Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Thanks for the Memories, CD Baby Store




I realize that this is trivial news compared to what's going on in the real world but I need to spread this news to anyone who stumbles upon our blog. Starting today our old friends at CD Baby have "retired" their online store. They have good reasons for doing this and they will still be partners with us in supplying our CDs and downloads to other vendors (like Amazon). They also take care of making our digital files available for streaming on your favorite streaming services.

If you are in the market for a physical Contratopia CD we still have a few left. Check your local record store or Amazon first and then contact us if necessary. We might find a different approach in the future but, for now, that's your best bet. Of course, when we are able to play for public dances and shows again we will have stuff for sale at those events as well.

Many thanks to the hundreds of people who have purchased one or more of our CDs over the last nearly 20 years!

The photos above were taken by me (JG) from my perch on the Glen Echo/Spanish Ballroom stage on Friday February 28, 2020. Hope to see you again before too long.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Greenfield Dance Postponed


COVID-19 is affecting all of us in some way. Most of the gigging musicians we know are seeing their calendars open up for the next few weeks as a result of event cancellations; part of efforts to slow the progress of the virus. We knew it was coming but we received official word today that Tapestry Folkdance Center is canceling all dances through the end of March and likely through April as well. This includes the annual Greenfield Dance that we were scheduled to play on Saturday, March 23. We are considering this a postponement and hope to be able to reschedule this event later in the year.

We were fortunate to be able to make our annual trip out to the D.C. area to play for dances in the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park two weeks ago, before things reached the current level of concern. Ted Hodapp, as always, was our caller, booking agent and, with Lynn, host for the trip and we had our usual wonderful time. The crowds were good, the music was excellent and we enjoyed a Saturday night concert/dance at Ballroom Blum in Adelphi, MD as well. Shaun the Sheep once again served as our spirit guide for the weekend.

The Ballroom Blum concert and Sunday's Waltz Time dance were especially notable for the inclusion of, not one but two, vocal numbers. I believe the first time in Contratopia history that two vocals turned up during a gig. Pat treated audiences to a taste of the real Minnesota with his delightful rendition of the "The Lefse Song" and the band indulged John's teenage nostalgia by supporting (with gusto) his version of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven", including driving rock'n'roll piano playing from Patrice and enthusiastic backup vocals from the whole band.

Here's a photo of Pat's banjo and John's mandolin at rest before their busy weekend:


While we won't be playing any dances in the near future we are looking forward to celebrating the demise of COVID-19 as soon as things clear up. In the meantime, if you have the chance while you are dealing with your own virus-related challenges, offer some encouragement and support to your local artists and arts organizations who are struggling with difficult challenges. We hope to see you at a dance or a concert down the road!

Monday, December 09, 2019

2020 Preview


On January 1, 2020 Contratopia will enter our 4th decade as a band. We started in the late 90's, played through the 1st decade of the 21st century, played through the teens and, now the clock resets. This was not our plan. We have gone from year to year happily playing mostly original dance tunes without care, beyond the next few gigs.

While we have occasionally benefited from the talents of a handful of superb substitute musicians, the vast majority of time the Original Four, Pat, Erik, Patrice and John have shared the bandstand together. It's always a great time when we meet up somewhere and continue our musical friendship.

We closed out the current decade playing at Tapestry on Nov. 16 and we have a few dances lined up for 2020. I'll get around to updating the calendar on our website soon but, until then, here's what we know:

Jan. 25 will be out first dance of the year, held at Tapestry in Minneapolis

Feb. 28 we will play the Friday Night Dance at Glen Echo (see photo above)

Feb. 29 (it's a Leap Year!) we will play an intimate concert/dance at a lovely home in, I believe, Silver Spring, MD. (More details will emerge.)

March 1 we once again get to play at Glen Echo for the Sunday Afternoon Waltz Time dance.

March 21 will be our homecoming dance at Tapestry.

We'll keep you posted as more events are scheduled and hope that you will find the time to visit with us sometime in the coming year.

Thanks for keeping us going!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tapestry cancellation, Feb. 23

We're sorry to announce that Contratopia won't be playing for the contra dance at Tapestry this Saturday, Feb. 23. A combination of possibly dangerous weather-related travel conditions and a couple of other conflicts have led us to cancel this gig.

We believe that the dance will still be held with music provided by some of our excellent musician friends and we encourage everyone to come out and have a good time despite our absence.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Wintergreen 2019


This was the view from our luxury (really!) housing complex last Sunday, late afternoon, just north of Bozeman. We were relaxing after finishing up the Sunday portion of a great dance weekend. We were also enjoying the balmy 40 degree temps while back home in Minnesota/Iowa things were being enveloped by the dread polar vortex.

We can't say enough good things about the wonderful folks in Bozeman. Marty Albini and the rest of the organizers were super nice. I won't attempt to name names because I know I'll forget someone, but we've never been treated so well. I will, however, single out Adam and Johanna from Sassafras Stomp who were a joy to work with as the "other" band.

The weekend finale was an hour long set with the two bands playing together (without much, actually any, preparation) and I have to say that we all managed to make it work beautifully. Sassatopia was a group to remember and I hope we get to do it again someday.

Many, many thanks also to our generous housing provider (Bozeman folks know who I'm talking about) who freely turned her house over to us and made us all feel at home. The whole weekend, from late night Thursday arrival to ridiculously early Monday morning departure, was about as good as it gets.

I know that the whole band and our buddy Ted Hodapp had a wonderful time and we hope to return before we all get too old.

In about 3 weeks we will be playing at Tapestry in Minneapolis for the Saturday contra, with Ted calling. Three weeks after that we will convene at Glen Echo Park for the start of what will surely be an epic weekend of dances and fun.

We hope to see you at one or more of these events.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tapestry, Dec. 1, this weekend


Well, this has been a pretty sleepy blog this past year. Just a quick note to let readers know that Contratopia, in a special trio form, will be playing this Saturday at the Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. Pat, Patrice and the great Tim Reese will provide a fresh look at familiar Contratopia tunes and, I suspect, they will also play a few of Pat O'Loughlin's recent compositions as well.

Erik Sessions and I will remain here in Decorah this weekend for various reasons, chief among them the threat of bad weather.

Looking forward, however, we just received confirmation today that we will be playing at Glen Echo Park next March 15 & 17 for contra dances both nights and the afternoon Waltztime dance as well. We will also be playing in Annapolis, MD on Saturday March 16.

In addition, we will be playing for the 2019 Wintergreen Dance Weekend in Bozeman, Montana, January 25-27. Ted Hodapp will be joining us as chief caller for the weekend and we will also get to enjoy the music of Sassafras Stomp while we are there. There are still a few openings left, so sign up soon if you are interested.

Finally, Contratopia Classic (Patrice, Pat, Erik, John) will be playing for the regular Saturday night dance at Tapestry on Feb. 23, 2019.

Hope to see some friendly faces at these upcoming dances!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Picnic & A Pint in Decorah, June 3


We are looking forward to a friendly group of smiling faces this coming Sunday from 4-7 when we play in the space pictured above as part of the Picnic & A Pint summer series at the Courtyard and Cellar in downtown Decorah. The weather looks promising and it should be a great place to relax and enjoy Contratopia playing an unusual mix of contra dance sets and couples' dance tunes.

If you are in the area already or if you feel like a visit to a lovely small town in the Driftless region (with eagles, bike trails and famous craft beer) we'll be happy to see you drop in. Bring the family or just your thirst, we'll supply the tunes.