Well, it was definitely a wild n crazy kind of night at The Barns last night, but let me explain:
FIRST, THE HISTORY - What is "The Barns"?
Right here in small town Vienna, we have one of the premier music venues in the country - America's National Park For The Performing Arts. The initial 53 acres of land for this park was originally purchased (and later donated) by Catherine Shouse for $5,300 (don’t you wish you could buy land around here for $100 an acre!) and she named the farm “Wolf Trap Farm”. From late May to early September each year, people enjoy the outdoor amphitheatre known as The Filene Center. (People like us who have grown up here just call this “Wolftrap”.) The Filene Center seats about 7,000 people. The Barns, on the other hand, is an intimate facility that probably seats less than 400 people. It is made up of two 18th century barns that were restored & rebuilt using only 18th century methods with hand -hewn beams & panels. It’s simply gorgeous and the acoustics are phenomenal. And that brings me to last night.
BANDHOUSE GIGS BRINGS THE BYRDS TO THE BARNS
Last night, Bandhouse Gigs gathered a bevy of the area's best musicians to put on a sold-out "Tribute To The Byrds". The entire night featured music that was either written by or played by the legendary group The Byrds. Since their music spanned a number of genres (including folk, rock n roll, psychedelic & country) - it was quite an eclectic evening. And that fit this kind of adventure just perfectly.
Throughout the night, the musicians mixed and matched. Some of the songs were performed by groups in their entirety - and sometimes the stage was filled with musicians from 7 different groups at a time. All told, there were 45 different singers/musicians on stage - each one a legend in his/her own name. Yes, this group included Grammy Award winners, Emmy Award nominees, WAMMY Award winners & more. And they played guitar, piano, harmonica, accordion, ukelele, 12-strings, bass, steel guitar, violin, trumpet, fiddle. You name it -they had it covered. It was like a local Music Hall of Fame.
Watching the night play out, I felt almost like I had been invited to the musicians' own private party - for they enjoyed playing & watching almost as much as we did. You see, despite the fact that these musicians are all at the top of their game - most of them never get to see or hear each other perform - because they've got their own gigs to play. So throughout the night, we saw musicians in the wings or hiding in the back of the room - peeking out to see who had the angelic voice, who was ticking the ivories so sweetly and who just played that rockin 12 string guitar solo.
Although the musicians obviously prepared on their own prior to the show, there were only 2 rehearsals of the full group. And of all the songs played, only 2 were ever played by a group prior to this event. This meant that the evening was rather "loose", but it added to the intimacy of the night and truly highlighted what artists they were. Each of the folks performing was a consummate professional. And so at one point, when technical difficulties intervened, "Cowboy Cal" was fully prepared with stand-up comedy. And the audience ate it up.
There were several highlights of the show. One was the song that closed out the first half. It featured Jon Carroll on piano and was a revival-style version of a song The Byrds sang called "Jesus Is Just Allright With Me" (you might remember it as a Doobie Brothers song, but apparently The Byrds sang it prior to that). With Jon on one side of the stage - tickling those ivories into a frenzy . . . and a slew of singers on the other side gathered around one microphone & throwing their hands in the air . . . it felt almost like I was in church (except that I was in a barn - but isn't that where those old revivals used to take place?).
The other highlight was near the end of the show when Eric Brace (of Last Train Home) came on stage and sang "Ballad of Easy Rider" and "This Wheel's On Fire". Although the level of performance was high all night, when Eric took the stage it was apparent why his music career has expanded well beyond the DC region. (Eric Brace used to be the lead columnist for the Weekend section of The Washington Post. His band Last Train Home mostly played locally. But a number of years ago, he gave up his "day job" to take his music career full throttle and he now tours nationally and internationally.) Eric's ability to storytell captures an audience - whether he is talking, writing or singing. He has an incredible charisma and his voice is powerful and unique. And when he teams up with Bill Williams, the vocal harmonies are magic. (On a side note - Bill Williams played on 13 different songs last night. What a talent - singing, playing, harmony arranging AND he made the best male fashion statement of the night with some incredible shoes/boots. Best female fashion statement belonged to Ellen Cherry with her psychedelic tights.)
The show was closed by John Jennings and his band playing "Eight Miles High". And they rocked it. It was an incredible evening. For $25, we got to see 45 of the area's best musicians & singers. Not only will I go see anything Bandhouse Gigs puts together (previously they have done tributes to Neil Young, Nils Lofgren, Bob Dylan, Nick Lowe, Joni Mitchell, Warren Zevon & Allen Toussaint - and rumor has it Rod Stewart may be next), but I defintely made note of many artists I want to see again so I can hear them play their own music. Such talent, such passion. WOW.
And the best part? I live in Vienna - so while most of the musicians and guests had a long drive home (people came from Springfield, Silver Spring, Burke & Baltimore) - I was home & tucked in bed 10 minutes after the show ended.
I LOVE LIVING IN VIENNA!
Trivia Note: Elizabeth Taylor was a Director Emeritus for Wolftrap. I had forgotten about that until I saw this poster last night.
Final Note: I wasn't able to capture all the names of the performers/groups, but here is a partial list:
John Carroll, Eric Brace, The Lofgren Brothers, Jelly Roll Mortals, Naked Blue, Ruthie & The Wranglers, Purple Umbrella, Forty Dollar Fine, Bill Williams, John Jennings, Dave Chappell, Scott McKnight, David Kitchen, Ellen Cherry, Todd Wright, Cal Everett, Bill Baker, Janet Emma Garbe, Mike Clem, Jen Smith, Derrick Brock, Scott Smith, Ronnie Smith, Helen Hausmann, Jim Clatterbuck, Steve Hall, Andy Rutherford, Spencer Hoopes, Dave Egelhofer, Ronnie Newmyer, Chuck Sullivan, Carey Creed, Harry Traynham, Justine Miller, Louie Newmyer & Robbie Magruder