My favorite thing about summer is the concert season. I’ll put up with the heat if it means I get to see a lot of great bands in return. In fact, I kicked off concert season back in April when I saw Matthew Perryman Jones and Wakey!Wakey! in New York, and then followed it up by catching MPJ again a few days later when he came through Charlottesville, and then heading to Richmond a few days after that to see The National for the first time. One week, four concerts. Two weeks later, I hopped a train to Philly to catch the first show on Josh Ritter’s U.S. tour for “So Runs the World Away.”
After that, I had nearly a month of no concerts at all before reaching June 3rd, which kicked off another music-filled week with the first of three concerts.
Kelli was my partner-in-crime for June 3rd’s show. We closed our office a little early and hit the road to Richmond to see Patty Griffin at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. We weren’t thirty minutes from home when storms treated us to torrential downpours that carried us all the way to Richmond. We could barely see where we were going, and cars on the interstate were driving with their emergency lights flashing. All this, and we were on our way to an outdoor concert.
Ten minutes before we reached our destination, however, the clouds parted and we drove out into a beautiful day. We thought we were home free, but as we stood in line with our chairs and blankets to enter the garden, dark clouds were gathering in the sky once again. We went in, got some food (as we hadn’t had time to stop for dinner), and claimed a nice spot on the lawn. We had just commenced our picnicking when a staff person came around to tell everyone to go inside because a storm was coming and there was lightning just a few miles away. We packed up everything and went inside the building to eat. By this time, the concert was supposed to be beginning, and I worried that they were going to call it off. Half an hour later, the storm still hadn’t come, and we decided to go back outside and walk around. The sky to the west of us was yellow, and we could see that it was raining hard just over the ridge in the distance. They opened the larger building and we went back inside again, hoping for a reprieve.
By that time, the concert was running an hour and a half behind, and there still hadn’t been more than the threat of a storm. I was getting antsy, so I went outside to walk around and take some pictures. We were at the botanical gardens, after all.
As I was walking around, Kelli called to alert me that everyone was making a mass exodus from the building back down onto the lawn. We followed along and found new places on the lawn. Of course, by then it had just started to rain. Luckily, Kelli brought her umbrella!
Seems like nobody gave up and left while we were waiting out the non-storm. The lawn was full!
With the end of the rain came a beautiful double rainbow, making a half-circle around the stage just in time for the show to begin!
The opener moved quickly because the show had been delayed, and it wasn’t long before Buddy Miller graced the stage. He is legendary. He only did one song solo before he invited Patty Griffin out on the stage, and she backed him on a few more of his songs.
They all left the stage and Patty re-emerged alone, but quickly brought Buddy Miller and the band back out and they rocked the house as the sky darkened.
I was a little too far from the stage to get any good video footage, but I did record a clip of “Death’s Got a Warrant” as I marveled at Patty’s vocal strength. The video certainly doesn’t do her justice, but you can get the general idea:
For the last 30 minutes of Patty’s set, we also had a lightning show to our west, and we knew another storm was on the way. The show was cut a little short because of it, but it still felt like a full show, so we weren’t disappointed. And we had just gotten back to the car when the rain started again, and as soon as we hit the main road, it was storming again just in time for our drive home. At least it didn’t storm out our show!
Tuesday, June 8th was the Wakey!Wakey! show in Charlottesville, so Kelli and I attended that show as well. This time, we were joined by three others to give us a van full. My friends (and fellow One Tree Hill fans), Amanda and Katie, joined us for the show, and Kelli’s friend Carrie tagged along as well. She hasn’t discovered One Tree Hill, but she had heard of Wakey!Wakey! and liked their music enough to attend. It was a blast to do an all-girls road trip to Charlottesville for the show.
Once we had arrived on the downtown mall and parked, we set out on foot to find some dinner. Mike Grubbs (lead singer of Wakey!Wakey! and Grubbs of One Tree Hill) was standing outside the venue talking to some fans. The Grubbs-sighting certainly turned up the excitement a bit!
The first restaurant we went to had a longer list of what they didn’t have than what they did have from their menu, so we gave up on that and instead walked over to a pizza place where I got dinner for $2.25. Not bad!
We were lined up outside The Southern before the doors had even opened, and even after they opened the doors to the café side, we waited for what seemed like eternity for doors to open to enter the venue. As we stood a few feet back from the door (so as not to be in the way), some clueless guy barged in front of us, spread his arms in front of the door and proclaimed, “Nobody better try to steal my spot in line!” I was sorely tempted to say, “You mean like you just stole ours?” but I just rolled my eyes and let it go.
As we were waiting, I spotted Patrick and Tanya setting up the merch table. Wakey!Wakey! has flown up the charts fairly quickly, but most of the band (aside from Mike Grubbs) can still fly under the radar without being spotted by fans. However, I had already fallen in musical love with Patrick’s violin playing when I saw them in New York, so I was quick to recognize him. He hung around and chatted with us for a while and was really delightful. I adore talented musicians that also have a charming personality.
Finally, the doors opened and, despite the jerk-y line-cutter guy, we still ended up with a great spot inside to watch the show. None of us had heard of the opening act, The Spring Standards, but they put on a great show and we all really enjoyed them.
And just to make sure none of us ever forgot them, they hammed it up covering “Kiss From a Rose” and delighted the crowd. I filmed a clip of it, but someone else at the show actually caught the whole thing, so I’m going to post their video instead, as it’s far superior to my own:
The Spring Standards called Mike Grubbs out on stage for their last song, and it was apparent that these two groups have really enjoyed touring together. Then, with a thrilling opening set completed, it was time for Wakey!Wakey!
I watched most of the show from right next to the stage on the side where Grubbs was seated at his keyboard. Everyone in the crowd was having a great time, and we were all in it together, making it easy to move around to take pictures on either side of the stage. The show was all-ages and Mike’s mother was in the audience (for her first time seeing them perform) so he made sure to edit out all the questionable words. This caused him to stumble over a line when he nearly missed his edit, at which point he chuckled and yelled “I love you, Mom!” before continuing with the song.
Their sound is a little too “big” to get along with the little bitty speaker on my camera for video, but Grubbs played a few songs without the band, including this little number, which he said he had just written that day, was sure it would be a hit, and he was still a little nervous about playing it in front of people. You will see why that got quite a few giggles from the audience.
I also shot this very back and forth video of “Twenty-Two” from Patrick’s side of the stage. I wanted to capture when he put down his violin and took to whistling for this song:
After the show, all the members of Wakey!Wakey! were on hand to sign our “Brooklyn” posters and pose for some pictures. I got Patrick to smile for me:
And here’s a group shot of the whole gang with a very happy Katie:
We got home very late (or early the next day, depending on your perspective), but it was well worth it for a great night out with the girls…and of course Wakey!Wakey!
On Thursday (June 10th), Jessica, Thai and I took the day off and set out for a day in Richmond, to be capped off with a Josh Ritter concert that night. We started the day by having breakfast at Cracker Barrel (gotta feed the child bacon and eggs or she doesn’t function) and then we hit the road, playlist at the ready, for our great adventure. When we got to Richmond, our first stop was Ray’s for some delicious custard to give us something cold before braving the heat of the day. From there, we drove on to Maymont Park, a beautiful and expansive park which was donated to the City of Richmond following the death of its owners, James and Sallie Dooley.
Maymont is a Victorian estate of the Gilded Age, and the Dooleys’ home is an extravagant display of the wealth James Dooley made rebuilding Richmond and much of the South following the Civil War. The beautiful gardens on the estate were kept to Mrs. Dooley’s exact specifications, and she walked the grounds daily to make sure everything was kept up to her liking.
Photography is not allowed inside the house for security reasons, but you should definitely stop by for a tour if you are ever in the Richmond area. On the day of our tour, they were focusing on the many Tiffany pieces the Dooleys owned and/or commissioned for their home. My favorite aspect of the Maymont Mansion is the large stained glass window above the stairwell. It was (and still is) quite unusual for a private home to feature stained glass.
We did take several pictures of the Maymont grounds, and toured both the Italian and Japanese gardens. I’ve thrown several of Jessica’s pictures in with my own here:
We all crossed over the stepping stones at the koi pond, and Thai pointed out all the fish to us.
Thai got very adventurous with the waterfall in the Japanese gardens. I got very… terrified, and was happy when she came down. The child has no fear.
Of course, we were outside in the hottest part of the day (on a very hot day), so we were all overheated and ready to get back to the car. On the way back up the looong stairwell from the bottom of the waterfall, we got more than we bargained for when we ran into a snake!
He was directly in our path, leaving me to say “What do we do now?” and Jessica to reply “We resign ourselves to living here, that’s what” and both of us to yell “THAI! GET AWAY FROM THE SNAKE!” as she kept inching closer to him as if drawn in by force.
She eventually stepped over the snake and went up the stairs, putting the snake between us and the young’un. Jessica has a greater fear of snakes than even I do – and I am pretty well terrified of them myself, so we had to wait for the snake to crawl away (and luckily not in the direction of us or Thai) before we could continue our climb up the stairs.
Needless to say, we were all quite happy to get back to the car and the A/C, where there were no unwanted wildlife.
Our greatest disappointment of the day came when we arrived at The Cheesecake Factory and discovered that they were closed due to “technical difficulties” which actually translated to “plumbing catastrophe.” We were broken-hearted, but we were also on a schedule, so we had our late lunch at Baker’s Crust instead. By the time we finished eating, The Cheesecake Factory had reopened, so we stopped in to get a cheesecake to go (Jessica had brought a cooler for that very purpose).
From there, it was on to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for the show. (They have weekly concerts through the summer and had played host to Patty Griffin just the week before.) We took a few more pictures of the lovely gardens (and we had a better day to do it than Kelli and I had the week before):
As we walked down to the lawn for the show, we saw this adorable hippie family walking in with their little girls in sundresses and flowers in their hair. The littlest girl kept calling out for her “Daddy’s” attention and then she would gleefully say “Josh Wittuh!” as if to make sure that was really who he was taking her to see. So. Cute.
Jessica really enjoyed the opening act, Sahara Smith, who told us (to our great surprise) that it was her first show on her first-ever tour:
Thai was very helpful in counting down the number of songs the other opening act had remaining before Josh Ritter was going to take the stage. She didn’t even know Josh Ritter, but she was sharing in my excitement, which I always appreciate. Having impeccable music taste for an 8-year-old, however, she was a fan by the end of the night, making sure she could listen to his music on Jessica’s iPod, and making sure we got a good picture of him playing. Jessica’s camera was much better for this task, and she snagged a few great shots for me (and Thai). The first picture is about the best my camera could do in this setting.
I learned something new at this show. Josh’s bass player (among many other stringed and brass instruments) Zack Hickman actually hails from our very own Lynchburg, VA. He is an incredibly talented musician and a delight to watch on stage.
Having secured a spot up front, center stage for the show in Philly, I was content to hang back and enjoy this performance from the comfort of my camping chair. And aside from their propensity for getting in my way, I enjoyed watching the crowd gravitate to the stage song by song. He certainly knows how to engage the audience and he is a powerful performer as well as a prolific songwriter.
I didn’t have the presence of mind (or the unobstructed view) to take any video at the show, but here’s a performance of “To the Dogs or Whoever” from David Letterman after “Historical Conquests” came out (the album before this one). So, Letterman and I present:
Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band
I will be happy to see him time and time again. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to keep me away.
I have no more concerts on the schedule until The Avett Brothers at Myrtle Beach the weekend after my birthday, although I have been compulsively checking Lucero’s tour dates, hoping they come near me. Is there anything else I shouldn’t miss?