Norfolk is tucked away in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. It`s a beautiful area which reminds me more of West Virginia than New England: hills and swales, tors and valleys. This countryside has an “ancient“ feel to it, one gets the sense that far more history has happened here than has been recorded, a forgotten corner. The town has been here for over 250 years, but it feels like just a speck. It would be a great area to explore in the warmer months of the year.
The venue, Infinity Hall, is a spectacular Arts-and-Crafts style building built in the 1880s that has been beautifully restored: there is an excellent restaurant and bar on the main floor, with a great old opera-house on the third floor. They even had the foresight to carve out a nice size space in the basement for dressing rooms which are comfortably appointed, clean and inviting. We were treated exceptionally well. Tonight`s show could have gone in any direction. We are all pretty tired and were in need of an audience to step in and do their part, shake us up, remind us why we are out here. And they came through. We had a fun night. We even accepted a request to play The River Song Trilogy….and made it all the way through…what a bunch of pros….
We did a morning drive from Northampton to Norfolk: a beautiful drive past many beckoning streams. Unfortunately, by the time we pulled up to the Infinity Hall in Norfolk it had started pouring and it didn’t let up all day. I didn’t get a chance to do any exploring, because of the rain, but it seemed like Norfolk was made up of the theater and a couple of other small stores and that’s about it. It’s amazing to me that one can be in an area of the country that is so densely populated and a sixty mile drive will put you in what feels like the middle of nowhere. It’s a beautiful part of the country. The Infinity Theater is a spectacularly restored vaudeville theater that once saw Mark Twain walk its boards. They don’t make buildings like this anymore and it’s always a treat when we get to play one, they inevitably sound great, it’s all that wood and history. The dressing room area is also comfortably set up with an old screened-in porch on which to eat and relax before and after the show. This had all the makings of a perfect gig…the one drawback was that there was also a television crew present throughout the day and film crews usually have a way of setting everything on edge. The show was being filmed for the second season of a new PBS TV show called Live at Infinity Hall. Don’t get me wrong…we were extremely grateful to be asked to participate in the program; there is a real dearth of TV shows dedicated to live music. But it’s kind of funny how TV/film crews in these situation, no matter how well intentioned, usually end up making the day all about them and not about the subject that they are there to capture. In this case, the show is called Live From Infinity Hall so one assumes that the intention of the show is to capture the energy of the bands live show and the flow between band and audience. The only way to do that is for the TV production to be as inconspicuous as possible so that the band and audience can relax and do their thing. The last thing that you would want to do is to flood the stage in white light and keep the audience lights on for the entire show, which is exactly what they did, destroying the vibe of this 150 year old theater and creating a situation for the band and audience that is completely unnatural and uncomfortable: which is a good description of our performance, unnatural and uncomfortable. I’m sure that it will sound and look better than it felt, these things often do. But it was frustrating to be in such a special venue, with a very enthusiastic audience and not be able to enjoy it. We hope to get back here soon, without the cameras.
We’ve been coming to Norfolk for years now and we have watched this city grow from being an ugly little wart on the face of the enormous naval base that houses the Atlantic Fleet, to being a very sharp little burgh with lots to recommend it as a tourist destination. A lot of US Naval history emanates from this port, it is also a very short ride to the Jamestown Settlement, the Yorktown battle site, numerous civil war sites and only a few miles from some very nice beaches and a beautifully maintained wetland preserve. They have also poured tons of money into developing the downtown and waterfront area. It’s not a bad place to base yourself if you want to explore this part of the country. When we first started coming here we used to play a club called The Boathouse. It was a rotting old club set on the derelict waterfront….a real dive. I think locals have fond memories of the place because it played host to a lot of acts as they were coming up the ranks, but it was not a pleasant stop on our itinerary. In the early nineties we did a very fun and successful tour with John Prine. We played at the small arena downtown and one of the crew got held up at gunpoint just outside the stage door. Our next stop in this town was a downtown club (I think it was called The NorVa). It was a huge step up from The Boathouse but it was a cold, box-like building and not a lot of fun to play. Our new home in Norfolk is Attucks Theater, a very nice old theater on the edge of downtown, with lots of history and character. We’re slowly moving up the ladder. It was a really nice size audience tonight and very enthusiastic. We weren’t all that pleased with our show. The eighth show in nine nights kind of caught up to us and were a little unfocused and sloppy. Bring on the Red Bull…time to dig in.
It was a spectacularly beautiful day: a little chilly, but full of sunshine. There was a very nice energy on The Mall in Charlottesville. Many cities have tried the downtown pedestrian Mall as an attempt at bringing up a neglected part of the city, but few have succeeded. The downtown Mall in Charlottesville seems to have worked. There’s a nice combination of retail, restaurants, at least three music venues and an old independent movie theater. It’s an inviting and friendly place with lots of reasons to visit. We hung out all day and spent a bit of money on breakfast crepes and crappy birthday toys for Margo’s son Ed who has been out with us for the past few days…. today was his birthday. I gave him a supreme wedgie for his birthday. He didn’t appreciate it, but I think it’s the only present that he got today that he will remember ten years from now. I figure that since he doesn’t have any brothers he needs his uncles to supply the necessary childhood rites-of-passage, like wedgies. We had another sold out show tonight. This was our first time at The Jefferson Theater and it was a very good experience: very friendly and helpful stage hands and backstage help. I don’t know how we played tonight, but we had fun and it sounded like the audience had fun…and that’s about as good as it gets. We love this town.