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.

prepare to be euphemized: rocky horror picture show 2013.

rocky horror picture show posterOr maybe euphenized. Whatever. What I’m saying is, this blog is usually rated PG. And what I saw at the Rocky Horror Picture Show — on screen and in the audience — was NOT.  So I’ll be putting some things mildly, if you know what I mean.

Gahd, I love this town!

Brandy and I planned for WEEKS to attend Court Square Theater‘s presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d never actually seen it on the big screen… I’d only surreptitiously viewed bits and pieces of it long before I was old enough to, and the last time Brandy watched it was when she got it through the BMG video club. On VHS. Yes. Needless to say, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew it was “weird,” and racy, and interactive… but I did NOT expect the level of participation I witnessed that night.

When we arrived at the theater, I noticed people were dressed up. Not “dressed up” like fancy… but dressed in costumes. Everyone was feathered and painted, horned and sequined, glossy, ruffled, glittered, laced, fishnetted, fedora-ed, boa-ed, suspendered, party-hatted, and even slightly naked.

rocky horror picture show costumes BW rocky horror picture show costumes2I was beige. Sitting in the middle of the theater with my glasses and notebook and clicky pen, wearing beige pants and a slightly darker beige sweater. BEIGE. I was immediately recognized as a first-timer by this gal…

rocky horror picture show JK… and promptly tagged with a big red V. I felt a little better when I had two Three Brothers Great Outdoors-es in my hands. I carried them and our baggie of props — assembled and sold by the theater for a totally-worth-it five bucks — to our seats. The baggie included rice, a rubber glove, a noisemaker, confetti, a page of newspaper, even a water gun (egads!), and I’m sure some items I’m forgetting, plus a set of instructions for when to use said items. The teacher in me was excited to organize our supplies while the emcees (Julian “J” Kline — the V lady — and Tony “Left Skate” Lopez) welcomed the ever-burgeoning crowd.

rocky horror picture show bag contents rocky horror picture show bag listBefore the show, everyone who dressed up (which was pretty much everyone, except Brandy and me) was invited to participate in the costume contest. First, the Magenta competition. All the Magentas filed onto the stage. Tony gushed, “So many French maids! I’ve never wanted my home cleaner than I do right now!” The audience cheered to indicate their favorite Magenta.

rocky horror picture show contestrocky horror picture show maids BWNext up were the other characters… the Brads, Frank-N-Furters, Rocky’s, Riff Raffs and such… and here are the winners!

rocky horror picture show costumesThen all the newcomers, like me, had to stand up while everyone yelled “Virgin!” at us. I felt something reminiscent of middle school shame… Then, the giant lips appeared, and the ride had begun. Don’t worry. There are no spoilers here. While I was thoroughly entertained by the film and the audience, there were several times I didn’t know what the heck was going on. Plus I was so consumed by the baggie of props and being ready for the next activity that my attention was divided. I mean, I wore the rubber glove for like ten minutes because I didn’t want to fall behind.

rocky horror picture show riceAND, right at the moment I was supposed to squirt water all over people, I DROPPED my water gun and was completely defenseless. No worries. J came down the aisles and sprayed everyone. No one escaped. It sounded like a flock of geese in there when the noisemaker part happened, and Brandy and I were both nerdishly concerned about the mess after the confetti landed all over the wet floor.

Based on the colorful words everyone was screaming at Brad and Janet, I guess they weren’t the hero and heroine, but I kinda felt sorry for them. Innocently having car trouble, innocently approaching a house to ask for help, innocently having silhouetted encounters with others behind a sheet. Wait.

rocky horror picture show lipsAnd right when I thought those two would never make it out of there alive, Meatloaf showed up. And I had to pee. Did I? Hell no. Meatloaf was on, singing his fat head off. And everyone was dancing in the aisles and it was AWESOME! Then the film took a violent turn, and Meatloaf, as Brandy said, became hamburger. Toward the end, the characters took a friendly dip in the pool and sang “Be It, Don’t Dream It,” which was rather touching, and all the frozen characters were electrically unfrozen. And after all he’d been through, being held there against his will and all, a forgiving Brad asked about Frank, “But what’s his crime?” Really, Brad? You’re soaking wet and wearing a corset. And then there’s a bizarre return to the home planet where everyone’s hair is awful. I still don’t know what the point was of that neckless narrator guy.

See? No spoilers!

When the film ended, the room exploded in applause. It’s weird to clap at a movie, because it’s not like the actors are going to come out on stage and take a bow. But we all clapped and clapped and clapped some more. The last time I clapped at a movie was at Rocky (the one with the Russian). Or maybe it was Return of the Jedi. Either way, I was a kid and my dad was sawing logs in the seat beside me.

rocky horror picture show tony JKThanks to Court Square Theater for hosting the show and making those goodie bags. I’m sorry to the folks who had to clean that up, but thank you to them, too. And thanks to Tony and J for enthusiastically and energetically emceeing the event. And thanks to all the Burgers who dressed up and made us smile!! You ROCK!

Today and tomorrow at Court Square Theater, you can catch Enough Said at 5:30 or 7:35, and next week is the SuperGr8 Film Festival, Wednesday and Thursday! Yay! If you’re curious, here’s what happened at last year’s festival.

See you out and about!

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.

going to gr8 lengths: super gr8 film festival.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge came up with it… what he defined as “awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us.” It’s one effect that art—music, poetry, film—has on us: transportation to another time and space, whether comfortingly familiar or refreshingly foreign. It doesn’t matter which—we just like to go there. And that’s why we love to read a good book or watch a riveting film. As my daughter simply put it, “It feels good to sit in the recliner and forget my own ideas for a while.”


The term Coleridge coined for this phenomenon is the “suspension of disbelief.” And although he was originally talking about poetry, it applies to any art form and has evolved in movies since Thespis and the origin of acting itself, to the cinematic pioneering of Antonioni, to the funny/grotesque stylings of Tarantino. It’s that moment when, in the viewer’s mind, Marlon Brando stops being Marlon Brando and simply IS Don Corleone. Sylvester Stallone IS Rocky Balboa. Daniel Day-Lewis IS Abraham Lincoln. Will Ferrell IS Ricky Bobby. You get the picture. Ha.

Sometimes the “suspension” is caused by a filmmaker who’s soooo good that his or her film carries the viewer to another realm entirely; other times it results from the willingness of the viewer to ignore low-budget special effects and narrative hiccups and just go with it. The Super Gr8 Film Festival showcased both methods, in full force, forty-seven times over.

We got to the Court Square Theater lobby just before six on the first night (Black and White night), expecting a long line. Thanks to advanced ticket sales, there was none! Yay! That meant we had enough time to grab a beer at Capital Ale House. Once again confronted with that giant beer menu, I decided to just let the bartender recommend something. I raised my hand and waited to be called on. Michael and Brandy chided me mildly for it, and even snickered, but the bartender came right over and took our order. I chose the first beer the bartender suggested. Unfortunately for him, that variety was upstairs. So was the beer Brandy chose. That’s when Brandy came up with the best freakin’ idea since 8mm film, a device she calls… ready? The Alevator <insert trademark symbol here>. Yes, that’s right, an elevator for beer, so those poor chaps don’t have to scurry up and down the stairs all night.

Before long we heard some activity in the corridor so we drank up and headed out. I’ve never seen so much smiling and hugging, people laughing over their many mishaps during filming, others curiously predicting the slate of films that evening. The line moved swiftly and in just a few short minutes we’d gotten our tickets from Danielle, our programs from April, and beers from John. Beer at a theater is a really nice feature, and so… European or sophisticated or something. But they might consider serving shots next year because, oh my–the nerves. Several people needed a stiff drink :) Anticipation was reaching critical mass. And the place was packed solid.

The films began, and my disbelief immediately ceased. So many films to get lost in, like El Viajera, where a cornfield is the saddest place in the universe, and love is expressed in feet. Or Onward, a solitary soul’s journey to the peak. Jump, with the best slow-motion jumping I’ve ever seen, and Funny Dancing in the City, which had the best message–“So Much Fun!”

One that particularly touched me was Ode, in which an older couple gets ice cream cones together. Old hearts, new love. Something so simple… a film haiku, if you will. I want that. Clean, Classic, Safe 2 also spoke to me. It asks, “What is the meaning of age in the context of eternity?” Seconds later, he sticks her in the freezer.

The rotating shotgun scene in Take One impressed me in a craftsmanship kind of way… yet the couple, whose love endures no matter the circumstances, impressed me emotionally. While all the films were funny/touching/weird/random/sad/nostalgic, the one that elicited the strongest reaction in me was The Alamo. The young man’s voice reading the letter to children… his difficult experience in a war zone getting sanded down to something palatable… “The work we do here is very important.”  How does one explain war to a child? I wish we never had to. To me, that film felt SO real that for three minutes, everything else fell away.

The conclusion of that night’s films brought cheers and applause and hoots and shouts, and then we all slowly returned to reality and started to file out. I heard many beautiful comments and compliments among the filmmakers, the actors and participants, and the fans. Everyone warmly celebrating all the achievements of the night, large and small–from the perfect way Barbie rolls across the floor in her car, to how a piece of music fit its film perfectly, to the seemingly effortless way Paul and Tim made it all come together. This buzz of happiness and relief followed us all to the Nile for the after party.

Even though there were awards up for grabs, no one seemed nervous at the Nile. The hard part was over–seeing the film for the first time.. having all those nerve-wracking questions finally answered–did my film turn out at all? Did the music match up with it? Did the ending get cut off? Aaaaaggghhh! All that was over now, and the rest of the night was about being with fellow artists and art lovers, curing one’s lethargy with the loveliness and wonders of friendship.

I’m sad to say that I was unable to attend the Color Night, so I can’t relate that experience. However, if you missed either of the two nights of films like I did, they’re ALL being shown again November 29 and 30 at 7pm. All 47 films on each night!! Visit this link at the Theater web site to get tickets and information.

And finally, here’s a list of the winners of this year’s Festival. Congratulations to all, and thank you so so much for suspending my disbelief for three minutes at a time.

Black & White Film Awards
Best Visuals – Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus
film by Ivan Christo

Best Actor / Actress – Take One
film by Brandy Somers
actor Luke Wilson

Best Soundtrack – El Viajera
film by Ben Fraits
music by Don Townsend

Best B&W Film – Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus
film by Ivan Christo

Audience Choice – Chris Happens
film by Jeff & Emily Guinn

Color Film Awards
Best Visuals – The Other Side of the Record
film by Jay Zehr

Best Actor / Actress – Storm in the Heartland
film by Joseph Huffman
Actor Joseph Huffman

Best Soundtrack – Super Gr8 Heroes
film by Teale Davies
music by Bran Flakes

Best Color Film – The Birds and Lady Justice
film by Aaron Cook

Audience Choice – Herbivore’s Revenge
film by April Sedeen & Tim Estep

Paul & Tim Award – Paper Plane Pilot
film by Elwood Madison III

Tim & Paul Award – The Alamo / La Corrida
films by Jeremiah Knupp & Holly Marcus

Stay tuned for more super photos of the festival this week! And see you at the encore presentation!!

Copyright © 2012 · 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.

in recent exposure: lurid pictures.

People usually think of filmmaking as glamorous business. As a director or producer, you’re surrounded by famous actors who hang on your every word, you get to show up when you want and leave the dirty work to the rest of the crew, and there’s enough food provided by craft services to feed a school-full of ravenous teenagers. But when you and your friend alone are the writers, directors, producers, costumers, sound engineers, editors, and everything else, glamor quickly unravels into endless sweaty hours of toil and sporadic meals of semi-gelatinous Ramen noodles, brightened by spurts of creative energy. Still, when the film is finished, it’s soooo worth it.

This is the reality (okay, well, maybe slightly embellished) for Alex Kent and Wade Vanover, founders of Lurid Pictures. To back up a bit, Brandy and I first hatched this blog post at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival back in April, because she wanted to use Lurid Pictures to create a promotional video for her upcoming Art Lotto project. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the beer festival, I didn’t remember the conversation with Alex and Wade… at that particular moment, I was busy squishing mud between my toes. At any rate, here it is a couple months later, the promo video is completed and it all worked out. :) She is perfectly pleased with the final cut and YOU get to see it here today!! ….keep reading, keeeeep reading…..

Alex and Wade first worked together on a short film for one of Alex’s classes–it’s called Mechanics, and, told by a character named “Isaac” after Isaac Newton, it’s an endearing film about life lessons against the backdrop of Newton’s laws of mechanics. From then Alex and Wade continued to collaborate here and there, both with the hopes of one day making full-length feature films (Wade’s even written a full-length screenplay). For now they are getting their feet wet with a diverse medley of shorter projects. For example, they’ve made a music video for the song “Wonder” by Eternal Summers (watch for a new music video for the song “You Kill,” coming soon!); last fall, they created this intermission film for the SuperGr8 Film Festival; they’ve dabbled in wedding videography. They produced this really cool commercial for Harrisonburg’s Wonder Records, and they’ve done a few promotional videos, too, like this one for Larkin Arts, a community art store, studio, exhibition space, and school.

~ an image from Lurid’s Wonder Records video

~ an image from “Drunko Nart”

~ Eternal Summers music video

More recently, and the reason we met with Wade and Alex Tuesday night at the Blue Nile, they completed this two-minute promotional video for Harrisonburg’s first ever Art Lotto–a portrait show of artists by artists, conceived by Brandy Somers and Denise Allen. 

~ pictures of the filming of the Art Lotto promo, taken by Brandy…
… and here we are watching the finished film!
and HERE IT IS! Everyone, stop right now and watch it. I’ll wait. In fact, I need another beer anyway. Come to think of it, if you wanna give me a longer break, go ahead and check out all the links so far, plus Lurid’s Vimeo page here.


Art Lotto 2012 from Lurid Pictures on Vimeo.

If you’re wondering about that music, it’s by Andrew Barnes, whom you might also know from Gifts from Enola and Equestrians. The Blue NIle graciously loaned their basement to Lurid for about three hours to shoot the Art Lotto film.

Which brings me to something Alex and Wade mentioned to us: the willingness of people in the Burg to help out with projects, to lend whatever talents, resources, space, time to contribute to something important to someone else. There’s a sense of community here that might be absent in larger cities. We all want art to succeed, and we do what’s necessary to make that happen. Another reason I, and Brandy, and Alex and Wade, love our Burg. Along those lines, what Alex and Wade produce, using the priceless help of others, serves to promote not just themselves as filmmakers, but the valuable endeavors of other Harrisonburg-ians, like Larkin Arts, and Art Lotto, and the SuperGr8 Film Festival, and Wonder Records. There’s this recursive effect.. where one person’s project promotes another and another in such a way that the effect on the community is much greater than the scope of the original project. Does that make sense? It’s late and I’m soooo rambling… Let me simplify: here, it’s not “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It’s “I’ll scratch your back for nothing, and voila! it’s repaid ten-fold.” And that’s how it should be.

In their day jobs, Alex and Wade actually produce videos for Health Bites, a health-related website from the Virginia Department of Health, funded by a grant through JMU. Unfortunately, the grant runs out in November, so they’re working hard to grow Lurid Pictures between now and then. These other projects I’ve mentioned are in addition to their full-time jobs at JMU. They’re clearly passionate about their art, and we talked a bit about that Tuesday night at the Nile. We talked about how selling one’s art is like jumping off a ledge. Alex and Wade love their craft, and they get deeply involved in every project, wanting to provide the best possible product, not just for the satisfaction of their clients, but for themselves, too, as artists. They have learned to navigate the middle ground between meeting the clients’ wishes and honoring their own artistic vision… applying their unique stamp while bringing to life the client’s idea. And so when they present the finished product to the client, they bare a bit of soul. So far, no client has been dissatisfied. And I think it’s because Alex and Wade care so much about their craft.

Please consider Lurid Pictures for your next video project. Their work is gorgeous and they understand how important their clients’ needs are. And, they love their Burg, just like the rest of us.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · 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)
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!

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