For decades, the Weinberg Center for the Arts has been a Holy Grail of sorts for local musicians. It’s the nicest, prettiest, most established, best-sounding room in all of Frederick. But, for the most part, it’s been reserved for nationally known acts — everyone from speakers like Cal Ripken Jr., to musicians like Lyle Lovett, to comedians like Paula Poundstone. The thought of a local band taking that prestigious stage seemed about as possible as Metallica one day stepping through the Weinberg curtains.
That changed, if only for a night, last year, when local acts Hard Swimmin’ Fish, Old Indian, The Knolly Moles and Heavy Lights came together to perform at the Frederick Music Showcase. Fueled solely by local original music, the night turned out to be enough of a success that the minds behind the Weinberg Center allowed a second installment to commence.
And that second installment — the Frederick Music Showcase Volume 2 — will kick off at 7 tonight with the first-ever hip-hop artist to take the venue’s spotlight, Retro/Ricole Barnes, along with his band, DaMood. In addition to Barnes, local acts Katie Powderly and the Unconditional Lovers, Silent Old Mtns., and the Freddie Long Band will perform. Tickets, which run $10, are still available.
We recently caught up with members of each act to ask them about some of their favorite Weinberg memories and what it means to be a local act playing that stage. The following is what we found.
Playing the Weinberg is an honor, considering the circumstances, being the first hip-hop artist to do so. This is the venue that most Frederick County-based musicians/entertainers dream of playing. This is our Radio City Music Hall! It’s going to be a night of emotion and jubilance on my behalf.
My favorite Weinberg memory would have to be my aunt taking me to see a theatrical version of “The Wizard of Oz.” Watching the fairy godmother descending from the ceiling was a moment!
As a resident of Frederick County for most of my life, when it comes to the Weinberg, I have quite a few memories to draw from. Seeing one of my favorite comedians, Lewis Black, and laughing along with young and old to his expletive-laden rants. Swaying my head with the throng of Deadheads gathered near the stage at a Bob Weir/Ratdog concert. Watching the great Johnny Winters perform and meeting him after the show for an autograph shortly before he passed on to that Big Gig in the Sky. And let’s not forget singing onstage at a high school choir competition, then flirting with a cute classmate in the upper balcony while watching the other schools perform. Mingling conversations in the lobby, tickets ripped by ushers, the sound of people bustling to take their seats below the flashing house lights. All entrenched in my personal history of the Weinberg.
And now, after more than two decades of learning and practicing, writing and recording, literally thousands of gigs and performances, load-ins and late nights, and seemingly half a lifetime spent on the road and in convenience stores, the script is flipped. Here I am with the great honor and opportunity to be part of a Weinberg memory for others. Full circle and almost too surreal. Ever since I started playing regularly in the Frederick area, it has been a dream of mine to play the mecca of all Frederick venues. My father and I have talked at great length about how great it would be to grace the Weinberg stage one of these days. And now one of these days is here. It’s been a long, wild ride to this point and certainly not without its struggles and dark times, but so many countless others — especially in the Frederick community — have shared the journey and helped carry me along the way through the ups and downs. To me, this show will be a victory and celebration for all of us.
April Reardon, keyboardist for DaMood
I had the opportunity a few years back to see Dickie Betts, of the Allman Brothers, perform at the Weinberg. What an amazing show! It was a packed house, people were dancing in the aisles and partying like crazy. It was the first time I had ever been to a show there that was so exciting!
Andrew Bromhal, vocalist/guitarist, Silent Old Mtns.
A few years ago, I was standing outside the Maryland Ensemble Theatre across the street from the Weinberg, waiting for someone. Next thing I know, my friend Rona pops out of the Weinberg, and yells across the street asking if I like Lyle Lovett. Obviously, I yelled “yes!” back, and she told me to hurry up and run across the street. I got to see Lyle Lovett’s encore that night, standing in the back of the theater. It was fantastic.
Eric French, guest vocalist for DaMood
I think the first time I went to the Weinberg was in the early ‘90s when I saw a production of “Brigadoon,” of all things. I remember falling for the theater right as I entered the lobby, feeling like I was going back in time.
I still feel that connection to the past whenever I’m there now — it’s such a great venue, and singular in Frederick. My daughters now perform in ballet productions twice a year and are just as taken with the Weinberg as I am.
It’s a long mile from “Brigadoon” to watching your girls dance to playing on stage with Ricole and his band. It’s a privilege.
As a Frederick transplant, I did not grow up with the Weinberg. My first Weinberg experience was the Americana Fest two years ago. The Honeycutters, friends of mine from my previous life as a full-time touring musician, played, and I went to their show. It was there that I met the Steel Wheels, folks I have grown to love both as musicians and as people. I listened in the green room downstairs as they rehearsed harmonies on a Townes Van Zandt song for a multi-band finale. We studied the signatures of those who have signed the walls of the green room, and we giggled at the sign imploring folks not to sign the wall unless they have been asked (the Honeycutters and the Steel Wheels were both asked). I snapped Instagram photos of them signing the walls, and I watched the night’s performances from the side stage, a la Penny Lane in “Almost Famous.”
To say the evening was moving would be an understatement. I remember being struck by the beauty of the theater, and the rapt, appreciative audience, whose faces I could see as I stood in the wings beside the sound console. You could have heard a pin drop. It was one of those moments when I felt a swell of love for Frederick and the people who create this community, which supports such magical musical moments.
Because I had “found” Frederick in the midst of an epic road trip and just decided to pause here for a short time (which eventually became long term), that night in particular was a moment merging two worlds. In one world, I was a wayfaring wanderer in the midst of a long sojourn, searching for something from a city I couldn’t quite identify. In the other, I had inadvertently begun nesting in Frederick as I developed a nascent realization that the intangible thing I was looking for existed right here. It crystallized: I wanted to stay here in Frederick. I was introducing my past to my present and future.
The next night was The Black Lillies, some friends of mine from Knoxville, Tennessee, whom I have known since before they were in a band together. I watched that show from the audience. I felt so much love and pride on both sides of that equation — excited for Frederick to be exposed to people whose personalities and music I have loved for so long, and the feeling that I wanted The Black Lillies to see what made Frederick so special and why I chose to move here after having my last known address in my other favorite city of Knoxville.
To play at the Weinberg means so much. It signifies that I have been embraced back by the community I have chosen to call my own. I am so proud to bring my band of born-and-raised Frederick boys on that stage.
Crystal Rollins, guest vocalist for DaMood
I remember seeing “The Nutcracker” as a young adult at the Weinberg Center. I didn’t get to see the complete show, [but] it was awesome. As well as seeing fellow future professionals from The Temple, a Paul Mitchell Partner School, graduate — I actually didn’t think I’d be on the stage until it was my turn to accept my certificate as a graduate. It’s amazing to be a part of this experience.
Sam Whalen, banjo/vocals, Silent Old Mtns.
My first experience that I can recall being in the Weinberg was doing the 72 Hour Film Fest with my close friend Sam Tressler. It was a year that the teams were given pre-written scripts, and ours was about nymphs and forest spirits. I walked into the theater for the first time surrounded by unfamiliar faces of people whom I would meet and become close friends with over the next few years living in downtown Frederick. A slide show of behind-the-scenes photos that the teams had submitted was playing on the enormous screen. Everyone looked very professional and like real filmmakers in the slide show. The venue added such a wonderful legitimacy to the amateur films being shown that night, and everyone looked like they really knew what they were doing up on the big screen of the Weinberg. A photo of me came up on the screen, and I looked like a skinny white guy in a toga out in a field with a six pack of Schlitz hanging off his fingers.
My mom’s going to be at the show on the 18th, and I just hope she enjoys the whole performance and has a wonderful time. Maybe she’ll finally get off my back about taking out the garbage and tucking in my shirts all the time.