Monday, June 2, 2008

2008 Vintage Virginia

Despite chaotic weather conditions on Saturday May 31st we were able to enjoy several Cajun\Funk bands at the 27th annual Vintage Virginia festival. The festival's focus is to highlight the rising Virginia wine industry - and over 50 wineries participating - pouring over 350 different wines. Virginia is best known for their Viognier and Cabernet Franc, but there are also excellent examples of Norton, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Sparkling wines, fruit wines, and mead. A review of the wines as well as more pictures of the event are available at the WineCompass Blog and Compass Tours section of

Besides the wines, each year Across-the-Way Productions brings together awesome local and national acts and this year was no different. The day started with slightly cloudy skies and the music of The Crawdaddies, a regional band that has extended its fan base nationwide. The group plays a combination of Cajun and Zydeco with hints of blues and reggae. The Crawdaddies kept the rhythm alive as attendees sampled the various wines - searching for their favorite - to enjoy for the remainder of the afternoon.

The Jamie Mclean Band took stage next, under more cloudy skies. Frontman Jamie McLean is more likely known as the lead guitarist in New Orleans based funk band: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Looking to broaden his scope to a more roots rick feel, he joined with his brother Carter McLean (drums, percussion) and long time friend Derek Layes (bass) to form the The Jamie Mclean Band. We didn't get to hear the band as soon as they took stage, because immediately lightening appeared and the authorities moved everyone into their cars just when the downpour erupted. After a 45 minute delay, the band returned on stage, only to see a second eruption occur. Since the lightening had vanished, the band continued to play to an empty field - as attendees huddled close to the tasting tents. We applaud the band for playing through the rain and continuing without a close audience. We could barely hear the music over the rain echoing off the tent flaps. Then came the tornado scare, and obviously the Jamie Mclean Band ended their shortened set and we began to seek refuge again - when the cell apparently moved south and the festival was back in business.

Immediately the sky cleared and a new day dawned, just in time for the day's most popular act: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. It may have been the wine, or bent up energy, or great music, but as soon as Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews took stage, the crowd went crazy - with over a hundred attendees rushing the stage to dance. And he knew how to work the audience. This gift came from performing on the streets of new Orleans at an early age and as a graduate of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA). He has performed with Lenny Kravitz, U2, Green Day and now fronts an incredible funk band: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. The band was as energetic as the crowd - both feeding off each other. Our favorite was the bass solo from Mike Ballard - fast paced with the bass vibrating the stage. Unfortunately it had to end - at least handing off to another incredible funk band: Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk.

By now the sun was blazing and the only traces of the storm were the mud pits in front of the stage. The crowd was getting a little exhausted - as the already thinned crowd became thinner. For those that remained, they received a great New Orleans treat, for Dumpstaphunk consists of performers who have played in some of that city's most established bands. Founded by keyboardist Ivan Neville, the son of Aaron Neville; the band includes his cousin Ian Neville (son of Art Neville) on rhythm guitar; Raymond Webster on drums; and Tony Hall and Nick Daniels on bass. Yes two bass guitar players. What a sound; a more powerful New Orleans Social Club. As soon as Dumpstaphunk took stage, and people heard this beat, the mud pit filled with muddy legs and feet as the remaining attendees rushed the stage. This was a fruitful end of the day, finding a dry spot to drink a bottle of Holly Grove and listening to the best that New Orleans offers. Thanks Across-the-Way Productions.

These acts will all appear locally again in the next couple months. The Crawdaddies will perform at Breaux Vineyards at their Cajun Festival on June 14th and at the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest in late June. Jamie Mclean will be at the Blue 5 Restaurant in Roanoke June 10th and join Dumpstaphunk at Floydfest in late July. Finally Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will perform multiple days at the 19th Annual Bayou Boogaloo & Canjun Food Festival - Town Point Park in Norfolk, June 20-22.

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