A few months ago when I first found out that First Aid Kit would be coming to the U.S. to perform as the opening band for Bright Eyes, I checked the dates with the assumption that they would not be performing close enough for me to be able to see them. Much to my surprise and delight, I saw that their very first date was September 3rd in Norfolk. They were coming to the NorVa! That's only just over 20 miles from where I lay my head to sleep at night. Johanna and Klara Söderberg from Sweden were going to be visiting a city much, much closer than I was ever expecting. I also thought that it was strangely fortuitous that their show fell precisely on my birthday. Fate had smiled upon me in this alignment of events. There are few concerts that cause me to jump out of my computer chair to dance while melodiously chanting the obvious. This was one, and the chant was "I'm going to see First Aid Kit on my birthday!" Luckily for me there is no audio or video of this. Barney Stinson best summed up my anticipation.
The tickets were purchased in July so the worst part was yet to be endured: the exhausting and excruciating WAIT! It gave me time to contemplate where I wanted to videotape them from in the venue. If not for that consideration, I'd otherwise be upfront and dead center without hesitation. Don't think I didn't momentarily consider not bringing the camcorder in order to soak in the First Aid Kit set fully undistracted. But if I endured the slight distraction, I knew I'd have that video to enjoy in perpetuity. So the fleeting thought of abandoning the camcorder was dismissed as quickly as it was entertained. I knew exactly where I wanted to be in the audience for their performance, in front of stage left. Having already seen enough live performances online, I knew that Klara would be on that side allowing me to get her in the foregound with a great angle on Johanna at the keyboard. I rather like that angle at the NorVa for most shows after having previously used it for the Beirut show. It is also a great place to pick up the audio due to the large speaker positioned overhead. There really aren't that many bad spots to view a show in the NorVa. It's an intimate venue to catch the many acts passing through it's doors. Like anyone else, I have my many Ticketmaster gripes but I'll not waste any time on those already well-covered issues. I'd personally have paid up to double the ticket price just to have seen just First Aid Kit perform by themselves. But hey, that's more money to spend at their merchandise table. I am quite grateful that once again Bright Eyes saw fit to have First Aid Kit perform with them on a tour. I seem to have a penchant for the opening acts of many concerts that I attend in spite of the often overwhelming popularity of the headliners. The advantage is that I can more easily see them up close. The disadvantage is that the sets are never long enough for this fan.
When the concert countdown was at about 48 hours to go, I began to engage in my 'the glass is half-empty' dramatics. I always briefly entertain this thought: "I've waited for this so long but the really good part will be over in less than an hour after it finally starts!" When I entertain such thoughts, I simply revisit my YouTube uploads of previous concerts to dispel such ridiculous thinking. I know, slap me for this bad habit. It's just an obligatory over-dramatic emotional roller coaster ride I sadistically enjoy putting myself through during the long wait between my ticket purchase and my actual attendance at a concert I so eagerly anticipate.
Although I often find myself enjoying a gig by myself, it's always so much better to enjoy great music with great friends. Scott and Julie were along with me for this dual celebration of music and my adding another +1 to my age. I knew our travel time would be longer on the day of the concert due to all the other events scheduled in Hampton Roads on a Labor Day weekend. With Scott at the wheel, we left early enough so that I wouldn't panic upon hitting the usual traffic. By 'panic', I mean possible full-blown nuclear meltdown. I had to be up front at the show for the opening band. The traffic backed up exactly as I had expected, but Scott expertly navigated the route while simultaneously playing the obligatory pre-concert tunes. I was amped up because of the traffic, but the First Aid Kit tunes blaring through the speakers were the perfect remedy for preventing any possible meltdown on my part.
But the dreaded WAIT still wasn't over. Upon arrival at the NorVa and having made my way into essentially the exact spot I'd previously determined, I immediately began to notice the influence of that strange but well-known concert effect. Yes, you probably know that strange effect to which I refer. You know, the one where an hour seemingly takes four times longer than normal to pass. For some inexplicable reason there is a 'black hole' that exerts tremendous forces on highly anticipated concert performances. It's proximity is closest and it's effect is most pronounced for approximately one hour before most concerts. It exerts a gravitational pull that rips the very fabric of time in respect to concert-goers. Scott informed me when it was an hour to go. At next check, only 12 minutes had passed although it felt like a whole hour. The time checks came faster, but the time went predictably slower. I'm guessing Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity must deal specifically with this issue. At least it didn't get this bad:
There was one slight hiccup during the concert 'black hole' hour. A slight scare to be honest. My camcorder and recently acquired monopod were spotted by event security on the balcony above. An imposing figure approached nicely informed me that he needed to clear my use of my equipment with his boss. Having used this camcorder numerous times at the NorVa before, I didn't think it would present any problem or so I thought. I'm guessing had I not so repetitively checked and rechecked my field of view on the camcorder in that hour beforehand, I doubt seriously whether it probably would have ever been seriously noticed. But, I was certainly glad to hopefully resolve such conflict before the show rather than to have my ability to record summarily dismissed during the event. Quite frankly, I make every effort during a show to make it far less noticeable than the scores of cellphone and smartphone camcorders in use which, I have to add, are much more distracting. I also thought this might be a great opportunity to meet whomever it was that I would most likely have to deal with in the case of a future incident. I was certain I'd be more than able to demonstrate how I didn't have anything truly professional...at least in my hands...and how I'd carefully use it in a way so as to NOT detract from the band, disturb those around me, or specifically bother those immediately behind me during an event.
Upon meeting the gentleman holding the fate of my ability to videotape, I was able to verbally and demonstratively highlight everything that I had intended. First of all, I don't think my Sony Handycam HDR-CX100 is really anything truly professional. I demonstrated that I have the LCD display's luminosity and angle both turned down so as to minimize any distraction. He informed me that I couldn't set up a tripod. I demonstrated that I was using a monopod that stands with it's skinny single leg right in between my two feet so as to not bother, touch, or impede those around me. It allows me to keep the camera right in front of my face, again to be less noticeable to those behind me. Not material to the conversation at hand but important in my decision to acquire a monopod was to gain a steadier shot since my camcorder has less than stellar image stabilization. More importantly to me personally, it saves the stress on my arms and back during a show. If you used a camcorder during an entire concert you know what I mean. Having shared only everything I thought pertinent for this gentleman to make his decision, he was kind enough to allow me permission to continue as I had planned; and for that I am extremely thankful. If that was the end of that story, I'd have probably never mentioned this issue, at least in this much detail, but that wasn't the end of this issue that evening. I'll deal with what happened later that evening during the Bright Eyes set in my next post. I'd really like to know the truth of what really happened on either the part of Bright Eyes and/or the NorVa. Ironically, I'm still not precisely sure which one actually had a problem with me. I'll most likely never really know for sure what transpired. You will get my unequivocal opinion and what I've learned as a result. Stay tuned! I did however get video of the entire First Aid Kit set, which honestly was my only priority and concern. If you want to see the entire First Aid Kit set at the NorVa in chronological order, it can be viewed HERE.
There were 3 noteworthy videos I'd like to share. The following 2 songs were either new or unfamiliar to me:
The third video made me quite proud of the concert-goers in attendance from Hampton Roads. You know that things can easily go wrong for a band during a live show. Sometimes when this happens, I chose not to upload the video so as to not give the wrong impression of a band especially it's an unusually rare faux pas. I decided to upload this video for a number of reasons. First of all, they had just flown in from Sweden. I'm guessing it was probably between 2 and 3 a.m. their time when they were doing their set at the NorVa. It appropriately gained distinction as the "jetlag version" of the song in the apology following this song's completion. Secondly, it was live and it really did happen. $@#% happens during live events and strangely enough, a mistake or imperfection that surfaces can be a bit endearing on occasion. They are real people who sometimes flub up just like we do. Simply viewing any other live videos of this song will confirm that this version was a rare aberration and far from the norm. Thirdly and more importantly, those in attendance at the NorVa did an absolutely wonderful job of cheering them on through what surely bothered the band way more than it did the fans. That is to say, it really didn't bother us at all. In some odd way, it appeared to me that it even endeared the crowd a bit more, in my opinion. I think that how the crowd acted made it considerably easier for them to relax and just have a fun chuckle at themselves when it was all done. Some may view it differently, but that was my impression. One comment about this song posted on YouTube by someone looking for the video below summed it up well: "Which song was it that they flubbed up on? It was so adorable. I love how everyone in the audience cheered them on regardless." Here is the 'Jetlag Version' of "The Lion's Roar".
When the ladies had finished their set, they made their way back to their merchandise table. You'd might think I'd make an immediate beeline to go see them there. Well, quite frankly, I was a bit nervous to do so. 'Why?' you ask. I had wanted to ask them a few questions and preferably on camera while I was getting some merchandise signed. But, when I really love a band as much as I do this band, I just get far too nervous and nothing comes out intelligently or coherently. The irony is that this usually happens more so when I've had this long to contemplate such an encounter. So upon completion of their set it took a little coaxing via text messages from Scott and Julie to get my ass back to the merchandise table. I was also briefly contemplating whether I should give up my prime spot for both watching Bright Eyes. It was a mere excuse now because I was just plain nervous now at the thought of meeting them. I finally gave up my prime real estate up front to head to the back of the line for the CD purchase and its signing. Although I already have their digital downloads, I would be able to get them to autograph their CD here and enjoy the feeling of getting some money a bit more directly into the hands of the band. While waiting in line, I was taking footage of them interacting with the fans. I felt like this would surely be construed as stalker-like gawking by either the Söderberg sisters or someone else watching. But I thought to myself, this IS Klara and Johanna Söderberg from Sweden up close and in the flesh, so I kept rolling! All I had to do was keep fairly quiet and keep from saying anything stupid. That was my mission: shut up, keep smiling, and stop sweating. I thought I could handle that...or could I?
I purchased the "Big Black and The Blue" CD and received my poster to be signed. The closer we got, the more awkward I felt with the camcorder rolling so I finally exited "mistake-me-for-a-stalker" mode. They were so pleasant, conversational and engaging which was a welcome relief. While they were signing Scott's CD, he pointed out how he had earlier hoped to hear "Waltz For Richard". Without hardly a thought, the sisters instantly broke out into singing a portion of it that I was able to capture on video. How cool is this?
I only managed to ask them a question about them coming back in November with Lykke Li. Unfortunately, Asheville, NC is the closest that this dream concert is coming to me. They've also announced some dates where they are headlining prior to the release of their second album full-length record, titled “The Lion’s Roar”, on the January 24, 2012.
Of course, I couldn't remember the other things I wanted to ask them and that's probably just as well as it would have been a garbled mess coming out unintelligibly from this mushy mind. We were fairly close to the end of the line when we had our turn to meet them. I asked if I could have a photo with them for my birthday after they were done so that we didn't slow down the line. They said there was no need to wait, and we could do it right then. They were fully engaged and attentive with whomever they were talking to at the moment and in no hurry at all. How can that not be absolutely impressive and refreshing from these young but well-traveled musicians! When Klara & Johanna came from behind the counter to put their arms around me for the picture, I was in heaven! That was the exact moment at which my birthday became one of the most memorable ever! I guarantee you they have absolutely no ideal what those few moments meant to this fan. They couldn't possibly know. Simply UNFORGETTABLE! As if that wasn't enough, after the photos were taken, they started singing "Happy Birthday".
Now I was blushing and slightly embarrassed. I wish I had at that very moment had the presence of mind to have recorded the F.A.K. serenade, but I didn't. It happened nonetheless, and this entire evening was more than I could have imagined back in July when I had purchased my ticket. I find it strange that after I had put some distance between myself and these two beautiful and talented Swedes, I suddenly began to remember everything I wanted to ask. Go figure!
There was more to come as Bright Eyes was still to perform, but First Aid Kit was why I had come out that evening. I had enjoyed this evening much more than I could not have imagined. With my friends Scott and Julie alongside, I got to see, hear and meet Johanna & Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit. I had my picture taken with them, and they sang "Happy Birthday" to me! An absolutely unforgettable evening for this fan! I'm still smiling. I'm looking forward to the next concerts on my schedule, but I already know I'll once again experience the effects of the concert black hole.
Back on Friday August 27th, I attended a concert by Chasing Arrows put on at City Center at Oyster Point in Newport News, Virginia. I was really looking forward to the concert as I was late in discovering a local band that seems to be doing pretty well for themselves. What I didn't expect was what I ran into after their concert. It wasn't anything scheduled or promoted. It was totally by chance, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the unexpected ending to a good evening of music.
I hate to be so honest, but I would have totally missed 'the unexpected' had I listened to my bladder. When I left the Chasing Arrows performance, I had a good walk ahead of me to get me back to the parking garage that I chose earlier that afternoon. Having an urgent need to relieve myself made me regret the very last adult beverage I imbibed during the concert. Of course, the ones prior to that had nothing at all to do with my painful dilemma. It could only be the fault of that last single drink! Needless to say, as soon as I exited that gate, I was almost single minded in finding a restroom. There are a few things that could possibly distract me from what was now an urgent priority...very few. I didn't see a lady I could scare away with Jerry-jabber so that only leaves one other likely scenario. There was some impromptu live music on the patio at Aromas in City Center. If you could have done without the reading of this paragraph, I encourage you to expose yourself to the Neuralizer as seen on Men In Black so as to wipe this paragraph from your memory.
Although I was speed walking for obvious reasons, I distinctly heard the guitar and singing on the Aromas patio. I was also lucky to have plenty of battery and free space left on the camcorder. I made it past the patio to a brick column for cover (not for what you'd think) and pulled out the camcorder to attempt a stealthy approach. It became apparent the stealth maneuver would be ineffective so I had to opt for the direct approach. I just set up the tripod on the fly and sat down at the patio table with them to interact as if the camera wasn't even there. At the time, I had no ideal who they were. I just liked the acoustic sound and noticed they seemed to be having a good time. It momentarily took my mind off the urgent. Here is my favorite song of the brief session. More about the artist after the video. Speaking of "the unexpected", I set up the camcorder away from where I actually sat so the annotations will draw attention to what I'd relinquished control over...the field of view and background. Ha! Now that means you need to watch the video twice so you can follow the story inside the story.
Paul Norfleet is the musician. In addition to his myspace and facebook pages, I found this article by Sam McDonald to be rather enlightening. It is also noteworthy that he has a couple of upcoming gigs on the Aromas events calendar. What drew me over to this particular little session was Paul's interaction with fellow local musician Charles Darden. I'm not really sure how well they know each other but they sure seemed to have fun just messing around as evidenced by the following two videos. This first one was just something they came up with on the spot.
The second video was actually the very first full song I caught them doing and my feeble attempt at the failed stealthy approach.
I love the unexpected! You can however expect that I'll be getting the Chasing Arrows videos from earlier that same night uploaded for the next post.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
I finally had the opportunity to catch The Rusty Doves, a group that I had missed on their previous visits to the Hampton Roads area. I made up for lost time by seeing them on two consecutive nights, Friday Aug. 13th at the County Grill in Yorktown, VA and Saturday Aug. 14th at The Boot in Norfolk, VA. I decided to play head games with myself by texting them if it might be alright to do a brief interview before the Friday night gig. I'd only just noticed their local tour swing on Facebook the day before, so I thought I could 'force' myself into finally doing my first blog post by not giving myself too much time too think and thereby talk myself out of it. On Friday morning, I received a return text that the interview was on. I thought to myself..."Crap! (or a close facsimile thereof) No more excuses for this still empty blog that was created at the very beginning of this year." Better late than never, I guess.
When I arrived early at the County Grill that Friday night, a manager and longtime friend, Reggie, let me know that The Rusty Doves were running on a tight schedule due to traffic. Being mildly relieved that I was probably off the hook for doing the interview, I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the fine selection of beers on tap at the County Grill. But I was keeping one eye open for an yellow 1976 Volkswagen Westfalia Campmobile van to pull up in the parking lot. My rubber necking at the bar in order to keep looking outside for 'the van' had to be worrisome to nearby patrons due to my frequent and lengthy head turning. Why the heck does that dude keep staring out the front window? Sip of pale ale, stare, sip, stare...rinse, lather and repeat. I wanted to see "the van" that would announce their arrival! It's just too cool. I had stumbled upon a music video and pictures of it while researching The Rusty Doves the evening before.
Thanks to Image House Productions for this video and the photos of the band that they let me use in this post. Thanks Aaron & Lindsay! In spite of my efforts, I missed 'the van's' initial arrival as it pulled up on the side of the building. Just my luck! Seeing their equipment and instruments being brought in was my cue to take a final swig of ale and rush outside with the camera in order to snag some pictures and video of 'the van' before it was too dark. Realizing that they were indeed tight on time, I introduced myself to them and asked if it was alright to move the interview to the following evening before their performance at The Boot in Norfolk. So now my only task was to enjoy the music and shot some video. And I did indeed enjoy their music!
The following evening, prior to their performance at The Boot, we were able to sit down at a table on the outside patio for a chat. Steven, whom I'll introduce better later, made me laugh when he observed that my research and questions made this seem like a James Lipton interview. James Lipton, I'm not, but exhaustive in research and rabbit trails...well, I try. After that I momentarily thought maybe I should ask them, "What's your favorite curse word?" The always unpredictable traffic of Hampton Roads and specifically that of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel had me running a little late. That HRBT had me wanting to use my own favorite curse words, but all was good. As a result, there was no time for a videotaped interview. I thankfully have a temporary reprieve on learning how to edit video. I'm not looking forward to that brain pain. A large dinner, courtesy of The Boot, was served after the chat. I, of course, opted for a beverage to reinforce my relief and ready myself for another fun show. During their show at the Boot, a group of Swing dancers added quite a bit of fun and nostalgia to The Rusty Doves performance. The Boot is a bit on the dark side for my camcorder's ability and some other extraneous factors (like where I was relegated to shooting) left me with very little useful footage from that particular show. Strewth! Well, enough about my interviewing and camcorder noobness. The Rusty Doves are much more interesting and polished than I am, so on to their story.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
An "eclectic mix of bluegrass and stripped-down jazz" is how they've been described on the too-soon-gone and now defunct Boxed City and as posted on The Rusty Doves ReverbNation page. Their Facebook page lists their music as "Roots, Americana & Swing" and more specifically as "a progressive blend of swing, bluegrass, and folk, with musical selections from many genres, spanning every decade since 1900...a seamless blend of old and new." Bear with me for more descriptions for a moment because I also read these descriptions out loud to them in order to illustrate a point. The Utica Observer-Dispatch described one performance as "a heap of knee-slapping bluegrass, a syncopated mix of 1920s ragtime jazz and a barely there splash of Irish folk...The duo has arranged several alternative songs, R&B songs and even jazz standards to fit their unique blend of 'new grass', as they call it." I personally kind of missed the Irish folk and 'newgrass' comparison, but it does illustrate an applicable point about their music. Yes, everybody is bound to make comparisons and try to categorize a group's music. That's just natural, and I understand that. Those descriptions will obviously vary greatly from person to person. But, I just love how some music and especially theirs sometimes defies typical categories and genre descriptions. I got the impression that even they sometimes get mildly amused at some (including myself) who try to define or describe their music. It doesn't however seem to bother them though as they have a good grasp of who they are. Alyssa chimed in with a good tag for their music that I really liked, "Progressive Americana". On a CNYxposed video, Alyssa describes their music as "swing, bluegrass, and some indie all within the framework of an old-timey sort of roots band."
I said all that to say this. I saw people from their twenties to sixties at both shows all very engaged and enjoying The Rusty Doves' music. They seem to bridge the generational gaps by adding a modern twist to many old songs and adding their old-timey take on many new songs. Probably my favorite cover was that of Jolie Holland's "Old Fashioned Morphine". (Rabbit trail videos: here and here.) Alyssa does some excellent be-bopping, and I absolutely love when she puts those lips together to imitate the saxophone. It is so spot on that at first I didn't notice until quickly doing a double-take to notice that there was indeed no one up there playing the sax. I'm quite certain there was initially a puzzled look upon my face. When I finally wrapped my head around the fact that it was indeed her making a great saxophone impression, my puzzled look quickly turned to a big grin. I think this song was the one that won me over as a fan of The Rusty Doves style.
Take My Breath Away (below) and Hazy Shade of Winter are other examples of their old-timey take on the new.
Videos of other covers they performed that were among my favorites were the following: The Devil's Paintbrush Road, Shady Grove, Cold Rain and Snow, Darlin' Cory, The Cuckoo, Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, and Sister Kate. Two covers that I haven't heard yet but would love to hear are Radiohead's "No Surprise" and Metallica's "The Unforgiven". I have absolutely no ideal what I'd be in for because they uniquely twist covers to their style! More about their original songs later. They have some brilliant covers, but they are by no means a mere cover band. They do however definitely entice and endear you with their unique take on covers. With everyone else sure to compare them to somebody, I asked them to give me a few names of bands that they'd compare themselves with the full knowledge that comparisons can be so imperfect. Christabel & the Jons and Crooked Still were among a few that were uttered.
photo by Lindsay Mogle of www.imagehouseproductions.com
Alyssa Stock, Jerry Dischiavo (or Jerry Dee as he is better known) and Leslie Kubica met in October of 2007 at a vaudeville show playing at The Other Side in Utica, NY. The next door Café Domenico also figured importantly into the happenings that formed The Rusty Doves. Leslie later left to go back to school in NYC. A fortuitous meeting in October where Jerry and Alyssa together played her song, "Oubliette", was the final impetus to get it all going. One of the very first questions I asked them, as a result of noticing their Facebook, Myspace and ReverbNation pages, was regarding Leslie Kubica's role in the band. She was not with them during the two shows I attended, so that peaked my curiosity. Leslie later joined them halfway through this tour, flying down to Lexington, KY. Officially, Leslie joined the band in June of 2010; however, she has been playing with The Rusty Doves intermittently since the very beginning. It was actually her idea to have the very first jam session where all three first ever played together. Leslie and Alyssa have known each other since childhood. Sort of hard to avoid when you parents are friends. Their friendship developed throughout high school. The magnetism of The Mohawk Valley bridged the distance brought on by attending different colleges and ultimately sent into motion the formative events of 2007.
I'm told that Leslie is an accomplished flute player. However, her graduate degree from NYU in Musical Performance on flute even better attests to that fact. Leslie also attended Ithaca College. I'm eager to hear how her banjo skills complement the band as I'm personally a big fan of that instrument. When I was younger, I had a hard time getting through "Cripple Creek" on the banjo...even with tablature. I built upon that with failed attempts at the piano and a test in middle school that confirmed I was indeed hopeless and shouldn't even waste my time with trying the sax. My non-existent musical ability has not deterred my love for music. Anyway, back to Leslie. I'm hoping to catch her with the band on their next tour swing. They did however have another friend join them for the two shows in Hampton Roads. Steven Campbell, Alyssa's fellow State University of New York at Fredonia alumnus and current Director of Orchestras at a Chesapeake public school here in Virginia, joined them for these two nights to play drums and violin/fiddle.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
Alyssa studied illustration at State University of New York at Fredonia. That made a lot of sense to me already having noticed her love for reading and more specifically her love for graphic novels. I wasn't the only one curious about how long she had played the mandolin. A fellow patron at the County Grill asked me if I knew. He was as impressed as I was. At the time he asked, I could only reply, "I don't know but the question was high on my list for the next day's interview." Alyssa has been playing the mandolin for 4 years and quite skilled. She has however been singing for considerably longer than she has played the mandolin. She relayed some early memories while as a very young child of taking over the stage at a pig roast. When the other performers had taken a break, she thought it appropriate to keep the music going with her rendition of "Puff, the Magic Dragon". Figuring prominently into her vocal development and influences was her part in a high school music trio with her French teacher, Suzanne Bladek, and...you guessed it...Leslie Kubica. The trio, Wanawaké, still performs together a few times a year.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
I found Jerry Dee's diversity of studies quite intriguing. He has studied ballet at the N.C. School of Arts and philosophy at Utica College. I imagine the conversations with him at his favorite hangout, the Café Domenico, are quite interesting. Word has it that he can be often found spending time as a loyal patron of the Café. One of the first things of note in a Rusty Doves' performance is Jerry's energy and animation while playing the upright bass. He seems to have found a wooden dance partner, and it's quite enjoyable to watch. His start with the upright bass began in sixth grade and continued throughout high school. He hadn't played it for quite some time prior to the Rusty Doves beginnings until some chance events got that instrument back in his arms. He also spent some time playing keyboards with a reggae band called The Hot Steppers quite some time prior to the formation of The Rusty Doves.
As I said earlier, this is not merely a cover band, as unique and endearing as their covers are. On their EP "Hollow Hills" recorded at Electric Wilburland Studios in Utica and released in May of 2009, four of the six songs are original pieces. Jerry Dee wrote "Down Digger" and "Lonesome 'Neath The Sky". Alyssa wrote "Oubliette" and the title track, "Hollow Hills". The Mohawk Valley, the Rust Belt, Alyssa's growing up in Little Falls and Jerry's growing up in Utica are among the significant influences in their songwriting. "Hollow Hills" specifically speaks to the rise and fall of the Rust Belt.
Another original song, "Little Sister" was written by Alyssa for a tough time her sister was going through.
"Can't Be Mine" is another original and is self-described as 1920-esque. Another original, "Cherry Won't Bloom", has yet to be publicly performed, but you may want to add that song to "the next EP" watch.
Having noticed it's been over a year since their first release, I asked them about their plans for the future. They have tentative plans to record a 5 track EP/Demo this coming winter. Don't get your hopes too high, but you may want to start the "click their website, scroll and do the new EP rain-dance" starting in November-ish. But I'd stay on the later side of the "-ish". You know how that goes. I love starting rumors in order to keep the "rip CD" tab on my media player on alert. More tentative plans include recording an album the following summer. The regional theme is again sure to both permeate and exude from the proposed album. The plans are to not only paint a picture of the region in which they live, but also convey their lives there during the past three years. A local cemetery and the dead white tree play a large part in one song. Two other songs plan to evoke the sound, style, and nostalgia of old ragtime and flapper era. As Alyssa told me, "I'd say a lot of the material on it is our attempt to pastiche bluegrass, swing and folk styles through our highly eclectic and unorthodox lens." Of tremendous interest to me and hopefully available in the future, as I'm eager to view it, is the audio and video of a performance at Unity Hall, originally built in 1896 and located in Barneveld, NY. They have taken the stage and often quite regularly at some of the following events: Utica Music Festival, Mohawk Valley Bluegrass Association Festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and also recently at the Boilermaker Road Race.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
Further evidence to the eclectic influences affecting both their music styles and listening preferences can be found by noting their eclectic group of musical friends, specifically on their myspace page. These friends and influences encompass more than just the americana, folk, bluegrass and swing that you would expect. There is also anything from blues, jazz, hip-hop, jam band, reggae and southern rock. A question on what artists may be found currently playing on their mp3 players brought out the following responses: For Alyssa, it was Aimee Mann and The SteelDrivers. For Jerry, it was the Easy Star All-Stars and Lee "Scratch" Perry - Meets Bullwackie in Satan's Dub. The Lee "Scratch" Perry mention did give me pause to get up-to-date on some reggae history.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
There is also plenty to keep Alyssa and Jerry busy when they aren't performing. As is the case with many indie artists, they have other employment that readily allows them the time and wherewithal to pursue, perform, and hone their craft. Alyssa works as a graphic designer for Whims-n-Doodles in New Hartford, NY. Jerry is a social worker for both adults and youths with disabilities. That coupled with past work as a grade-school music teacher seems exemplary of someone who is obviously good with people. Clearly expressed to me by the duo and very encouraging to hear was how well their employers have allowed them the ability to pursue their musical careers. As a result, they seem to be developing a rather regular East Coast/Southeast touring itinerary since 2009. I believe this was their third time through the Hampton Roads area. I hope my area remains a constant part of that swing as I look forward to following them and their music. Their touring also serves a dual purpose as they also make room for vacation time and catching up with friends in the North Carolina area. As a result, past tours have allowed them to visit a favorite getaway spot of mine, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After this particular visit, they were quickly off to catch some vacation time in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and meet up with some friends as they were working their toward some other scheduled venues on their tour. The Westfalia Campmobile version of their Volkswagen van obviously comes in quite handy for this.
photo by Aaron Ure of www.imagehouseproductions.com
That brings me full circle to that wonderful yellow van. I love it, just in case you somehow missed that earlier, so I was sad to see it drive off from The Boot in Norfolk that Saturday evening. However, I knew others were soon to see what I had already thoroughly enjoyed. I eagerly anticipate and will again await the arrival of that van at the parking lot of their next show here in the Hampton Roads area with hopes of getting my hands on their next new EP.
Speaking of "leaving", I'll sneak in a final video with Annabelle Chvostek's lyrics, "Live and die and gone".
No, I didn't forget about trying to get you some info on how to purchase the "Hollow Hills" EP. They aren't quite yet set up with an online store. So other than keeping your eyes on their websites, I can only suggest that you shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org see if you can work out a way for them to ship you a copy. I'll be updating this blog later with the video playlist of their entire 34 song performance at the County Grill in the coming days. Feel free to stop by my YouTube channel and subscribe if you want to keep up with those and other videos that that I'll be uploading in the future. Again, I'd like to thank Image House Productions' Aaron Ure and Lindsay Mogle for the wonderful photos and the first video. Image House Productions can also be found on Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, and Myspace.