Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Delaware Valley Bluegrass

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I camped at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival for the fourth time this Labor Day weekend. We had a pretty big compound this year, I’d say almost 20 people, so lots of jamming went on. As for the acts this weekend, there were some great bands again. I really enjoyed Marty Stuart, who I saw a few years ago at Grey Fox, and the Steep Canyon Rangers, who I saw last year at Del Val. April Verch and Rhonda Vincent were good acts too. I did miss a few people since I spent a lot more time in the camping area than by the stage, but a lot of them I’d already seen before at past festivals.

I put new strings on my mandolin, which I’ve never done before. Considering I still had on the factory strings from two years ago, they made a huge difference in the sound. Apparently most people change their strings a few times a year. A friend we camp with who used to be a luthier also showed me how to set up the mandolin – lowered the action and set the intonation – so it’s also a lot easier to play now. I’m still not very good because I don’t practice very much, but I’m never home much either. Another friend told me about a workshop happening in Maryland in October so I signed up for that. I’ll actually already be camping near the location of it that weekend so it’s very convenient.

We had gorgeous weather the whole weekend. I rode down for it and managed to fit everything, including the mandolin and a ton of food, on my bike. I got new saddlebags earlier this summer and they can fit a whole lot of stuff. I had one completely filled with groceries. I added the tank bag just so I could bring two loaves of bread without squishing them. I forgot to take pictures the rest of the weekend but here’s me all packed up and ready to go home on Monday morning:

Wintergrass / ERC

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

On Friday night we went down to Wilmington to check out the Wilmington Winter Bluegrass Festival. It’s the same deal as other festivals, except it’s in a hotel. Weird at first but people just jam in the hallways and conference rooms instead of around campfires in a field. I have to say I prefer the fields, although that could be camping withdrawal. I only went the one night since I had other stuff to do the rest of the weekend but the friend of my dad’s who I take mandolin lessons from was playing there that night (check out The Rockdale Boys, who were unfortunately interrupted by a fire alarm set off by someone smoking in their room). It was a good time. One band I really enjoyed on the main stage was Aspen Run. Most of the band is a family and I tend to enjoy family bands. My dad and I want to have a family band but the rest of the family isn’t cooperating. My brother, for example, will only be in a family band if he gets 90% of the profits and gets to be the decider. Needless to say, I didn’t agree. Although recently he did write an excellent Ode to his Camo Pants to the tune of The Safety Dance in which he rhymed pants with pants, and then sang about rhyming pants with pants. So I may have to reconsider. Back to the original topic, I thought about going back to Wilmington the next day for a few workshops but in the end I didn’t have time. Maybe next year.

I took the Experienced Rider Course this past Sunday. There were only 3 of us in the class so we got a lot more riding time in than we would have with all the waiting in line that a full 12 person class entails. I actually was kind of nervous before the course that I’d be awful on the U turns and other slow maneuvers, although I have no idea why since I haven’t had much trouble with anything like that in the past. And I was perfectly fine. The only thing I had trouble with was the S turn, and that was because I was so concerned with staying in between the lines that I kept looking at them when really I should have been looking through the turn. But I got that ironed out in the end so it was all good. I still need to call my insurance and see if I get another discount for passing the class (already got one for the basic rider course). One fun thing was at the end of the class we got to put on drunk goggles and try to walk a line taped on the floor. I remember doing this in high school (and then trying to drive a golf cart around cones in the parking lot) but I don’t remember it being anywhere near as bad. At first I couldn’t even find the line with my foot, then I could barely stand up straight and half fell onto the instructor, who walks next to the person on the line with his arms out for just that reason. We had to watch some ridiculous sober riding video since the class can also be used to get points taken off your license, so that’s where the drunk goggles came in. I’ve never had a problem just standing and not falling over when actually drunk though so those goggles must have been rated pretty high. It’s interesting what just affecting your eyesight can do to you.

Traveling a lot

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. I was home a total of 4 days in May, and then I was away the first two weeks of June. Here’s a recap of the most interesting stuff:

San Francisco

Eddie Rickenbacker’s is a fantastic bar that has all these old motorcycles hanging from the ceiling – mostly Harleys and Indians with a bunch of other older ones thrown in. I think there was one bike from the ’50s, with all the other ones being even older. A lot were the almost bicycle looking ones with pedals. They have one ’41 Indian that had been given to Clark Gable by MGM. Apparently the owner sits in a recliner in the front all day long and tells people about it but he was actually in the hospital while I was there so I didn’t get a chance to talk with him. One last cool thing – the fat cat that wanders around and all over the bar.

I toured the USS Pampanito, a submarine from WWII. That kind of thing is interesting to me because my grandfather was in the Navy in WWII, although he was on a LSM (landing ship medium) and not a submarine. The quarters in there were ridiculously tight. I don’t know how they stood it.

I saw Tyrone Wells at the Red Devil Lounge. It was a cool little venue, kind of reminded me of the Troc. Wells was good although I honestly can’t remember the name of the opener. Wells was more soul and the opener was more emo I think, which I’m not at all into.

The Plough & the Stars in SF is so much better than the one in Philly. They have live music almost every night, whether its Irish or bluegrass, an actual concert or a jam session, or even set dancers. I’ve heard the one in Philly has Irish music on Sunday afternoons but I’ve never been. I know it’s pretty crappy and crowded on Friday and Saturday nights but that’s because it’s in Old City. While I was in SF, I went on a night with an Irish jam session and had a great time, ended up talking with some of the Gasmen most of the night. They opened for Gaelic Storm back before Titanic made them big.

I also saw the Ed Earley Band at Biscuits and Blues. Another cool venue although it was practically empty that night. The band was good, great rhythm and blues going on.

One last thing about San Francisco – it has absolutely amazing weather to walk around in, and motorcycles are everywhere – on the road, tons of parking for them. I’d love to see Philly get into that.

Camp Jam in the Pines

This was my first time at Camp Jam although my dad had gone before. I had a great time even though it rained for half the weekend. Everyone still stood or danced in the rain though to see the great musicians playing. Friday night had a sort of Cajun / blues theme going on so that was my favorite night. I saw the Red Stick Ramblers again along with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys – both were really good. It was at a really nice campground too, which is surprising for South Jersey. Most of the ones here are not in good shape but I would definitely go to Old Cedar Campground again. Actually I’m already scheduled to go there this fall for Camp Jam again (they do spring and fall festivals every year).

North Carolina

I went down to North Carolina on Memorial Day weekend to visit my cousin and her husband and check out their new house. Raleigh is a nice little city, although it feels more like a small town. The people there are way too friendly for my comfort zone, although I think coming from the North East I’m weirded out if people even look at me. We actually spent most of the weekend backpacking though. It was my second trip and their first so we did a 2 nighter in the Uwharrie Lakes Region. Beautiful and we kept crossing over a creek so we got to use my new water filtration system – the Katadyn Hiker Pro. I highly recommend it. Lightweight, quick, and works like a charm. The water was pretty tasty too. One other piece of new equipment I got to try out was my Thermarest Trekker Chair. Nothing feels better after hiking all day than having a comfortable chair to sit in, but since any kind of camp chair or stool weighs more than I want to carry this was a great solution. I bring a Thermarest any way and that slides right into the extremely lightweight “chair” (really just a fabric pocket) and it’s oh so comfy.

Usually when you go camping with someone new, you get to see their gear and then you have a new list of things you “need” to have for next time. Well my cousins had the tent I already knew I wanted – REI’s Quarter Dome T2 – but it was nice to see it in action and made me want it more. It actually weighs less than my current one person tent, and has room to sit up and store your pack. They had a hammock too, which was cool and made me look into camping hammocks where I found the Hennesy Backpacker Hammock. With a mesh top and even a rainfly, who needs a tent? It can actually be set up as a tent with two hiking poles though if trees aren’t available for hanging from. Plus, since you’re off the ground there’s also no need for a Thermarest, and you can just sit in your hammock so no need for a chair either. Having a hammock would save so much weight. It might be my next purchase instead of the new tent.


Well Miami turned out to be not that interesting because it was a quick trip where I worked late every night and wasn’t feeling well the whole time. I did get to go to a nice Argentinian restaurant though, although I’m totally blanking on the name right now. Maybe it’ll come to me later.

North Jersey

North Jersey doesn’t sound too exciting but since I had just been gone for a month and had barely any chance to ride my new bike, I decided to take it with me to North Jersey for the two weeks I was there. I got in a lot of solo riding time, in addition to longer distance riding, and I feel much more capable on the bike. Not all my riding was solo though since a friend of mine who rides lives near where I was staying so I got a chance to ride with her a couple nights too. I mainly spent my time riding to state parks since they’re generally a free destination and are usually surrounded by nice roads. I managed to get to Hopatcong, Washington Crossing, Round Valley, and Spruce Run. I passed 1,000 miles on the bike while I was up there too which made me pretty happy.

Appel Farm

I went to the 20th year of Appel Farm’s Arts and Music Festival. My family has been going for 18 of those years and we always get our tickets ahead of time so we were definitely attending, despite the 103 degree temperature. We set up canopies so we weren’t right in the sun but it was brutal. Great musicians but we ended up leaving early and missing both stages’ headliners because it was just so damn hot.


What’s interesting in Scranton? Cliff jumping near a big dam and some waterfalls. You have to walk along some railroad tracks and then go down a trail to get there so I think we were technically trespassing but it was a great spot. Obviously well used by the locals so it’s not like we were going to get in trouble for being there. I didn’t do more than a 12 foot jump because I’m a baby but there were some people I was with doing maybe 30? I’m awful at guessing heights. Some locals who came and sat at the top of the dam getting stoned for an hour then proceeded to jump from the very top. I felt like I was about to watch someone die but they made it. I guess they’re used to the place. We brought goggles to check below the surface for any rocks or whatever before jumping but they just went right in. It was a gorgeous spot though and I plan on going back.

Red Stick Ramblers in the area

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

My favorite band will be up in the northeast quite a bit this year. I recommend checking them out at one of these shows if you’ve never seen them before.

The best part is that I go to these places any way, and they’ll just happen to be there.

February 28 – World Cafe Live
May 16-17 – Camp Jam in the Pines
July 17-20 – Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival
August 29-31 – Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival

And of course I’m sure I’ll still go down to Louisiana for the Blackpot Festival in November. It was a fantastic time and I loved just about every band that played last year.

The Avett Brothers / Langhorne Slim

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

I went down to the Grand Opera House in Wilmington for a concert earlier this week. The venue itself was very nice and had great acoustics, although it wasn’t really the kind of venue I’d picture for the Avett Brothers. My parents saw them play at the Troc last year, which is much more suitable to the kind of crowd they draw (room is needed for standing and dancing, not seating). I loved the opener, Langhorne Slim. He played solo so it was a nice little acoustic session. I forgot to bring my camera but I recommend checking out his songs Get a Little Happy and Honey Pie.

On to the Avett Brothers themselves. The two brothers play guitar and banjo, and drums with their feet, with another guy on upright bass. For this concert they also had a cello player for some songs. These guys play their instruments so hard that they needed to be retuned between almost every song, and restrung a few times throughout the night. They’re very high energy, which is what I love about them most. Some songs to check out are Talking Blues, When I Drink, and Talk on Indolence. I found someone else’s video from the concert I was at, for the song Solomon:

crafts / Christmas

Friday, November 16th, 2007

This past week I’ve been catching up on some knitting and sewing I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I really haven’t done much of anything in the way of crafting in several months. I travel so much for work that I’m rarely home and then have so much other stuff to get done when I am. I had some baby gifts to finish up though, and I decided to make some things for Christmas as well. There are a few unfinished things I want for me too, and soon since they’re winter items. I also taught another friend to knit and had planned to help her with sewing, so I’ve been to JoAnn’s a few times this week. I should not go there. I already have probably 25 projects with materials already waiting for me at home, but I always get more. I’m delusional when it comes to predicting the free time that I’ll have to work on all of this.

I’m in the Christmas mood already. I bought a couple of new Christmas CDs so I’ve been listening to the music already for the past week (alright, the past 2-3 weeks). It’s not the stuff they play over and over on the radio though – I tend to have different genres of music that just happen to be Christmas songs, so I need more than the 3 week window where it’s acceptable to play holiday music. I’m also planning on getting a tree for my apartment this year. I already have tons of ornaments that have been gifts through the years, and some other random decorations. I’ll wait to do all that until after Thanksgiving though. I do have some restraint.

Some less common holiday album recommendations:
The Gypsy Hombres – Django Bells
The Chieftains – The Bells of Dublin
Randy Travis – An Old Time Christmas
Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Christmas
Genuine Houserocking Christmas

I also love standards like The Nutcracker and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Bourbon Street / Blue Moon / Blackpot

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

As a quick update on the missing luggage, I finally let myself be convinced to buy new clothes that night. After purchasing them, and also new toiletries, I went back to my hotel room only to find my luggage had been delivered while I was shopping. One of the bags was ripped, but they were there.

On to the fun stuff..

I spent 3 nights in New Orleans so you can bet we went around the corner to Bourbon Street every night. There was a fun little blues club not too far up where we got to see some good music. The one night this guy named Rooster played there. He walked around the place with his wireless mic and guitar singing to all the women present. I bought his CD because of one song he wrote called The Mirror – “I wish you was a mirror baby, I’d like to see myself inside of you” was the first verse, and they just kept getting better from there. The next night a band who I think was called The Soul played, with a guest singer named Eunice. They were really good as well:

A friend met me in New Orleans and we drove down to Lafayette to stay at the Blue Moon Guesthouse, which was fantastic. It was my first time staying at a hostel and I was surprised by how nice it was. We met some fun people to hang out with there, although there was this one crazy older woman who would walk around talking to herself and anyone in the vicinity, regardless of whether or not they were busy or already in a conversation. I would definitely stay there again though. They turned the back porch into a bar, the Blue Moon Saloon, a few years ago and now have live music and dancing most nights. So we got 2 nights of music there before moving on to the festival.

I’d been looking forward to the Blackpot Festival for months and months so I was way excited for it to finally be happening. It was held at Acadian Village, which was very nice but much smaller than I was expecting. Someone later told me that the festival was actually 3 or 4 times as big as last year (the 1st one). I can’t imagine them still being able to hold it at the same place if it gets any bigger though. This festival was great because it was set up by some of the musicians there, and they just camped right along with everyone else, and partied with everyone else too. But the best part by far was the dancing. No one does Cajun dancing where I live. I already knew the basic steps for most of it from one other festival and an Allons Danser concert I went to once. I finally got to actually do a lot of it here though, which made me extremely happy. Someone even told me I dance like a Cajun, which since he was Cajun was a great compliment. I loved every single band there and had the most amazing time. I am definitely going back. Some videos I took:

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Last weekend was my second time at the festival down in Woodstown and it was even more fun than last year. We had some great camping neighbors who we jammed with. I actually bought a mandolin and the one woman who lives near me is going to help me learn to play it.

The one band on the main stage who made an impression on me was Cherryholmes. They’re a family who went to a bluegrass festival around 7 years ago and decided to form a family band afterwards. And then they did it. I tried to tell my family we were going to form a family band after last year’s festival but they didn’t go for it. We could have been famous already! Cherryholmes was fun because they also break up their music with Irish dancing.

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I was at Grey Fox last month and it’s definitely something I’m going to be going to every year. They had a dance pavilion for one thing which was so much fun, especially since the Red Stick Ramblers played on it every night. Also lessons during the day. Corey Ledet and the Wilders were on that stage too. Some interesting acts on the main stage – Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Sam Bush, among others. Marty Stuart lives next to Johnny Cash’s property. The house was bought by one of the Bee Gees before it burned down. Now the guy’s rebuilding and is going to have a big party once it’s done. Marty Stuart’s been practicing doing a bluegrass version of Stayin’ Alive for it – it sounded great, very funny. Sam Bush is an excellent mandolinist and he did some fun covers too – Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley, not stuff you’d normally hear at a bluegrass festival.

Another cool band who was there, although not booked to be there, was the Powder Kegs. They just played at various places around the campground, they always got a big gathering around the portopots.

One of the best things about these festivals is all the jamming going on in the campgrounds. This particular festival lets people camp out in line up to a month before it starts so there are line parties as well. Example:

This festival was on someone’s farm on a mountain so they used the 45 degree angle of the hill to their advantage – amphitheater seating for the main stage. Walking up and down and across the hill was hell on my ankles for the first day or so though until my joints got used to it. It was like getting sea legs, except slanted legs. All the campers and vehicles had to be chocked up or dug in on one side so they wouldn’t go rolling down the hill into other people’s campsites. When I got there the night before it had been raining so they weren’t even letting people up the hill since they kept sliding back down. I had to wait a while and then they started letting people up one at a time as long as they promised not to stop or slow down at all on the way. The view from on top of this mountain was incredible too since it was next to the Catskills. Any way, lots of fun.

Up on Cripple Creek

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

I keep watching The Last Waltz.