Friday, December 4, 2015

Richmond Magazine: Dream Syndicate, Edge of Daybreak and The Dads

Rediscovery, rebirth and reunions. Here are three stories I recently wrote for Richmond Magazine about older musical acts enjoying a revival of some kind.

The Dream Syndicate were part of the West Coast "Paisley Underground" sound of the 1980s - traveling in the same circles as the Bangles and Rain Parade. The raucous guitar band, who toured with R.E.M. and U2 back in the day, recently reformed and are recording a reunion album at Montrose Studio in Richmond (and playing a live show at Strange Matter). Read my interview with bandleader Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate by clicking here.

The Richmond-area group Edge of Daybreak recorded a soul album in 1979 called "Eyes of Love," while all of its members were inmates at Powhatan Correctional Center. The record has since been rediscovered and hailed as a classic, reissued by the Numero Group label. Here is the lowdown on the record and my interview with James Carrington, band member and co-songwriter.

The Dads were Virginia's great lost pop band. A popular club attraction across the state in the early '80s, but particularly in Richmond, their homebase, the group featured the late Bryan Harvey, who would later go on to House of Freaks. The quartet recorded one, lamentable, LP for CBS before breaking up in 1985, but a great new CD of lost recordings, called "Redemption," has just been issued. I talked to drummer Mike Tubb about the unearthed sessions and, sadly, he passed away some weeks later, on the day of the CD's record release party. You can read the Dads article by clicking here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Virginia Living Magazine: Bacon's Castle

Bacon's Castle is the oldest surviving brick home (and pleasure garden) in America and maybe Virginia's most undervalued architectural landmark. 

This striking Surry mainstay served as the backdrop for the first American uprising against the British crown -- a little episode called "Bacon's Rebellion" -- a century before the Revolutionary War. Maintained today by Preservation Virginia, the Castle is open to the public and is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise a new roof. 

Read my feature article on this amazing structure in Virginia Living Magazine, or get it online by clicking here.

And for more on this historic home and the efforts to preserve it, go here.

(Photo courtesy of Preservation Virginia.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Richmond Magazine: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

A new, much-hyped economic study has been released that charts the financial success of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since its expansion five years ago. 

But what about the damning employee survey that was taken last year that Virginia's most prominent museum is refusing to release to the public? 

My new Richmond Magazine feature article on the VMFA, titled "Ripple Effect," takes a look at the human cost of the museum's recent successes, and the tug of war between its mission to present great art and its rebranded goal to be a prominent public space. 

Grab thyself a print copy of the magazine or read the article by clicking here.

(Photo by the mighty Barry Fitzgerald!)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Richmond Magazine: The Story of the Whole Darn Family

"Seven Minutes of Funk" by the Whole Darn Family has become one of the most sampled tracks in modern music, appropriated by more than three dozen rap, soul and hip-hop acts over the years, including Jay-Z, EPMD, Public Enemy, the Wu-Tang Clan, Jodeci and Grandmaster Flash. 

But the seven-piece funk band's story had never been told until now. My in-depth feature on the Richmond, Virginia ensemble, and the backstory behind the 1976 song, can now be found at the RIchmond Magazine website. 

My sincere thanks to those who have already shared the article on social media and have passed along their own memories of the group. 

Read the story by clicking right here.

And click right here to watch a special video web extra, produced and shot by the talented Maureen McNabb, featuring the Whole Darn Family's bass player Woudy Hughes. 

(Album cover courtesy of WDF's mighty trumpeter Giz Bowe!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Richmond Magazine: Rattle and Hum

All my rowdy friends are coming to Richmond, Virginia... for Electric Football. 

My Richmond Magazine feature article on the big 2015 Electric Football Championships and Convention -- and an accompanying art show on the tabletop sport at Richmond's ADA Gallery -- has been posted online. 

Ah, electric football. This once-frustrating electro-magnetic board game has been turned into a fast-paced competitive sport and thriving subculture by a new generation of 'ballers. And the best and the baddest from Electric Football leagues across the nation will be on hand to compete for bragging rights in host city Richmond on the weekend of July 31-August 2nd. The special art show will run throughout the month of August.

Read the article (and vibrate) by clicking here  

Find out more about the big Electric Football tournament in Richmond (a.k.a. Humfest) by clicking here.

Learn about the cool Electric Football show at ADA Gallery (and the art of modifying your bases) by clicking here.

(Photo by the mighty John Pollard!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Virginia Living Magazine: Slick's Historic Hot Rod

Slick Patterson's 1951 roadster was the first known custom-built car ever made in Virginia. But what happened to it? 

Now online: My Virginia Living Magazine feature story on Virginia's first "hot rod" and how it was rediscovered and recently restored to full, beautiful Caribbean Coral-painted glory by folklorist Roddy Moore (from the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College) and a team of gear-jamming experts. 

Take the article for a spin by traveling right here. 

And for more on Moore and the Blue Ridge Institute (which is the state center for Blue Ridge folklore) go right here

It should be noted -- for full disclosure -- that I have worked with Moore and the fine BRI staff on past projects, including VIrginia Rocks!, a CD box set and traveling museum that examined early rock 'n' roll and rockabilly music in Virginia.

(Also, don't forget to pick up the July-August print edition of Virginia Living -- on newsstands now -- so you can also read my separate feature on Surrey's historic Bacon's Castle.) 

Photo above by the mighty Sam Dean! Photo below courtesy of the Patterson family!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Coastal Virginia Magazine: Major and the Monbacks

It's time for some "old school party pop." 

My feature article on Norfolk's Major and the Monbacks has been published in the July issue of Coastal Virginia Magazine and is now online. The eight-piece Monbacks released a great new debut CD in May and are currently on tour with their high-octane live show. 

Get a dose of today's "Norfolk Sound" by reading the feature article, which can be found right here.

And for more on the band, their tour and the debut album, go here.

(Photo by the mighty Karla Espino!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Richmond Magazine: Changing Reels

Is Richmond, Virginia becoming a film town? 

"Changing Reels," my latest feature for Richmond Magazine takes a look at all aspects of indigenous cinema in and around the city -- the outside productions, the hometown filmmakers, the growing number of film festivals, everything but the rising cost of popcorn.  

You'll want to get the June print edition of the magazine for the full spread (including the excellent accompanying feature by Harry Kollatz Jr. on the art of being a movie extra) but the article is available online by clicking right here. 

(Photo by the mighty Ash Daniel!)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coastal Virginia Magazine: Roll Tides

Spit, rub a little dirt on your hands, and dig into my history of the Norfolk Tides, published in the latest issue of Coastal Virginia Magazine

The Triple-A baseball team and Baltimore Orioles affiliate -- once associated with the New York Mets and called the Tidewater Tides -- has seen a slew of legendary players and managers pass through its dugout in the past 50+ years: Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Bruce Bochy and more. 

Catch it by clicking right here

And for more on the Norfolk Tides, slide it over here

(Photo by the mighty Les Treagus.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On the Radio: Open Source RVA and Radio Wowsville

I don't often plug them on this blog but my two radio shows, Open Source RVA and Radio Wowsville, are still going strong. And there have been some exciting changes of late.

Radio Wowsville, the music show that I program with Colin "Brother Breakdown" Powell, can be heard every Sunday night at 11PM on WTJU 91.1 FM in Charlottesville. The freeform, "anything goes" music program will celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer (what a long, strange trip it's been). And now you can hear the Wow (along with other great WTJU music shows, as well as content from Virginia Commonwealth University's radio station) in the Ashland / Richmond area on WHAN 102.9 FM. Of course, you can tune in on the net from anywhere by clicking right here, and you can listen to past broadcasts of Radio Wowsville by going right here and clicking on the Sunday menu. You really should.

Open Source RVA, the weekly news-talk program that I co-host with journalist Chris Dovi, can now be heard at a new time on WRIR 97.3 FM in Richmond: Friday afternoons at 2PM. You early risers can also catch a rebroadcast of the program on Sunday mornings at 7AM, and it is available online by going to this spot. You can hear previously-aired Open Source RVA programs by clicking here. Open Source RVA is WRIR's omnibus news hour, where we talk to area newsmakers, politicians, non-profit leaders, community activists, artists, advocates and other members of the community.

Yes, I have been told that I have a very good face for radio. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Richmond Magazine: Interview with Carol Piersol

Here's another one that has been in the printed world for a spell and is now available online: my Richmond Magazine interview with award-winning theater director Carol Piersol.

Piersol, who had a controversial exit from Richmond's trailblazing Firehouse Theatre, which she co-founded and ran for years, is now the artistic director and founder of the 5th Wall Theatre Company. She takes the helm for a 5th Wall production of Jennifer Blackmer's "The Human Terrain" starting March 19 at HattTheatre.

To read the interview, make an entrance here.

And for more on Piersol's 5th Wall Theatre company, and to get tickets for "The Human Terrain," hit your mark here.

Photo by the mighty Jay Paul!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Coastal Virginia Magazine: The First Beacon

It's been in print for awhile, but Coastal Virginia Magazine has finally posted my feature article on Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach. 

Constructed in 1792, Cape Henry Light was the very first Federal works project (overseen by none other than George Washington and Alexander Hamilton) and will finally be getting needed repairs and fortification later this year after two decades of planning and fund-gathering. 

The story begins:
By all accounts, John McComb made stuff to last. Born in 1753, the master bricklayer built New York’s City Hall and was also responsible for Gracie Mansion, the New York City Mayoral residence. During his career, he also constructed three lighthouses, all still standing.      
The most famous of these beacons, the old Cape Henry Lighthouse, stands on the edge of First Landing State Park and the Fort Story military base in Virginia Beach, not far from where the original Jamestown settlers made a historic pit stop in 1607.       

Read all about America's "first beacon" by clicking right here.

And for more on Cape Henry Lighthouse, which is owned and maintained by Preservation Virginia, you can go to this spot.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Virginia Living: Interview with Jesse McReynolds

Pick up the March/April issue of Virginia Living Magazine and check out my cover story on the legendary Jesse McReynolds

The veteran bluegrass mandolinist, formerly of Jim & Jesse, is now the longest-running member of the Grand Ole Opry and has found a new audience among Grateful Dead fans. 

The article, titled "A New Song," is online, expanded from the print edition, with some special video clips. Did you know that Jesse almost became the Stanley Brothers' fiddle player? What did the bluegrass community think of him playing on an album by the Doors? How did he come up with his unique "crosspicking" style of playing? What was his late brother Jim McReynolds really like?

All is revealed, and more, in this in-depth interview with one of bluegrass music's true pioneers (and nice guys). 

Read "A New Song" by clicking right here.  

(Photo by the mighty Michael Gomez!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Richmond Magazine: Back in the Spotlight at the VMFA

After a decade of darkness, live theater is returning to Virginia's most prestigious art museum.

The Leslie Cheek Theatre at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts -- once the home of the now-defunct TheatreVirginia -- will be the venue for Henley Street/Richmond Shakespeare's forthcoming production of "The Lion in Winter." 

My feature article for Richmond Magazine, "Back in the Spotlight," sets the stage on this grand re-entrance, slated for next month.  You can read the piece in the magazine's January issue or by clicking right here.

(Photo by the mighty Chris Smith!)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Coastal Virginia Magazine: The Water is Coming

My latest feature for Coastal Virginia Magazine is about the imminent threat of rising sea levels in the Hampton Roads area. 

In "The Water is Coming," you will hear from scientists, environmentalists, property owners and city planners about ongoing predictions that the Tidewater region will see several inches of increased tidal flooding in the coming years, and you'll also find out what's being done about it.

The article begins:
Brian Brennan looks out at the view from the Unitarian Church of Norfolk. “The shoreline has changed,” he says.
For years, grass grew up to the curb of the Yarmouth Street church, which sits along the Smith Creek tidal basin. But the grounds have been fouled so often with mucky river water that much of it has died. In the yard, you can see the color change from green to brown.
“The tidal flooding is such now that just about every high tide, the road in front of our church is flooded in places six inches to a foot deep,” UCN’s educational director says. To make sure that congregational members are fully informed about conditions, the staff now prints tidal predictions in its weekly bulletin and on its web site.
Sitting across from the upscale Hague neighborhood, near the Chrysler Museum, the church’s 112-year-old building has flooded from storms over the years, most recently from a Nor’easter five years ago. “It busted our boiler. We lost heat for about a month,” Brennan recalls. Since that flood, intruding water has been a persistent presence, and jokes about taking a raft or canoe to Sunday service have stopped being funny.
The Unitarian Church’s issues have made it something of a poster child for the problems of sea level rise in the region. “This is happening with greater frequency across Hampton Roads and it isn’t going away,” says Mike Tidwell, executive director of The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). The Maryland-based advocacy group recently held a press conference at the church to introduce a new report on the dangers faced by encroaching water called “Safe Coast Virginia.”
“This so-called ‘nuisance flooding’ is happening in coastal areas along the East Coast,” Tidwell maintains. “This is not from a storm surge, or heavy rain, this is flat out sea level rise, and it’s getting closer to the people. If we were to add to it a really heavy rain or storm, we’re talking about serious damage that could occur ... so right now the region is counting on luck to protect itself.”
You'll want to get the newsstand copy so you can see all the photos and the swell layout design. But you can read the rest of "The Water is Coming" online by clicking right here.  

(Photo illustration by the mighty David Uhrin!)