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.

boxcar burgthday: the steel wheels with red molly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.