Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Clifton Forge and New York Hospitality

Clifton Forge, Virginia, a small town in the Allegheny Mountains, is home to the Masonic Amphitheater, a unique outdoor venue. The WannaBeatles first played there two years ago, as reported in an earlier blog (Virginia Tour, 30August2013)

Here's a photo of the Masonic Amphitheater from that earlier blog:

The design is very creative: the walls around the stage are interlocking panels of three different metals, while the exterior uses wood to imitate a stylized ocean wave. We learned it was the result of an architectural competition, with the winning design coming from students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Clifton Forge made us feel welcome. They provided a lovely local inn for our lodging, The Red Lantern Inn, with a wonderful hostess, Joanne, who even ironed our shirts before we went onstage.

We always had an enthusiastic crowd for our show. 

New York Hospitality

But the best part of Clifton Forge for us was probably Vic's, a local restaurant that provides authentic New York pizza and Italian food in a remote corner of northwestern Virginia.

All of that was true for our first visit to Clifton Forge in 2013, and gave us more to anticipate as we returned each year. This was our third visit in a row, and again we were looking forward to our encounter with Steve Greenblatt, the owner and main chef at Vic's restaurant. Since Dennis is from New York, and since the other WannaBeatles have been there and appreciate good food, we felt like hanging out with Steve was like being in New York. 

Steve went out of his way to accommodate us. First of all, it was a Sunday, when his restaurant was usually closed, but he opened it just for us. (This is starting to sound like something John, Paul, George and Ringo would have experienced.) Secondly, he actually took our orders as we were driving from Bethesda to Clifton Forge, so we could imagine the steaming plates of home-made lasagna as we neared our destination.

OK, here we are, Sunday, August 30, 2015, on our way to our last gig in a long weekend. This is actually Part 4 of the series, the final installment, including our trip home to Nashville.

Part 1 was Franklin, Indiana, and our first visit to the Artcraft Theater; Part 2, Springfield, Ohio featured a promotional video in the lobby of the Hampton Inn; Part 3 was our return to Bethesda Jazz and Blues Club.

And so, this day begins by saying goodbye to Bethesda.

Dennis saying goodbye with a luggage rack 
and a copy of "Fab Fan Memories"
Loading the trailer

We drove along the beltway, along the west side of Washington, then west past exits for Manassas Battlefield, and on across Virginia, looking forward to our next destination. Talking to Steve on our way there gave us a chance to order great Italian food and anticipate a delicious meal.

Our first stop in Clifton Forge was our familiar home, The Red Lantern Inn. 
WannaBeatle David relaxes on porch
One of four lovely rooms provided at Red Lantern Inn

Then we unloaded our gear at the amphitheater and set up.
David sets up drums as Dennis checks set list
 WannaBeatle Dennis sweats the details
Our sound man setting up mic

The Red Lantern Inn is about two blocks from the amphitheater, and walking back and forth is a pleasant trip across a creek.
View of creek beside amphitheater
View of amphitheater from bridge

We took care to prepare our "Wannabeatles Boutique," which other bands call their merch table.
Our products on display, along with our new pop-up banner

Then we headed over to Vic's. Walking through downtown, we passed a poster in the window of a store advertising our show.

When we arrived at Vic's, Steve joked around with us, pretending not to recognize us as we knocked on his door. Then he unlocked it and let us in, and we had the place to ourselves. 

As mentioned in the blog from two years ago, Vic's was built in 1922, and it still has the ambience of a restaurant that has been serving delicious home-made food for nearly a century.

Since Steve comes from New York, he brings that cuisine and attitude with him. Even though he's Jewish, he cooks great Italian food. 

Nathan with Steve at table, with salads served

Our host Steve, with WannaBeatles Nathan, Dennis, and David 

Steve had set the table with salads as our first course. Then he brought out the main dishes - for me, a thick lasagna with melted cheese draped over the top. 

Then he brought out his own bread, steaming in a basket, emanating a delicious aroma. It was about the best bread we had ever tasted, totally fresh from the oven. 

I asked Steve what his secret was, and he said pizza dough - something he's been making since his childhood, and he continues to experiment with the formula and temperature.
We were treated to great food, great stories, and the most unlikely New York hospitality in an unlikely corner of Virginia, and we were very grateful. 
Steve gives us the high sign after that fabulous meal

As usual, there are no photos from the show, due to Bloggin' Bryan being busy with other activities. Then after all the gear had been packed up, I got a couple of shots of the amphitheater at night, which is just as distinctive as its daytime appearance.
View of Masonic Amphitheater at night

Then, the next morning, it was our trip home.

But first, posing for a photo on the porch of the Red Lantern Inn.
WannaBeatles in civilian attire, arms outstretched

And then we made our way down I-81, toward Tennessee.
WannaBeatle Dennis pumping gas
WannaBeatle Nathan not quite awake
WannaBeatle David busy on the phone
WannaBeatle Bryan does selfie with Puffin

And had lunch at a Subway
Ordering lunch at the Subway counter
Salad being fixed

And appreciated the beautiful day, and lovely sights alongside the road.
Roadside barn along Blue Ridge Parkway

But best of all was getting home to Nashville.

Thanks to WannaBeatle Dennis for booking the tour, and to WannaBeatle David for driving, and to Steve Greenblatt in Clifton Forge for some delicious food and classic New York hospitality.

We felt very welcome, and enjoyed it tremendously. We would love to go back and enjoy it again.

Bloggin' Bryan 20October2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015


This is part 3 of the blog series covering The WannaBeatles' weekend in late August, which included three gigs, five travel days, a Tundra with a U-Haul trailer, and a partridge in a pear tree.

So, to catch you up, we're not in Kansas, uh, Nashville anymore. We're in Bethesda, Maryland, having driven from Springfield, Ohio the previous day. 

We're staying at the American Inn, on Massachusetts Avenue, just a few blocks from the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club, where we're playing tonight for a return engagement.

Here's how it looks leaving the motel 
to take our gear down the street.
Here's how we fit into the Bethesda entertainment lineup.

Here's where WannaBeatle David shows his skill 
in backing up with a trailer.

Here's the elevator where we take our equipment 
up to the stage level.
Here's the inside of the beautiful theater, 
with dinner tables beyond the dance floor
The empty stage before we set up
View from side of stage

David setting up his drums

Nathan setting up his keyboard

Dennis on phone with tech support, 
attempting to coordinate the video screen 
with the laptop computer 
containing the slide show program.

The Bethesda theater has a large screen which allows us to use our video with the show.

Our loyal intern Melanie, a Belmont student who's from Bethesda, is available to help run the computer.
Our intern Melanie, at her station with the laptop

We are glad to have Melanie to help us out, because running the video portion of the show from a laptop can be a challenging job.
Instructions from computer projected on screen 

Bethesda is a place where the WannaBeatles have friends and family.
Here's WannaBeatle Bryan before the show with his cousin Oliver, Oliver's daughter Elizabeth, and wife Anne. 

Their son Andrew was also there, at another table with several of his friends.

We were also greeted by Rick Brown, the owner of the theater, and Skip Kelly of DC Entertainment, who helped us get the gig there. Skip introduced us from the stage, and brought a local professional photographer to cover the show. Her name is Mickie Hill, and she took some great shots.

As we had experienced last year, the crowd in Bethesda was enthusiastic, and loved to dance. 

After the show, we met up with friends in the lobby. 
Melanie, WannaBeatle Nathan, & friend in the lobby

It was a very enjoyable experience, because so many people enjoyed what we do. 

Thanks to Skip at DC Entertainment, Photographer Mickie Hill, owner Rick and the sound crew at Bethesda Blues and Jazz, and Melanie and her friends for helping out so much. 

Stay tuned for Episode 4: the trip to Clifton Forge, Virginia.

-Bloggin' Bryan, 15October2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Springfield, Ohio

The recent Franklin, Indiana blog (30September2015) explained how the WannaBeatles had a long weekend, which would require three or four blogs to cover. That was Part One. 

Welcome to Part Two of that series.

Part One contained a reference to our packing strategy for including luggage belonging to Eliza, the daughter of WannaBeatle Nathan. Eliza had recently moved into her apartment at American University, in Washington D.C., which is near Bethesda, Maryland, where we were playing August 29. Part Two includes the conclusion of that plan.

Part One covered Thursday, August 27, and our show that night at Historic Artcraft Theater in Franklin, Indiana. It ended after the show, as we left Franklin, heading east, toward Springfield, Ohio.

Springfield, Ohio was not an actual gig for us, but a convenient stop on the way between gigs. However, while we were there, we recorded a brief promotional video for the Hampton Inn, as part of a creative deal that WannaBeatle Dennis had negotiated. 

How any band survives without a resident genius like WannaBeatle Dennis is a total mystery. I feel sorry for other bands that don't have WannaBeatle Dennis.

And so, this installment of the series covers our travel day, from Springfield to Bethesda, covering parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and D.C.

Video In The Lobby
We awoke that beautiful Friday morning, donned our black WannaBeatles tee shirts, and headed for the lobby of the Springfield Hampton Inn. 

(For those unfamiliar with our "Fuzzy Series," these photos do not represent incompetence with a camera, but a distinct artistic vision. Thank you for your patience.)
Fuzzy David and Dennis in the morning

Nathan brushing teeth 
All four of us in the elevator on the way down
(does that remind anyone of an Aerosmith song?)

Dennis and Nathan in position, preparing for the shoot

WannaBeatles ready for the shoot
(non regulation footwear allowed because 
video would not show feet. A little showbiz secret.)
Hampton Inn put our little song on their Facebook page. 

If you want to see and hear our Hampton Inn jingle, here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/wannabeetles

Then we were ready to pack the truck and head east.
Dennis, with his morning coffee, embraces another travel day

With David in the driver's seat, we headed east across Ohio,
enjoying the scenery.
An exit for Cleveland
Welcome to West Virginia
A touch of local color, a decal in a truck window 
that says "Coal Blooded."

We arrived in D.C. before dark, and went straight to American University. There we met Eliza, and handed over the furniture of hers we were carrying in our trailer.
Fuzzy Nathan carrying furniture
Pulling Eliza's things out of the trailer

Nathan and Eliza listen and learn about parking regulations
Eliza's new college home

That concluded our business for the day. We drove up Massachusetts Ave. a few miles to Bethesda, checked in to the American Inn, then found a local Thai restaurant for a fine supper. 

At the table next to us at the restaurant we met some local folks who became friends, inviting us to come sing on their lawn later that night. They also agreed to come to our show the next night. 

Coming up: Part 3, Bethesda.

Bloggin' Bryan 5Oct2015