On the weekend I love having a cup of coffee and reading The Post. This is especially true here in spring. The sun is up and the morning air has a crispness to it that you don’t get any other time of year. That morning chill in the air is great after coming off the miserable weather of winter. Today there just happened to be an advertisement for The Barns at Wolf Trap and it was The Bad Plus playing on April Fools day.
I have not seen a jazz show in such a long time so I was excited they where playing. Its funny how things can sometimes just work out. The last time I saw them was at the 2010 Rosslyn Jazz Festival and before that at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival. Both of course large festivals with multiple acts so being able to catch them in such a small venue for a full set was a real treat.
I got to the venue not long before the show started and the place was pretty packed. I got my seat the day of the show and it was almost sold out when I got mine. There where only 8 or so seats left in the entire place which was cool. This time around I was in the balcony and I don’t know if that had anything to do with the acoustics or not but I could hear a pin drop from up there. This really made the music stand out. In fact I don’t think the drums needed much of a mic rig as they were plenty loud just by themselves.
The entire night was a good mix of the bands musical styles. Between songs Reid would do the banter and usually named the song and who composed it. Once thing I quickly found was I enjoyed more the compositions by drummer Dave King. His stuff is just much more funky and avant-garde then his band mates. Another thing I noticed was Reid did all banter and it just seemed like he was trying to hard. He had some good one liners now and then but he often struggled to connect with the audience. In these situations I am a fan of letting the music do the talking.
Great last minute concert from the Weekend section in The Post. All afternoon I was doing training so the concert was a welcome mental break and a good reason to get out of the house. I don’t see jazz bands very often so this was also a special treat. Unfortunately this also breaks my streak of seeing concerts outside my local area. Widespread Panic on Sept. 7th 2016 was my last local show. Six bands in six states since then. That has to be some sort of record for myself. I don’t much like my job right now but I will say this, it allow me to do what I really love which is concerts and traveling so its not all bad.
For weeks I have known about John Medeski playing a solo show at The Barns. Medeski, Martin and Wood is my second favorite band so I knew what to expect seeing Medeski solo. I have seen the Wood Brothers side project which is different then a MMW show. I was expecting him to play a grand piano and this is what I saw on the stage when we arrived. In 2005 I saw MMW play at the Newport Jazz Festival, Medeski had his normal setup but he did play the grand piano they had on stage and that was awesome.
I managed to convince Nancy to come and she suggested we invite my Dad and Pat, they accepted. The two of them normally go out to dinner on Thursdays so it worked out for all of us. I got to see John Medeski and everyone else got a nice evening together as a family. Pat got tickets from the box office and she found a close restaurant to have dinner at, Maplewood Grill.
This was a great classic American restaurant. The decor was nice but the crowd was definitely an older one. If you are young and looking to meet people, don’t come here. I had the chipotle and Guinness braised beef short ribs and they were amazing. The beef was cooked perfectly and the sauce was rich. It came with bacon risotto which was good, it was the beef and the sauce that made this dish.
We arrived at the venue just in time to grab a drink and take our seats. Since I had never been here before I was astonished at the inside. It is exposed beams from a 1730 German barn originally built in New York, pretty cool. There is a loft that seats close to 100 and the acoustics are pretty good in the space. I don’t know if this is because of the wood beams or because it is so small. Certainly for the Medeski show, the grand piano didn’t need any amplification and the sound was clear.
Medeski came on stage at 8:05 and only had a simple greeting. He then proceeded to play for 60 minutes straight without a break. I must be honest, his playing that night was a little weird. He would noodle for a few minutes and then go into a partial tune, back and forth for the entire hour. His noodling was crazy and at times made no musical sense. The transitions often didn’t make sense and I felt it ruined the flow. He would bang on the keys and sometimes even pluck the strings directly in the piano.
It was a weird set and I could tell that Nancy and Pat were getting lost. Nancy was ready to go shortly after the set started. He closed the show with a MMW song that was good but this was decidedly a Medeski show. He took us on a musical journey all over the place, sometimes I got lost and wanted to get off. After the show we all agreed it was interesting. Pat and Nancy didn’t care much for it and even for me, a fan of Medeski, it was a hard show to fall in love with. I liked the solo piano idea and at times he would really jam. Often weird noodling that didn’t make sense or flow and was hard to follow. My dad and I understood what Medeski was doing and as a musical performance, it was something different and new. Personally I can’t wait for the next Medeski, Martin and Wood tour to start.
I last saw Charlie Hunter on my birthday back in 2010. Back then it was the Trio which was a great show. This time around it was the duo, Charlie and drummer Scott Amendola. I was glad the show was on a Friday because it had been a long week and I didn’t want to go to work after staying out late for the show.
It has been a few years since I have been to the Jammin’ Java and it certainly had changed since that last visit. The biggest change and most disappointing, was I could no longer get a good cup of espresso. While they do sell coffee, it is mass market and brewed like I make at home. On the plus side they have added several tables and orientated them like the Birchmere in Alexandria or the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis. I bought my ticket Friday afternoon and was able to score the last premium table seat right up front. Since I couldn’t get a cup of coffee I got a beer and took my seat when I arrived.
This time around two people had recording rigs and recorded the show for posterity. Not long after the official start time Charlie and Scott walked out onto the small stage. I was rather close and could hear them talk which was cool. I felt they didn’t even need to use microphones I was so close. Well certainly Scott didn’t need one and if Charlie was playing an acoustic guitar, he wouldn’t need one other.
They played two sets that night and couldn’t play past 10pm which was disappointing. Being only the two of them, they put on a great show with a lot of energy. A small intimate show, Charlie told a couple stories which were cool. The one about a guy he was touring with always being late was a good laugh.
It seemed like just when the show started it was over, 10pm came rather quickly that night. Two short sets and Charlie did a one song solo encore before thanking the crowd and walking off the stage. Charlie has played here about once a year for the last three or four years if memory servers me. I think its great that he is playing small venues like this, as a fan I want to get as close to the band as possible.
Widespread Panic took a break over most of 2012 and this was their first tour since the hiatus. When it was announced and I saw Wolf Trap on the schedule I jumped at tickets as soon as they went on sale. Later when I started signing up for classes, I made sure none were scheduled for Wednesday night so I could go to the show.
A few days before the show Maggie messaged me asking if I wanted to come. I told them I bought my ticket the day of and I was in. I had a pavilion seat that was now useless but that was ok. I have always thought the vibe from the lawn is better and it’s better to see shows with friends as apposed to alone. I arranged to meet at their house in Centreville and carpool to Wolf Trap. Because I had a designated driver I was now free to drink. A quick stop during lunch for some beer and food and I was set.
We didn’t get to the venue till a quarter to 7 and I went I to get a spot on the lawn while they waited for tickets. I was not all the surprised to find the lawn pretty packed when I walked in. I was able to find a spot to the right of the stage down front, not the best spot but better than many that arrived later. At this point we settled in with drinks and food while we waited for show time. It being Wolf Trap I figured they would stick pretty close to the official start time.
The show started almost on time and hit the ground running with Wondering > Pilgrims, Tall Boy. I had high hopes for a high energy show with an opening sequence like this. From here it took a decidedly mellower turn for the rest if set 1. The show had a groove and funk to it but never really busted out. My guess is that because they came off a long break, they were a little rusty. I was expecting the first half of the tour to be like this but to start rocking come the second half.
During the set break I meet a couple of cool people and talked to them for a while. They were not much into WSP but into other jam bands and decided to give them a shot. Greg and Maggie both commented on the fans at the show, not what they are use to seeing. All these hippies in one place and Greg noticed many of them would sway with the music.
I was hoping that the second set would be high energy but it was more mellow stuff. The show ended rather early for a WSP show but within the limits of Wolf Trap. Both Greg and Maggie enjoyed the show and I had a blast. While mellow the show didn’t disappoint. Getting out of Wolf Trap was a pain but that is par for the course here. It was a school night and I didn’t get home till 1am that night. Certainly well past my bed time but worth the memories. Can’t wait to see them next time around and hopefully Greg and Maggie will come along. Maybe get Nancy to come out as well, one can always hope.
Set 1 (7:44pm start)
1. Wondering >
3. Tall Boy
4. Bowlegged Woman
5. Saint Ex
7. Heroes >
8. Impossible >
9. Imitation Leather Shoes
Set 1 ends at 8:42pm
Set 2 (9:14pm start)
1. All Time Low
2. Pickin’ Up the Pieces
3. You Got Yours
4. Airplane >5. Shut Up and Drive
6. Bear’s Gone Fishin’
7. I’m Not Alone
8. Fishwater >
9. Porch Song
Set 2 ends at 10:25pm
encore: (10:30pm start)
10. Aunt Avis >
11. No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Show over at 10:40pm
Last night had to be one of the hottest day’s of the year so far. There were record heats across the state with heat advisories from the National Weather Service that basically said “stay inside if you don’t have to go out.” So what did Nancy, Matt and I decide to do…….go see Sweeney Todd at Wolf Trap. We actually planned this out a few weeks ago so we didn’t know what the weather was going to be like the night of the performance. My crystal ball can be a little fuzzy that far into the future.
We first planned to get some snake food, a few six packs, and camp out on the lawn till the performance started. As the day approached we got a better idea the weather was going to be hot and humid, we adjusted our plan a little. Instead of arriving early for a picnic we stopped by a pizza shop in Vienna for food. We first tried Whole Foods but it was a bust, they don’t have the eateries like the one in Fair Lakes. The pizza place was over priced and the waitress screwed up Matt and my order. Ugh, the night was not starting off well. To raise our spirits a little we headed over to Norm’s to get some beer for the evening. Matt picked out A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale (Lagunitas Brewing Co.) and Nancy got the Longboard Island Lager (Kona Brewing Co.).
When we got to the venue I was a little discouraged, I thought the heat would keep most people away but the overflow parking lot was pretty full. As I picked up the tickets from will call the warning bell rings letting us know we should be taking our seat shortly. Finding a seat on the lawn this evening was rather easy despite the full parking lot. The last time Nancy and I saw a show at Wolf Trap, Mamma Mia, the lawn was smashed and we were packed in like sardines. Tonight’s performance had plenty of open space for us to spread our blanket and enjoy the show.
The National Symphony Orchestra was in hand to perform the musical score for the evening and they where already on stage tuning and getting ready for the night. Within a few minutes the conductor walks in stage followed by the extras. The stage setup was rather sparse, the orchestra was setup in the back of the stage with the rest of the “set” in front. I use that term loosely as the set consisted of two simple raised platforms and about a dozen red chairs setup in various spots on the stage. The chairs where the major set design for the evening, providing most of the scenory and setting up the various locations needed for the play. The only other major prop on stage was a window that dropped from the ceiling to represent various rooms in the play. Above the stage was a giant screen that would display various pictures to help tell the scene location, could be the streets, the barber shop, or sometimes blood strewn when someone died. Not much in the way of stage design.
The entire play had this feel of scarcity and simplicity that is hard to described. There were very few props throughout the entire performance. A table here and there, the barber chair, the giant window. During scene changes the extras would pick up the chairs and move them around the stage, rather bizarre when you see it. As for the costumes only the main characters had anything close to original outfits, all the extra were dressed in similar plain cloths. From what I could gather this minimal stage presence was because the play was being put on by the Wolf Trap Opera Company, not a nationally touring troop. What they lacked in set design they more than made up for with their acting/singing ability.
All told the show was about 2:30 hours long. Thankfully as the show progressed the temperature dropped but our sweat soaked cloths from earlier prevented us from cooling off. Despite the heat we were not disappointed, enjoying a great evening out on a Friday night.