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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Musical Week

If someone tells you it’s hard to find good live music in Louisville they haven't been looking in the right places.  In the space of about a week we attended three amazing, foot-stomping concerts, and no doubt missed some other good ones.

First, at the Palace Theater, a week ago Thursday, we were the geezers amongst a happy, mostly young crowd.  The Avett Brothers rocked out at the first of a three-night stand.  The Avett Brothers’ repertoire defies simple categorizations: western swing, bluegrass, Christian hymns, and calypso.  

The crowd seemed to know every word.  Three young women in the row in front of us, cute as any coeds I've seen, bounced, danced and sang along.  I wasn’t a big fan of the Avett Brothers.  At least until now.  The "kids" are ok if this is the music they are rocking to.

On the following Sunday, one of those gorgeous fall days where you can’t bear to stay inside, we went to the riverfront to see the riverboat festival.  A variety of music drifted towards the best viewing areas as we waited to see the riverboats take off on their race.  We didn’t care who won the race.  It was just a great excuse to be outside on a glorious day.

At the main stage we heard some jazz and also a band called the Billy Goat Strut Review, complete with a female torch singer, a slide trombone, a sax, and a washboard, along with the usual instruments, guitars and percussion.  They played some of the music my Mom use to play on the piano.  Some mixture of old-timey, bluegrass and honky-tonk.

As the Billy Goats left the stage and we were getting ready to head back to our car we were almost run over by the March Madness Marching Band from Lexington.  They marched right through the crowd.  The band members, dressed as pirates and gypsies, played all sorts of outlandish instruments, danced and marched.  Very fun.

To wrap up the week of musical fun we went to the Clifton Center this past Thursday to hear the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Rhiannon Giddens belted out Waterboy, an Odetta song, covered Leadbelly, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jean Ritchie, as well as singing a foreign language song, perhaps in Gaelic. The Carolina Chocolate Drops also did Sandy Boys, Hit ‘em Up Style, and Snowden’s Jig (Genuine Negro Jig).

The “Drops” played a variety of instruments, including an 1859 replica banjo with an amazing sound as well as bones, some made of wood and some of actually bone, which brought an authenticity to the minstrel songs. Rhiannon talked about the history of minstrel music and how the banjo was one of the ways African Americans had shared music with white Americans.

The memorable opening act, Birds of Chicago joined the encore, which included Read ‘em John. By then, Rhiannon also had invited a tall, thin young man, dressed in bib overalls, who had been among the concert-goers dancing in the aisles, to join them on stage.  He said his friends called him “Long legs” and he danced like George Clooney in “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?”, only better.

“Wow!” the first word out of my mouth at the end of the concert.  My husband simultaneously said the same thing, as did the friendly stranger who had been sitting next to me.  We all were standing on our feet applauding after the encore, wishing for more.  

The next day, as my spouse and I ate breakfast, we both were singing the words to one song that had wormed its way into our ears:  “Corn bread, butter beans and you across the table…”

I capped the week of foot-stomping music by buying my own pair of foot-stomping boots for our next concert.  

*This column was written with significant contributions from my spouse who forty five years ago this Halloween took me on a first date to listen to a concert. He now has taken me to more concerts than I can count.


  1. Your blog brought a great memory back of the Avett Bros who are from NC. I'm not into their music but they have a huge following in the Christian music community - they are sons of a preacher. But here's something I'll bet you don't know - the lead singer is a very fine oil painter! We had his work here at our bldg a few years ago largely because he was unable to find a place in town that could hang such huge canvases OR willing to hang paintings of a nude Jesus figure! He is no amateur painter, I can promise you that - these were exquisite pieces. He gave a talk at the Merony Theater in town, after which ppl tromped down to our bldg to see the work.
    The Chocolate Drops have also been here singing at our Rowan Jazz and Blues Festival in October. They are deeply loved by N Carolinians.
    Fun to revisit those memories via your blog.

  2. Whitney,
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. You brought interesting insights to the discussion. And I had no idea the lead singer was an artist. I have been struck in the last few years by the overlap between different creative endeavors and talents. When I took oil painting lessons I found the classes helped me to write in a more visual manner. I am not accomplished in painting but you may note the thumbnail I use on my blog is from one of my paintings. If my physical issues cooperate I hope to get back to painting for the fun of it. I really enjoyed meeting you and the other class members in Iowa. Thanks so much for keeping in touch and for reading and commenting on my blog.