(Apologies in advance, I did not take my real camera – all photos are from my phone and the quality is so-so.)
Music is my therapy.
If I am happy, sad, angry, confused or a mixture of all those things – I have a song that personally “amplifies” the emotion. And if music is my therapy, the taping of Mountain Stage Episode 865 offered me an amazing session with my therapist.
If you have never heard of Mountain Stage, then shame on you. (Per their website, paraphrasing a bit:) Mountain Stage is a two-hour live performance radio program that airs on 150 public radio stations across America. They feature a handful of artists who sing around five songs. It is recorded live on two-track. The majority of their shows are recorded at the Culture Center Theater at the West Virginia State Capitol. Episodes are generally heard the following month after recording. Seating for the event is on a first come, first serve basis.
I have been to Mountain Stage concerts multiple times and have thoroughly enjoyed every taping. I arrive early, go to the theater door on the left and wait for the doors to open at 6:30. Every time I have made my way to the front row with ease. At the end of every show I have muttered to myself, “Thank God For Public Radio”. The opportunity to experience the caliber of music offered in such an eclectic mix, is something everyone should experience (at least) once.
Star and Micey
The group Star and Micey is made up of Josh Cosby, Nick Redmond, Geoff Smith, Jessie Munson, Jeremy Stanfill and Adam Woodard. The band started as a collaboration between Cosby and Smith, two Nashville-based musicians and friends. They were in their teenage years when they started working together. Redmond (who worked as a sound engineer for Ardent Records) was brought into the fold when Cosby gave him a demo. The three signed a record deal at Ardent and in 2009 their self titled record was released, late 2009.
According to Josh Crosby, the name of group came from Star, a homeless man in Memphis who sang him a song about his fiancée, Micey.
This group is very high energy. My favorite part was watching the drummer take a guitar and (while still seated at the drums) play and sing a lovely song.
My fave song they sang: Old Chicago. I cannot find a YouTube of it. But they have an amazing video of Mississippi Queen which was filmed in an old empty grain silo.
We Banjo 3
Of all the groups, this is the one I looked forward to the most. I love Irish bands of all forms (Ireland was home to a number of my ancestors). I am ashamed to say that I had not heard of this group until my friend suggested we take in this taping. Once I started pulling up videos, I became an instant fan.
The funny thing about We Banjo 3 is that the band is composed of four musicians with only two playing banjos. Their four musicians are Edna Scahill (Banjo, Mandolin, Tenor Guitar), Martin Howley (Banjo, Mandolin, Tenor Guitar), David Howley (Banjo, Vocals, Guitar) and Fergal Scahill (Fiddle, Guitar, Bodhrán). Yes, you read that right – four players with two last names. Two sets of brothers. Maybe that is why their music is so spot on, they are so familiar with each other. All I could think of was how proud their mothers would be to have brought into the world such amazingly creative musicians. All of the players have been very successful in their individual careers. Each has won All Ireland titles. As a side note, Martin’s fiancée is Kiana June Weber of Gaelic Storm (creative birds of a feather, flock together).
When they took the stage, they won my heart by saying: “Years ago the Irish immigrated to West Virginia. So it’s good to be home.” Welcome home lads, welcome home. My only negative: they didn’t play long enough! I hope to one day see a full concert of their music. Until then, I will wear out the CD I bought and rack up more views on their YouTube pages.
My favorite YouTube vid of theirs is Long Black Veil.
Davina and the Vagabonds
Davina and the Vagabonds is a jazz-blues band based out of Twin Cities, Minnesota. The band consists of: Davina Sowers (Vocals/Piano/Ukulele), Dan Eikmeier (Trumpet/Vocals), Ben Link (Trombone/Vocals), Connor McRae (Drums/Vocals) and Matt Blake (Upright Bass). They have no guitar player in the mix, relying more on the strong piano, horns, drums and upright bass. They have toured throughout the United States and Europe. Their sound features characteristics of several genres: blues, R&B, soul, jazz and a little gospel to boot.
As for their performance this night, let me start by just saying “WOW”. Davina Sowers is a force of nature. She is the type of musician for whom mothers should play her music to their daughters. The power she emotes through her singing is just awe inspiring. This group was my pleasant surprise of the evening. While watching, my cohort in crime (Ben) pointed out that the piano was being jarred across the stage by her forceful playing of the keys. It moved at least 8 inches (and was a baby grand piano!). After the concert, Ben bought one of their vinyls and asked Davina to sign it. She was a pleasure to speak with as we talked about how red her knuckles were and how she sometimes found it hard to hold a pen to sign autographs after longer concerts. If you have never heard of Davina and the Vagabonds – look them up. If you appreciate a truer form of music, you will love their sound.
My favorite song they played was Red Shoes. And yes, Davina, with your talent and effervescent personality, everyone wants to be your friend tonight, well at least this girl does!
Red Baraat is a Bhangra band with a home base in Brooklyn, New York who came on the scene in 2008. The band’s members are: Sunny Jain, Rohin Khemani, Tomas Fujiwara, Mike Bomwell, Sonny Singh, MiWi La Lupa, Ernest Stuart and John Altieri. Since their inception in October 2008, Red Baraat has performed at globalFEST, Montreal Jazz Festival, Sunfest, Festival De Louisiane, Quebec City Summer Festival, Chicago World Music Festival, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Madison World Music Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Pori Jazz Festival (Finland), Molde Jazz Festival (Norway) and Chicago Folks & Roots Festival, among many others.
When Red Baraat took the stage, I was almost overwhelmed by their numbers. So many instruments. I thought, look at that guy with the tuba!! I was soon corrected. He is playing a sousaphone. Whatever you call it, seems like he had one hell of a workout with it on the stage! I connected with their music on the most basic of levels. And let me tell you why – my brain is a crazy bit of work. I have so many thoughts cranking away simultaneously. But all those jumbled up thoughts make sense to me in a weird harmony. At one point, I looked at Ben and said, “Their music sounds like the thoughts inside my head look.”
After the show, Ben and I went to the Empty Glass, a bar a few blocks away from the venue. It was a pleasure to meet the band there and a few of their members were able to play with the house band. Great way to end a great night!
At the end of the night, as is tradition, various members of the bands were asked to come back out on stage to perform an ensemble piece. Tonight, it was “With A Little Help From My Friends.” What an amazing way to end a great night!
Thos last two pictures…guess who won the Swag Bag at the end of the show!! That’s right, me! They don’t call me #TeamSocialMediaWhore for nothing!
Thanks Ben for suggesting we come to Mountain Stage. Cannot wait until next time!
If you like the bands, go to their pages and like them. Tell your friends about them. Buy their music. Support music because, #TheWorldNeedsMoreKindness