Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Glen Echo & Shepherdstown Coming Right Up


We are heading out east this weekend for another visit to a couple of our favorite dance halls. The fabulous Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park will be our home away from home on Friday night and Sunday afternoon and evening. On Saturday night we will return to the lovely & historic War Memorial Building in Shepherdstown, WV (pictured above).

The band is coming off of another high energy dance last weekend in Northfield, MN. We all had significant challenges trying to get to Northfield because of near blizzard conditions and roads covered in thick ice but we made it there and back to our various homes without injury or accident.

We were hoping that DC in March would involve some Spring weather but it looks like temperatures may only be in the 30s and 40s most of the time that we are there. It was 10 below here again this morning so anything above freezing still sounds pretty great.

Whatever the weather we are looking forward to playing for lots of enthusiastic dancers! You can find out the details about these events by following the links on the "dances" page on our website. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Big Time in Decorah!

Thanks to all the folks who came out in snowy Decorah last night for our annual concert/dance event. I'm pretty sure that it was a record crowd for the dance.

Pat and Patrice came down from the cities on Friday afternoon and we indulged ourselves in a series of rehearsals. We started Friday evening, after a great dinner at the Old Armory BBQ, with a lengthy session on Center Ave. We followed up on Sat. with a morning practice and then a trip to the Oneota Food Coop where we played ("will play for food") a short acoustic set. Then back home for a couple of more hours. Back to the Coop for dinner, then to the Elks.

We were amazingly organized (by our standards) and used our time well. We prepared (who plays what, where)(we even took notes!) several sets of tunes for a recording session that we have scheduled a week from Monday at Wild Sound in Minneapolis. Then we performed those arrangements as the bulk of our concert set last night. We hope this recording will be the first step towards a new CD for the band.

The concert audience was great, very attentive and forgiving. They also did a great job at providing percussion during Pat's tune, "Two Bits". Ted Hodapp, our caller for the evening, worked the soundboard during the concert and really made us sound good.

The dance itself was most excellent. The energy level was great. We could have used a much larger dance floor. We stopped promptly at 10:30 because Pat, Patrice, Ted & Lynn all needed to drive back to the cities and wanted to stay ahead of the worst of the snowy, windy weather to come.

This event kicked off 2014 for Contratopia, our 14th or 15th (we're really not sure when we started) year as a band. We'll be a little busy, by our standards, for the next couple of months with dances and recording work. Next dance will be Feb. 21 in Northfield, followed by a weekend of dances at Glen Echo Park, near DC (with an excursion to Shepherdstown, WV), at the start of March. Hope we'll see some of you out on the floor!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Minnesota Country Dance Weekend

We're all looking forward to being the Friday night contra dance band for the Minnesota Country Dance Weekend this week, held at the lovely Sokol C.S.P.S. Hall in St. Paul. Check out the Weekend webpage for details.

Erik and I will be driving up from Decorah on Friday afternoon and we will be hunting the elusive perfect fiddle tune, a rare but lovely bird. Neither chamber of Congress will deter us from our appointed round trip.

We are all looking forward to getting to work with the great caller David Millstone. We hope that some of you can join us.

A brief commercial message: I will be bringing along a few copies of my new solo CD, Deer Tracks (for solo mandolin), in case anyone has a taste for slightly off-center, classical solo mandolin music. You can listen to samples at CDBaby or learn more at my Kickstarter site. I'm pretty sure that it's available at iTunes now also. Our own Pat O'Loughlin sat in the producer's chair for this one, so it's at least partially a Contratopia production.

It'll be Friday before we know it.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Hail to the 2013/14 Contratopia Season!

I just updated our "dances" page on the Contratopia website with what we know of our 2013/14 season. Since the season begins this Saturday night at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis I thought I'd better bring things up to date.

I moved info about last season's performances to our "history" page, which is getting pretty long. Right now the history starts with the 2001/2002 season but someday I need to try and reconstruct the years before that. Any way you look at it we have been playing together (and "playing" is definitely the right word) for a long time.

This new season will begin with Ehler Orngard making his second appearance in the role of Erik Sessions and Pat, Patrice and I are looking forward to it. Mr. Sessions himself will return in his featured role on October 4th when we play the Friday night dance for the Minnesota Country Dance Weekend and, as you can see, the original quartet has several more dances already on our calendar beyond that.

As always, we hope to see you at one or more of these events.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Tapestry, Mid-Summer 2013

Time flies and we want to mention that you can catch Pat, Patrice, John, caller Ted Hodapp and guest fiddler Tim Reese at Tapestry Folkdance Center this holiday weekend. We'll be playing for the regular Saturday night contra on July 6 from 7:30-11:00. This will be our first ever gig with Tim standing in for Erik and it promises to be an exciting evening.

I can definitely say that we aren't over-rehearsed for this dance so there is a high probability of new and interesting musical hijinks. Come on by and see/hear what happens!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Glen Echo, March 1, 2013



Here's the video that Kevin Mabon took of the band playing one of our oldest sets just before the break on Friday night. Dave Richardson's classic jig "Calliope House" (played in E, with the A and B sections reversed), Pat's unique version of "Booth Shot Lincoln" and Erik's Portland Collection hit, "It Ain't the Heat, It's the Humidity".

It's a 12 1/2 minute dance and Kevin's roving eye captures all sorts of stuff. Excellent close-ups of Ted's feet, a good look at the wonderful and friendly Glen Echo dancers, lots of band interaction. A highlight is Erik's romp starting at the 10 minute mark.

Here's a straight link to the video if that works better for you:
http://youtu.be/TCqa3MrXCkw

We're having a quiet morning here in Takoma Park after going out to Shepherdstown last night. Yesterday morning we had a quick White House tour (minus Patrice, who arranged the tour, but had a little problem with ID; it's a long story), then we toured the Old Post Office building and it's great bell tower tour. On to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for a pretty interesting experience. Then out to the big aerospace museum near Dulles airport, followed by dinner at the Devonshire pub in Shepherdstown. A busy day.

It's not too late to make plans to come dance at Glen Echo today. We'll be playing the afternoon waltz and the evening contra. Say hi if you stop by.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Art Hounds Track Us Down!

Thanks to the networking skills of Jim Leedham and Suzie Nakasian, Contratopia was mentioned this morning on Minnesota Public Radio's weekly Art Hounds feature. The radio spot was really about tomorrow night's Northfield Winter Stomp dance but they used (very artfully, I might add) shorts bits of our recordings of "Booth Shot Lincoln" (just in time for the Oscars!) and Erik's tune, "It Ain't the Heat, It's the Humidity" (re-titled for tomorrow night "It Ain't the Cold, It's the Snow").

The Winter Stomp piece is at the start of the feature and, I believe, it will air again this afternoon. Check it out. More importantly, come to the dance tomorrow night. I see over 80 people have already said they will be there on Facebook. (Hopefully the latest Storm of the Century will allow Erik and I to drive up from Decorah in time. If not, rest assured that Patrice and Pat will lay down some rockin' tunes with a mystery guest fiddler or two. And Robin Nelson will be there to direct dance floor traffic and work her magic!)