Archive for July, 2009

All Local ~~ All Original
Sunday, September 6, 2008
Labor Day Weekend
11am – 9pm
~ FREE and Kid Friendly~

(Asheville, NC) Arts 2 People is excited to bring you the 8th annual FREE, Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival(LAAFF)! Join us in the annual end-of-summer celebration of Asheville’s artistic and musical communities. Three blocks of N. Lexington Ave in downtown Asheville will be brimming with all local art, food, beer, music, street performers, and random acts of creativity on Sunday, September 6th from 11am – 9pm between College Street and the I 240 overpass.

LAAFF has become the showcase event for all types of talent on multiple stages and performance areas including rock and roll, indie pop, funk, folk, ragtime, reggae, world beats, singer-songwriters, bluegrass, old time, African drummers, clowns, magicians, contortionists, belly dancers, modern dancers, vaudeville actors, break dancers, hula hoopers, and more. LAAFF has grown over the years to become known as Asheville’s largest Street festival with upwards of 12,000 in attendance.

LAAFF is is an experience the whole family can get into. Kids will love making art, dancing, getting their faces painted and having fun all day long.  Kids are also in on the act showing off their breakdancing, parading, and making music. The big “kids” will enjoy the ever popular bicycle jousting, local brews, an eclectic culinary and artistic experience, as well as the new big people game, Big Wheels for Big Kids. There will be lots of fun new vendors as well as old favorites with a ton of variety.

LAAFF relies on community support to ensure our success each year. LAAFF is a volunteer driven event put on by and for the community. Your tax-deductible contribution ensures the ongoing successes of this much anticipated yearly Asheville celebration.  If you would like to get involved as a sponsor or if you have any great LAAFF ideas, please contact Festival Director, Frank Bloom, at director@lexfestasheville.com. Your tax-deductible contribution ensures the ongoing success of this Asheville celebration.  To volunteer, email Justin atvolunteer@lexfestasheville.com. Email vending@lexfestasheville.com to inquiry about a food, art, or healing arts booth, we are still accepting apps. Other contacts are available at www.lexfestasheville.com.

Your contribution of joining us and experiencing a fun day of creative expression will support local non-profit Arts 2 People and its many projects:

Arts 2 People is devoted to promoting the role of the arts as an integral part of our culture by serving the entire community through arts outreach, bringing the arts to those in need of the healing power of art, supporting the careers of artists, and through community cultural development. Arts 2 People is the umbrella organization for theLexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF), the REACH Programming series, the Asheville Mural Project(AMP), Moving Women, the Pritchard Park Cultural Arts Program 08, Faces of Asheville, and hosts numerous events and workshops and events throughout the year. To find out more, visit www.arts2people.org
Come prepared for many LAAFFs on this amazing day and to truly experience the original local flavor of Asheville.Stay tuned for the performance line-up, sponsors, and other fun and creative happenings!

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by Shaun Harvey of the Velvet Rut
posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Larry Keel and Natural Bridge


Local fans of Larry Keel might want to put this little gathering on their musical calendars as Keel and his band Natural Bridge will be performing as part of Hollow Honey Hoot 3 in Sperryville, Virginia on Saturday, August 15th. The Honey Hoot takes place at Smokehouse Winery, a winery which specializes in crafting fine honeywines (mead) of both a traditional and non-traditional manner, and the Honey Hoot will feature a full afternoon of live music with Keel and the Gang headlining (they should really make Keel and the Gang t-shirts). Music kicks off at 3pm and Larry Keel and Natural Bridge are scheduled to take the stage around 8pm. $20. There is also nearby camping and folks are encouraged to bring their gear and stay awhile.

It’s been awhile since Larry Keel last rolled through central Virginia. Now that I think about it the last time I remember seeing Larry Keel and Natural Bridge in and around Charlottesville was last summer when they ripped through a smoking set at the Pavilion for Fridays After Five. Since that last local appearance Larry Keel and Natural Bridge released their latest album Backwoods (co-produced by Keller Williams) in February of this year to rave reviews and all the while they’ve continued to do what it is that they do best…travel the country playing some of the best damn acoustic music around. [complete list of tour dates after the break]. If you haven’t yet checked out Larry Keel, it’s high time you got experienced.

The live video performance above was shot at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, Virginia in March of 2007 and the song “They” is one of the standout tracks from the group’s latest album.

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge Announced Tour Dates

07.31–Tomahawks, St. Albans, WV
08.02–NETTLE FEST, Hillsboro, WV
08.06–The Soap Box Laundro-Lounge, Wilmington, NC
08.07–Gottrocks, Greenville, SC
08.13–South Bound Bar & Grill, Knoxville, TN
08.14–Bonefire Smokehouse & Bus Pit, Kingsport, TN
08.15–Honey Hoot 3, Sperryville, VA
08.21–New Grass Festival, Oakland, KY
08.22–The Hideaway Saloon, Louisville, KY
08.24–Owsleys, Denver, CO
08.27–Trout Hunter, Island Park, ID
08.28–The Mountain Home Concert Series, Park City, UT
08.29–Sean Kelly’s, Missoula, MT
08.30–River City Roots Festival, Missoula, MT
09.05–Daniel Boone Days, Boone, NC
09.06–Rivermen Adventure Resort, Lansing, WV
09.11–Stonewalls Underground Pub, Shepherdstown, WV
09.12–Bluegrass by the Garden, Greensboro, NC
09.13–Shepherds Ford Concert Series, Bluemont, VA (Keel Brothers)
09.20–Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Bristol, TN
09.25–Watermelon Park Festival, Berryville, VA
10.30–Jorma Kaukonen’s Guitar Camp, Pomeroy, OH (thru 11.02)

Posted by the velvet rut at 12:55 PM

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By Beth Ann Downey
Collegian Staff Writer, State College, PA

Posted on July 30, 2009 4:00 AM


Afromotive, a fusion of West African and funk musical elements, will bring its beats downtown.

Afromotive performing at The Vislulite Theatre April 16th 2009

Photo By Monty Chandler Photography

It certainly isn’t the ’70s anymore, but Afromotive will return to State College with its innovative music that originated in that era for listeners to judge for themselves.

Even though the band is influenced by West African percussive elements and American funk, Afromotive’s afrobeat music in no way labels it as a throwback band.

In fact, Afromotive, which will perform this weekend, doesn’t sound like any other ‘afrobands’ out there, bassist and percussionist Ryan Reardon said.

“Our appeal comes from the fact no one is playing like we do,” he said.

The band also provides exciting music to “dive into,” Reardon said, because it is fun to listen to and dance with a strong rhythm and groove.

“There is no separation,” he said. “If the music is playing, you’re dancing. It’s one in the same. We bring a dance show.”

The way Afromotive interweaves traditional African elements and James Brown-style funk with the band’s own spin is what gives the music a certain uniqueness even within the afrobeat genre, and this same uniqueness is what Reardon described as being a “driving force” behind the band

He added that many songs start with a simple idea that focuses on inspiring both the band and its audience. The band has recently released a new single called “Simbo,” which is available to download for free on the band’s Web site. Reardon said it is an “outdoor, sunny summer afternoon” kind of tune that draws greatly from the band’s African influence.

Reardon finds inspiration from all different aspects of life. He said he can go into his backyard and listen to sounds of animals and bugs and he also draws from seeing people enjoy the band’s music during a live show.

Ryan Knowles, saxophone player for Afromotive, said the most inspiring thing about the band’s music from an artist’s perspective is how “in the moment” Afromotive’s songs and live performances turn out to be. In his song writing and his performances, Knowles said he sometimes doesn’t really know what he’s doing or what he’s thinking about.

“I’ll write a song, and it’ll take a couple of years for me to have an understanding of where it comes from and what I was doing at the time,” he said.

The band doesn’t consciously pull from any sort of style, Knowles added, but the members will always just run with any inspiration or idea that crops up.

“Any kind of music I do, I always want to just express myself and represent where I am in my life,” he said. “I think we do that.”

Although he is not conscious of many influences, Knowles said the afrobeat style is where the band subconsciously draws from because there are Africans in the group. He said the band really displays both African and American elements equally, but that this fact does not constitute Afromotive’s music as world music.

“What makes us world music is an awareness of the universe and everything that’s going on in the world,” Knowles said.

Adama Dembele, a 33rd generation djembe player from Cote d’Ivoire, is a current band member that lends greatly to Afromotive’s strong ethnic background.

Knowles said Afromotive also previously had an African lead singer, but since the former singer moved back to his homeland, the band has “scaled down.”

Afromotive currently has no lead singer, and instead vocals are shared between band members.

Knowles said the band also used to have a full horn section that served as back-up instrumentation to vocals, but the fact that horns are representative of afrobeat music didn’t inhibit the band from ditching the section to help move the group into a new direction.

“We’re trying to hone in on what the core sound is,” Knowles said.

The scaleback has made Afromotive more of an instrumental band, but Knowles said the band doesn’t need the extra musicians and a big sound to make great music.

“I’m always trying to change things up and throw wild cards in there and have fun with the music,” Knowles said.

He added that the lineup of musicians currently in the band — which changes sporadically — is focused on the craft full-time instead of having major distractions like families and jobs, which takes nothing away from the band’s rehearsal time.

“I was sick of playing with musicians that weren’t full time,” Knowles said. “We needed musicians that really take it seriously.”

Even though Afromotive has gone through about 40 different musicians to find the rotation the band tours with today, Knowles said that most bands go through this sort of phase, and it was cool for him to see the evolution of Afromotive as a whole.

Reardon said the music stayed “cohesive” throughout the many member switches because the band has a core group of songs that hasn’t changed. He added that different musicians coming in with their own personalities brought different approaches to the sound of the band, helping keep the music “fresh.”

“We gave the musicians the freedom to do what they want to because that’s where the music really takes hold,” Reardon said. “You need to have a little bit of faith in them and trust their abilities.”

Knowles said different musicians coming in and out was a lot to keep up with at times, but it was also exciting for him because he likes “flying by the seat of his pants.”

“I like driving at night with sunglasses on and the headlights off,” he said jokingly. “That’s how I live my life. That’s what I think makes for good music.”

Although Knowles takes an impulsive approach to his life and his music, he said it also takes a great amount of precision to play the type of music Afromotive does. He said that upon hearing the band, it’s usually hard to predict what will happen from song to song, and that the music kind of “smacks you in the face.”

“It’s like a rollercoaster ride,” he said. “We want people all over the world to be able to grab onto it and enjoy it.”

He added the music does not speak to any particular demographic, and that anyone who hears it should be able to relate to it.

People from all walks of life are fans of Afromotive, and Knowles said he’s seen both the young and the old dancing to the band’s rhythm.

“If you’re playing music that makes people want to dance, they’re gonna dance,” he said.

Reardon said the band’s live show usually consists of the band playing “fast and hard” and encouraging the crowd to clap and sing along. He added the band had a lot of fun when they last played State College in May, and hopes Afromotive will have the same luck this weekend.

“When we bring a show, we want everyone to be with us in the same place and the same frame of mind,” he said.

Knowles said it’s become evident that young girls in college will dance to the band’s music, and pretty much anything else that “makes you move.”

“And as long as the girls are dancing, the guys are dancing too,” he said.

If you go

What: Live performance from Afromotive

When: 10:30 p.m. Saturday, August 1

Where: Zeno’s Pub, 100 W. College Ave.

Details: $3 before 9:30 p.m., $4 after 9:30 p.m., 21-and-older

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By Adam Harris

July 29, 2009, WV Gazette, Charleston, WV


Larry Keel and his group, Natural Bridge, spend much of their days on the road. The hard-traveling band zigzags the country most of the year playing their brand of tradition-friendly progressive bluegrass and currently promoting their new studio album, “Backwoods.”


Jason Flournoy (second from left) plays fiddle with bluegrass band Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, but it wasn’t always that way. He originally played guitar and majored in Jazz Theory and Composition in college.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Bearded bluegrass poet Larry Keel and his group Natural Bridge spend much of their days on the road. The hard-traveling band zigzags the country most of the year playing their brand of tradition-friendly progressive bluegrass and currently promoting their new studio album “Backwoods.”

So banjo player Jason Flournoy, a Louisiana native raised in Alabama and now living in Asheville, N.C., knows how to make the most of his short stints at home. “I like to cook and hang out at home, play pinball. I got a big flower garden, and I like tending to those,” he said, phoning the day after getting home from a tour stint. “I keep it pretty simple and laid back.”

The group hits the road again for a string of dates that includes Tomahawk’s in St. Albans on Friday.

Flournoy originally played guitar and pursued a degree in jazz theory and composition after high school. He rendezvoused with the banjo at a music store and quickly recalibrated his career path.

“I fell in love with the sound of it, and I couldn’t really do anything else. Within just a couple of days, I had pretty much put the guitar down. I just couldn’t stop playing. It wasn’t anything that I had control over. So I quit. I decided I didn’t need to go to school to learn how to play.”

Like a lot of people, Flournoy says he came to banjo music through Old & In The Way, the ’70s bluegrass group that featured Jerry Garcia on banjo. That group’s progressive approach, strongly rooted in prior traditions while opening up its stylistic boundaries, has a lot to do with the philosophy of Keel and company’s brand of acoustic music, which initially attracted Flournoy to the band before he joined in 2006.

“I was always a big fan of his music. I like the humanity in it, and he’s got a delivery that’s different than a lot of people in acoustic music,” Flournoy said. “He’s not concerned with sticking super-close to any specific genre. He can do an older tune that’s simple and down to earth and as traditional as it gets, and then he can go to any other genre and push boundaries.”

Flournoy’s path led to playing music in Colorado as part of a more rock-oriented group, although he would sit in with Keels whenever he could — mostly when they crossed paths at festivals. Keel asked Flournoy to sit in with Natural Bridge at a Colorado gig.

“His music had been in my head for a long time, and I knew the guy, but I showed up trying to get the job,” Flournoy said. “That was the only week I had off that summer, and he was doing a run in Colorado. I hopped in the van and did a few more shows around Colorado, and I moved back South two months later.”

Larry Keel is the group’s namesake, but he runs a smooth democracy artistically, Flournoy says. “You don’t find that with a lot of bandleaders. Some just want to play their own material or the stuff they pick out. Larry is very open and excited to do anything someone has to offer from a creative standpoint.”

Flournoy’s contribution to “Backwoods” is a steady-rolling instrumental called “Bohemian Rag,” nodding to Flournoy’s decidedly non-bluegrass upbringing and his knack for a great tune.

“I don’t have any bluegrass background,” Flournoy said. He heard a lot of Zydeco and Cajun music initially in Louisiana and his parents fed him a varied diet of Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, with some Hank Williams Jr. and Merle Haggard mixed in.

“There was always music going on,” he recalled. “Not so much banjo music, but there was always music.”

Although he moved to Asheville to join Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Flournoy says being closer to his mother in Alabama and his family in Louisiana was a bonus of his decision to move. “I’m a Southern boy,” he said in a noticeably Southern draw that proves his point. “Living down here is just more my speed.”

“Asheville is a great place to come home to,” he said. “It’s strange. Every time I come home, I can be exhausted from driving, be ready to pull off the road and take a nap, but as soon as I come in on [Interstate] 26 from Johnson City, and I cross over the mountains leading over here, there’s something that energizes me, makes me feel good. They’re some of the oldest mountains in the world, and there’s energy to them. West Virginia is the same way.”


Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Tomahawks, 5930 MacCorkle Ave., St. Albans


INFO: 304-201-2070 or http://www.tomahawks-wv.com

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Charleston Daily Mail, Arts and Entertainment, Thursday July 30, 2009

by Zack Harold


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s always been a dispute in the traditional music community about what constitutes “real” mountain music. Are banjos and fiddles required? Are drums forbidden? Does one really have to be from the mountains to play it?

Though fans and scholars probably won’t ever reach a consensus, all can agree on one thing. Whatever “real” mountain music is, Larry Keel plays it.

But that’s not to say “real” music has to be “traditional.”

Born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Larry is an award-winning guitar player, longtime student of bluegrass music and a prolific songwriter who has penned songs for big name acts like the Del McCoury Band and Acoustic Syndicate. Still, Larry’s music doesn’t really sound like anything else.

Backed by Natural Bridge (made up of wife Jenny Keel, banjoist Jason Flournoy, and mandolin player Mark Schimick), Larry breaks from the three-chord, four-beat formula of traditional music. Though he always keeps an ear for tradition, Keel’s brand of bluegrass is infused with the spirit of jazz and rock.

“I just tend to listen to what’s in my head and don’t ever listen to what the critics say,” Larry said. “I like it all so we play it all.”

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge will bring their unique brand of bluegrass to Tomahawk’s Steakhouse and Saloon on U.S. 60 in St. Albans at 9 p.m. Friday.

Their philosophy also is put front and center in their new CD, “Backwoods,” released in February.

The album, the band’s second studio release, took two years to record. The band started out with 25 songs for the record, and had to cut them down to just 10. Larry said they were careful about song choices for “Backwoods” and wanted to make sure the songs were cohesive.

“I’m proud of the material, both the sense of fun and depth of emotion,” Jenny said. “It spans all the spectrum of human emotion. We finally got the result we wanted out of many attempts in studios.”

Larry says Natural Bridge is a much tighter band than any he’s previously worked with.

“In the past I’ve had more loose-sounding, improvisation-based bands…but Natural Bridge is a very honed tool,” he said.

And other musicians have taken notice. Larry Keel and Natural Bridge have played with many musicians from all corners of the bluegrass world, including such big-name acts as Tony Rice, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, Bela Fleck and Chris Thile.

Jenny Keel says Natural Bridge’s tight-knit playing makes it easy for other pickers to join in. “We’re kind of like a hub that other musicians can merge with,” she said.

The big-name pairings have produced positive results for Natural Bridge.

“We’ve been seeing a growing fan base every week we go out,” Larry said.

Larry came to music through his father and older brother Gary, who both played music and performed around town at social events. Larry grew up listening to his family and their musician friends, and would come to share their love of bluegrass.

“I remember at a really young age listening to Ralph Stanley, his album ‘The Man and His Music.’ It just kind of struck me, his mountain sound,” Keel said. “I guess it’s in my blood. I just love hearing it and playing it right.”

Larry began playing music when he was eight years old, after Gary bought him a guitar. Like so many other fledgling guitar pickers of his generation, the first song he learned was Mother Maybelle Carter’s “Wildwood Flower.”

By the time he was 14, Larry was playing around town and attending fiddlers conventions with his family, meeting and playing with pickers his own age. When he was 18, one of Larry’s friends called to tell him about an amusement park audition in Orlando, Florida – for Tokyo Disneyland. Larry went to the audition and got the job. He spent seven months in Japan performing bluegrass classics like “Rocky Top” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in six half-hour sets a day, six days a week.

Upon his return to the U.S., Keel met some other musicians at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Va. The group would become Magraw Gap , Larry’s first band, and would tour together for the next decade.

His years with Magraw Gap were good ones for Larry. He took first place in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s prestigious guitar competition on two occasions, and even aced the festival’s band competition with Magraw Gap.

The band also helped Larry find wife and soon-to-be bass player Jenny. At the time, Jenny didn’t play any instruments but as she started hanging out with the Magraw Gap boys, she started messing around on the upright bass. “I guess I just absorbed it from their encouragement,” Jenny said.

After two years of backstage jams, Larry left Magraw Gap to form his own band with Jenny on bass. Jenny says the instrument was a natural fit for her.

“It was just something in me that pumps, that heartbeat.”

She sees her role in Natural Bridge as a counterpoint to the rapid-fire picking of her band mates, the solid foundation that “glues it all together.”

Over the 15 years they’ve been together, Larry and Jenny have played in several bands, including Big Daddy Bluegrass, Keller and the Keels and the Keel Brothers, before starting Natural Bridge in 2005.

Now the band has toured all over the United States, and usually plays more than 125 shows a year. That’s a pretty hectic schedule, but Larry’s just pleased he gets to play music for a living.

“I feel very fortunate in these crazy times. I feel very blessed.”

Contact writer Zack Harold at  zack.har…@dailymail.com or 304-348-7939.

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Thursday, 16 July 2009
NCDOT, town and local artists beautify Asheville bridge


Macon News

ASHEVILLE – As motorists drive down heavily traveled Lexington Avenue in Asheville, they will see something other than graffiti.

The I-240 bridge underpass is now home to the Asheville Mural Project. It strives to replace the graffiti with elaborate and colorful paintings, which reflect the unique history, context and culture of Asheville.

The project is an unprecedented collaboration between the N.C. Department of Transportation, the city of Asheville and the non-profit organization Arts 2 People. To date, 11 local artists have volunteered to work on the project.

Before the project began, commuters driving on Lexington Avenue under the I-240 bridge saw concrete “tagged,” or written on, with offensive graffiti. Despite efforts by NCDOT and the local police to stop the graffiti, the “taggers” continued to deface the property.

“We hope this mural inspires graffiti artists to use their talents and energies in other ways,” said NCDOT Division 13 Operations Engineer Ken Wilson. “Asheville is a beautiful place, and this effort helps us celebrate that beauty.”

Asheville artists have painted a mural on the I-240 bridge underpass that had previously been defaced by graffiti. Eleven different artists have worked on the project. A local non-profit called Arts 2 People is raising money to complete the project.

The Asheville Mural Project was proposed in May 2005 by Project Coordinator Molly Must. She became inspired after seeing concrete art in Canada. A little over a year after approaching the city of Asheville and NCDOT, she received permission to start the project.

Must held a “call to artists” and selected six artists who volunteered to work on the project. They worked collectively to design and paint the mural. Five more artists are now working to complete the project.

In contrast to graffiti, these artists do not use spray paint. Instead, they use a specialized form of acrylic paint, which is expensive. To afford supplies for the remainder of the project, they are accepting donations on these two Web sites, www.ashevillemuralproject.org or www.arts2people.com.

For more information on the Asheville Mural Project, contact the NCDOT Communications Office at (919) 733-2522.

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