Archive for August, 2009

pol·li·nate : verb [pä-lə-ˌnāt] — to innovate and collaborate to grow a more sustainable and vibrant community

by Suzanne Hacket, 2009 August 30

[See the Blog for Pollinating Asheville for more links to different pollinators mentioned in this article]

LAAFF Poster Design By Sound Mind Media

LAAFF Poster Design By Sound Mind Media


The 8th Annual LAAFF, or Lex Fest, is coming up one week from today on September 6 from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Lexington Ave. in downtown Asheville. Usually I highlight specific people as “Pollinators,” but as I sat and talked with Erin Scholze, I realized that there are so many people and business involved that the entire festival is a Pollinator.

A Bit of History (or Herstory, as it were)

LAAFF was the brainchild of Miss Kitty Love and tall bike freak, Michael Mooney. In 2001, in order to celebrate their gallery and the downtown culture and businesses, they wanted to have an art car parade. Instead they decided to have a festival. Alexis Gault (former Rebelle’s and now Lush Life Designs) had already started Arts2People and wanted to partner. And, LAAFF was born under the umbrella of Arts2People in 2001. Rebecca Hecht, Adorn Salon, has organized the arts vendors since year one.

2002: enter Erin Scholze. As a caretaker for Kitty’s son, Erin caught the LAAFF bug and started organizing the music for the festival. Graham Hackett (Catalyst Poetix and Poetix Vanguard) and Alexis Gault partnered with Erin in helping to program the festival. Alexis and Graham both moved on to their own personal projects, and Erin has become a major face for LAAFF focusing on music and public relations.

2004: enter Brad and Elizabeth Reichardt, owners of BoBo Gallery. Brad, an original Burning Man visionary, wanted to be involved and expand the festival, and schedules the BoBo stage outside of the venue.

2006: LAAFF focuses on greening the festival. Long-term volunteer, Aaron Johnston, organizes with local organizations to make sure their are options for compost and recycling. They ask vendors to use Jack’s Boxes.

NEW For 2009

New LAAFF DIRECTOR: Kitty Love steps down as director to focus on Arts2People to connect with arts organizations in town around an Artist Resource Center. Frank Bloom, former music committee member, is hired as the new director of LAAFF.

LA ZOOM TOURS: Jim and Jen Lauzon made art cars for LAAFF and recently have built their most extravagant art “car” yet, a huge rococo-style purple performance bus, La Zoom. This year, LaZoom is also going to be a performance space for LAAFF. They are doing bus rides around town with live entertainment.

ASHEVILLE BREWERS ALLIANCE: Long-term partner, French Broad Brewing Company, extended an invitation to the newly formed Asheville Brewer’s Alliance (Beer City USA Y’all!) to partner with the festival. Multiple local brews will be available at LAAFF this year.

The stage at Walnut is now located in the parking lot at the corner of Lexington and Walnut.

And, every year more and more businesses and Lexington Ave. spaces want to be a part of the festival and have built it into the largest independent street festival in Asheville, and perhaps in Western North Carolina. LAAFF now draws about 12,000 people.

The other most important part of LAAFF are the volunteers. Interested in volunteering? They still need help. Email Justin Mitchell, volunteer@lexfestasheville.com

And, the sponsors and partners…LAAFF wishes to thank Greenlife Grocery and Mountain Xpress, in particular, and all the other local sponsors.

Other Pollinators involved with LAAFF

LEAF in Schools & Streets, LaZoom Tours, Barley’s Taproom, French Broad Brewery, Jenny Greer of Soundmind Media, Andrew Usher, Stewart Sound, Charles Mooney, Tristan and Jackson, Bob Robertson of Mountain Roots Management, Aslan Roshon of RALAK Fest, Bill Mesmer, Arts2People Board of Directors, Honey Pot, Asheville Mural Project Artists, Phil Cheney of Cheney Graphics, Asheville Downtown Association, Margaret Lauzon of Villasonica, Christina Aurea, Jay Sanders of Sum Networks, Earthfare, The Orange Peel, WNC Magazine, WNCW, vendors, all performers and volunteers who have generously donated their time.

Erin and I sat at Earthfare and brainstormed this great pollination, but we are sure that we missed many who have helped. Please use the comment section to let us know how you’ve contributed to LAAFF!

See who’s playing this year.

Look in this week’s Mountain Xpress for further information and schedule or go to LAAFF’s new website.

from → Arts & Thoughts Artistic, Community Growth & Development, Pollinators & Cultivators: People to Know

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By Carol Motsinger • August 30, 2009 12:15 AM
Asheville Citizen Times Sunday Edition

At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop.  At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop. (Paul Balicky/special to the Citizen-Times)

At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop. At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop. (Paul Balicky/special to the Citizen-Times)

ASHEVILLE — For Frank Bloom, directing the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) is more than a day job. The festival, which is taking over a few blocks downtown Sept. 6, is one of the reasons he moved to Asheville.

Before making the permanent move, Bloom traveled from his home in Charlotte to help with the sound for the festival’s stages. One group turned out to be a sound engineer’s nightmare: There were more people than square footage on the stage. The group of dancers and drummers had never performed together.

“They weren’t even a band,” Bloom said. “They were more like an experiment.” But despite Bloom’s handwringing, the performance went off without a hitch.

“It was really cool…it was a little welcome to Asheville,” Bloom said. “It was one of those experiences that was a decision-maker for me moving here.”

Four years later, Bloom is no longer behind the sound board; he’s up front at the helm of the 8th annual event celebrating all things arts, music and Asheville. The free festival will fill three blocks of N. Lexington Avenue between College Street and the I-240 overpass from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 6.

And in a lot of ways, Bloom’s new gig isn’t too far removed from the afternoon he made sure the sounds of that 20-person band got the crowd dancing. “It’s organized chaos,” Erin Scholze, who booked the bands, said of the planning process.

The art at LAAFF, as seen at a previous festival, isn't dominated by paintings of fall colors and the Flat Iron Building.

The art at LAAFF, as seen at a previous festival, isn't dominated by paintings of fall colors and the Flat Iron Building.

But organized it is. In just one day, the festival will showcase more than 30 bands and 70 artists. Not to mention a kids area, a circus side show, street performers, a new stage in the La Zoom purple bus and whatever other spontaneous acts of creativity decide to show up.

“It’s a showcase,” Scholze said. “For us, it’s really about maxing it out and sensory overload.”

Forget the stages: Scholze’s favorite part of the festival is the “fabulously freaky” characters who make up the crowd.

“I always love seeing the people in costumes,” she said. “You might see the person who just served you at Zambra walking around in this random costume.”

“That’s the spirit of LAAFF…it’s very eye-opening,” she added.

Bloom’s primary goal this year “was to continue the spirit and the atmosphere of the festival,” he said. And what is that spirit? It’s celebrating everything that makes up Asheville: Local art, food and beer, he said.

“This has a party atmosphere,” he said. “We definitely want to keep that identity.”

A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival.  A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival. A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

That certainly doesn’t mean there haven’t been changes. “In eight years, the area around the festival has definitely changed,” he said. “The festival celebrates that indie spirit that was the beginning of the re-birth of downtown.”

As the city center has flourished, so has the festival. When Scholze started working with LAAFF in its second year, some 3,000 people came out to the party. The event now draws 12,000 people downtown, she said.

Festival organizers also try to “integrate the evolution” of Asheville, Bloom said. For instance, they will be serving six local beers instead of just one, as they have in previous years. When the festival started, Asheville wasn’t known as a beer city, Bloom said.

There will be some subtractions this year as well. Michael Mooney will not be attempting to ride the world’s tallest bike this year, a stunt that’s so fundamental to the festival that it’s part of the official poster. They also won’t paint a donated car this year, Bloom said. But bicycling jousting (another Mooney original and crowd favorite) is still planned and they have some new surprises Bloom wanted to keep hush-hush.

But the most unique part of the festival may not be the break-dancing pirate or the kooky couple hula-hooping to funky beats. What makes this event special is the personal investment of the people who volunteer their time to make it happen, Scholze said.

“The community really takes ownership of it,” she said.

The same folks show up year after year. “It’s like a big family reunion,” Scholze added.

A kooky cast of characters entertain the crowds at last year's Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

A kooky cast of characters entertain the crowds at last year's Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival performers
Blue Rags, Dehlia Low, Eymarel, Hunab Kru, Jen and the Juice, Mad Tea Party, Melmacpink, Roberto Hess, Swayback Sisters, tHE POLES, U-N-I verse, Zabumba!. Asheville Dance Revolution, Baraka Mundi, Blackjack, Brushfire Stankgrass, Ceol Leinn, Galen Kipar Project, Modo, Now You See Them, Runaway Circus and Loose Caboose, Taylor Martin, The Chx, Velvet Truck Stop, Angi West, Arundas, Dip-N-Flip E.Normus Trio, Lulo, Pierce Edens, Pilgrim, Poetix Vanguard, Secret B-Sides, Ash Devine w/ Quetzal, Hillbillionaire$, La Feral Zoom: Rollin’ Barks of Laughter, LEAF in Schools and Streets: Youth at Jazz, Oso Rey, as well as a bluegrass jam, celtic jam and old-time jam.

LAAFF Performers Schedule

8th Annual Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 6.
Three blocks of N. Lexington Avenue between College Street and the I-240 overpass.
For more
about LAAFF 2009 www.lexfestasheville.com
about Arts 2 People www.arts2people.org

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by Tad Dickens with Cut N’ Scratch in the Roanoke Times


Mad Tea Party, just off of a few FloydFest sets, hits The Sun Music Hall, Floyd, on Saturday.

Last week, the duo’s Jason Krekel joined us to talk and stream tunes before the band’s Aug. 29 show at The Sun Music Hall, Floyd.

Krekel comes from heavy-duty Nashville, Tenn., mainstream success — his father, the late Tim Krekel, wrote hit songs for such artists as Crystal Gayle and Patty Loveless. The older Krekel, also a session and touring musician, even played the guitar solo on Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

Jason Krekel’s career has been a lot different. He’s been an early or original member of such outfits as Snake Oil Medicine Show, Larry Keel Experience and Firecracker Jazz Band. These days, he spends most of his time working with his girlfriend, songwriter/ukulele banger Ami Worthen, in Mad Tea Party.

We discuss all of that and more in this podcast.

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Written by Rob Moore Friday, 03 July 2009 14:59
Crankit Mag

Asheville-based Jonathan Scales Fourchestra has a uniqueness that is just theirs–steel drums and jazz. This cool combination is a product of Appalachian State’s alumnus Jonathan Scales. Taking the calypso-style (style of Afro-Caribbean music) sounds of the Caribbean steel drums, fusing then together with jazz and reggae, and putting them together is his signature. He manipulates the sound of his steel drum in ways that are refreshing, yet distinct in the island sounds.

Photo By Jon Leidel

Photo By Jon Leidel

His band is made up of Ryan Lassiter (drummer and fellow App alumnus), Duane Simpson (guitarist), and Shannon Hoover (bass). Simpson and Hoover are new to the band this year and in Jonathan’s words, “They are ripping it.”

“How do you mix the traditional Caribbean, jazz, reggae in your music?” I asked.

“Well, I’m influenced by everything I’m around, but I didn’t grow up listening to Caribbean music. I grew up like any typical kid, and when I went to college I listened to classical and modern music. That’s pretty much my musical influences,” said Scales.

He named one of his main influences as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He also has other influences like the Derek Trucks Band, Andy Narell, Pat Metheny, Cannonball Adderley, and Chick Corea to name a few. He has also had the opportunity to play with Jeff Sipe (most recently he has toured with Keller Williams with Moseley, Droll and Sipe and Jimmy Herring Band), Future Man, and Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck’s drummer) and and he has woven all of that influence and knowledge into some cool sounding music.

“In playing with Sipe and Coffin, what inspirational growth have these two given you to help open new musical opportunities? I asked.

“Jeff Coffin in particular is a big influence on me,” Scales said. “I actually tried to get him to play with me on the first CD and he wouldn’t do it. I learned a lot about being professional and producing quality, and the second time around he said he would do it because I proved I could step up.”

Stepping up is exactly what Scales has done. He has produced a second CD, the first being One Track Mind in 2007, titled Plot Scheme. This CD features Jeff Coffin and others, but is full of that jazz, steel drums and Caribbean flavor that’s their signature style and a “more developed sound,” according to Scales.

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra will be at Music On The Mountaintop on August 29, in Boone, N.C. He played the inaugural event last year and put on a very good show. Very refreshing. This year he will move up the totem pole to a better stage.

“What are you going to bring to the table at Music On The Mountaintop? Anything cool?” Scales was asked.

“We’ve got some new music that’s still Jonathan Scales, but some of our newer stuff seems to be edgier than it was before and I don’t know why.” Scales said. “I am also bringing my new lineup. A new and improved band.”

Well, we are looking forward to his show in Boone. He will also have a tour coming to the upstate of South Carolina in the fall so be sure to catch a show. You can catch his sound and play dates online at his MySpace, www.myspace.com/jonathanscales and www.jonscales.com.

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Jonathan Scales Fourchestra performing “This Road” from Plot/Scheme at ASU JazzFest (Appalachian State University) Boone, NC.

Ryan Lassiter – drum set
Shannon Hoover – bass
Duane Simpson – guitar
Jonathan Scales – steel pans

Cameras – Kuldeep Chudasama , Carole Barber, Margaret Inman
Runner – Dusty Bradshaw
Sound engineer & mixing – Daniel Shearin
video editing – Jonathan Scales

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by Cary Stemle
August 21, 9:57 AM
Louisville Arts & Culture Examiner www.examiner.com

I got a note from earlier this week about a late-breaking Louisville show by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, a hot bluegrass quartet from Virginia.

They’re in Kentucky for the International Newgrass Festival (performing Aug. 21) in Bowling Green, and they’ll head up I-65 to play Saturday evening, Aug. 22, at the Hideaway Saloon, the cozy Highlands pub that’s nearly hidden away at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Bonnycastle Avenue (across the street from the Guitar Emporium). Keel and band are set to go on around 11 p.m., preceded by the Whiskey Bent Valley Boys ($10 adv/$12 day of show).

Keel has a well-established name in bluegrass circles — he’s a two-time flat-picking guitar champion, a fine songwriter (he’s had tunes covered by Del McCoury and Acoustic Syndicate) and a strong vocalist with a warm, deep and expressive voice. His quartet is rounded out by Jenny Keel on bass fiddle/vocals, Mark Schimick on mandolin/vocals and Jason Flournoy on banjo/vocals.

Photo by Jon C Hancock

Photo by Jon C Hancock

Listening to a few MP3s, I’ve been impressed by their hot musicianship and vocal harmonies, and the sound recalls newer ’grass outfits like Union Station and Nickel Creek, without straying too far from tradition. It’s a lively and powerful sound — each picker is a heavyweight — and I can only imagine how it’ll pop at the Hideaway. (One of my musical axioms is that bluegrass, in particular, is a form that really must be seen live to be appreciated.)

The outfit’s latest album, Backwoods, came out in February (produced by Keller Williams — download a few songs here.) Keel appears in the soon-to-be released film, “The Man They Couldn’t Hang,” and also performs two songs.

“Over the past decade and a half (Keel) has made a name for himself through his fiery-fingered guitar mastery, his almost other-worldly vocal style, and his wild, progressive mountain sound that has one foot firmly planted in tradition while the other reaches out beyond the boundaries,” wrote The Velvet Rut. “In the end there is very little in the world of bluegrass music that comes close to sounding like Larry Keel.”

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Carol Motsinger • August 14, 2009 12:15 AM
Asheville Citizen Times

A mermaid graces the cover of the  A mermaid graces the cover of the "Freaks of Asheville" calendar that's being celebrated in an exhibit starting Friday at Pack Place.

A mermaid graces the cover of the A mermaid graces the cover of the "Freaks of Asheville" calendar that's being celebrated in an exhibit starting Friday at Pack Place.

ASHEVILLE — A nun with a bad habit and a mountain-living mermaid sound more like characters in a bizarre dream than glossy calendar girls. Yet these individuals have found a home in the Arts 2 People’s Freaks of Asheville Calendar.

The images in the calendar, as well as photographs and artifacts from the organization’s Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival, will be celebrated in an exhibit opening 5-7 p.m. today at Pack Place.

The calendar features some of Asheville’s creative professionals, “a certain slice of the Asheville experience,” said Kitty Love, Arts 2 People’s executive director and driving force behind the calendar.

“I really just wanted to highlight who these people are,” she said. The calendar also features important dates in freak culture, such as moon phases and death and birth dates of some of the important people who contributed to the current community.

Love teamed up with John Elliston and Michael Traister, photographer for Sock Monkey Dreams and the Faces of Izzy’s project, to create a series of black-and-white portraits of Asheville’s “freaks.”

But what exactly is a freak? For Love, freaks “have been deformed by the power of their own creative potential,” she said. “They have an overwhelming creative urge, insatiable curiosity, but difficulty being amused.”

The calendar is essentially 12 months of performers and artists like burlesque performer Corky Bordeaux and folk artist Bob Seven.

“I mostly just wanted to celebrate the people who are constant contributors to the magic I see every day,” Love said.

Traister kept the setup simple — neutral background and no props other than what the subjects brought with them — to make sure the “subjects come out more,” he said. Traister thinks that part of what makes Asheville special is that there is a sense of freedom for people to be who they want and to express who they are, however they see fit.

It’s exactly that spirit that Love hopes the calendar will highlight — and help preserve. “It’s important that we retain this part of our culture as we develop into a bigger city,” she said. “I want to see the creative culture considered in terms of economic development, in terms of tourism and everything else Asheville does.”

The calendar is just the beginning for the project. Love hopes to produce a set of Asheville freak-themed Tarot cards and possibly a larger collection of portraits for a book. Organizers hope to have the calendar available for sale at the upcoming LAAFF, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 6, and at downtown retailers soon. A portion of the proceeds will go toward Arts 2 People.

The Pack Place exhibit also includes images previewing next month’s LAAFF, an arts celebration organized by Arts 2 People. The exhibit will also host Michael Mooney’s bike jousting gear, a sport regularly featured at the festival. Mooney, also known as “Medieval Knievel,” a co-founder of LAAFF, also has a spot in the calendar.

Through all of its projects, “Arts 2 People has worked really hard to try to create something that can move the creative cultural experience forward,” Love said. “We want to create an opportunity for self-expression and community building.”


What: Exhibit for the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival and the Freaks of Asheville Calendar.

When: Opening reception 5-7 p.m. Friday. The exhibit runs through Aug. 29.

Where: Pack Place Front Gallery at 2 S. Pack Square.

More information: http://www.arts2people.org or http://www.lexfestasheville.com.

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“Strength can be achieved through UNITY, and success is the fruit of COOPERATION” –
Emperor Haile Sellassie I The First

Lake Eden Event Site
377 Lake Eden Rd
Black Mountain, NC
Sunday, September 13th, 2009

$30 in Advance
(828) 669-4918

Presented by: Black Mountain Asheville Rastafarian Collective and Mountain Roots Management.

The 1st Annual Rastafarian Ancient Living Arts and Kulture Festival (RALAK Fest), presented by the Black Mountain Asheville Rastafarian Collective (Black Mountain ARC), is to be held on September 13th, 2009 at the Lake Eden Events Site in Black Mountain, NC. RALAK is also a celebration of The Ethiopian (2002) New Year, which is actually two days before on Sept 11th. Tickets cost $30 and are available online at http://www.black-mountain-arc.webs.com.You may also purchase tickets at these outlets: Voltage Records on Lexington Ave, Harvest Records on Haywood Rd, Dynamite Coffee Roasters in Black Mountain, and at the Eagle Street Market on Eagle St. in downtown Asheville.

RALAK is an all day educational, interfaith, music and cultural event that will feature speakers from a vast majority of religious sects, local civic leaders, representatives within our community and national educators. This is a family friendly event with a kid’s village, live music, and local artisans. Ras Marley, Empress Iffiya, Congo Irice are the MC’s for RALAK and they will be welcoming the day’s events at 10am. The day will begin with spiritual blessings from various cultures as well as the United States and Ethiopian National Anthems. There will also be a moment of silence to honor oppressed peoples well as victims and casualties of all wars. Other activities include educational videos, Native American and African songs and drumming, Irish bag pipes and dance, as well as Nyahbinghi- the rallying call of Theocracy for humanity in the Divine force of truth and rights.

Speakers, including international educators, will be represented from many walks of life and faith, such as Carlo Hawk Walker (Native American Sun Dancer) and Dr. John P. Homiak (Curator of the Rastafari exhibit “Discovering Rastafari” & Director of Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian International Museum of Natural History), Queen Mother Moses, George Rose (Dejazmatch of Baltimore Maryland, legal advisor to the Rastafari cause), and Debra Kiliru-Liontree (co-director of Motherland International Relations).

Live music for the day will be Ras Michael and the Original Sons of Negus (Jamaica), Harry Mo (St. Croix), Reggae Infinity (SC) and other WNC artists such as Lyndsay Wojcik, Crystal Kind, U-N-I verse as well as many local DJs.

RALAK is also a fundraiser for the following projects in Ethiopia.

* Ejersa Goro Ethiopian Orthodox Church Roof Rehabilitation (This is in Harar where the Founder of the Organization of African Unity, HIM Haile Selassie The First was born). Donations are also for agricultural purposes there.
* A water catchment for a school serving indigenous Ethiopians in Shashemene
* Clothing and Educational Aid for an orphanage in Addis Ababa
RALAK’s mission is to live the creed of Rastafari, “Let the hungry be fed, the naked clothed, the sick nourish, the aged protected and the infants cared for.” The vision the goes along with this is to establish outreach and educational programs, for the creed to be fulfilled.

Following this vision, the Black Mountain ARC initiated the 1st Annual Rastafarian Ancient Living Arts & Kulture Festival, to address the misrepresentation of the Rastafari Faith and to expand and establish relations amongst other faiths. The pressing issue that is being addressed by establishing the Black Mountain ARC is that the Rastafari way of life is being misrepresented as an alternative lifestyle, fashion, gang or any other societal labels placed on it due to ignorance. The Black Mountain ARC will illustrate the Rastafari Way of Life at RALAK through righteous action and behavior that is accessible to people of all faiths and walk of life.

RALAK serves as a Cultural Encounter of Faiths and People and serves to “enable the Rastafari Community here to enhance communication and establish good relationships with the greater African Diasporic Community and friends of Africa in the Western North Carolina region.” – Ras Aziz

“Do not fall into the narrowness which looks only to the borders of your nation… We must move ahead in concert with all mankind.”

“It is communications that relates and binds people together by ties of friendship”

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By Sydney Smith, Special to The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC
Thursday, August 13, 2009

They have a spirited ukulele player and a guitarist who plays drums with his feet. They play rockabilly-country-surfrock-old time music, and they release some of it on vinyl. They’re young, but their style hints to earlier generations.

Photo by Jonathan Welch (Mountain  Xpress)

Photo by Jonathan Welch (Mountain Xpresss)

Mad Tea Party will play at The Tin Roof on Saturday.

They are Mad Tea Party, and they are just two musicians, Ami Worthen and Jason Krekel. They live in Asheville, but spend much of their time touring the United States, from Oregon to Maine. Worthen started the band around 2002.

Worthen is newer to music than Krekel – she came to it in her 20s after college. Her group of friends, including Krekel, all played and she first learned on the banjo. While she also plays the guitar, she sticks to and prefers the ukulele. Hers is hooked up to an amp to give her sound a boom, and she painted flames on it for style.

“It’s kind of a happy sounding instrument and our music is definitely upbeat and joyful, and so I think it lends itself well to that kind of energy,” Worthen said. “Jason plays the guitar and drums,” she said. “I fill in a sonic space that’s not filled in by the other instruments.”

Mad Tea Party defies current music trends. While they’ve released four full-length CDs since 2004, they have been and plan on releasing their music on vinyl albums as well.

It started in 2007. They released two songs on a 7-inch vinyl, and it was a success. For starters, Krekel’s a huge vinyl collector and believes a lot of music sounds better in that format, Worthen said. And, since a lot of Mad Tea Party’s influences like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino were originally found on vinyl, Worthen said it seemed right to release that way.

But, even more appealing is the display effect of vinyl. “With mp3 players and iPods of whatever, it’s just become where people don’t really buy CDs,” Worthen said. “They just get their music on iTunes, so the CD itself as a physical object is really not becoming that valuable.” With the vinyl, Mad Tea Party followers can post the recors on the wall or toss them on the record player.

Asheville has a decent vinyl scene, so releasing on a format requiring an outdated player isn’t a problem, she said. But, along with each vinyl, Mad Tea Party provides a digital download card so listeners can download a recorded copy. Because the download is a record copy of the vinyl playing, it has an analog and more authentic sound, Worthen said.

“Vinyl is such a collectible thing,” Worthen said. “It has such a great sound. The physicality of the object is very satisfying and putting the record on the record player is very satisfying.”

This fall, Mad Tea Party will release “Zombie Boogie,” a collection of Halloween-themed songs on vinyl.

Mad Tea Party plays at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Tin Roof.

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Hollywood anyone?? Larry Keel has been working alot these days writing new songs, learning banjo and now we add movie extra. Larry has been working on the set for the movie ‘The Man They Couldn’t Hang’ in which Larry plays the Head Warder at the prison in which John Lee, the main character, is kept and to be hung. He also does 2 songs in the movie. They will likely have the film finished by sept so will hopefully have it for sale/screening at Watermelon Park.

From Larry ” the movie shoot was a learning experience.. being the movie buff that I am, It was so fascinating to see how it all goes down.. the director said I did excellent.. I’ll take his word for it.. Also Stephanie Embrey was cast as an extra with some great close up shots of her as well..it was awesome shooting some scenes with her and also to do some scenes with Danny Kniceley as well…

So watch out down the road for some more info on the movie and who knows maybe you will be seeing Larry on ‘Hollywood Minute’.

Larry Keel performs at the Hollow Honey Hoot 3 in Sperryville, Virginia on Saturday, August 15th.

Larry Keel as Head Warder in "The Man They Couldn't Hang"

John “Babbacombe” Lee, aka The Man They Couldn’t Hang- Film Wraps in Rappahannock

By John Hallberg, film producer and organizer of the Hollow Honey Hoot 3

Perhaps some folks in the county were curious about an item on the Washington Town Council’s meeting agenda some weeks back about a “film company wanting to use the Town Hall for a set.” Well, many of my friends and people on Rappnet know that I, John Hallberg et al, have been busy working on an independent film for some months now.

The subject matter is the quite compelling case of one John “Babbacombe” Lee, aka The Man They Couldn’t Hang. The case took place over in the Devon area of England in 1884 and revolves around Lee and a gruesome murder which took place at his employer’s estate. John was a young man of 20 and convicted of the crime on mostly circumstantial evidence. His employer, the wealthy and renowned Madam, had many social ties in high places, including royalty. It was therefore imperative that her killer be brought to justice. The case brought worldwide notoriety simply for the senseless brutality (throat slashed, etc.) but also for John’s under-representation and seemingly odd demeanor (smiling). He became known as “the killer from Babbacombe,” or “Babbacombe Lee.”

As fate would have it, the salient part of the case and the occurrence that would seal the case in history is the “Hanging” that was attempted some weeks after the trial. (Before I continue I’ll just say that this was the case that caused the gallows to be standardized in England (1884) . . . you can likely guess the punchline.) The hastily erected gallows (likely built by prison labor) failed three times in its appointed duty, leaving Lee dangling before the jaws of death. In Edwardian England, the law held that a fourth attempt could not be made, and the prisoner remanded to the state for life or as long as seen fit.

Much has been made of the conditions of the gallows prior to the attempted execution. Rain had soaked the device the night before and it had been some time since it was used last. Speculation has always centered around the trap door and a small, one-eighth-inch ledge that protruded and perhaps helped hold it up. Others speculated that the additional weight of the warders, chaplain, executioner and others might have caused the malfunction. (It was tried between attempts with a rock in the place of the accused and worked fine). Still others have postulated more sinister happenings — it is said the gallows were “rigged” by one of many speculated-upon entities. Or that perhaps the gallows were not erected properly by sympathetic prisoners. (Lee always maintained his innocence.) Or that the executioner (James Barry, one of the most famous) was bribed to alter the outcome by the real guilty party, who did not want an innocent man hung. Or is it to be believed that, as John Lee maintained, “I trust in my Lord and he knows I am innocent.”

Lee became famous after finally being let out of prison some 23 years after his condemnation (1884-1907). He wrote his autobiography which was a world-wide publication and asserted that he had a prophetic dream the night before the execution with major religious overtones in which God assured him that no harm would be done to him. It is actually documented that he spoke of this dream to the warders as they woke him and brought him to the gallows. Spooky stuff.

Fast-forward to the early 1970s and a folk-rock band some of you may be familiar with — Fairport Convention — has recently hired England’s most famous fiddler, David Swarbrick. The band already was a quasi-supergroup, having landed Sandy Denny as their lead singer and having a young Richard Thompson as their lead guitarist. Anyway “Swarb,” as he is known, was in a junk shop looking at stuff and came across lots of old clippings regarding the Lee case. It seemed quite the subject matter for a concept record, and by 1971 Fairport released “Babbacombe Lee,” I believe their sixth in an amazing discography — any English geezer will tell you they are the be-all end-all . . . a folk tree with deep roots indeed. The record is actually one of my favorites of theirs and goes from sea shanty to pop-rock to dreamy Moody Blues/Floyd-like passages.

Another fast-forward to last fall, when I closed down the Smokehouse Winery after nearly 10 years. Many great memories and I thank all of the folks who’ve been here over the years. Anyway, at last year’s annual Hootenanny here, I met some folks from L.A. doing a documentary. They were nice folks (Todd, Ekin, Hyunda) and I developed a rapport with them such that one of the ideas I’ve been thinking of for many years — putting together an indie film about this subject — came up in a conversation.

I’m not sure if it was just the zeitgeist of the moment, but knowing the case so well, I allowed myself to ponder it more seriously. There had only ever been one movie made about John Lee, one done in 1911 shortly after his release. It was redone in the early ’20s and was critically panned but was very successful because of the timeliness/interest in the case. How could the big boys in Hollywood ever have missed such a popular and compelling story? Should I even allow myself to “go there?”

Well, I guess the first stage was in putting together the script; I’ve done some writing for various publications/papers over the years . . . could I do this story justice? Being that there were so many copies of John Lee’s bio I was able to get my hands on one very aged paperback from 1908. Last year I read every page with interest, noting the 100 years in between, in an attempt to get into Lee’s head — and also to soak in other things I’ve learned about the case (Fairport’s take on it included). Something started to click and I found I could manufacture a script rather easily. I would learn later that adhering to it during shooting is another thing altogether.

Last winter saw a rush of activity/production meetings as I allowed myself to think “I’m actually gonna make this film.” I’m still learning that in making an independent film you have to do things incredibly smart. Very much a challenge in this economy and for this industry. That being the case, many of the duties that a big budget film employs specific folks for falls on me or my assistants. Initial casting was done with an eye toward having talented people from the county — let’s be serious, there are a lot of ‘em. I also started to cast out further for actors; shockingly, many responded, some with lots of experience who actually liked my script. I got lucky to land three serious actors from Virginia/North Carolina who agreed to work on spec. Brandon Wilson is an actor from Warrenton who has done many projects, including being on “Law & Order.” J.C. Lira is a script writer (I originally spoke with him about looking at the script critically) and actor from Richmond who has been in several films, and John Sexton is a fine actor from Charlotte.

The Rappahannock contingent includes some outstanding suspects you’d expect — Howard Coon, Maureen Day et al — but also some fine surprises: Steve Beatty, Morgan Cloud and others. There is a musical element to the film as well. My friend and musical star Larry Keel is doing both a speaking cameo and a couple of short jams. My band, the Merkles, will play two of Fairport’s songs from their record (still working on the legals of that) and Manabu Nagase will be our sound/score man, which insures incredible quality.

Picture 192

Finding a cameraman was actually the toughest and biggest leap to “I’m actually doing this.” I did a lot of research and found out what those guys make — youch. After careful analysis, I found someone who has experience and is a disciple of my main consultant, who teaches film at Georgetown. I’m also finding that (of course) this is a Herculean effort of mind-blowing proportions. I’ve had to call in a lifetime’s worth of favors and am so grateful to all in the county who have given to the project. From Betsy making meals for meetings to folks allowing me access to their property for sets, to the many PAs (production assistants) who have held the boom mic, etc., etc. As the process moves from wrapping shooting — we nearly have — to editing, scoring, etc., I really hope to have a film that does the story justice and is up to acting and technical standards for the industry (at least for small-budget films). The rest would be cream, e.g. getting a small deal for distribution, getting back enough of the small outlay (several thousand) to perhaps buy equipment for another film. A big goal would be to be respected for the work and have the potential to do another film with investors/backing.

Here are some photos of the film in progress. Updates will follow as to info regarding a trailer, youtube things, first screening, film fests, etc. Here it is — they say “Don’t do period pieces” and “Don’t do anything with accents” Guess I chose the tough way in, eh? As Lee might say with pluck, “Drop Away!”

Warder Jamming

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