Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harvest Stomp 2011

That's right, the band will kick-off our new season in just a couple of days at the Armory in downtown Northfield, MN. We expect another big turnout for the always high-energy Harvest Stomp. The four of us haven't played together since last May so there will be a lot of good energy coming from Contratopia. We'll be joined by caller Robin Nelson so you can count on some fun dances too.

If you can't make it to Northfield on Friday, make a point of coming to Tapestry in Minneapolis on Sat. November 12 instead. It looks like our buddy Beau Farmer will be calling with us that night which always means lots of fun.

On a related note (pun intended) I recently released my first ever solo CD titled, imaginatively, Mandolin Tunes. As the title suggests it's a collection of twenty-three mandolin and guitar recordings taken from the nearly 100 tunes I've recorded for my So Many Tunes blog since 2007. They were all recorded at home through the miracle of multi-track recording with me playing all the parts. I'll have a few copies with me on Friday in Northfield and you can also order a copy from CD Baby. It should also be available at iTunes, Rhapsody, and other fine digital vendors soon.

Hope to see lots of you folks on Friday.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Gone and Back Again

Well here it is July, midway between the end of our 2010-2011 season and the start of our 2011-2012 round of dances. Usually we at least acknowledge the end of the old season but there was a lot going on in May and that didn't happen. We did have a lot of fun playing for a wedding reception at the Wildberry Winery just outside of Decorah at our last gathering. Since the gig wasn't exactly a contra dance we had the chance to play a wider than usual range of music in various styles, including a couple of tunes from the Contratopia Tunebook that are rarely performed.

Looking ahead to our upcoming season we have some exciting prospects. First, we have nearly agreed to produce a new CD of Contratopia music. We have begun circulating lists of tunes that we might record (we probably have enough unrecorded original tunes to fill 2 or 3 CDs) and we have a possible target timeline. We'll keep you posted on our progress, or not.

We also have a number of fun gigs tentatively lined up. You can check the "dances" page on our website to see the current list. We are very pleased that we are likely to return as a featured band for Tapestry's 2nd Call of the Loon weekend in April 2012. We have also planned (thanks to Ted Hodapp's hard work) to return to the mid-Atlantic tour region in March 2012. Along with contras at Glenside and Glen Echo we will play a Saturday night dance in Frederick, Maryland. I'm pretty sure that this will be only the 2nd time we have played there.

This tour will be unique because we will bring our great friend Linda Breitag along to play fiddle as a sub for Erik Sessions, who is pretty busy these days helping to raise a houseful of wonderful kids. Linda has played with us many times in recent years but this will be her first chance to travel with the band. I think the folks who usually come to hear us play in Philly and D.C. will really enjoy Linda's approach to our repertoire.

Right now it looks as though our season kick-off might be at the Oct. 21 Harvest Stomp in Northfield, MN but it's only July and we might end up playing somewhere else before that. If so, we will announce it here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Looney Memories

(photo by Pat O'Loughlin)
It's hard to believe that's it's been two weeks since the Loon called us to Tapestry to play for the 1st Annual Call of the Loon Dance Weekend. We had a great time playing for dances and workshops and it was wonderful getting to spend time with our old friend Carol Ormand, who kept everyone in fine spirits with her great dances and positive energy.
The band had a lot of fun and we enjoyed being visited by some special guests. David Edminster played tenor sax with us for a few dances on Saturday night and brought the house down with his work on Pat's tune "Cement Donkey". He also contributed mightily to one of the best versions ever of our "Palisades/Christmas Past/Fairbanks" set.
Patrice couldn't be with us on Sunday because she was busy playing "serious" music (oboe for the Mahler first symphony with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra). We were lucky enough to be joined by the great Adam Granger on guitar for the final couple of hours and Pat, Erik and I had a lot of fun re-inventing some of our familiar sets with the former Powdermilk Biscuit Band member. I particularly enjoyed the free lesson in how to play guitar for contra dances. We also had the pleasure of having our buddy Linda Breitag play fiddle with us on Sunday for a short while and I really enjoyed the Erik and Linda combo fiddle sound.
The Call of the Loon weekend was a big success in our book and we certainly encourage Tapestry to do it again next year. Maybe we'll even get invited back again someday.
Speaking of Linda Breitag, this coming Friday, April 29, she will be joining us in Northfield, MN for a slightly belated Earth Day contra dance. Erik will be at home working his own garden so we won't get to hear twin fiddles but Linda has played this dance with us several times in the past. The dance will be in a new venue for us, the Northfield Ballroom, just a little north of town on Highway 3. It looks like a lovely hall and we hope to see a bunch of you there. Beau Farmer will be our caller and the dance runs from 7:30-10:30 with a dance lesson at 7:00.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Northfield Winter Stomp! - Video proof

We had another great time in Northfield last Friday night and here are two short videos to give you a sense of what it was like. (Sorry about the loud drum rolls. They are out of our control.) A Big Thank You to Corey Butler Jr. for filming & editing and to Suzie Nakasian for sharing them with us.

The first video features a couple of scary closeups of Pat and myself, but they only last for a few seconds. After that the focus is (rightly) on how much fun the dancers are having. Musically you can hear us playing snatches of our version of "Liza Jane" and a bit of our take on Daniel Steinberg's (Hillbillies From Mars) great tune "Rockabye Baby."

The second video spares you the closeups. Musically, if you put your ear up to your speakers, you can just make out the band playing two more recent tunes of mine: "Why Not Here, Why Not Now" and "Share the Road."

It's great to have these video memories. We hope they can give you a sense of the high energy, multi-generational Stomp! experience. Next stop, the Call of the Loon weekend in April. Hope to see you there.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Call of the Loon

Contratopia is delighted, and honored, to be chosen as the band for the 1st annual Call of the Loon Weekend to be held at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis, MN on April 8-10, 2011. We are especially pleased to be working with the extraordinary caller, and our old friend, Carol Ormand at this event.

Tapestry is making an effort to put on a weekend that will draw dance gypsies from all corners of the contra dance world and we would love to see you there. Minneapolis is an easy city to fly in and out of and Tapestry is only a couple of blocks away from a light rail station on the line that runs between the airport and downtown. The dance floor and the facility are great and the Twin Cities dance community is home to some of the friendliest and finest dancers in the country. Put the Call of the Loon on your spring dance calendar now!

We had a great time and a great turnout last weekend in Decorah for our concert/dance combo. David Kirchner kept things fun and interesting and no one seemed to mind that it was below zero outside. We definitely heated up the hall. There's even been some talk of making it an annual event.

Next up for the band is a return to Northfield for another (the 5th Annual) Winter Stomp! on February 18th at the Armory downtown. The caller will be the wonderful Robin Nelson. Teaching is at 7:00 and the dance runs from 7:30-10:30. We hope many of you can make it to that dance as well.

Finally, our emails accounts have been flooded with memos back and forth about future touring plans. There's a pretty good chance that we will be visiting the mid-Atlantic region (they haven't barred us yet :)) in March of 2012 and we are exploring some possibilities for Fall 2011 as well. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Contratopia coming to Decorah, Jan. 22, 2011

Well actually half of Contratopia is always in Decorah. But next weekend we've succeeded in enticing our Better Half to make the winter journey down for a dance and a rare concert performance. These events will take place at the Elks Lodge in downtown Decorah with the short concert beginning at 7:00. This will be followed by a teaching session and a full-blown contra dance with caller David Kirchner at 8:00. The ending time is a little open-ended at this point, probably sometime between 10:30-11:00.

It turns out that our appearance in Decorah coincides with the 2nd annual Oneota Film Festival that will be taking place next weekend at Luther College. While the concert and dance will cost you $7 to get in, the film festival is free (donations are encouraged). You will want to go to the festival web site and register if you want to learn more.

Long time Contratopia watchers will know that it is extremely rare for the band to perform in a concert setting. Sometimes if we are featured at a music weekend we will play a short concert set and there have been two or three other instances where we played have performed in a quiet room without dancers, but not very often. So this afternoon we will be having a rehearsal before our dance in Minneapolis to come up with an interesting program of music that we don't normally get to play. It should be a lot of fun.

Erik and I (and maybe more?) will be playing live and talking with Jeni and Tim on the KDEC Artist Direct radio show next Friday morning at 8:15 to advertise this event. We did this once last summer for a different local event and had a great time. If you're not in Decorah you can listen online at the KDEC website. Hopefully I will be able to keep my foot out of my mouth during the interview portion of the show.

Before anything happens in Decorah next weekend we first get to play a dance at Tapestry in Minneapolis tonight. And have a reunion with Ted Hodapp as well. I hope we'll see you at one of these events.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Tapestry, Ted, Tunes

Ted, Tunes, Tapestry? Tunes, Tapestry, Ted?

In any event, in whatever combination, we are all delighted to be just a week away from seeing our buddy Ted Hodapp next week at Tapestry. We've had a lot of winter weather since the band's last time together and we are all ready to play some Contratopia tunes. It's been nearly a year since we've had the pleasure of working with Ted and that was out in D.C. I'm not sure how long it's been since we played a dance at Tapestry with our Phavorite Physicist but it's been too long by any standard.

Here in Iowa and Minnesota we are having the cold weather this weekend so next weekend should be balmy. Mark your calendars now for Jan. 15 and bring your dry, indoor dancing shoes to the Tapestry Folkdance Center. I guarantee you that the band and the caller will be there having a great time.