almost heaven: with craig bickhardt in west virginia

it was almost like being on the road, save for a local gig sandwiched in between the two shows we were doing – friday at avalonfest in – no, i’m not making this up – paw paw, west virginia…and then on sunday at the purple fiddle in thomas, west virigina – with a return trip home on saturday for a local gig with jd malone that i’d booked prior to the west virginia dates coming up…but as much as i hate driving, ya know – that wasn’t a real problem. the weather was nearly perfect. i had met up with michael ronstadt (of ronstadt generations, also an occasional bickhardt sideman), who rode down and back with me for the avalonfest show, but he was only onboard for that one…the purple fiddle show was a duo show with craig and myself.

avalonfest, for anyone who might not have clicked the link above, is an annual weekend-long festival held on the grounds of the avalon nudist colony in the hills of west virginia – although, honestly, the more accurate term might be “clothing optional”. of course, the first question everyone asks, leading up to this, was “is clothing optional for the performers?” thankfully, we were allowed to remain dressed during the show – and i was pretty certain the audience would be grateful, too.

the mantra of avalonfest, if there were to be one...

what we realized, though, after making the trip off the interstate, down twisting roads and finally up a rather frightening drive up to the resort itself, was that physical attractiveness really wasn’t high on anyone’s criteria as a prerequisite for nakedness. there truly were folks of all ages and sizes among the folks who were there for the weekend, and some definitely were less shy than others.

it had been a little rainy that day during the drive, and as such it was a little chilly on the grounds. now, personally – were i feeling a little chilly, i’m thinking that i would probably dress my bottom half first, if i were to start from zero clothing and go from there. i was surprised to see, though, that a healthy number of the males among these folks approached it from the opposite – opting to wear a shirt or a sweatshirt…and then maybe a pair of socks and sandals and not much else. then there was the one guy who’d gone a little nuts at the piercing parlor – let’s just say that there was probably a lot of “i ain’t touchin’ that for less than double my normal rate” money spent on this guys’….uh, work.

everyone was wonderful, though – we had a really solid set, although i had the usual problem of not being able to hear michael as well as i’d like to, as he doesn’t use a pickup in his cello, and we have to depend on whatever amount of volume we can get into the monitors from a microphone placed on his instrument. no one in the band opted to lose their laundry for the set, in case anyone might’ve been wondering – but we played really well and a lot of folks wandered up after our set to chat.

now, as you may or may not imagine, it is a little difficult to maintain the usual decorum when you’re chatting with someone whose breasts are plainly visible to you and everyone else in sight…i guess i have to be thankful in hindsight that i’m not 22 years old anymore, because it would have been that much tougher to approach this with some degree of decorum. as it were, i just kept reminding myself to focus on the bridge of the nose, not to look directly into her eyes but to create the illusion that i was. these are the tricks you pick up over time. 🙂

a little political fodder for the ride home...

we were initially going to stay over, and they had quarters for us – but both michael and i had to return that night because of gigs the next day. tommy geddes, road warrior that he is, had agreed to stay and do a set with randall williams (who was appearing there the next day), and he wasn’t playing the sunday night show at the purple fiddle, so we all parted ways after dinner – and michael and i started the trek home.

typically, i probably wouldn’t have bothered to make a return trip that long to pick up the sunday gig, but it was a place i’d heard of but never played before, and i was curious as much as anything about the place – the purple fiddle in thomas, west virginia.

the only thing that bummed me out about the place was its lack of air conditioning at this time of year…but, hey – the tin angel in philadelphia doesn’t bother to turn on its heat anymore, so i guess there are worse fates than sweating a bit. 🙂

in all honesty, i loved the place – the drive to the gig was beautiful, calming…and the venue is situated in a stunning part of the state. it reminds me a bit of one of my favorite rooms, landhaven in the lehigh valley area of pennsylvania…it’s a bit of a time capsule in a lot of ways, in terms of decor and vibe.

yep...that's a purple fiddle, all right.

as it was our first time there, it was almost a given that the crowd wasn’t what we’d have hoped it would have been – but that’s something that you almost learn to anticipate over time under that particular set of circumstances…especially with no one else on the bill. still, we had what i thought was a pretty great set – it was a new twist for me, singing a day well spent with CB without having tommy geddes along on percussion…fun. 🙂 as always, this old house was a highlight, and i’ve become a big fan of playing carrying a dream from the new record, as well…i’m not exactly duplicating the part that kenny vaughn played on the album, i’ve kinda come up with a hybrid part that has the sprit of his part, but seems to sit underneath craig’s guitar part a little better in a duo setting…to my ears, anyway.

after the set, i spent quite a bit of time talking with some of the folks who’d come to the show before starting up the road to head home….it was one of those drives where i’d run myself down to very little gas in the tank, and knew that i’d have to find a place to fill up that was actually open on the way home – i’d actually been scouting places on the way to the gig, and i was pretty sure i knew where i was gonna fill up. thankfully, they were open, and the rest of the drive home was just as peaceful as the ride to the gig.

thanks, purple fiddle…and to the wonderful folks at avalon.


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