Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Tapestry, December 12, 2015

We're just a couple of days away from the final Contratopia dance of 2015. We (featuring Erik Sessions on fiddle) will reconvene at Tapestry Folkdance Center on Saturday night for one more dance before winter arrives. Robin Nelson will be calling the dances and we'll do our best to make things fun for all.

Our Riff City CD cover is just another reminder that Contratopia CDs make great holiday gifts. We will also be offering a free copy of our Ballroom Echoes waltz CD for every copy of Riff City that is purchased at the dance on Saturday. What a deal!

We hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tapestry, Nov. 21, 2015

Come on out to Tapestry on Saturday night and join us for a fun dance with David Kirchner calling and the great Tim Reese joining us on fiddle. With Tim in the mix we are sure to play a number of old Contratopia favorites along with some tunes that Tim will bring to the party.

The Riff City cover shot is a reminder that we still have a few of these CDs available for your holiday shopping. We will have plenty at the dance but you can also order the physical CD from CD Baby and you can purchase downloads from all of the usual suspects; iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, etc.

There is a lot of discussion these days in the musician community about the pros and cons of making recordings in the emerging "music business." Even the biggest names (with notable exceptions) only sell a fraction of the CDs that they used to sell. And downloads are shrinking too.

Fanfare Magazine (a great record review source) recently quoted an "executive at a top label" who reportedly said that the average number of sales for a classical CD in the U.S. is between 100 and 150 physical copies. It's not rocket science to calculate that this number of sales doesn't cover the cost of recording, or even manufacturing.

What's a band like Contratopia to make of this? We knew when we decided to record Riff City (after a 10 year break) that we wouldn't sell more than a few hundred copies. We were pretty careful with our expenses but we did use a first-rate studio (Wild Sound in Minneapolis) with great microphones and a great vibe. We all agree that it was worth the cost.

However, we would like to sell enough copies to break even, hence this long-winded sales pitch. We are still (as they love to say on public radio) short of our fund-raising goal. So, if you have enjoyed our music in the past and are trying to think of just the right present for that certain someone we have just the recording for you!

We hope to see you on Saturday night. If you can't make it this week there will another chance to dance with us on December 12. Erik Sessions will be fiddling that night and, yes, we will still have a few CDs for sale.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Harvest Stomp! 2015 in Northfield

Come join us in Northfield for another great dance at the Armory downtown on Friday night. This will be our first chance to play a dance together in several months so it's sure to be high energy music.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Video no. 1 from concert at ArtHaus

Contratopia from Behind The Mic™ on Vimeo.

Many thanks to Al at Behind the Mic for filming, editing and uploading this fun video to his Vimeo account! This is the opening set of tunes from our ArtHaus concert on August 21: Loaves and Fishes/Too Many Goat/Fourth and Walnut. We don't often get to play together during the summer months so you can see that we were enjoying ourselves. We are hoping to see more footage from this concert over time.

Patrice needed to leave early the morning after the concert but Pat stayed around and joined Erik and me for a fun hour and a half at the Winneshiek Farmer's Market. We were fortunate to have nearly perfect weather for both events and we all had a great time.

Special thanks also to our friends at the Palisades Inn for sponsoring our concert appearance by providing lodging for our out of town band members and video crew!

Hope you enjoy the video. Thanks again to Al.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Contratopia Concert in the ArtHaus Courtyard on Friday August 21

Come on out and hear the band next Friday in the lovely courtyard next to ArtHaus on Water Street in Decorah. We plan to play two 40-45 minute sets and we will include a performance of our entire first CD, Hands Four, as part of the show. We will probably play the imaginary "first side" (tracks 1-6) of Hands Four just before the break and then open the second half with "side two" (tracks 7-11). We will play a few other tunes, including some from our current Riff City release, before and after the Hands Four recreation.

We've never done this before and we will have to brush up on a couple of arrangements before the show but I think it will all be a lot of fun. Check the ArtHaus site, linked above, for more details. Please tell your friends and, if you can, drop by and enjoy the music.

(Thanks again to Tom Gau for the use of his beautiful Hands Four cover art!)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Derby Day in Decorah with Contratopia!

Kind of last minute but, just in case you are in the Decorah area and have missed the massive publicity campaign, we will be playing a concert followed by a dance tonight at the Elks club in downtown Decorah. Ted Hodapp will be flying in to call the dance and add his feet to our percussion mix.

Concert is at 7:00 and the dance should start by 8:00. We will bring more than enough copies of our new Riff City CD to meet the demand. It's a beautiful day today, tonight should be a very good time!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Riff City On the Road

Here's a video of Contratopia playing the dance length version of the title track of our new CD at Glen Echo Park on Feb. 27, 2015. Expertly shot by Julia Fischer as part of Kevin Mabon's ongoing contra dance documentation project it captures the band (and the mighty Ted Hodapp as caller and foot percussionist) in fine fettle.

We apparently set something of a length record, outlasting the camera battery and forcing Kevin to perform a little surgery near the end. The operation was a success and you have to be paying pretty close attention a little after the 13 minute mark to notice anything. These videos are a great service and we thank Kevin and Julia (filming in Kevin's absence) for their gifts.

Our whole tour was great fun even though our Sunday night Glen Echo dance was cancelled when the Park closed at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon due to treacherous icy roads and walkways.

There were many highlights:

  • A surprise visit in Philadelphia from our old friend Chris Aschman who joined us on trumpet for a few sets and had us all playing at a higher level
  • Our return visit to Richmond (last there, we think, in 2001) to play for a great crowd of dancers
  • Meeting up with Anders Fongen, who travelled from Oslo to dance to the band
  • As always, the giant Glen Echo dance on Friday
  • The Incomparable Hospitality of Ted and Lynn
  • A pilgrimage to the Krispy Kreme store in Fredricksburg
  • Finally, a fun visit to the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park to try out some instruments (Erik nearly bought the Vega mandolin in the video below and the fiddle did come home with us)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mt. Airy (Philadelphia), Glen Echo, Richmond, Glen Echo Reprise - This Week!

Check out our Dances page ( for more details about this weekend's mid-Atlantic dance tour. We'll be heading out to Takoma Park, our base of operations for this mission, over the next couple of days. There we will meet up with Master Caller Ted Hodapp and the ever tolerant Lynn. We intend to have a great time playing for dancers in the Philadelphia, D.C. and Richmond areas and we hope to inspire a few folks to invest in our new Riff City CD as well.

This has been a highlight of the Contratopia Season for many years and we are definitely up for it again this winter. I even bought some of those gloves with the fingertips cut off in case it's chilly at Glen Echo. (I know that's hard to believe but it has happened once or twice in the past.)

We hope to see lots of familiar faces and some new ones as well.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winter Stomp only days away!

After a little uncertainty we can now say that this year's Northfield Winter Stomp will occur next Friday, Feb. 20th, 2015, at the Northfield Armory, in the middle of historic downtown Northfield. There will be a dance lesson at 7:00 and the dance will begin at 7:30. We will once again be joined by wonderful caller Robin Nelson and you can bet that we will have a great time.

Tonight, Valentine's Night 2015, Pat O'Loughlin and John Goodin will be joined by fiddler extraordinaire Tom Schaefer and legendary Irish guitarist Daithi Sproule, with Robin Nelson in the driver's seat as caller once again.

Tomorrow, Sunday the 15th, Erik Sessions and John Goodin will play at a Family Dance from 2:00-3:30 at the Decorah Congregational Church on Broadway in Decorah. Erik and John will be part of the Western Home String Band for this dance called by Bill Deutsch. Bring the kids!

The video above is snatched from the Tapestry website and is both fun to watch and musically interesting, if you are a member or long-time friend of Contratopia. It catches the band near the end of a long contra, expertly called by Beau Farmer, when the band is pretty relaxed. We are taking some liberties with Daniel Steinberg's great tune "Rock-a-bye Baby" and having a good time. You'll have to take my word that we can actually play the tune properly but this video probably starts around the 6th or 8th time through the piece and, at this point, we are just having a nice, albeit noisy, friendly musical conversation. Many thanks to our mystery videographer for this candid look at what often happens when we play at Tapestry!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Minneapolis Weekend Almost Here

Time is flying and I just realized that I hadn't posted a notice of our unofficial Contratopia Minneapolis Weekend here on the blog yet. It's Thursday evening, Jan. 15, 2015, as I write and on Saturday the 17th Erik and I will drive up to Minneapolis for a flurry of Contratopia activity.

Luckily there are no flurries in the forecast and our visit is coinciding with a small January thaw, following on last week's bitter arctic weather. A perfect excuse to come out dancing.

So, if you can, join us at Tapestry Folkdance Center on Saturday for an afternoon Waltz Time event and an evening contra dance. Check the Tapestry calendar for exact times. The excellent David Kirchner will be our caller on Saturday night.

On Sunday we will present a rare concert performance at the home of Robin and Eric Nelson. See the announcement above for details. We are very nearly sold out at this point so if you are interested please contact Pat at the email address in the flyer soon.

We will, of course, have plenty of copies of Riff City available at all of these events and would love to help you adopt a copy or two for your collection.

We would love to see you sometime this weekend. Please come by and say hello.