All next month (video 1:50)

All next month (video 1:50)

Artober is a month-long celebration of arts and culture in the RVA region. CultureWorks created this event (based on a similar one in Nashville) to promote a wide range of activities and special surprises next month. I sat down with Terry Menefee Gau to learn more.


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2 Years Down the Road (video 2:00)

2 Years Down the Road (video 2:00)

MA3Moving from Brooklyn to Nashville is a great leap – both in distance and lifestyle. But not necessarily attitude.


Michaela Anne continues to write “old country” songs about relationships and sing in a heart-felt style influenced by singer-songwriters like Emmy Lou Harris and Lucinda Williams. Her band includes a pedal steel guitar, which adds the perfect mournful touch.


Nashville was a purposeful move. She wanted a slower “better quality” lifestyle and to surround herself with new music influences and possibilities. “I couldn’t have hoped for it to go any better than it has. It’s been really inclusive and I’ve made some amazing friends.” And, she now lives in a house instead of a 1-bedroom apartment. “It’s been amazing!”


She toured a lot her first year in Nashville. With the last 6 months focusing on her new CD, she’s taught music to pay the bills and barely toured . It’s a commitment that Michaela Anne realizes is all part of the music business. A business that she says is built on art.



Band3Being independent gives her complete control over her music. While recognizing the business side, she wants to maintain her music as authentic. “I don’t have a label that approves my music. I deliver the album and that’s that.” It also allows her to keep in touch, “the human experience,” which she says is what drives her.


On being a woman in a fairly male-dominated business, Michaela Anne points to festivals and showcases that are mostly male performers with one or two females. “That’s just stupid! Music reflects our lives and women are half of the population. That frustrates me.” In Nashville, she found a very supportive community of female singers and doesn’t feel any competition. “My thought on it is, just keep on going out there and kicking ass.”


CD CoverMichaela Anne’s 2nd CD “Bright Lights and the Fame” got a rave review in the New York Times. She’ll be on the road until July, both promoting it and opening for Mandarin Orange as a duo. She first played Richmond 2 years ago at a Northside house concert. This past Thursday she played “The Tiny Bar” at Black Iris Studio. Again, it was a house-like setting, but with a bar and pro sound. Having played to an audience of 200 in Nashville the night before, she appreciated Thursday night’s up close experience of approximately 20. She also had the chance to tell stories about herself and her songs.


The guys at Black Iris created the “living room with a bar” with the idea for the audience to actually experience the artist…not to shoot photos or video. The lights were low and the vibe was casual.  (I was allowed to shoot by special permission. Even though, I supplemented the grainy video quality with stills.)



Michaela Anne:  vocals, acoustic guitar

Aaron Shafer-Haus: drums (and husband)

Phillip Sterk: pedal steel guitar

Reese Williams:  electric bass


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Not in it for the pennies

Not in it for the pennies

Allen1Count This Penny, Allen and Amanda Rigell, take their name from an episode of Sesame Street, which is a bit ironic given the “sad” nature of most of their original songs. Amanda says the sad songs speak to her, are cathartic and come to her when she needs them. “A friend of mine calls it wallowing music,” laughs Amanda, who has a great sense of comedy and humor judging by their performance Friday night at JAMinc’s last show until September.


Allen, a psychologist by day, feels that sad songs get more directly to emotions. “Music is the thing that can take you to emotion quicker than anything else. For some reason, sad songs can do it even quicker.” The duo’s songs definitely get to your emotions, but are presented with stories of humorous commentary. Their on-stage interaction is natural and honest.


Amanda and Allen have been married and playing together together for the last 10 years, forming Count This Penny in 2009, when they disconnected their cable TV and decided to fill their days creating music. Both sing and trade off acoustic guitar and electric bass between songs.



Amanda1Amanda and Allen have also learned that not every chance to play is suited for their music. Allen remembers a particularly painful bridal fair gig, “We learned a difficult lesson at a bridal show…it was one of our first gigs. Our set was probably sadder than what we played tonight. As we played, we realized this is a horrible fit!”  Amanda added, “Every song was a break-up song.”


As a duo they’re not suited, by their own admission, to large venues. Playing In Your Ear’s acoustically perfect Studio A “was a dream” said Amanda, who explains they “saw a new reality back in January.” They played a festival putting 38 groups in small rooms where a song’s craft was paid attention to. “Once we experienced that we thought “Oh, that’s how it can be sometimes.” They say connecting with an audience is a special skill they are still working on.  Judging by the audience’s response Friday night, I’d say they’ve figured it out.


Neither says the idea of “making it” is what motivates them. “I’ve stopped getting wrapped up in that…it’s a tidal wave,” says Allen. Amanda explained it’s become more personal for her, “For me it’s more about finding the discipline to write consistently and have the time to write enough that I can then pair them down to “the good ones”.


They played on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and Keillor gave Amanda a piece advice, “I don’t think you should ever write a song for anyone but yourself.” It made Amanda think, “Is he telling me not to do my songs in public (after just being on his national radio show) or is it just life advice?” Hopefully they’ll just continue doing their self-described “Appalachian pop” well into the future.


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Have suitcase, will play

Have suitcase, will play

duo“We grew up playing; that’s all we do,” sums up Ryan Harris about the 20+ years that he and brother Reggie have played music together professionally. The Harris Brothers come from an extended musical family and got their first inspirations back in Lenoir, N.C. from their father and uncles. “We’d be in the basement and hear our dad thumping on the floor with his foot while playing guitar. That’s where we got our rhythm.”  Ryan and Reggie are very much “home grown” virtuosos.


When they were teens, they had a rock band, “two drummers, guitars playing Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat…all the good stuff.” Other early influences include Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Doc Watson and eventually Muddy Waters and the Grateful Dead. We just love it all!”


Ryan’s a natural singer who eventually picked up the bass (currently a well-worn classic Harmony), when he landed a job at N.C.’s Tweetsie Railroad theme park.



wideOver the years they gravitated to being a duo, to the point where their drummer was replaced by Reggie, who uses a suitcase like a bass drum. “Less mouths to feed and split the take with,” jokes Ryan.


Their music today is based on traditional roots, rock & roll, jazz, blues and Appalachian mountain music. Ryan’s the primary vocalist and bass player, while Reggie handles the guitar work (“privileged to play a Wayne Henderson guitar”), vocals and suitcase bass drum. Being brothers, their performance (and humor) is intuitive and real as they move seamlessly from genre to genre.


They generally play close to home, with occasional trips out west and along the East Coast. Recently they went abroad for 6 shows in Paris, France. Ryan said they were well received by the Parisians, getting standing ovations and encore requests at sold-out shows. “We even sold a few CDs!” They flew back the day of the Belgium airport bombings and, according to Ryan, their “special suitcase” got more than a few stares from security, “It was the only one without wheels.”


The brothers’ career got a big boost from Jon Lohman, director of the Virginia Folklife Program, who invited them to play one of his shows, knowing National Folk Festival talent coordinators would be there. The Harris’ blew the NFF scouts away. Since then, they’ve played several national festivals, as well as last year’s Richmond Folk Festival. They paid Lohman back by inviting him up to play harp on a couple of songs at Saturday’s O’Boyle–Raney house show.


Whether big festivals or intimate house shows, Reggie says they just like to play, “Every show’s the same. I don’t care if it’s 3 people or 3,000…it’s all good.” Given their quality performance and likable style, I doubt they’ll ever have to worry about playing to just 3 people again.


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New proprietor vocalist (video 1:48)

New proprietor vocalist (video 1:48)

Many bands are defined by one member of the group, often the lead vocalist. Local examples include Sweet Justice (Beth Justice), MoDeBree (Kelli Moss), Red Star Crush (Lori Sclater) and the now defunct Rosie Soul and the Rock n’ Roll Cowboys (Rosie Soul). Imagine what happens when that lead vocalist leaves the band!


Band2That’s where Richmond’s self-described “Old School R&B/Nu-Soul” group The Soul Proprietors found themselves last year – twice. Original lead vocalist, Kelley Allison, developed a medical condition that affected her voice.  Her replacement lasted less than 2 months before she decided to go back to grad school.  That lead to a 3-month process to find a new lead singer. “Our singer is the focal point…for the people that listen and watch…It’s that lead singer that they identify with,” explained Dave Schieferstein (guitar, vocal).


Craig’s List and Facebook ads along with recommendations from fellow musicians yielded a list of 10 names. They wrote letters asking each of them to learn 4 songs for an audition. According to Dave, it’s a “tricky process” to translate from an audition to how a singer will work on stage with the band.



Evy3The “Evy” that Dave speaks about in that quote is their new lead singer, Yvette “Evy” Perkins. “Evy is the first 3 letters of my name backwards” she laughs. Calling herself “A R&B/ Gospel/ Funk vocalist”, the Richmond native says she grew up singing in church and later in gospel groups, so the band’s material is pretty new to her. It’s a learning curve she says she’s enjoying (with a little help from a lyric crib sheet used during the show). Her gospel roots are quickly getting an R&B infusion and she’s liking it.





The band’s backing is solid and their harmony vocals blend well with Evy’s lead. They mix it up on stage and one song often leads seamlessly to the next.  Another standout is Logan T. Beaver (sax, keyboards), a recent graduate of VCU’s Jazz Studies program. Saturday night at McCook’s was Evy’s on-stage debut. You could see and hear her get more comfortable as the night progressed. It’ll only get better.


The Soul Proprietors play several times every month, mostly in the Richmond area. You can catch them this Saturday at Big Al’s Sports Bar starting at 8 p.m.


Band Members

David Schieferstein – guitar,

Winfred Bradley – bass,

Logan T. Beaver – sax,

Jay Copp – drums,

Yvette “Evy” Perkins – vocals


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Celebrity Room rises

Celebrity Room rises

celebrity roomIn Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Some legends say the phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. That’s a concept Chris McCook can definitely relate to as he brings McCook’s Grille back to life.


Chris opened McCook’s Bar and Grill on Lakeside Avenue a few years ago, until business and family circumstances forced him to close down. Still, he never lost his dream to have a place for great food and entertainment.


He found his second chance at what recently was Brookside Grille on RT 1 (only a couple of miles from his original location). The RT 1 location, which has its own phoenix-like history, is better known to most locals as the Celebrity Room (1963 to 1994) which was famous for its food – especially pizzas – and for a room dedicated to the King of rock and roll. For many years local Elvis impersonator Don Wade entertained Richmonders and had quite the following. “Ever since the 9th grade and coming here, this is all I ever wanted to do.”


The new McCook’s opens this week and, according to head chef Jason Clem (previously at several local establishments) the menu will feature freshly prepared seafood, steaks, gourmet sandwiches and smoked meats from their in-house smoker. “All our food will be hand-made with not a lot of frozen or processed items. We’ll be keeping it nice and fresh.”


Jason and Chris

Jason and Chris

To that end, Jason has hired some young culinary talent and hopes to create a destination known for good food at reasonable prices. Currently most entrees are well under $20 and a kid’s menu is available. Jason also plans on creating some unique desserts, as well as specialty cocktails (fast becoming a new “thing” on the RVA culinary scene). While his crew is both newbie and experienced, he says his young chefs have “lots of promise” and have already come up with some new ideas for drinks and other “surprises” including “smoked” desserts.




Main Dining3

Main dining area

One cool throwback to the old Celebrity Room will be pizza nights where the original owner’s son, Alan Serafim, will be resurrecting the old pies. Chris, who grew up going to the Celebrity Room, says his mom insisted that he hang some Elvis photos out of respect for the place’s history.


Sound Install

Installing the sound system

On the entertainment side (and why I’m covering it), Chris has spent a lot of money and effort to create a welcoming venue for bands and their audiences. He built a new stage, installed a custom-built sound system and updated the décor, including a mural featuring the Richmond skyline.


Chris promises to keep the dance space open. There’s a separate bar in the music area and the design of the building allows for shows to go on without intruding on diners in the restaurant level. “When we close the double doors leading to the music venue it really cuts down on sound migration. It’ll be a great place for families and music lovers alike.”



Music venue

His chances for success got an unexpected boost with the recent, sudden closing of Sharkey’s, which was itself a favorite band venue. “Lots of bands have been calling trying to book lost dates. Our phone has been blowing up! I’m sorry that happened to Sharkey’s but we’ll welcome their fans and give them a great experience.”


Current bookings include a wide range of bands (Thursday – Saturday) including The Honky Tonk Experience, Teaze, The Pat Russell Band, Monkey Fist, 161 Down and Rear View Mirror. He’s also booked MoDeBree for every Tuesday night to continue the long standing “Tuesday Night Dance Party” that dates back to the Shenanigan’s days. Wednesdays has karaoke and he’s exploring some Sunday “early” shows.


Appropriately enough, the Blue Rooster and The Five and Dimers will kick off the venue’s opening celebration on St. Patrick’s Day and will be followed Friday with Road Kill Roy. There’s a soft opening Tuesday night with MoDeBree kicking off the music at 8. Doors will open at 6:30 if you want to check out the restaurant or just hang out.




Robbin Thompson Tribute

Robbin Thompson Tribute

According to the concert’s program, Robbin Thompson’s widow Vicki told his friends when discussing the tribute concert, “I don’t want it to be a task; I want this to be a gift.”


And a gift it was! Sunday afternoon to a packed house at the National, where Robbin’s family, friends, “musical co-conspirators” and fans shared what many there called an “amazing evening of respect and admiration”. Guitarist Velpo Robertson said, “It was a thing of beauty.” (see the concert’s back story here)


Velpo Robertson

Velpo Robertson

Robbin’s influence ranged far beyond Virginia’s borders. Musicians came from the west coast, Nashville and Chicago, as well as from around the Commonwealth. All had either written a song with or performed with Robbin over the course of the last 45 years. Robbin’s song catalog was both deep and wide.


Two who couldn’t be there sent videos. Timothy Schmit (Poco, the Eagles) co-wrote several songs with Robbin and played on almost all of his albums. Battling illness and the recent loss of his Eagle bandmate Glen Fry, Timothy sent a heartfelt message and a short musical performance from his home in California. Phil Vassar, who credits Robbin and his band with giving him the belief that he could make it as a musician, sent in his thanks “from a tour bus in parts unknown” for being an inspiration and giving young musicians like him a start.


For all at the National, especially the musicians, it was an poignant time. Vocalists Marna Bales and Leetah Stanley said that emotions ran high at the first rehearsals last week. Collectively, the musicians were able to work through it and said they were better prepared to handle them the night of the show. Still, several musicians were noticeably moved, as they told stories about their friend.


Mike McAdam (Good Humor Band) told of his first encounter with Robbin. He was still in high school and his band had a steady gig at a local teen hangout, Hullabaloos. Their booking agent wanted to add this college band, Mercy Flight, to the bill. (Their vocalist was Robbin.) OK said Mike, “But who plays first?” Mercy Flight wanted to play first and did. That’s where Robbin taught him a lesson. Mike said Mercy Flight started playing and sounded good, but when Robbin started to sing Mike turned to his band and said, “Boys, we’re in trouble.”


Steve Bassett

Steve Bassett

Throughout the almost 3-hour show, the Robbin Thompson Band (Velpo Robertson, Rico Antonelli, Audie Stanley and Eric Heiberg), joined by McAdam and percussionist Jody Boyd, anchored 2 long sets that saw 18+ guest artist interpret Robbin’s songs as their own personal goodbyes. Standout performances included Mike McAdam, Chip Miller, Steve Bassett, Michael Lille and Lewis McGhee. The SPARC Kids also performed to a video by Robbin of “A Real Fine Day.”


Long-time local music supporter Chuck Wrenn gave a shout-out to former state Senator Walter Stosch, in attendance, who spearheaded Robbin and Steve Bassett’s “Sweet Virginia Breeze” becoming Virginia’s popular state song. He also read a letter of commendation from Governor Terry McAuliffe to Vicki noting the many achievements of Robbin and how proud he was to have signed into law the official state song designation.


Proceeds from the show will be split between JAMinc and SPARC which Vicki called “two organizations that were incredibly important to Robbin.” Tthis show may not be the end, but rather a beginning based on comments in the show’s program, “This is just the start, and there is work to be done. This show marks the launch of Robbin’s legacy. Stay tuned.”




Rico summed up the experience for himself and the band, “The feeling was more like a family reunion of long separated siblings than anything else I can conjure. Absolutely exhausting, exhilarating and fulfilling.” And no, Bruce Springsteen did not make an appearance. Based on the caliber of the talent on stage and the collective response from the crowd, I doubt anybody noticed.






Lewis McGehee and Michael Lille

Lewis McGehee and Michael Lille

Marna Bales, Booke Drumheller and Leetah Stanley

Velpo, Eric, Rico, Audie

Velpo, Eric, Rico, Audie










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The musicians



Robbin Thompson update

Robbin Thompson update

As previously announced, a musical tribute concert to Robbin Thompson will be held 2/28 at the National. Here’s the latest update.


“No, Bruce (Springsteen) will not be here. That’s the one myth we want to dispel!” says Bob “Rico” Antonelli, drummer for the Robbin Thompson Band and one of the producers of the upcoming show. “He’s on tour and that just isn’t going to work out. He does send his regards.” It’s a natural assumption that he might have shown, since Robbin was lead singer toward the end for Springsteen’s Steel Mill and appeared onstage with The Boss the last time he played Richmond’s Coliseum.


Bob Antonelli 2

Bob “Rico” Antonelli (Photo by Skip Rowland)

Even without Bruce, the show promises an outstanding lineup of guest musicians from throughout Robbin’s career – all helping the band honor their mutual friend. “Honestly, trying to choose who to include has been one of the hardest parts of putting this all together. If we’d accepted everyone’s offer the show would have lasted 8 days!”


The show will be divided into 2 sets with a brief intermission and will be structured similarly to the benefit concert for Billy Ray Hatley, which Rico also had a hand in putting together. Rico (the nickname Robbin “pegged” him with) says they have about 22 songs on the set list. As with the successful Hatley show, Rico says they’ve tried to match the singer’s voice and range with songs they feel “they can carry off.” “Robbin had a set of pipes that’s hard to match.”


That list concentrates on the Robbin Thompson Band years including songs from later albums during his solo career. “It’ll be songs that people know, the popular songs and some that relate more directly to the guest artist performing it.”


The producers are purposely not naming names of the guests because they want to keep the focus on Robbin and his music. “To a person, all the guests have said, ‘It’s not about us, it is Robbin’s night.” There are some obvious possibilities, like Richmond’s Steve Bassett and others that collaborated with Robbin in various groups. “Musicians are coming from Chicago, Nashville, Canada and the western US…all over the country.”


Putting the logistics together, coordinating performers’ schedules, along with the theater’s availability, has also been a huge task…one that’s still evolving. “There are a couple of artists that really want to come – and we want them to come – who have conflicts that will entail last minute flights from across the country. Honestly, with some of those we may not know if they’ll make it until we see them walk through the door.”


Rico emphasized the show wouldn’t be possible without “total support” from the National’s owner, Bill Reid, and his willingness to put this show on at no cost. As a footnote, the National was also one stop for the Robbin Thompson Band’s “comeback” tour in 2010 after a nearly 25-year hiatus.


Band 2

The band at The National. (Photo by Skip Rowland)

Rico and the producers greatly appreciate the volunteering technical crews and their willingness to put in a long, hard day (or more). “Those are the folks I really, really take my hat off to.”


The biggest task of all will be filling the vacuum of the most important person in the room. “Robbin was our lead singer, who wrote all the songs and was our front man. He was the face of the band. How do you replace that?” Rico and the band hope this show gives some closure for his fans and for themselves as well. “What better way can we pay tribute to somebody than to do the thing we and they were most passionate about?”


Proceeds will be donated equally to SPARC and JAMinc per Robbin and his family’s request. With minimal costs for the venue and the crews, plus the artists donating their talents, Robbin will once again be making it a “Real Fine Day” for RVA’s future.


Tickets are available via the National’s box office and to date sales have been pretty brisk. More than a third of the available seats sold in the first 4 days.


Here’s a video of “Bright Eyes” from the band’s 2013 show at the National (shot by Diane Travis).




Robbin Thompson Tribute

Robbin Thompson Tribute

“A Real Fine Day,” a concert celebration for Robbin Thompson, who passed away last October after a long battle with cancer, will be held Sunday afternoon, 2/28 at the National. The Robbin Thompson band will perform songs from Robbin’s career and will be joined by several  guests artists (unspecified as yet). Tickets should go on sale this week via the National’s box office.


Through this benefit, Robbin will keep giving back to the arts community. Per the concert producers, “Robbin’s family has requested that any profits generated by this concert be donated equally to JAMinc and SPARC.” Both organizations provide arts and music education experiences for area kids and Robbin was a huge supporter of both.


The donation potential is being enhanced by the National, which is donating the venue and its staff and “an incredible army of lighting, sound video and support personnel who volunteered to participate without hesitation.” Click thru the images below for more information about the event, Robbin and sponsorships.


Tickets will be on sale Friday 2/5 at 10:00 am  (click on the National link above), $25 – $45. Send an email to Bill Rice for sponsorship details.


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C’ville Curry (video 1:56)

C’ville Curry (video 1:56)

The Charlottesville-based family trio, The Currys, brought their hard-to-categorize brand of mostly Americana music to Studio A at In Your Ear studios Friday for JAMinc’s first show this year. A show that was delayed a week because of the “snowmageddon.” For the crowd of 60+, it was worth the wait.


“We’re definitely not spoken word or metal” joked cousin Galen Curry (vocals, bass, guitar), explaining the trouble they had describing their music for on-line music services. Jimmy Curry (vocals, guitar, bass) and brother Tommy Curry (vocals, guitar, mandolin ) agreed they span a lot of genres. “American is close, but that’s such a catch-all. We’re sort of folk-pop maybe? We’re hard to label” During their show, they covered R&B, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake along with many of their own tunes.


On stage you can tell they’re family by their easy rapport. “We know each other way too well” laughs Tommy. It translates well to their audience. They tell stories about their songs or how they found one to cover. A couple of sketchy jokes are added to the mix by a reluctant Galen.


You also hear family in their harmonies, something Tommy they said they had to work at from the beginning.



Band1Music has been full time for the last 3 years. They sometimes perform as a trio and sometimes as a full, more electric lineup. Playing a variety of venues and audiences is all part of being working musicians. “It’s different things to cut your teeth on and improve your chops.”


Knowing the setting would be acoustically perfect, with a crowd that came to listen, the band also shot a 3-camera video to use for marketing and social networking. They have a new CD, West of Here. A CD release party will be held 3/5 (full band) at The Southern Café and Music Hall in Charlottesville. You can catch them in February before they’re on the road.


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Sometimes it’s the songwriter (video 1:58)

Sometimes it’s the songwriter (video 1:58)


Getting ready to shoot the music video

A couple of years ago, local singer/songwriter Rob Williams decided to get “aggressive” with his solo career. His latest move is the release of his 2nd solo CD, “Southern FM,” accompanied by a locally-produced video, both of which Rob debuted at Poe’s Pub last Wednesday.


The black & white video supports the upbeat yet melancholy “Sometimes It’s a Song,” portraying a traveling musician who lusts for girl in a bar. “I had to sit at the bar and look sad” said Rob of his acting role.


Several months ago, a small, volunteer crew and a dozen extras (some actual customers) spent a long Sunday shooting at Lakeside Tavern. Insurance regulations required fake beer and the crew had to create fake rain for some of the shots. Rob directed with local production guru Bill Ku handling location, technical and crew requirements. SIFTER’s own TVJerry did the edit.


Since Rob is still a part-time musician, the video is intended to go places he can’t and will hopefully get him on the industry’s radar. It’s working already – the video is a finalist for Best Performance at California’s Idyllwild International Film Festival.


“Southern FM” is a collection of 7 of Rob’s originals and one cover of Brian Harvey and Johnny Hott’s “Sun Gone Down.” Rob decided to push his comfort zone and travel to Dallas, using session musicians he met for the first time in the studio. They learned the songs on the spot and, as Rob says, “Put their own slant on them.”



Rob StandingRob’s style is a mixture of 90’s rock and alt-country with Americana influences. Like most songwriters, he gets his inspiration from the world around him. “My better songs come from imagining a story and the imaginary people in it.” A case in point from the new CD is ”Henry and Maria,” which is based on a plaque he saw in Maymont about a long-ago marriage proposal.


On stage, Rob is personable and energetic, which comes partly from playing in 2 previous indie bands. He played lead guitar in his first band. “I was a terrible lead player.” His second band (in the 90’s) was Joe Buck, Jr. “It was a bit of a relief” because it gave him a chance to concentrate more on singing and writing. “Admittedly, looking back, those early songs really weren’t that good. But it was good experience, getting in front of the band and being the main focal point.”


Experience that shows as a solo performer, which he says requires a special skill set. “You’re up there by yourself, you have to cover it all.” Cover it all he does very well.


Rob will be part of The 9 Songwriter’s Series” at the Tin Pan 1/14 and is opening for Paulo Franco & The Rateros at Ashland Coffee and Tea 1/30.


Watch the video of his show


An “Ordinary” show (video 2:08)

An “Ordinary” show (video 2:08)

New Year’s eve was a true Throwback Thursday at Tanglewood Ordinary, where they served up RVA’s Hot Seats as the main entertainment course. It was a taste of times long ago, when the restaurant was more a roadhouse and dance hall that hosted itinerate bands on a regular basis.


Crowd3Playing without the benefit of a sound system, the group’s vocals were sometimes lost to the diners’ fun, but that added to the evening’s charm…transported back to the 30’s. The band seemed to love it too, not performing as much as standing in a corner playing “old time” music and having fun.


The Hot Seats are a “string band” with all members rotating instrumental and vocal duties. Their music crosses genres, influenced by expected sources like the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, the Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band, and some unexpected ones like the Fugs, Frank Zappa and even a bit of Monty Python.


Leader Josh Bearman says they’re more than bluegrass (hence “string band”) and not too worried about being silly on stage.




They began as Special Ed and the Short Bus in 2002, playing regular gigs at Legends and the Cary Street Café. From 2005 to 2011 they concentrated on touring in the U.S. In 2008, at the suggestion of their agent who was booking them in Europe, they became the Hot Seats.


Band2They’ve developed a healthy UK following, typically playing in theaters during the summer. Troubadours with social commentary, their tour shows are, in Josh’s words, “performative” with the members doing some play-acting along with on-stage banter and poking fun at American life. “European audiences crave the American experience.”


They’ve got another European tour booked for August and are lining up some festivals in the States. Band dynamics (one lives in New Hampshire) prevents them from playing often as a full band in Richmond, but they do play as duos and trios. You can catch them next with the Atkinsons Jan. 8 at Hardywood.


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The Band:

Ben Belcher: strings, vocals

Ed Brogan: strings, vocals

Graham DeZarn: fiddle, strings

Jake Sellers: washboard, percussion, strings

Josh Bearman: strings, vocals

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