Friday August 15, 2003Rock in Rockingham was the brainchild of Gary Smith, owner of Fort Apache Studios, which recently moved from Cambridge to Bellows Falls, Vermont. Gary envisioned a weekend where artists and fans would come together in Bellows Falls for a weekend of music and appreciation of the surroundings. Package deals could be booked with area bed and breakfasts that included admission to the weekend's events: Friday night was "new faces night," a celebration of new artists at a local bar. Saturday was a day-long music festival held in a tent by the canal. Sunday was a scenic train ride follwed by a concert by Tanya Donelly and Kristin Hersh held in one of the nation's oldest meetinghouses. Craig and I are huge fans of Kristin and Tanya, and try to make it to all of their area performances. This sounded like a great weekend of musicians and fans coming together, and we bought tickets for us and Craig's brother Steve to attend.
We left home at about 7:00 pm. Rt. 12 was washed out near Keene, NH, so we had to go all the way out to Rt. 2. We arrived at our B&B (Horsefeathers) at around 9:30. Bodo and Elke were our hosts. We were shown to our room on the second floor, which had a queen and a twin bed. It was the Farm Country room, and it was descorated with various antiques and farm implements (one being a large wrought iron hook). There was a welcome package from the Rock in Rockingham folks. It contained 5 promo CD's, Green Mountain Gringo chips & salsa, and loaded dice that were a promo item from Belly's album King.
We decided to head down the road to the Everyday Inn to Rick's bar for the "new faces night". It was very loud in the actual room where folks were performing, so we ended up sitting at a table next to the bar. We could hear the music and it was a great spot for people watching. Tanya Donelly and husband Dean Fisher were there, and they sat in on Elizabeth Steen's set. We ran into Brad and Amie (whom we hadn't seen since the Camper Van Beethoven concert at the Middle East). We had a couple drinks and then hit the road around midnight.
Saturday August 16, 2003
Breakfast is served between 8 and 9, so we got up and showered and were downstairs by 8:15. Bodo and Elke served us breakfast - a fruit salad with fresh-from-the-garden juicy fruits and a piece of gingerbread-type biscuit. We had oj and coffee, and then were served farm fresh eggs with bacon and toast. It was delicious! After breakfast we wandered down to their chicken coop and sat for a while watching the chickens and admiring the grounds (a small pond with fish and bullfrogs).
Then we drove into town. Bellows Falls is very picturesque and quaint. We really liked the retro welcome sign. We sat on a bench on the sidewalk until it became too hot in the direct sun. Then we wandered around into a couple of stores, sat down on the curb across from the Miss Bellows Falls Diner, and then wandered down to the canal where the concert would be taking place. Doors were scheduled to open at 1:30, and people were starting to line up slightly after 1. We got into line and could hear sound checks. They were running a little behind and didn't end up opening gates until around 2. We snagged seats in the second row of the tent. Steve got some popcorn chicken, and Craig and I got a neat meal which consisted of a veggie crabcake on a bun, pasta salad, cuke salad, a brownie, and juice for $10. It was delicious! The whole show was powered by solar panels.
First up was Blake Hazard. We had seen her before and weren't all that impressed, but today we enjoyed her. At one point the train passed by and blew its whistle (about 10 feet from the tent) during her set. She had guitarist/boyfriend John Dragonetti with her.
Next was Josh Ritter. He was dressed in a black suit and red Chuck Taylors. His bassist had one of the longest mustaches I've ever seen. His set was really good. The rocking parts were reminiscent of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There was a certain amount of innocence in his songs...he made a joke about being a 26 year old whose songs are all about asking girls to the prom. After his set I bought a CD and he signed it for me. I told him that I thought they had a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers vibe, and he seemed flattered. He gave me a hug and kiss and signed a CD to Craig and me: "Here's to the Heartbreakers everywhere." He's from Idaho and said he would be playing Boston at the beginning of September . I told him we'd check him out. Just as the Stone Coyotes were hitting the stage I walked back to my seat and got stung right on the ass by a bee while I was walking. It made for rather an uncomfortable rest of the day sitting on my sting, but it was ok.
Craig and Steve were talking to the people next to them when I returned: Coelynn and Genevieve. The whole weekend you kept running into the same people over and over again, and we enjoyed Coelynn and Genevieve's company.
Stone Coyotes rocked. I found it hard to believe that the bassist was the son of the drummer and stepson of the lead singer. The place went wild for them. They played a good set. Then Juliana Hatfield was up. She was the only performer who seemed to be bothered by flash photography, so we were told that we couldn't use flashes for her set. She got up there with gum in her mouth, removed it and stuck it to her set list after the first song, and played a very uneven set which she seemed to cut short. She seemed rather flustered, and it was the best set I had seen by her.
After that was Kristin Hersh. She did a short set but it was fantastic - she even did "The Letter" which we have never seen her perform prior to this. We could see her husband Billy holding their 9-month-old baby Bodhi in the "backstage" area while she performed.The whole low key family vibe of the show was very cool. Andrew Bird accompanied her on violin for several songs. Apparently, he had closed out "new faces night" last night after we left, and everyone said he had been fantastic.
Last but not least was Tanya Donelly and her band. She did a great mixture of solo and Belly songs, some of them with an unusual country take. She really brought the house down.
At the end of the show organizer and Fort Apache owner Gary Smith thanked everyone and asked if we could all fold up our chairs and bring them to the side. Everyone did, and the place was cleaned up in a snap. We talked to Gary for a minute and then headed out. We admired the lit up clock tower from the bridge over the canal. We went back to the B&B to freshen up and drop off our stuff. Then we went back downtown. The Irish pub was too packed, so we went into a bar called Nick's - the bicep on the sign was apt. I think we were the only non-locals in there. We secured a booth and had a couple drinks before returning to Horsefeathers. I sat poised with the wrought iron hook waiting for Steve to enter the room for a good horror-movie photo op.
Sunday August 17, 2003
Next morning we were downstairs fror 8:15 again. Today we had a scone, grapes, and a cute German chocolate shaped like a ladybug. We then had gorgeous pancakes inset with blueberries, peaches, and apples. We ate with Jerry, another Rock in Rockingham attendee. After breakfast we packed the car and headed down to the chicken coop again.
Then we headed to the Bellows Falls train station where we met up with Coelynn and Genevieve. Tanya and Dean drove by. Tanya rolled down the window and asked if we all had tickets for the scenic train ride. Her folks and daughter Gracie wouldn't be going on the train, so she was trying to get rid of her extra tickets. Coelynn got a cool photo of Tanya holding up a bunch of tickets inside the car.
We went into the little station and then boarded the train. There were three cars devoted to Rock in Rockingham. We were in one that didn't have Tanya or Kristin, but it was fun nonetheless. We saw some covered bridges, a gorge, trestles, etc. (and somebody's yard with a weird statue garden). We got a box lunch of fruit, a muffin, juice, water, and coffee.
The train stopped in Chester and we got out. We went into the little store. We said hi to Kristin and Bodhi, and heard her tell a story about how she had a dream about the Bodhi tree before she knew she was pregnant. Billy was there, as were two of her three other boys (Wyatt and Ryder). Then we got our picture taken with Tanya (by Coelynn, the professional photographer). Tanya was joking about Steve having the perfect view of her zit so I got to bring up my beesting and we had a good laugh. She said that she idealizes the country and wants to live like Gary Smith until she comes out here and a horsefly bites her immediately.
We got back on the train and rode back to Bellows Falls. Then we drove to the Rockingham Meetinghouse - one of the oldest in the country. It is an 18th century meetinghoue which was designated as a national historic landmark in 2000. It has no electricity and no running water. Steve and I got hot dogs from a vendoe, and all we waited in line in the hot sun for doors to open. We got seats in the third row of pews on the aisle. The "stage" was really just a small area that could barely fit a couple of stools. The performers were only feet away from us. Mics and guitars were powered by solar panels. There was a gallery upstairs. Tanya sang a bunch of songs from an album they just finished recording the previous Thursday. Elizabeth Steen and Dean accompanied her on some songs, and they are also on the album. It was dead silent in the meetinghouse and the performance was amazing. Then there was a 45 minute intermission. We talked to Billy a bit and then Kristin took the stage with Andrew Bird. She did a short but intense set. She called Tanya onstage with her. Flies were flying into Kristin's eyes, and Tanya fanned her to keep them away. They played "Two Step", and Tanya sang her guitar solo. It was funny. At the end of the show Gary Smith thanked everyone. Tanya, Kristin, and Bodhi came onstage to say thanks. We left around 5 pm and got home around 7:30. An excellent weekend all around! We hope that it becomes an annual event.
Welcome to Bellows Falls
Kristin Hersh and family (baby Bodhi the budding drummer) Chester, VT
Craig, Steve, Tanya Donelly, Steph Chester, VT
Kristin Hersh and Andrew Bird