Friday, April 29, 2011

The Black Velvet - Stout and Cider

We recently were introduced to a beer cocktail called The Black Velvet!

The Black Velvet is a mixture of Stout (like Guinness or Murphy's) and Cider (like Strongbow or Woodchuck).  This is a dangerous combination that's super easy to make. Just fill about half your glass with cider, then pour in the dark beer over the back of a spoon.  You use the spoon to help prevent the two liquids from merging. If you're successful the light and dark can be pretty distinct, as seen in the picture (ours didn't quite look like this).  Oddly when you drink it the flavors remain somewhat distinct also - the stout first with a cider aftertaste. 

The Black Velvet is a very tasty concoction. The stout tempers the sweetness of the cider and/or the cider spices up the stout.  The first time we made these we used Guinness and Woodchuck draft cider.  Then the second time we tried Murphy's and Strongbow.  Both combinations went down smoothly.

There's a place near Lovingston called Albemarle CiderWorks that makes some excellent Virginia Ciders. Not far from there near Wintergreen is a great brewery called Devil's Backbone.  Last time I was at Devil's Backbone they had an Irish style stout on tap called Ramsey's Draft. I would like to try mixing a growler of Ramsey's with an Albemarle Cider. I bet that would be good.  

I suspect you could also use a porter like Fuller's London or one like Hampton, VA's remarkable St. George's Porter.  If you're really fancy instead of the cider you can use champagne or sparkling wine.   I'm not usually one to go in for beer mixtures like this, but I'm beginning to think otherwise. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Travel Destination: St. John's Newfoundland

View of the St. John's Harbor
Some of the colorful row houses
Later this summer Laura and I will be spending a week in St. John's Newfoundland. In a vacation we tend to look for scenic places, cool seaside villages, pubs/breweries, traditional music, affordable accommodations and hiking opportunities. St. John's seems to have it all.

St. John's has been described as a mix between New Orleans (for the George Street party atmosphere), Dublin (for the strong Irish culture) and San Francisco (for the hilly, crooked streets?).

Scenic Seaside Views
St. John's sits right on a harbor called the Narrows. It is thereby picturesque with nearby cliffside views and brightly colored row houses.

Petty Harbor
There are also many picture-perfect villages to the south of St. John's along the Avalon Peninsula/Irish Loop, such as Petty Harbor, Bay Bulls, Tors Cove and Witless Bay. We will definitely rent a car and get down to these locations.

There are at least three breweries in St. John's - Yellow Belly, Quidi Vidi and Storm. There are many other pubs that look interesting, including The Ship Pub, Duke of Duckworth, and Inn of Olde. Not to mention the pubs featuring traditional music. See below.

Traditional Music
Celtic music thrives here and there are many traditional Irish sessions in St. John's. We'll be visiting in the summer so chances are we should be able to catch something almost any day of the week. The info I've gotten so far is that there are sessions on Fridays in Erin's Pub, Saturday afternoons in O'reilly's and Sunday afternoons in Bridie Molloy's. There are also supposed to be jams in places called Nautical Nellie's and Shamrock City. St. John's has lots of other types of live music in and around George Street. Hopefully we luck out and get to hear some good bands and musicians.

St. John's isn't the cheapest place to stay, although there is the option of camping right in the city at Pippy Park. We considered camping there but instead decided on something more luxurious and chose a BandB with a one-bedroom suite, which will be nice for an extended stay. The place I found includes a full breakfast every day and is supposed to have harbor views from the top floor/dining room. It is walking distance to everything. Nice! The rate was reasonable, plus they are charging us for 7 nights with the 8th night free. There are many places to choose from in the city. Just poke around.

We will be walking A LOT in St. John's. We'll only have a rental car for a day or two, so the majority of our time will be spent on foot. There are over 75 miles of hiking trails within the city as part of the Grand Concourse. I've contacted the Grand Concourse folks and they are sending me maps of the trails. I hope to walk as many of them as possible. In addition the East Coast Trail and the Newfoundland T'Railway both run right through St. John's, offering even more hiking opportunities. Heading south from the city, the East Coast Trail proceeds from Fort Amherst to Cape Spear and beyond. To the North the ECT runs through Quidi Vidi and beyond via the Sugarloaf Path, et cetera. Should be challenging and lots of fun!

I will post more info as the trip draws nearer and will certainly write about it afterwards.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview with the Hot Seats

The Hot Seats will be performing Thursday, April 28 at Ashland Coffee and Tea. 8pm. I recently corresponded with band members Josh Bearman and Graham DeZarn and got to ask these brilliant lads all kinds of deep questions. That interview can be found here:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Annual Daniel - May 28, 2011

The Annual Daniel is Saturday, May 28th. Memorial Day weekend. It is a party open to all. Three bands will perform: Hammer No More the Fingers, The Hot Seats (2 sets), and Gray Young.

Location: Stephanie and Daniel's house, AKA Deltopia. 1751 Shulls Ln, Draper VA 24324. On Claytor Lake. 4 hours from Richmond, 3 hours from Durham, 2.5 hours from Charlotte, 2 hours from Bristol.

Come early and stay late. Cheeseburger picnic at 1pm. First band around 5pm. Bring a tent for camping. Bring your own food and drink, including water. There are grills and smokers for cooking. A bathing suit and fishing pole are also goods things to bring.

About the bands:
Hammer No More the Fingers
Hammer No More the Fingers is an indie-pop power-trio from Durham, NC. This will be their 3rd time playing the Annual Daniel. HNMTF is fresh off a UK tour in support of their critically acclaimed new album Black Shark, released April 2011. Hammer's A.D. sets are always brilliant.

The Hot Seats are an old-time band with an innovative approach to tradition - equally comfortable at both the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Galax Fiddler's Convention. They will play an early set and a late set. The Hot Seats come to us from Richmond, VA and we are happy to have them. "Seats" could be short for Special Ed And The Shortbus.

Words used to describe Raleigh, NC's Gray Young include: post-punk with atmospheric riffs, nuanced melodies, intensity and susceptibility; a constant push and pull between calm and chaos. Comparisons to Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros.

Looking forward to seeing them and you! If you have any questions add a comment or send an email.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Thoughts on Neil Young Live at Landmark Theater, Richmond, VA

I would consider myself somewhere between a casual and ardent Neil Young fan. To give you an example, this is the only time I'll use the word “Shakey” in this post! I have some of his albums – three of which (Harvest Moon, Zuma and Comes A Time) – I would place among my all time favorites. But a lot of his stuff is hit or miss. Even some of his classic work like the original Harvest album and On The Beach never made an impact...and a few of his most well known songs don't move me as much as select cuts from those aforementioned favorite albums. Still, I’ve always wanted to see Neil Young live. I used to imagine it being some great, cosmic event, so when the Landmark Theater show was announced I made it a point of getting tickets, even if they were the cheapest available balcony seats.

But then oddly in the days leading up to the show I didn’t pay it much thought. I guess I assumed the tour was going to be in support of Le Noise, an album which I don’t have a vested interest in. I was prepared to approach it as some musical theater where Neil putters around on stage playing his new material which nobody really wants to hear, then encoring with a few greatest hits for good measure. The reality was somewhere in between that and the cosmic parting of the universe I used to envision.

The tour opened in Durham a couple nights ago and Richmond was the 2nd show. Curiosity got the best of me and after a quick online search and I was able to find the Durham setlist, which consisted of more “songs you wanna hear” than I expected. This brightened my expectations going in.

We found our seats in the Landmark to be slightly worse than you would think. It’s an old theater that can quickly become cramped and claustrophobic for a sold out show, especially if the people around you are annoying, some of whom happened to be. While it’s true that there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, I discovered that there can be some not-so-good sight lines from the balcony, as in my specific seat! As the opening act Burt Jansch was playing I kept noticing an area on either side of the balcony where it looked like you were free to stand unobstructed. So after Jansch finished Laura and I went to check that spot out. This proved to be a great decision, as instead of sitting in a cramped area looking over heads, we had a clear view of the stage with lots of space and nobody around to bother you. I kept waiting for an usher to come over and tell us to leave but none ever did.

Soon after we got to this great spot the house lights went down and Neil came out strumming an acoustic guitar. I had already learned from the Durham show that he started the show by playing about four acoustic songs then moved on to electric, with some piano & organ stuff in between. The Richmond setlist proved to be EXACTLY the same as Durham. I guess a lot of performers do this, and I’m curious as to why? I suppose it gives you a sense of comfort to know ahead of time exactly what you’re going to play, but it seems like as the performer you’d get bored with it. Neil’s stage hands were Johnny-on-the-spot…they knew exactly what guitar to bring him next based on the song he was going to do. It was all worked out in advance. I guess he’ll do the same set the whole tour. It’s a shame considering the number of songs he must have at his disposal in a solo performance like this.

The perspective of observing a sold out show by a legendary performer in a beautiful sit down theater - but from a non-seated, un-official area that wasn’t your seat that you could get kicked out of at any moment - really heightened the experience for me. It was almost “fly on the wall” like. I was able to distance myself from the norm and just take it all in…judging it as an observer who didn’t feel compelled to applaud or yell or even actively be part of the audience... just watching from afar, performer and audience alike.

I would say the audience was fairly rapt and spellbound the whole show. There of course were the frequent shouts of “Thank You Neil!” and such between songs and the obligatory “I’m supposed to cheer for this lyric” type of hooting and whooping. But all in all it was a fairly reserved, baby-boomerish kinda crowd. Lots of denim for sure. To their credit the average Neil Young fan seems to have an outsider, “F-you” attitude which is admirable.

I haven’t said much about the show. Let’s see...the acoustic songs worked really well in a solo format, as to be expected. The electric songs rocked loudly and contained lots of feedback but would have probably benefited from a backing band. Still, without question Down By the River and Cortez The Killer sent chills down my spine. I’m fairly certain that most of the songs I didn’t recognize were off of Le Noise. Those Le Noise songs kinda struck me as “meh”. Hitchhiker was pretty damn good though. The classic numbers like Helpless and After the Gold Rush were great to hear live and doggone it if Neil didn’t look pretty darn eternal striking signature poses as he rocked out during the most electric parts of the night. At just over 90 minutes though it was kinda on the short-side and matter of fact. If he’s gonna focus on greatest hits that’s awesome, but how about changing up the set list from night to night or playing a little bit longer? LOTS of great songs were left on the table if you think about it. And quite frankly Walk With Me is not encore material.

All in all seeing Neil Young live at this point in my life was very cool. It was several rungs lower than the transcendent “aha moment” of harmonic convergence that I once thought it might be like. However, the reality of seeing him solo – just a guy and his guitar warts and all...a man who has meant so much to so many – really brought into focus the lasting and humbling power of music. I left fully satisfied with a greater respect for Shakey as an artist. (Oops I have now used that term a 2nd time!). It was worth it.

Neil Young solo acoustic/electric
2011-04-17, Landmark Theater, Richmond, Virginia

Set List:
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)
Tell Me Why
You Never Call
Peaceful Valley Boulevard
Love And War
Down By The River
Sign Of Love
After The Gold Rush
I Believe In You
Cortez The Killer
Cinnamon Girl

(Encore) Walk With Me

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pokey LaFarge this Wednesday, April 13!

This Wednesday, April 13th WRIR’s Edge of Americana presents the ragtime string band Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, originators of Riverboat Soul. Early show: 7-9pm, prompt. Two sets! $6. @ The Camel - 1621 W. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23220.

Pokey is a traveling roots musician from St. Louis. He’s been spreading the American music traditions of early jazz, string ragtime, country blues and western swing since he was a teenager, and has performed throughout the USA, the UK and Denmark. The 2010 release Riverboat Soul by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three won “Best Americana Album” at the 10th annual Independent Music Awards. (It also made my best of 2010 list!). So far this year Pokey has released a vinyl single on Jack White’s Third Man Records, yes "that" Jack White (it was produced by Mr. White himself). An upcoming full-length album titled Middle of Everywhere is due for release this summer.

I should also mention that Pokey's hand-picked backing band The South City Three consists of some amazing players, especially Adam Hoskins on guitar. Don't miss this opportunity to see this band in such a small and intimate venue! For tix or more information, visit

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tenor Banjo 101 (Actually tenor banjo 50)

I've whittled the list of tunes I'm trying to play on tenor banjo to about 50 for the time being.

Oldtime –  16 tunes
Almondo Boswell Polka - G
Arkansas Traveler - D
Critter’s Gone to Texas - C
El Churrumbe Beans - G
Flop Eared Mule - D/A
Girl I Left Behind Me - G
Jamie Allen - G
June Apple - A
My Love is But a Lassie - D
Over the Waterfall - D
Quince Dillon's High D - D
Seven Step Polka - G
Soldier’s Joy - D
Sugar Candy Schottische - C
Whalen's Breakdown - C
Whiskey Before Breakfast - D

Irish (non-jig) – 13 tunes
All the Way to Galway - D
Doon the Brae - Am
Farewell to Whisky - G
Flowers of Edinburgh - G
Frosty Battle of Aughrim - Dm
Johnny Mickey’s - A
Kitchen Girl - A
Old Gray Cat - Em
Rakes of Mallow - G
Road to Boston - D
Road to Lisdoonvarna - Em
Staten Island Hornpipe - D
Tralee Jail - Em

Jigs – 9 tunes
Camp Pleasant Jig - D
Clouds Thicken - Em
Cock of the North - A
Dancing Susan - C
Kesh Jig - G
Minnesota 6/8 Two Step - D/A
Star Above the Garter - D
Swallowtail Jig - Em
Tarantella - C

Rags –  5 tunes
Bb Rag
Eli Green's Cakewalk - Em
Hawkins Rag - C
Sally’s Hoppwaltz - D
Walking Uptown - D

Waltz – 4 tunes
Cajun Waltz - G
Fraksetter’s Waltz - D
Shoe the Donkey - G
Valse De Los Panos

European – 3 tunes
Hatikvah - Dm
La Gigue
Oriantalische Melody