbbqredwingrootsfood3 redwingrootsfood2 redwingrootsfood1redwingrootslucasAfter Sarah, we spent a good deal of time decompressing in the Brew Garden, laughing and sipping and reminiscing. My friends are so dear and I’m so glad we spent this timelessness together. But before long it was time for the Steel Wheels to hit the stage, so we hauled ourselves up and over there.

redwingrootssteelwheels3The band started with a lovely thank-you to the fans for their support of the festival and used the word “home” like fifteen times. They also thanked Wade Lune (of Bella Luna, and formerly of the Mockingbird in Staunton) for his part in their involvement in this whole endeavor. A little later they thanked our humble Jeremiah Jenkins, who oversaw most everything we all enjoyed all weekend. We’ll never take you for granted, Jeremiah. You do so much. And did you know he helped write one of the songs the Steel Wheels performed? Yep. Just add that to the résumé. Among the favorites that evening were “Halfway to Heaven,” dedicated to Lucas Coffee, “Lay Down Lay Low,” and “Promised Land.” I swear, it was like Name That Tune. They’d strum one note and people would start screaming. We know them so well.

redwingrootssteelwheels5 redwingrootssteelwheels8 redwingrootssteelwheels4 redwingrootssteelwheels2 redwingrootssteelwheels1And just like that, it was time to head back to my car (on the first row this time—yow!) and drive back into the lonely reality. My kids would return Sunday and I couldn’t wait to bring them back with me.

redwingrootsfamily1We’ll share the third and final installment of our story really soon. Thanks so much for visiting this week!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · 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.





from the grounds up: lucas roasting company.

lucas roasting company signA few days ago I told a friend how much I love my dishwasher. Not because it’s fancy, or super-quiet, or even new. As far as dishwashers go, it’s pretty ordinary. But it washes my dishes. I HATE washing dishes. And every time I empty the dishwasher, I thank whomever it was who invented that miraculous thing.

The dishwasher is just one of many modern conveniences we perhaps take for granted. Power tools are another. Recently Michael and I were assembling a loft bed for my son, and we must have drilled at least a hundred holes. I said, “Remember back in the day when people had to drill holes with that hand crank drill thing?” Of course, there are still people who appreciate the craft of old-school wood working… taking their time, using their hands and primitive tools, and savoring the hard-earned end result. I love meeting people who do things the “old-fashioned way,” because I’m more likely to pack my dishwasher to the gills and turn the knob, hit the button on the Keurig, and sit down for some online shopping. Oh, instant gratification. You’ve made us all so damn impatient.

If you can stand it, patience and perseverance usually do pay off.

father and son fist bumpRecently, Troy and Jennica Lucas invited Brandy and me to their home for coffee. If you know them, you know they’re bona fide coffee roasters. So we knew there’d be no Sanka involved. Unlike most friends who invite you for a cup of automatic drip-pot coffee, the Lucases painstakingly craft theirs from the raw bean all the way to your cup. Also unlike any of my friends EVER, they served us from their very own coffee truck.

It started as a hobby in 2002, Troy and Jennica roasting their own beans in hopes of finding a good cup of coffee. It was then that the idea of starting their own roasting company began. But baby Quinn arrived in 2003, and the idea had to remain a hobby for the time being.

Everything made from scratch takes a little longer, and in 2007, Lucas Roasting Company was born, and since then this family of four has been working hard to turn their caffeine dream into reality. Now six years later, they roast and sell several varieties of coffee, from Brazilian to Nicaraguan to Indonesian and more, plus flavored blends, online and at various locations throughout the valley. They even have a Halfway to Heaven blend — the Steel Wheels signature blend — which will be offered to hordes of concert-goers at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival coming up July 12 – 14!! And served straight from their new coffee truck. :)

Halfway to Heaven Steel Wheels blend coffeeThe day we were there, Troy and Jennica showed us the new truck and their roasting facility and told us their inspiring story while their two kids — Kade and Quinn — played with our four. I’ve never, ever been inside a coffee bean roasting room, and let me tell you — it smells GREAT in there. There were sacks upon sacks of raw coffee beans and this big Deidrich roaster… bags and scales and everything in between, and it wasn’t until we entered that room that I realized just how hard these people have worked to achieve their goals. Here’s this family, living in a little community, running a business from their home. Troy calls it a “small family business,” and maybe it is when compared with large, national or global businesses. But the “small family business” is the one that has more to lose. More invested. More blood, sweat, and tears. And therefore, requires more bravery. Maybe I’m getting a little away from the story here, but standing in the roasting room was humbling and inspiring, and really brought to my full attention the devotion and sacrifice required to do what they — this family of four — have done.

deidrich roasterAnd they’re just regular people (ha ha). At one point, Troy was making us a couple cups of coffee using the Clever Dripper… a one-cup-at-a-time brewing system that produces a great cup of coffee with none of the Keurig trash… and as he explained the process, I could hear Jennica addressing one of the children: “What’s wrong with your face? …Pull up your hair… You look dirty but I don’t see any wounds…” A family business indeed.

clever dripperclever dripperAfter Brandy and I got our coffee fix, Troy and Jennica had all the kids line up outside the truck and place their orders, which ranged from Italian root beer and grape sodas to a delicious caramel Java Blender.

kids lined up at coffee truckgirl getting soda at coffee truckboy getting drink from coffee truckhappy customers at coffee truckOver coffee I got a bit more of their story. Troy came here in 1997 with the Brethren Volunteer Service to work on a project at Brethren Woods in Keezletown. He’s also worked for Habitat for Humanity, the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, and the JMU coffee shop, Taylor Down Under. At some point he injured his back and ended up at a chiropractor where Jennica worked. After a couple months of her healing touch they were engaged, and not long thereafter they tied the knot. Jennica’s from New Hampshire (in fact, she and Troy lived there for a bit before returning to the valley), and she currently works for the Park View Federal Credit Union.

woman and girl sipping coffeeAnd little by little, with the same patience required to brew a great cup of coffee, they have built their life together, a lovely family, and their business. It’s taken eleven years to go from a coffee hobby to a mobile full-service coffee company… but it’s better to gain strength by climbing a long, sometimes steep hill than to be a flash in the pan. They’re a committed bunch. They know how to go the distance, where others who need instant gratification might tire out. It’s the same concept as instant coffee: sure it’s fast, but it’s just not satisfying.

lucas familyCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · 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.

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 · 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.

steel yourself: steel wheels and red molly.

microphone clementine bw 2red molly bw 2 steel wheels bw 1 steel wheels bw 2Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · 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.

beat red: steel wheels + red molly.

steel wheels 2 steel wheels 4 steel wheels 5steel wheels 3 steel wheels 1red molly steel wheels red molly 3Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

cold blue steel and sweet fire: clementine cafe.

clementine bw 1steel wheels bw 6 steel wheels bw 5 red molly bw 1steel wheels bw 4 steel wheels bw 3 red molly steel wheels bwCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

boxcar burgthday: the steel wheels with red molly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy burgthday to us! : indian american cafe.

indian american cafe signBirthdays are special. They remind us of a day when something really great entered our lives. Birthdays are different from other holidays because they’re personal. The whole nation isn’t celebrating… just your circle of friends and family… just those who inhabit your world. And so birthdays are for telling our loved ones, “I’m grateful you’re alive. I’m happy you were born. My life would not be the same without you.” And we throw parties with cake and laughter and music and silly activities. Like bobbing for apples. Or pinning a tail on something. Or running with a water balloon between your legs. I love birthday parties!! More than any other holiday.

shanks cupcakeOh, the memories of my childhood birthday parties. The one where the wind ripped the paper tablecloths right off the tables, spilling drinks and cake and all of it… blowing across the yard, my mom frantically chasing cups and napkins. The one, in middle school (people, don’t throw a large party for a tweenager. It’s just a bad idea.), where finally some kid, on a Hawaiian Punch bender, walked right through the sliding screen door and everyone ran for cover while my dad yelled, “That’s it! THAT’S IT!” The one that coincided with father’s day (my fourteenth?) and we had a party on the lake, and I got to drive the pontoon boat (that was my favorite). In fact, June is always a spectacular month–so many birthdays. So many special people to be grateful for, including my daughter, her dad, Brandy, Blake, Rebecca, Kim, Caleb, Sarah… we just celebrate all month.

On this night, we weren’t really celebrating a person’s birthday; we were commemorating the first birthday of Yep — one year ago, on February 14, 2012, we launched this blog with our first post about Granny Longlegs. But, we were certainly celebrating people. I mean, the blog’s primary purpose is to document Brandy’s and my experiences in the city… so it serves as a permanent scrapbook of sorts that will become more meaningful each passing year. So it was a celebration of our friendship. But it was also, and this blog is, a celebration of all the people who inhabit our little world… all of you who read each week, all the folks we see out and about, everyone. I can say that my love for this city has grown in the last year, probably because of my increased focus on it.

We decided to eat our birthday dinner at Indian American Cafe. Brandy had hoped it would snow because she was envisioning snowy cafe photos, and I, admittedly, had not been in that restaurant in about a decade <cringe>. I used to go all the time! I don’t know why I stopped… but I will not let that place disappear from my life EVER AGAIN. We invited several friends to our birthday party, and we were joined by Danielle, Kai, Sean, and Denise. At first we discussed what to call our birthday — our “burgthday” as the title of this post indicates, or our “blogthday” or “blogirthday,”… but then Kai whipped out “Geblogstag” (German) and its equally impressive variant “Geburgstag” and trumped us all. How can anyone argue with a German guy in an Indian restaurant? I was clearly out of my league, culturally.

Indian american cafe 2 indian american cafe s&dOn to the food. When you order your food, you can choose your level of spiciness, from one-half to four. One-half is mildly spicy but certainly not bland, and four makes your eyes bleed. Just kidding. But really, don’t underestimate the hotness. I don’t remember everyone’s spice level, but I ordered my dish–this yummy steak with rice and spinach dish– at a two. Brandy got the same thing but with chicken and at level three. If memory serves, Kai got a one. Still, he was grunting away eating his meal. I was snorting and sweating my way through my plate, Brandy got splotchy and snotty, and Danielle could flat out see through time. Still, we shoveled it in as some kind of feat of endurance. The food is so good you cannot stop eating it. And they give you A LOT of food. I took half of mine home. And what did I do at two in the morning because my heartburn wouldn’t let me sleep? I ate the rest of it. Yep. You CANNOT stop eating it.

indian american cafe menu indian american cafe food 1Between mouthfuls we watched You Tube videos on Kai’s phone. Yes, we were those people. Kai had not seen the Sweet Brown remix thing, and I’d somehow continued to exist despite having missed several other compelling Internet videos. Egads. And then of course, any time anyone said anything the rest of the night, one of us had to say “Ain’t nobody got time for dat” or “I can’t call it.”

indian american cafe videoIt was getting on time to head to Clementine to see The Steel Wheels (post forthcoming!), so we ended our dinner with a birthday cupcake from Shank’s, compliments of Danielle. We lit the candle and sang the birthday song while Danielle tried to take photos of two really giddy idiots. Someone finally told me I had spinach between my teeth. And when we emerged from the restaurant, much to Brandy’s delight, it was snowing. Unfortunately, it was also dark.

indian american cafe bday 2

photo by Danielle Campbell

Indian American Cafe is located at 91 North Main Street in downtown Harrisonburg, about a block south of the Blue Nile. This will go down as one of my favorite birthdays ever. Thank you to the 60+ local businesses that have tolerated our antics. Can’t wait to see what this year brings!

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

happy blogiversary to us! celebrating one year of loving our city.

Well, we’ve loved our city for far longer than “one year.” But one year ago today, we debuted this blog, highlighting a local store called Granny Longlegs. Click here to see that very first post. Now, 173 posts and more than 30,000 views later, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Harrisonburg has to offer. In the last year, we’ve covered more than sixty local restaurants, events, and retail stores, and with new places opening and new events being created every month, we’ll never run out of material.

Last night Brandy and I celebrated with friends at the Indian American cafe and then at Clementine for the Steel Wheels (plus Red Molly) show. We’ll tell you the whole story in an upcoming post, but for now, for today, we’ll acknowledge our Burgth-day with these sneak peeks.

courtesy of shank's bakery, downtown harrisonburg

courtesy of shank’s bakery, downtown harrisonburg

And check out this video of the Steel Wheels!

We love you! Thank you for such a fantastic year! You help us get out of the house. Seriously.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · 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.