Mountains, Magic and Music
I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.
- Virgil Thomson
While the music scene in Roanoke may not be as visible as the scenes in other southern cities, like Athens, GA or Austin, TX, it is, for the inquisitive music lover, a rewarding discovery. One day, after checking out a matinee at the Grandin Theatre just outside of downtown Roanoke I found my guide sitting next to the popcorn machine. Peter Evans works at the theatre but he is also part of the Magic Twig Community, a homegrown arts collective that includes bands and side projects like Boys Lie, The Missionaries, Rootstone Jug Band, The Sad Cobras and Turbo P, and visual artists, Kelly Queener and Indianface. With the indie trifecta of the Plan 9 Records store, the Mystic Fortress rehearsal studio and the Water Heater art and performance venue, the Magic Twig Community might just put the Star City on the map as the next new music mecca.
Paige Hodges and Daniel Cundiff, best friends forever and multi-instrumentalist members of the collective came to the MobileBooth East to talk about their friendship, their compulsive list making, and the themes and narratives they explore in their music. Daniel, who is in SUNKING! with Peter and Sad Cobras with Paige, played a bit of the song Rabbit Hands with a little help from Paige. Other members of the Magic Twig Community who shared their stories were Sam Lunsford, Sean Poff and their friend Scott Baldwin all of whom are in the Rootstone Jug Band. The three talked about the band’s origins as an offshoot of the New Roanoke Jug Band which was itself inspired by the original Roanoke Jug Band which made its only known recording on October 18 , 1929. Not only did Sam, Sean and Scott play a bit for us in the booth but they also invited us to a rehearsal at the Mystic Fortress, where they played several songs in the roots music canon as well as an original, Do That Thing You Do.
Of course, you can’t talk about music in or around Roanoke without mentioning Arthur Conner. About a half hour outside of Roanoke, nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains is Floyd County, Virginia. Floyd is Arthur Conner’s home, its where he was born and where he heard the mountain music that would one day inspire him to make fiddles. But not just any fiddles, Arthur’s fiddles are sought after by the likes of music legends like Ricky Skaggs, Gene Elders and Jeff Midkiff. Arthur came in to the booth with his good friend, musician Scott Perry to talk about his life, his craft and the Floyd County musical resurgence. He started the conversation off with an impromptu performance.
It didn’t take long for Whitney, Nina and me to set our sights on Floyd’s Friday Night Jamboree to check out some pickin’ and grinnin’ at the Floyd Country Store. Now, you don’t have to go to the Country Store to hear bluegrass and country, you can find them on every street corner and in every coffee house and restaurant in downtown Floyd, but if you want to see some serious flat footin’ then you’ll need to cough up the $2 entry fee to see what’s happening on the dance floor.
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