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.

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.