Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FloydFest 2009

We were fortunate enough once again to attend one of the premier music festivals in the country: FloydFest 8. The event is held right off the Blue Ridge Parkway a little southwest of the Town of Floyd and the Crooked Road. Its quite a sight driving along the parkway and seeing the top of the main stage surrounded by trees with the festival's parameter snaking towards the road. FloydFest runs over four days; however this year we were only able to participate during the two weekend days. To make matters more interesting I was accompanied by our 4 year old - time to see how other families cope - enjoy the festival with children. Needless to say I did not get a chance to see a fraction of the artists as last year; but from the dozen we watched a few observations. Donna the Buffalo is the bomb; they played throughout a nasty thunderstorm without a break and even played longer than scheduled as attendees emerged from hiding after the storm. The Belleville Outfit continues to impress and we were able to watch three of their multiple sets. And finally, why haven't I been listening to Yarn - these guys are good - Cross Canadian Ragweed, Reckless Kelly, and Randy Rogers rolled into one package with a little bluegrass sprinkled in.

We arrived Saturday with hundreds of other attendees in a mad rush to see the afternoon artists. Despite a brief backup at the off site parking - the buses couldn't get through the line of cars - we were able to grab a Starr Hill hefeweizen and watch Yarn in the Beer Garden. FloydFest does a nice job providing beer and wine to their patrons at the Beer Garden with its own stage and the new tent next to the main stage. The two neighboring wineries, Chateau Morrisette and Villa Appalaccia, provide the wines with Starr Hill, Magic Hat Brewing Company, The River Company Restaurant and Brewery, and Foothills Brewing providing beer. Getting back to Yarn, these guys are good. A week before I listened to their latest CD at the Purple Fiddle where they were scheduled to play before Floydfest. How does a band from New York City get such an authentic alt-country sound?

Afterward we ventured to the Dance Tent which always provides a more intimate and fun show and people were dancing away with R.I.S.E.. This is another act we will put on our radar and we followed sisters over to the Children's Village as they were scheduled to perform in front of the youngsters. The Children's Village is located adjacent to the quite camping area so that families have easy access from their temporary living quarters. The main attraction seemed to be Noah's Ark, but the village also contained a performing tent, covered sand box, and activity tents. Plus childcare services - at $7/hour - not a bad deal; this came in handy Sunday. Before we became to comfortable in the village I forced our way back to the Dance tent to hear Forro in the Dark, a group of Brazilian New Yorkers, play their style of "party" music - as in forró. The tent was shaking as the band used a pifano, timbau drum, zabumba drum, and a couple guitars to create a hypnotic sound. Who knows what they were singing - and who cares - it's more exotic to hear Portuguese singing. Another plus for FloydFest - more diverse styles of music. After catching our breathe, it was time for The Belleville Outfit. The Dance Tent continues to be the place to be. We first witnessed this Austin and South Carolina based group at Merlefest and love their fusion of swing, blues, jazz, and plain old Americana. With clouds threatening, and a child sleeping, we moved towards the main stage anticipating Donna the Buffalo and found a clearing next to a nice couple's tent. As soon as the rain started we were invited inside and stayed relatively dry while holding down the tent's support. Others were not as fortunate as they raced to the beer or vendor tents. Through it all, Donna the Buffalo kept playing - blowing amps - and even ruining a scrub board. How is that possible? They are easily my favorite band - welcome to The Herd. Their music is slightly cajun, slightly jam band - and worth the 5 hour drive itself. After about a half hour the storm blew over and a rainbow appeared right behind the stage - a new beginning to the day. Soon they started in with the very appropriate "Blue Sky" and our favorite "It's Love Time". The encore of "New Tara Zydeco" and "Hot Tamale Baby" was awesome, with Christian Dugas of The Duhks jumping in on the scrub board. As soon as the set ended we hurried to join Sol Driven Train in the children's parade through the festival grounds. This band had performed a few times in the Children's Village and New Orleans styled dancing music as we tramped across the field. After another trip to the Beer garden and a The River Company hefeweizen we finished the day at the rock climbing wall and then to The Duhks on the Holler stage. This Canadian band also rocks - incorporating Arcadian French cajun and zydeco into their repertoire. Being bilingual has its benefits. And it was the first time I heard "I like this band" from the little boy.

The one benefit of traveling with a child is you get to bed early - there was no staying up for the Blues Traveler or even The Lee Boys late night jam. We started Sunday, little guitar in hand, anticipating our friends, Oneside, but recurring van troubles forced them to cancel. "Why don't they just buy a new car like we had to when ours broke" was the response that I had to listen to all day. A side affect of this scheduling change was a chance to watch Yarn again, this time on the main stage, in addition to Adrienne Young. Back at the Children's Village, we watched a theater performance of Dragon Scales & Faerie Tales; I was fearing a dull and pandering performance, but it was actually funny and clever. The children and adults were laughing out loud and the laughter continued on the ride home. Nice. It was now time to utilize the child care services so that I was free to watch The Belleville Outfit again on the Holler stage. On the way, I noticed a jam session in the Dance Tent and found Holy Ghost Tent Revival just starting a short set. What a sound; a combination of old time classical music then jolted by hard rock jams. But its not just noise that you get from some jam bands - this is music with a purpose that oscillates between a classic 40's-50's sound into rock and roll. These guys from Greenville got it. We look forward to hearing more from them at the Sunflower festival in October. Moving to our intended target, The Belleville Outfit provided another set of great music - this time to a larger audience. I just love their sound and possibly a crush on Phoebe Hunt. Another storm was a brewing so I returned to the Children's Village and spent the next 20 minutes playing in the covered sand box as families scurried about. Once the rain subsided to a drizzle I returned to the dance tent to hear David Schultz who benefited from the weather and played before a full tent of attendees seeking a dry spot. It was a solid set and I'll keep these guys on our horizon if they travel up Interstate 95 from Richmond to play in our area. After a Foothills Brewing IPA I spent the reminder of my child free time listening to the great Peter Rowan performing traditional bluegrass music. This is another great aspect of Floydfest - they combine the new and established artists - and Rowan played his classics as well as those from Clarence Stanley and some of the other fathers of bluegrass. With the day winding down, we headed to the main stage to finally hear The Lee Boys and their peddle steel sound in the tradition of Florida gospel music. Shades of Robert Randolph, this is dance music with a gospel spin, although there was no dancing among us. Despite the loud music, it was nap time so I watched from the ground. The final act of the day was to see a couple of acoustic songs from The Belleville Outfit at the Front Porch stage. I can't wait until they tour the east coast. By now FloydFest was done and time to carry the still sleeping boy to the car and the ride home. No Railroad Earth for us.

What a great trip; thanks to Across-the-Way Productions for a job well done. Already looking forward to next year. More pictures are available at the MyJoog facebook page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Waybacks @ Jammin Java

Our favorite local music venue, Jammin' Java, had a great July schedule in part by booking bands such as The Waybacks. We first heard the band live at this year's Merlefest and I learned later that the playing this festival for the past few years has given the San Francisco band an East Coast fan base. This showed by the large audience who came out on a Tuesday night. The Waybacks are fronted by James Nash, who is perhaps one of the best acoustic pickers we have seen. With the addition of Warren Hood on the fiddle and mandolin; Chuck Hamilton on drums; and Joe Kyle Jr. on bass, there is no telling what type of sound you will hear. On this night they played anything from Professor Longhair Louisiana blues, Canadian folk; classical, acoustic latin, jazz, swing, and San Francisco rock. Many of these were accentuated by long bass solos by Joe Kyle - adding a little funk to the stew. Every song was unique - never the same rhythm, which made the night extremely entertaining. We look forward to listening to the three discs in the Secret Stage Mixes - live shows from three excellent venues.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sue Foley and Peter Karp @ Purple Fiddle

On the northwestern side of West Virginia's Potomac Highlands, a string of small towns lie together near the Caanan Valley ski areas. One of these towns, Thomas, is home to one of the most popular stops for artists traversing the east coast: The Purple Fiddle. For a historical narrative of the Purple Fiddle, please visit their website. No sense repeating that information here. But over the past year we have noticed how popular this venue is for both the artists and fans that we planned a trip to specifically visit this establishment. And fortunately the weekend we selected , one of our favorite blues woman was passing through: Sue Foley. We have been following Foley since her debut CD, released when she was barely an adult - 22 years old. She is awesome on the electric guitar and can pick with the best. Her companion this evening was Peter Karp - who we really did not know much about. The duo were at the tail end of their He Said-She Said tour supporting their CD of the same name to be released in February 2010. Apparently they are having problems finding a label that will stay in business.

The songs are based on correspondence between the pair while traveling - most often sharing the common burdens of life on the road or the difficulties penning a song. In one situation, Foley complains about spending the day walking around a German town and not being able to focus, whereas Karp replies, the song is there - you just got to find it. Other songs refer to their insecurities in a relationship or simply how they longed to be home. They are coy about their relationship - neither confirming or denying their relational status. But this arrangement wouldn't work if not for the chemistry between the two; you sense its presence throughout the night as they give subtle glances to each other during and after each song.

Foley exchanged her electric for an acoustic guitar which allowed her voice to shine - she sounds like one of the classical singers from the 40s and 50s. Brilliant. Hearing her voice, or maybe Karp playing the slide guitar were my favorite parts. Afterward I was able to listen to more of Karp's songwriting starting with one of the last songs of the night - Goodbye. He is clever - and has an unique enough delivery to keep you wanting to hear more. The CD should be good. There are songs were the compete picking as well as slow songs where Foley's voice shines. The are targeting Valentines for a release.

Back to the Purple Fiddle. This is a great venue. It is small enough where every seat gives you a good view, but large enough that you don't feel cramped. The decor is also interesting and worth walking around before a show. As a final plus, they serve local micro brews from Mountain State Brewing Company, other bottled micros, and $1.75 BPR. Something for everyone. Its also nice to see the Purple Fiddle and Mountain State Brewing Company having cordial relations considering the latter also hosts live music. The fabulous Larry Keel & Natural Bridge was playing this evening. But even with the venues splitting potential customers, a nice sized crowd materialized a the Purple Fiddle.

We'll be back to Thomas again very soon, hopefully for two nice to split between the two venues. If you are looking for a place to stay and can't get a room at the Purple Fiddle's guest house, we suggest the Bright Morning Inn in nearby Davis (only 2 miles away). Besides being a nice hotel, pets are welcome - that's important for us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chris Knight in Downtown Harrisonburg

Some artists are worth traveling great distances to see, and for us, Chris Knight belongs in this category. Although the distance wasn't too great, we drove - without a second thought - the two hours to watch Knight give a free concert in Downtown Harrisonburg on July 17th. Accompanied by his usual partner, Chris Clark, the two performed most of our favorite songs from his repertoire. We are talking about It Ain't Easy Being Me | The Devil Got Behind the Wheel | Crooked Road | Bring the Harvest Home | Something Changed | House and 90 Acres | The River's Own | Maria | Devil Behind the Wheel | Oil Patch Town | A Train Not Running | Down The River | Enough Rope. He even entertained the many children in the audience with a short "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"; before finishing with an encore set of Love and a .45 and Framed. Knight's songwriting and sound is so authentic we never tire of listening. For me its Enough Rope, Dirt, House and 90 Acres, and It Ain't Easy Being Me almost every day. They never get old. See the MyJoog facebook page for more photos and videos - I love Clark's mandolin on It Ain't Easy Being Me.

FloydFest 8

We also forgot to mention that FloydFest 8 starts this week in the music friendly town of Floyd - right on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blues Traveler | Grace Potter & The Nocturnals | Railroad Earth | Toubab Krewe | Donna the Buffalo | Peter Rowan | The Felice Brothers | Grupo Fantasma | The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker | The Duhks | The Lee Boys | Adrienne Young and the Old Faithful | The Belleville Outfit | Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas | Ollabelle | Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers | The New Familiars | Last year's Emerging Artist winner: William Walter & Co. | Blue Mule | Doug & Telisha Williams | and our friends at Oneside.

Come down to the Crooked Road.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Musikfest 2009

While examine the schedule for Grayson Capps, I noticed that on August 8th he was playing at the Musikfest 2009 festival in Bethlehem, PA on August 8th. I hadn't heard of the festival so quickly navigated over; what a lineup. And not just a weekend's worth, we are talking about 10 days worth starting July 31th and ending Sunday August 9th. The stages are located throughout the small city, with evening concerts at larger venues. Not interested yet; take a look at the artists. The headliners include Crosby, Stills & Nash; George Thorogood & Jonny Lang; Rufus Wainwright; Dar Williams; Third Eye Blind with Matt Nathanson; Ladysmith Black Mambazo; and Chris Isaak / The Wallflowers - among many others.

The daily lineups are even more impressive. Our favorite festival band, Scythian, plays on the the 6th; and that day also includes Carrie Rodriguez, Todd Wolfe, Tempest, and Oakhurst. The best lineup is actually Monday August 3rd with The Lovell Sisters, Red Molly, Bearfoot, Los Straitjackets, Seamus Kennedy, Dr. Dog and several other artists that I haven't heard before. Never seen Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, Lil’ Anne & Hot Cayenne, or Rosie Flores? Here's your chance. Best of all, the majority of Musikfest performances are free. While you're in the area look out for the excellent local breweries and wineries. Wine-Compass.com or the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail can assist you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hard Swimmin' Fish @ On The Border

Its hard trying to find live music that the entire family can watch, but we found a place close to home in Tysons Corner Virginia. Every Thursday night On the Border hosts a band in their bar area - where even patrons in the dining area can hear without difficulty. And no cover charge. This past Thursday, July 16th, we went specifically to hear the blues band, Hard Swimmin' Fish, who we heard the previous Saturday at the D.C. Wine Country Festival. This time we could hear the band just fine - and listened to two sets of mostly Chicago blues. They have a nice sound - starting with the unique acoustic guitar of Demian Lewis, to the harmonica of Waverly Milor, upright bass of Randy Ball, and the percussion of Jason Walker. At times Walker plays an interesting contraption - sort of like an amp with holes. They even had to scramble to cover a few requests they didn't know - such as the "Stray Cats Strut" - but you know Brian Setzer is somewhat a blues man. So we recommend both On the Border on Thursday nights and Hard Swimmin' Fish - you should find them somewhere between Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guy Forsyth @ IOTA

It is always valuable to search for live music during each day of the week, because there's no telling when a gem will arrive on a slow night. That happened this past Monday night, July 13th, when The Guy Forsyth Trio came to Arlington and the IOTA Club. The band planned a stop on their journey from New York to Austin - where they just completed their latest tour - and why not D.C. This was one show that wasn't going to be missed.

Guy Forsyth first appeared on our radar at the 2004 Austin City Limits where he performed a spectacular rendition of Bo Diddley's "Mona". After hearing this song and an encore of his popular, I fancied him as a Bluesman. This belief was reinforced when I purchased the hard to find Steak, and listened to a collection of original and famous blues songs, including "Mona". Forsyth has a classic blues voice - actually closer to a Ray Charles - plus he's a master on the harp and slide guitar. This CD consisted of contemporary Chicago blues in "Makin, Money", classic Chicago blues in "Tricks of the Trade", Delta blues in "Poor Boy" and of course New Orleans blues. I was introduced to the eerie sound of the singing saw in "Thibodaux Furlough". My favorite was the Cajun inspired "Lovin' Dangerously". Even when I discovered his 1999 CD, Can You Live Without, I thought Forsyth was strictly a blues man. Period.

But later I learned that this statement is far from accurate. In fact, Forsyth is a music historian, weaving aspects of forgotten sounds into his repertoire. Blues is just a small fraction of his portfolio. It started when he helped launch The Asylum Street Spankers and the band specialized in what they termed "Tin Pan Alley" songs. Mixing in country, blues, jazz, and swing, these songs have a distinct flavor - either 20's jazz, early blues, folk, cowboy country - basically music that is not played nowadays.

Forsyth continues this tradition and several of us experienced it firsthand that evening at the IOTA Club. The Guy Forsyth Trio (Will Landin (bass/tuba) and Rob Hooper (drums/Cajon)) started with an a Capella general domain gospel number - showcasing his bluesy voice and harmonica skills. They followed with more blues, with Forsyth on the harmonica - but soon he swtiched to the guitar with "Lovin' Dangerously". What a fun song. They continued with songs from Calico Girl including "Can You Live Without" and "Children of Jack". The various talents of the band were displayed as Landin brought out the Tuba and Forsyth unleashed the saw. He even unleashed a children's song in "Leadfoot Larry" after paying tribute to his daughter in "Mary Mae". Throughout the night the music alternated between blues, swing, jazz, and good ol' Americana. And by request they finished with a jamming rendition of "Mona". What a show - Austin is a lucky town that Forysth moved there from Kansas City. We are not sure when he will pass through D.C. again, but if he ever plays at Knuckleheads, we will be there.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This Week's Shows

We have a full agenda of music that we are trying to hear this week. It starts Monday with Guy Forsyth at IOTA Club in Arlington and hopefully Justin Trawick at the same venue the following night. On Wednesday, we want to hear one of our favorite bands The Randy Rogers Band opening for Corey Smith at the Nightclub 9:30 in the U Street corridor of D.C. On Thursday, we will stay local and members of Hard Swimmin' Fish playing at On the Border Mexican Grille and Cantina in Tyson's Corner. But on Friday we hit the road. We'll travel anywhere to hear Chris Knight and that evening he is giving a free concert in Downtown Harrisonburg. From there we will drive to Thomas West Virginia for a double shot of blues and bluegrass on Saturday night. Sue Foley and Peter Karp play at the famous Purple Fiddle, while within walking distance Larry Keel & Natural Bridge play at Mountain State Brewing Company. Beer, blues, and bluegrass....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Big Surprise Tour

We recently came across an amazing tour scheduled for August, The Big Surprise Tour featuring the Old Crow Medicine Show, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Gillian Welch and her longtime guitarist Dave Rawlings. What a lineup; each is worth seeing solo. But now, one admission price for all five. We plan to attend the Charlottesville show.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Crooked Jades

We recently received a copy of Shining Darkness by the The Crooked Jades and boy, is it ever good. We had heard of this string band - and I mean string band - but only vaguely. Their instrumentation includes a harmonium, a bao (Vietnamese one-string box zither) a mbira, plus your more typical string instruments the fiddle, banjo, guitar, ukulele and upright bass. The band was founded by Jeff Kazor with the intention to "revive the dark and hypnotic sounds of pre-radio music". Since 1994 the band has release six CDs, with the latest being Shining Darkness.

This is a long CD, 19 original songs - many being just instrumentals and I think those were my favorites. Just let the music speak for itself. I also like that the Banjo is very subtle - giving a hint of percussion and not overwhelming. Just listen to "Sand Lake". Want something more bluesy; try "Let It Show". For some reason, track 7, "Lizzy Flew the Coup" was my favorite. It reminded me of The Speckers. But with so many tracks, there's bound to be a song for everyone. Hats off to the current lineup of Jeff Kazor (vocals/guitar/ukulele), Leah Abramson (vocals/ukulele/harmonium/guitar), Sophie Vitells (fiddle/vocals), Charlie Rose (bass), and Rose Sinclair (banjo/banjo uke/minstrel banjo/slide guitar).

The Crooked Jades have schedule a mini West Coast tour supported the CD. We highly recommend this group.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sunflower Fest

I know summer has just started but its time to start planning your Fall festival plans. One that we will definitely attend is the Sunflower Fest being held at Rocky Gap State Park - Cumberland, Maryland on October 10th. The festival is hosted by Scythian in order to celebrate the union between band member Joey Crosby and his fiancee Sara. Instead of having to painfully create an invite list for their wedding; everyone is invited. That includes you and me. They have scheduled an awesome lineup of musicians - many who have toured with the band in the past. We are talking about Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Blueground Undergrass, Oneside, and Rebecca Jean Smith.

Tickets are only $25 if purchased by July 31st; $45 afterward. Best of all, children under 12 are free. My boy finally gets to see Oneside, and Scythian. We will see you there.