Monday, August 31, 2009

Jeff Morris back to the scene of the crime

Unless you are personally connected or plugged into the band through its online presence, you probably wouldn't even know that Death & Taxes had ... well, it's not easily put into words. Seeing how the band's playing at Harper's Ferry this weekend, it's obviously not broken up or "on hiatus," as musicians say when they're putting a project into mothballs but not quite ready to give up the musical ghost. Still, there's way more than forty miles of bad road, to quote D&T quoting The Bruisers, between the front man and the rhythm section. In fact, according to the Internet, which never lies, of course, there's 1,094 miles between Newburyport and Chicago — and that's where the band's guitarist and songwriter is these days.

Jeff Morris, who started rattling local cages more than two decades ago with the hardcore band NPD and made his bones a few years later with The Bruisers, blew out of town on July 1, packing the old Durango ("with guitars, mostly," he says) to settle into a new apartment and start a new job in the Windy City. It's actually the first time he's lived away from Newburyport, aside from a short residency in Haverhill years ago that came to an end after a murder in a neighbor's apartment forced him to reassess his priorities. And a similar sort of reassessment, sans the murder indictment, lit a fire under his ass this time: His mother died, he faced one of those always-troubling birthdays-that-end-in-a-zero (the fourth), he took stock. "You look around," he says. "You take an inventory of where you are and what your options are — you do what’s best for your family."

He got an offer that turned his life upside-down, but was so sweet he couldn’t walk away from it -- heading up a German firm’s American ink operation. He’s living outside Chicago -- alone. His family is still in Newburyport, as they sort out troublesome details, like selling a house in the way-down market. He gets back to Newburyport a couple times a month. He likes Chicago, which is big but manageable, and not not so rat-racy: It's clean, it doesn't smell and the people are nice.

The band, which features bassist Mike Savitkas and drummer Steve Toland, is still together and will remain active, as active as you can be considering these distances. Things were slowing down anyhow. "We got together at the end of 2005," Morris says. "For the first two years, we took every show we were offered, from coffeehouses to union hall shows with the Dropkick Murphys. You’ve got to do that to get your names out there,but you can't go full-throttle forever."

Morris will be back this weekend to find some Sailor Jerry's "since I can't find any out there." He'll spend Labor Day weekend with the family. Lobsters, steamers, corn on the cob, beer, the whole New England thing. Then the Harper's Ferry gig with Darkbuster's Lenny Lashley‚ his first show in a while — and Friends. What friends? He's not telling. Bad form, you know. But he is saying this much: Death & Taxes will likely break out some of the new tunes they've been working on for their follow-up to "Tattoo Hearts & Broken Promises" they'll be in the studio with in the fall. Morris says the disc will come out, hell or high water, early next year. With titles like "Trading Scars" and "Band Luck, Bad Living and Bad Decisions," it sounds like a typically Morris feel-good encounter session. Musically, Morris says, the new stuff is leaning toward the Cadillac Hitmen, the instrumental surf-punk band he fronted in the late 1990s — but far away from the joyful, noisy self-indulgence of Zuni Fetish Experiment. "The first album was bare bones, four-on-the-floor rock," he says. "This seems like it will be more intricate, but who knows how it will turn out?"

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Death & Taxes returns to Boston Saturday, September 5, at Harper's Ferry with Darkbuster's Lenny Lashley and Friends plus Jason Bennett & The Resistance. Tickets are $5. For more information, on the band, click here. . For more on the gig, check out Harper's Ferry here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ten Center serves extra helping of Alan Bull

Alan Bull has been one of the most visible and in-demand artists in Newburyport since moving to the city more than two decades ago, consistently exhibiting a diverse catalog of work that goes way beyond the edgy, emotionally charged depictions of the agricultural landscape, especially the trucks for which he is probably best known these days. But you could say — and the artist certainly does — that one of the more significant outlets for Bull lately, especially in terms of generating commissions and income and all the rest of that ugly, nasty business required for an artist to stay alive, is probably the least visible in terms of sheer numbers, and a venue pretty far off the beaten artwalk track. That would be Ten Center, the historic, hip eatery cozily nestled just beyond Market Square — and my comfort zone, economically. Bull, who grew up in Old Town, Maine, and studied at Philadelphia College of Art before turning up in Newburyport in 1987, is the unofficial resident artist of the restaurant. For the past two years, several of his paintings, including two large-format truck paintings, have been the focal point of the restaurant — and this week, it will be serving up an extra portion of the artist, hosting an exhibit of his new work.

Several of the new pieces have already been installed, including “Moonrise Orient,” a landscape from the Long Island community where he has family roots and where he served as artist-in-residence of the William Steeple Davis House. That oil painting just pops off the wall of the spacious second-floor dining room, with its 18th-century wide-plank wood floors, elevated ceilings and copper tables. The function room has three Bull watercolors of local scenes — two Plum Island seascapes and a detail of the structure inside the Whittier Bridge. The rest of the work, which will include monotypes and monochromatic paintings, will be installed Thursday morning, just hours before the exhibit opens. He may also include a few ceramic tile paintings, a recent foray into a new medium for him.

It is not quite clear how long the Ten Center exhibit will hang. Bull, who claims to have sworn off the exhibit frenzy that marked the past decade or so, with the artist having as many as three shows up in three states simultaneously, will be mounting a major solo show at Governor Dummer Academy — excuse me, The Governor’s Academy — in mid-September. That show will feature new works and larger paintings he has not been able to show, including monochromatic paintings and “recent history” series — paintings from photographs of locations that are no longer with us, like the old DPW Building on Merrimac Street, which was torn down just days after he took the photograph, and scenes of the rapidly changing Salisbury Beach. Some of the pieces from the Ten Center show will be part of the Governor’s exhibit. The current show is unusual because of its setting and because of its function: It’s a way of shining a light on the artist who has brightened its interior for the past couple of years, and putting together the artist and restaurant regulars, who have been admiring the work, complemented by the cuisine of Chef Harley. Now that’s the way to enjoy art.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: New paintings by Newburyport artist Alan Bull will be on display in the Garden Room of 10 Center Street, in September. There will be a reception from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 27. For more information, call 978-462-6652.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Personal stories about global warming

Melissa MacDonald, the former motorcycle-riding Left Bank correspondent for the Newburyport Daily News, said goodbye to her Lake Attitash idyll several years ago, leaving her ink-stained colleagues behind for college. She married, earned a doctorate in Language and Literature in Education, landed a teaching gig at Northern Essex Community College and lives in a historic 1812 farmhouse in Chester, N.H., where she goes by the name Melissa Juchniewicz.

But this weekend she'll return to Newburyport to read from "Thoreau's Legacy: Stories of Global Warming" at The Book Rack.
No, she didn't write the book, an online/print collaboration between Penguin Classics and the Union of Concerned Scientists, as the initial press release seemed to indicate. Her story "Skinny Dipping at Walden" is one of 67 pieces in the collection, which uses Henry David Thoreau, the country's first environmental writer, as the starting point for a national discussion about global warming and the future of the planet. Drawn from over 1,000 submissions, the stories are personal reminiscences about favorite places displaced, now out of context and at-risk because of climate change. A forward by Barbara Kingsolver ties the whole package together.

“I think it’s a good way to personalize the issue," says Juchniewicz, a contributing editor for New England Reading Association Journal. "People get bleary-eyed with scientific jargon, as important as it is. This puts the issues out there in everyday language, in a way that very, very human.”

Juchniewicz, who grew up "on the wrong side of the tracks" in Concord, not far from arguably the most famous pond in the world, writes about ditching school and skinny-dipping and sunbathing at Walden, abut the sights, sounds and smells of the place the famously cranky Thoreau put on the literary map and into the national consciousness, a place that has been under threat for decades — from the glib attitudes of a throw-away society ("Everyone was making a mess in those days," she says) to the build-to-oblivion mindset of the go-go '80s, to the current threat from climate change and lingering problems caused by pesticides pollution, which has silenced the bullfrogs whose constant croaking Thoreau mentions in "Walden" and whose call punctuated Juchniewicz's nights as a girl.
"It's just a very personal story about changes that everyone experiences in one way or another," she says. And it's not especially different from what's happening now, and what was happening 15 years ago on Lake Attitash, when she was covering Carriagetown and Merrimac for the Daily News and the Eagle-Tribune.

Last week, state officials warned everyone on the Left Bank that they should avoid any contact with Lake Attitash water, because it contained dangerous levels of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. But she remembers going out on the water with state officials years ago, during her reporter days, and having them tell her then that it was all over, that run-off from lush lakeside properties was promoting algae growth that would contaminate the entire ecosystem.
"They told me then that it was for all practical purposes a dead lake," she says. "That was maybe 15 years ago. I remember writing about it. I guess people still haven't gotten the message."

Melissa Juchniewicz, will read from "Thoreau's Legacy: Stories of Global Warming" and talk about global warming at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at The Book Rack, 52 State St. For more information about the event, call 978-462-8615. To check out the ebook, click here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Heads up on new Michael Kimball play

 Understatement of the year? This week, Amesbury director Tim Diering, during an interview at Left Bank breakfast hotspot Andyman: "It's amazing the things you come up with when you Google the phrase 'penis head,'” he says, his expression calm, projecting utter innocence. Amazing? Well, sure. Everything from the helpful Wiki citation with many colorful nicknames that body part has, to Web MD on the many gross things that can happen down there, to orgasmic customer reviews of products that make you flinch just thinking about them, but there's not a whole lot of info, until you refine your search, about penis head costumes. 

Which Diering needs because? Because, while some people might be dickheads, metaphorically, they won't look the part on stage unless they are properly costumed. And the production, a series of short, inter-connected plays by Michael Kimball called "I Fall for You," calls for a penis as a character.
 Yes, you read right. The disembodied penis of a man consumed with guilt about his former owner's infidelity is essentially the lead character in the three-part opening piece, "The Richard Cycle." He first pops up when Dan and Madge, late-in-life newlyweds in a sexless marriage, are out golfing. Then, oops, there he is again in church, when, ooh-la-la, a flirtatious French woman slides into their pew. In the third piece, the title piece, Richard climbs a 23-storey building and hangs out on a ledge, a King Dong, of sorts, contemplating the ultimate issues of tumescence and flaccidity.
[The complete show will be staged in September at the Firehouse in a co-production with the Society for the Development of the Arts and Humanities, the non-profit organization that manages the venue. The last piece, "Say No More,” which looks at two couples who make a game out of the awkward silences in their conversations, will be staged at the New England Fringe Festival in October.

Kimball, whose play "Ghosts of Ocean House" was nominated for an Edgar Award in 2007 and was recently banned from the Utah State Theatre for its themes of incest, madness and religious domination, says he can't say ("Really, I can't") what prompted him to write "I Wrestle an Old Friend," the first piece in the trilogy, and, when he saw it at the Tannery as a reading last June at the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative, the monthly play development series put together by Ron Pullins, Leslie Powell and Marc Clopton at the Tannery, he thought about ditching it all together, but, instead, wham-bam, kicked out a sequel and then a final episode tying it all together. He called on Diering, who had directed the Tannery reading, to pull together the full production, leaving the Amesbury resident to ponder the question of how do you costume a character who is rarely seen in public and never discussed in polite company.

"There are lots of ways you could go with something like this," says Diering, whose last directing gig, a production of Powell and Pullins's "Movie Mogul" took second-place audience favorite honors at last year's Fringe Fest: (You know, full-bodied, or ... no, we're not going there, even though it's a production that dares you to do it.) In the end he decides to keep it subtle — "Well, as subtle as you can be when one of your main characters is a disembodied penis," he says. Port regular David Houlden, last seen in the Gregory S. Moss-Steven Haley collaboration "Yankee City Theatre Project," will be wearing, well, think Coneheads, but adapt it to the material at hand.

The other sex-themed pieces in the production seems almost tame in comparison to the opening piece.

• In "Bar Exam," Kimball imagines a possible conversation that could take place if a woman were to run into her gynecologist at a singles bar.

• In "Estrus in Amazonia," a spoof of 1940s action movies, a time-traveling expedition to the island of Lesbos is sabotaged by a pilot who makes an unscheduled visit to the Amazons during mating season.

• In "Reorient," a sexual reorientation coaches arrange a first date between a gay man and a lesbian woman.

• In "Say No More," two couples make a sport of seeing who can create the longest silence, then the game turns brutal.

And while the production seems broad and cartoony, encouraging nervous giggles and bad puns, it is a serious production with serious, even dark moments. "There's a lot of layers to what's going on," says Diering, who will direct Kimball's "Santa Come Home" in November at the Player's Ring in Portsmouth, N.H. "Like they say, It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye."

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: "I Fall for You," a co-production of the Society for the Development of the Arts and Humanities and New York Theatre Company, runs Sept. 18 to 20 at the Firehouse, 1 Market Square, Newburyport. Tim Diering directs. The cast features Kathleen Anderson, David Houlden, Jack Rushton and Jennifer Wilson. Tickets are $15, or $13 for students and SDAH members. For information, call 978-462-7332 or click here:]

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Synergy rocks NCMF opener

There are always surprises at the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival and this year is no exception, beginning with the opening performance of the Synergy Brass Quintet, a brash ensemble with a reputation for bringing a rock attitude to a classical repertoire — an intriguing although somewhat amorphous concept. But, whatever it may have meant to people attending the show, about 120 in all, whether it was tied up in attitude or repertoire or light shows or groupies, you knew, going into it, as soon at you entered St. Paul's Church, that this was not going to be your typical classical concert: There were two tables of product and gear in the vestibule, the kind of display you'd find at, well, rock concerts, not classical music venues, my dear: compact discs, five (count 'em, five) designs of gig tees, stickers, yo-yos and — no kidding, folks — even whoopie cushions. And if that wasn't a sufficient clue that something different was in the air, then you certainly would have figured it out after the first piece, an energetic performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Procession of the Nobles," when the audience broke out in a raucous, hooting applause, not the polite, respectful ovation normally associated with this sort of venue. Or after Jesse Chavez's fierce tuba solo during William Byrd's "Earl of Oxford's March ("You didn't know the tuba could do that, did you," he says introducing the next piece. "Neither did I. Surprises me every time.") Or, if you hadn't gotten the point by intermission, they made it plain, following up an intriguing arrangement of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" ("Why bother with strings when you can have brass?" asked trumpeter Greg Lloyd.) with a rousing, stomping, howling and definitely non-standard repertoire cover of W. C. Handy's "Memphis Blues." If this were the closer, you probably would have had people whipping out their Bics, lighting up the church for an encore.

What's it all about? Synergy came together as a student group at Boston University ("We wanted to make beer money," says trumpeter Bobby Thorp.) and has been playing together ever since. They are one of the workingest classical bands out there, playing up to 300 dates a year — a wild, rock-and-roll kind of schedule. Their program was eclectic, to say the least, with Thorp comparing it to wandering through an art museum ("Bouncing from period to period, mindlessly looking for the rest room, by which we mean intermission," he says.) and covering 500 years of musical history in the process. There was lots of joking around in the introductions — some of it pretty corny, all of it well received — some physical humor and musical jokes in the performances, but the playing was deadly serious at all times, sometimes combining with strange, perhaps unexpected consequences: For example, when Jon Hurrell, who introduced the Rossini overture as "Wabbit of Seville," conjuring up the Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd Looney Tunes showdown we all knew before we ever heard of that Itallian fellow who wrote the "Barber of Seville." Having Hurrell introduce the piece added a layer of irony, seeing how he has a hairstyle that puts Sideshow Bob to shame. The rapid-mood-swing program kept the audience a little on edge — in a good way, receptive.

Because they were so impressed by the acoustics of the church, the musicians broke from the formal program to play Thomas Tallis' lush, gorgeous "If Ye Love Me, with the quintet taking up positions in the balcony and at different locations throughout the church to create a kind of close-your-eyes-and-sigh moment, and, after "Evensong," a somber original by trumpeter Bobby Thorp dedicated to members of the armed forces, they hauled-ass into a modern triptych of "Simple Gifts," a section from Copland's "Appalachian Spring," to Louis Armstrong's "My Heart" (which, since Hurrell arranged it, included a killer French horn solo) and selections from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." They closed with a wild ride of "When the Saints Go Marching In," with Thorpe turning the trumpet upside down for his solo, perhaps a bit of a nod to recalling Hendrix's behind-the-back playing at Monterey.

As for this rock thing, it's probably just a matter of attitude. In her opening remarks, Jane Niebling, executive director of the festival, said that "all good music to me is rock and roll." which sounds about right: So maybe it's only rock and roll, but I like it, as that old fellow used to sing.

FOR THE RECORD: Here is the program for Synergy Brass Quintet's August 8 performances at the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival: "Procession of the Nobles," Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; "Alman," Thomas Morley; "Earl of Oxford's March," William Byrd; Aria, George Frederic Handel; "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; "Memphis Blues," W. C. Handy. Intermission. ""Overture to the Barber of Seville," Gioachino Rossini; "If Ye Love Me," Thomas Tallis; ""Simple Gifts," Aaron Copland; "Evensong," Bobby Thorp; "My Heart," Louis Armstrong; "Suite from Porgy and Bess," George Gershwin. Encore. "When the Saints Go Marching In," traditional.

Book crazy in Carriagetown

You've got to be out of your mind opening up a small, independent book store during a down economy, in a post-literate society where indies are gobbled up by old-school, brick-and-mortar behemoths that are themselves feeling the nip of internet monoliths — and she admits it. "Yes, I am crazy," says Joanne Wimberly. "Yes, yes I am." That's what she's been telling the hundreds of people who have found their way to Bertram and Oliver Booksellers, Amesbury's newest book store — the only one, actually — since its soft opening last week, despite the fact that there's no sign (it's on order) or even a banner in the window (she's meeting with the banner people next week). And that's what she told us during a 15-minute conversation that was interrupted by eight paying customers on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when you'd expect people would be off doing other things. So, maybe the she's not as crazy as she lets on.

It's a new chapter in the South Hampton resident's life. Wimberly, a clinical researcher for a Cambridge bio-tech firm for three decades, has always been crazy for books and had long nursed the dream of every book nut — chucking the career and opening a low-key, fun book store. In May, at the instigation of a friend, she decided to take some time off and seriously consider the idea. She came to the conclusion that, crazy or not, she was committed to the idea. She quit her clinician's career in late June and signed the lease on a Main Street storefront just a couple of doors up from the intersection of Friend Street. She named the store Bertram and Oliver Booksellers after two of her cats — currently numbering 16, a number that fluctuates as she adopts the animals from shelters and finds new homes for them. The cats, named after favorite fictional characters Bertram "Bertie" Wooster, from P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves novels, and the title character from Dickens' "Oliver Twist," are not around: They don't have the calm disposition to be store cats. The store has an interesting and surprisingly deep, considering the size of the store, mix of titles — and plans to grow stock quickly. They will also be bringing in authors for meet-and-greets. Nancy Mellon, the author of "Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body's Energies," will be there from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14.

But back to the original question, crazy or not, to open a book store right now, smack-dab in the middle of Amesbury? "It may be crazy, but it seemed like the right thing to do," Wimberly says. Besides, the economy may have hit bottom, or so the economists say. "We could be turning the corner. I want to be in position when it does to catch the wave."
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Bertram and Oliver Booksellers, 74 Main St., Amesbury, is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Friday hours are extended until 8 p.m. For more information, call 978.388.3665 or check out its web here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Smulowitz on theater, community

There's always been this mystique about our little arts community, that the cobblestones of Inn Street are made out of gold, or, at least, that you could actually make an honest living doing the arts here, but the ugly truth is, and always has been, that nobody ever made money doing theater in town — not even during the fabled glory days of the mid-‘90s, when you couldn't throw a stone without hitting someone starting a new company production or staging something somewhere. Not even doing pop-schlock like “Grease” or, good grief, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Not even if you're Anna Smulowitz, the queen of the local scene, staging what she calls “my version of spectacle … one of my ‘Ben Hur’ productions,” one of those big blockbusters, usually a musical, with casts that read like the local phone book. Most shows, even in the best of times, you’d go into it with appropriately lowered expectations, and if you broke even, you’d struck gold.

And, although it seems like we just wrote the story about her 25th anniversary a couple of weeks ago, this is what Smulowitz has been doing for three decades now — going back to when she was that crazy lady banging the drum, literally, for the first Children’s Theater show during the 1979 Yankee Homecoming, through the heady Firehouse years and now, several years after she retired, sort of, from the business to concentrate on her current gig as the Rev. Anna Smulowitz Schutz, chaplain of Renaissance Gardens at Brooksby Village, she’s got another show in the works — a mammoth production of “Oliver,” with a cast of 50. And this is a bit of a warm-up for an October launch at the Firehouse for a production of “Terezin: Children of the Holocaust,” her award-winning play about the Nazi concentration camp. It’s the kick-off for a national tour of the play.

“It’s what I do,” says Smulowitz, an actress, playwright and producer. “It brings people of all ages into the theater. From there, hopefully they will seek out all kinds of theater, because they had such a good experience at my productions.”

It all comes back to community, she says. “I've always approached theater that way. We gather people from the community. They bring in friends and family — and new folks are introduced to the experience.” And the current production, which runs Aug. 20-23 at the Firehouse, digs deep into that community. She’s got “oldsters” like John Sheedy, who goes back the full 30, playing Father Christmas in her 1979 production of “A Christmas Carol.” You’ve got relative newcomers like Victor Atkins and Anne Easter Smith. She’s got a whole new crop of Port actors-in-training coming through Acting Out, the acting school taught by Deirdre Budzyna and Mara Flynn — which is, of course, the teaching space established by Smulowitz years ago. Longtime Newburyport High School music director Evelyn Mann will be leading a small pit band for the production, and Linda Zirin, who has been working with Smulowitz for a dozen years now, will choreograph the production. “You call them up and there they are — in the community,” she says. “You know who to contact and you know they’ll help. That’s what makes it a community.”

And the play itself? You’ve probably heard of it. It’s a three-time Tony Award-winning musical by Lionel Bart based on “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, the story of an orphan who breaks out of an orphanage and lives on the street, picking pockets and hooking up with a gang. It’s filled with well-known tunes like “Where Is Love,” “Consider Yourself”and “As Long as He Needs Me.” And, of course, “Tomorrow.” Oh, wait, that’s “Annie.” And, if you’ve been around town for any length of time, you know what Smulowitz can do with a musical, so the most important fact to hang onto is that the show runs one weekend only.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: “Oliver” runs one weekend only, Aug. 20-23, at the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Market Square, Newburyport. Anna Smulowitz directs. Evelyn Mann is musical director. Linda Zirin is choreographer. Tickets are $15-17. Information, reservations: 978/462-7336

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sweet sounds of Evil homecoming

Is there anything quite so sweet as the sudden feeling of normalcy that flowers after the last Yankee has safely-but-thankfully returned to wherever he spends the other 354 days of the year, when the sidewalks and streets have been cleared of vehicular and human congestion and you can breath again, when you remember the reasons you like Newburyport, when the real Yankee Homecoming begins, when we take back the streets and return to happier, simpler, fry-doughless times? Nah, not even the first day of school when we finally get those rotten kids out of the house. It's like when that nasty, old swine flu fever finally breaks.

We celebrated by spending a little quality time with the Evil Gal. Yeah, Michelle Willson was in town for a Sunday Soul session with Curtis Jerome Haynes at Glenn's Galley, one of the longest-running and seriously cool gigs in town. We waited until night fully descended, just to be positive the stake had been driven through Homecoming's heart, drove into town from the Left Bank and found a spot in the municipal lot . Ah, those little joys! The place was packed. In a good way. Warm, close, comfy, not the please-please-please-get-me-outta-here-downtown Homecoming crunch. Willson was a powerhouse. No surprise there. She belted out the good stuff — Ruth Brown, Etta James — in a performance where chilling authority combined with a friendly, engaging spirit. Awesome. She was backed by an all-star line-up that included saxophonist Robert Lyons; Ken Clark Organ Trio guitarist Mike Mele; bassist Randy Bramwell, a longtime member of the Love Dogs currently playing with Commander Cody; drummer Seth Pappas, who keeps time with James Montgomery these days, and, of course, Haynes, the ex-Roll and Tumble and current-Chicken Slacks keyboardist who has been running these Sunday sessions for, yikes, close to fourteen years.

But, looking back, it wasn't the music that made the evening so memorable. You know these guys are monsters going into it. You expect they'll tear it up. It wasn't just the spillover joy of post-Homecoming relief. Or even the fact that Glenn’s sells Pilsner Urquell, co je samozrejme nejlepsi pivo v svete, at a reasonable price — only four bucks, are you kidding me? But it was the more than that. There was a palpable feeling of community in the air, an easy-going sense of family. There was no real separation, physical or emotional, between audience and band. We were all just pals hanging out together and it was fun, like the first couple of days at family reunions.

And maybe this, boys and girls, is the true spirit of the much-dreaded festival because, you know, in the Clipper City, they say that the Homecoming Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that night, and, from all indications it appears to be true — until next July rolls around.