Pretty Women and Big Voices (J.O.G.T. 6)

Damn! It’s already the forth? I was certain I’d get June’s Jar of Good Things post out on the first. The year is half way gone, and I think June might have flown by faster than any month so far. Are you finished with your New Years resolutions yet? Do you even remember what they were? If not, don’t worry about it. I’m guessing Christmas decorations will be in stores by the weekend, so it’s probably time to just forget about them and get your shopping lists ready.

While we wait for the man in the red suit, here’s the music-heavy highlights of my jar.

Jun 01. Played in the sun all day at Appel Farm fest… So much fun watching Brandi Carlile and her band clearly having a great time on stage.

I came out of the gate really strong in June by attending the Appel Farm Art and Music Festival for the third time in four years. It’s an annual outdoor music festival in Elmer, NJ that primarily focuses on folk, alt-country, and Americana music. But it definitely mixes it up enough to avoid any mood or tempo ruts.

In past years I’ve seen Gogol Bordello, The Avett Brothers, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Trombone Shorty, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Ani Difranco (I think), and a bunch more that I can’t remember right now. I’m sure my memory lapse is in no way attributable to excessive vodka consumption in those earlier visits. I did much better this year. Sheesh.

Mainly because I wasn’t very familiar with most of the artists, this year’s line up didn’t really excite me all that much. But Brandi Carlile was headlining, I have friends in the area, and I love the wide open outdoor venue enough that going back was still a no-brainer.

I spent most of the afternoon playing one game or another created by my friend’s 8 year old son. “Okay, you go stand over there, and I’m going to try and kick the ball past you. And um, if I do, then I get a point and we have to switch sides and you have to try and kick the ball past me. Okay?” I love hearing children create elaborate games that almost always just end up being very similar to a simple game of catch. It cracks me up. But those games always seem popular with the other kids too, so what do I know?

Our game started with me, my friend David, and his son Jacob. Then: “Hi, I’m Jack. I’m six.” “Hey, I’m Greg. I’m thirty-seven.” “Can I play.” “Of course.” And it just grew from there. Twenty minutes later there were six of us. I still don’t know the rules of any of the games we played, but I’m pretty sure I lost.

I didn’t know much about any of the opening acts and I still don’t. But I know they made for a really great soundtrack to play in the sun all day. And Brandi Carlile’s set did not disappoint. I always feel like her voice ranges between a young Loretta Lynn and Natalie Maines, which is a good thing in my ears. A friend and I went up to the front and were immediately impressed with just how much fun she and the twin brothers that make up her band were having. It was her birthday and they were all just beaming as they ran through a set of her often sad, but not necessarily down beat songs. It was definitely a great way to start the month. Good music, good friends, good times. I had a blast.

Jun 12. Met Kathryn from Run Eat Play RVA in Sandbridge for a hot mess of a run and an awesome dip in the pool after. Good times.

I think I’ve mentioned more than a few times that I almost always run alone. In fact, prior to June 12 I had only run with other people one time. But when Kathryn from Run Eat Play RVA suggested running together during a day trip she was making to the area, I knew I had to do it.

She was the blogger kind enough to present me with the Liebster Award a few months ago, I read her blog regularly, we both ran the Shamrock Half Marathon but were unable to cross paths, and now we’re both training for our first marathons in the fall. And honestly, I needed to do it just because sticking to my narrow routines has often proved a bad idea in the past, and I wanted to stretch my comfort zone a little. It turned out to be one hot mess of a run, but I’m really glad I did it.

I learned a few things that day. 1) Leaving work only one hour early is not enough time to squeeze in my gym workout and still beat traffic out of Portsmouth. 2) Don’t eat half a bagel 30 minutes before a hot-as-fuck afternoon run in the sun. 3) Kathryn is cool as a fan.

She got a lovely dose of my awesome luck as our run coincided with the hottest, most humid day of the summer thus far and my work schedule limited our run time to the hottest part of the afternoon. Woo hoo! You’re welcome.

I met Kathryn at a beach house her cousins were renting in the area, and after a quick exchange of hellos and nice-to-meetchas, we took off into the blazing sun. She is a faster runner than I am and I was a little worried about that, but because of the heat we decided to run our 5 miles at something like a 9:30 pace. No problem. She also openly claims to be a horrible pacer. And I was absolutely no help because I forgot to even turn on my watch for the first mile and after I did all I noticed was that our pace was kind of all over the place, and often much faster than our plan. Oops.

Other than the heat, it was a pretty good run…kind of. We chatted a little bit about marathon training, the heat, the therapeutic benefits of running, the blazing sun, our jobs, how much the heat sucks, our diets, how long five miles feels when you’re dying, and most importantly-how awesome the pool was going to feel when we finally made it back…if we made it back. We stopped to stretch half way through. Our poor diet choices early in the day forced both of us to walk a couple of times. And did I mention that it was hot as hell? Well, it was.

But we bulled through it and finally made it back, and I was not about to turn down the kind invitation to jump in that pool. It was a good time. Kathryn is pretty awesome. And her cousins were super nice to let me take a dip and change clothes before heading out. Next time, I guess I’ll have to head to Richmond. Hopefully, she’s got contractors putting in a pool as I type this.

Here’s a link to her account of our run: Run Eat Play RVA

Jun 13. Saw Lake Street Dive @ 80/20 w/ Van and Amanda. Really great show.

During a break in the gaming action at the Appel Farm fest, I got a text message from my friend Van asking me if I’d be interested in seeing the band Lake Street Dive at a local restaurant in our area. Truth be told, I like Van and his lovely wife Amanda enough that I’d have gone just to hang out with them. But this one was even easier because I really like that band too.

Lake Street Dive is a four peace jazzy, but not exactly jazz, soulful, but not exactly soul band from the Boston area. It’s easy to get distracted by how amazing the lead singer is, or the vocal harmonies when they all sing together. But the band itself is really great as well. The bass player and drummer were really tight and they even let the bassist stretch out a little and show off with a few short and tasteful solos. And the guitarist (also plays trumpet) kind of stays low in the mix a lot, but when he does punch it up a notch, his guitar tone is just nasty (that’s a good thing).

I had a blast seeing my old friends again. And seeing Lake Street Dive in such a small venue felt like something I might not get a chance to do again. Check ‘em out if you get a chance. I think they’re current tour includes a couple of the popular summer festivals too.

Jun 29. Ran my longest run since Shamrock, and enjoyed a long but fun night at Jenn’s going away party, ending with super late night releasing of paper lanterns/balloons.

I’ve mentioned my talented musician friends before. Well, one of them skipped town on Monday to take the next step in her adventure in the U.K. On Saturday we all got together to drink too much and send her off right. It was a great time.

jenn lanternI don’t remember exactly where I met Jenn. I don’t really recall getting to know her. I just know that there was a time when I didn’t know her. And then there was a time when we were friends. And I’m very happy to say that we still very much are. I guess I’m just lucky that way sometimes.

I’ve had the pleasure of playing music with her on occasion and recording her incredible songs on many more occasions over the last several years. It was an honor to witness the creation of so much great art. And I can’t wait to see what she does next. Whatever it is, I know it’s going to be great.

I told myself that night that I wanted to be home by 10:30. At 1 a.m. I was standing by a lake, trying to light a wax block on fire, and eventually releasing a paper lantern into the night sky. So much for my plan. But it was a really quiet and beautiful way to say “see you later” to my friend. I love her.

Well, that’s about it. Looking at it now, it seems June was the month of pretty women and big voices. I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing all of these people again too. We’ll see what happens. Happy 4th of July.

Honorable Mentions:

Jun 03. I haven’t registered for it yet, but I recorded the first workout on my marathon training schedule. I love having a training schedule to focus on. LOVE IT!

Jun 04. Met Meri and the legendary Laura Watkins for some amazing karaoke performances in Ghent. Those ladies are some damn fine singers…and funny too.

Jun 18. “Hey Alexis. Come here. Look!” young girl on a big wheel to her sister as I passed on my run. I don’t know if it was because I was a sweaty mess, my tattoos, or this silly ass moustache, but something about me startled some little girl today. And for some reason that made me laugh.

Jun 21. Bought some new running shoes, had dinner with Dad, and…oh yeah, I Registered for the Philadelphia Marathon. Stoked.

Jun 26. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA. We’re getting closer to treating my friends like equal citizens. It’s taking far too long.