THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

BritFest 2018: God Save the Queen!

A Celebration of All Things British

June 9, 2018
Maryland Polo Club
Jarrettsville, MD

On Saturday, June 9, we ventured north to the green and pleasant grounds of the Maryland Polo Club in Jarrettsville, MD, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's official 92nd birthday and "all things British" at BritFest 2018. Now in its second year, organizer Hugh Anderson's "Anglophile Woodstock" gives Limey-leaning fans in the Mid-Atlantic region an opportunity to toast Britain's longest reigning monarch while enjoying a full day of events celebrating Old Blighty.

Tottenham Tommy congratulated "Lizzie" (Her Highness to youse) at BritFest 2017

In addition to the day's big sporting event, a polo match pitting the US of A against England (whose team quartet included the veddy English-named Lolly Stanhope-White), attendees got to enjoy sampling British food (fish & chips, sausage rolls, meat pies, haggis, bridies, Welsh Cakes!), beers (stouts, lagers, IPAs and the creatively named Orkney Skull Splitter!) and spirits (Pimm's Cup, Gin & Tonic!), crafts, and British rock music courtesy of Mrs. Thatcher and Shag the Band.

Newlyweds Harry and Meghan apologize for not inviting Amy to their nuptials. "It's OK," Amy said. "I was having brunch at the diner with my parents in Dundalk anyway!"

While my wife may boast that she is more English than me (41% to 38%, according to our Ancestry.com DNA results), my name alone makes me an honorary "Tommy," and together we form a powerful alliance dedicated to celebrating all things British - except, perhaps, their dental hygiene. The weather report called for thundershowers throughout the afternoon - I guess it wouldn't be a truly British experience without a downpour (and unreliable weather is the reason why Queen Elizabeth's actual April 21 birthday is celebrated in the summer, usually the second Saturday in June)  - but when we arrived shortly after 11 a.m., the sun had put the nip to any thoughts of precip: it was bright and cheery in this pastoral stretch of Harford County.

"I say old chap, fancy a cuppa?"

Actually, Bob WAS my uncle! (Robert Soulsby to youse!)

Wearing my Go Brit! t-shirt (from the famous Rehoboth Beach fish & chips restaurant) while Amy donned her classic Beatles tee (and toted her showin'-her-dad's-roots Welsh dragon purse), we proceeded to get our Brit on.

First up was listening to the Swinging '60s it's-trad-dad British rock sounds of Mrs. Thatcher, whose set list included the usual suspects - Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks - as well as a much-appreciated mini Faces homage (hearing "Oo-la-la" and "Maggie May" back-to-back made my day!) as Amy sampled Welsh cakes and sausage rolls and I tried a Pimm's Cup. I had always heard of this English cocktail (my well-traveled brother had brought a bottle back from one his many trips across the Pond) and wanted to try one; sad to say, this traditional thirst-quencher for cricket matches was too sweet for me (though I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more last year, when the inaugural BritFest was unforgivably hot and humid).

Q: And 'oo's Mrs. Thatcher when she's at home? A: Rockers who're conservative in name only

As we walked past the various vendors (including the annoying hard-sell home improvement tent - the answer's still "No, thanks! Ta!"), we enjoyed meeting many Brits from all over the Isle (London, Berkshire, Essex, Wales), including Birmingham Brummies "Barry" (who told us his name was Celtic for "spear chucker" - alas, he left his spear back home in Reston, VA) and BCPL librarian John (a former Bookmobile driver - it doesn't get cooler in the library field than these guys!).

'Sup Holmes? Tom dons his deerstalker as he tries to deduce whether rain is imminent

Following a bagpipe and drums musical prelude (courtesy of the John F. Nicoll Pipe Band), we lifted our cups to toast the Queen on her official 92nd birthday with British consulate rep David Hunt (who guaranteed another English World Cup victory - erm, wonder what was he was drinking?). Speaking of footy, Britfest presenter Hugh Anderson is a Man U supporter and their kits were the most frequently spotted, along with 2 Man City, 2 Arsenal, and a lone West Ham supporter, not to mention several England national football and rugby jerseys. (Though no one sported a Tottenham jersey, every Brit I talked football with had kind words for my Spurs; could it be that, except for Arsenal supporters, Spurs are the beloved "Ringo's" of the English Premier League that no one has a harsh word for? Hmmm, a theory...)

Amy loves a man in uniform - and certainly had no beefs with the Beefeaters at BritFest 2017

As the day progressed, the rains that were forecast duly came, not once but twice, turning the fields into muddy marshes and curtailing the polo match (the US was ahead 3-1 last time I looked). (Mental note: next year wear "Wellies" like the polo riders!) Good thing Amy came prepared with her emergency rain poncho and Mod English polka-dot rain cap!

"I say old chap, did you happen to bring a brolly?"

As the rain poured down with a fury, like the opening scene of Kurosowa's Rashomon, we sought refuge under a nearby tent and ravenously ate not one, but two meaty-beaty-big-and-tasty "Bridies" (meat pies). Props to the Loyola University Rugby Football Club (2018 Mid-Atlantic Cup Champions!), whose rain-soaked players braved the muddy plains to take carry-out orders and return with ice-cold beers for the grateful imbibers under the big top.

We waited out the deluge while Hugh Anderson took to the stage and urged attendees to stay the course, like Churchill's "We Can Take It" retort to Herr Hitler during the London Blitz. "Don't leave yet," he pleaded. "I still need another $5 from every one of you here to break even." He went on to promise sunshine and good times by 4 o'clock, when the day's final musical act, Shag the Band, were set to perform. I must say, Hugh was true to his word, as the rain dried up and the sun reemerged on the dot of 4.

"Sun's back," Old Bill bobby Amy advises the rain-soaked crowd. "Keep dry and carry on!"

We were then once again treated to the note-perfect Post-punk/Britpop stylings (Cure, Verve, Jam, Oasis, Depeche Mode, et al) of Shag the Band (who had previously performed, along with the Beatles tribute band Beatlemania Again, at the inaugural BritFest 2017). Where opening band Mrs Thatcher left off in the '70s, Shag picked up in the '80s and '90s and their backing tape loops enabled them to replicate the keys and synths on those Verve and Depeche Mode covers.

Shag the Band revived '80s and '90s Britpop

Over the (oft times muddy) course of the day, we ran into our friends John Rose and his son, Kelly Corin Burkhead and, natch, fellow Anglophile Karen Karen & her crew; Amy especially enjoyed trading "crazy mom" stories with Karen's half-Japanese friend Margaret, who regaled us with a tale about her mom sneaking a Japanese plant back to the States concealed in her underwear! And Detectorists fans take note: I think Lance was there, as an Inca yellow Triumph TR7 was spotted among the classic British cars on display. All in all it was, as Wallace and Gromit would put it, A Grand Day Out!

Let's see, did I leave anything out? Oh, yes, yada yada yada - and Bob's your uncle!

Tom strikes an avuncular chin-wag pose (or is he having an heart attack from eating all those meat pies?)

Related Links:
BritFest 2018 (Facebook)
Shag the Band
Beatlemania Again

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Vintage Underground (*****)

205 Second Street
Lewes, Delaware
Web: undergroundlewes.com
Facebook: undergroundlewes

The Vintage Underground is literally underground!

On our way to Rehoboth Beach for a much-needed break from work and home-repair stress, my wife Amy and I stopped in Lewes to visit the wonderful Biblion (meaning "little book" in Greek) used bookstore on the corner of Second and Market Streets. Since discovering this treasure trove of contemporary and antiquarian books (not to mention the best greeting cards and buttons) in the heart of historic downtown Lewes, it has become a regular stop on our Lower Shore getaways. Once inside, we noticed a sign that said a record store was around the corner. Cool, we thought, let's check it out, for we love records as much as we love books. (Yes, we are from the pre-digital streaming Physical Media Era.)

Biblion Books: Home of used books & rare finds 

Walking around the corner to Market Street, we descended the stairs and immediately heard a familiar-sounding "non-Kansas" Kansas accent. "Hey, that lady sounds just like the Biblion owner," I commented. "That's because it is her," observant Amy observed.

Yes, it's true! Biblion owner Jen Mason now also runs The Vintage Underground, where her finely curated "Inventory of Cool" features vintage vinyl and CDs, groovy vintage clothes, eccentric cards (Simon Drew! Edward Gorey!), snarky buttons, hip vintage rock mags like UGLY THINGS, miscellaneous tchotchkes and geegaws and, yes, even more books (and even more by Edward Gorey!).

Vintage Underground is split into two rooms. On the left, before you enter the record store proper, is a room full of men and women's clothing ranging from mid-century to the 1990s, with selected vintage pieces mixed in. As Mason explained to Cape Gazette writer Nick Roth ("Vintage Underground is hip new Lewes Shop," May 31, 2018), Vintage Underground is not a thrift or secondhand shop; she picks out all the clothing and music herself. And, sign-o'-the times, clothing is not separated by gender: "It's wear what you like. We have tops and tops."

Given my wife's flair for fashion, needless to say it took a good 30 minutes before she was able to pull herself away from the clothing racks to the music racks, where the collection includes a mix of new vinyl records from independent labels (like Jack Black's outstanding Detroit-based Third Man Records) and a carefully curated selection of used records. Mason takes pride in the shop's collection of jazz, blues, funk and soul - as well she should. Her Blue Note/Verve Jazz selection alone was worth the trip, and Anglophile Amy naturally managed to uncover a British Invasion compilation CD of bands appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. And as an Elvis Costello Completist, Amy also had to pick up the soundtrack to Wim Wenders 1991 film Until the End of the World because it had an Elvis song she didn't think she had (Elvis covering Ray Davies' "Days").

I went hog wild when I discovered a CD cache of Rhino's long-out-of-print New Wave Hits of the '80s because, well, where else am I gonna find digitized versions of oddball singles like The Normal's "Warm Leatherette" or Flying Lizards' "Money (That's What I Want)"? But the real find for me was scoring The Flashcubes' Bright Lights, an anthology of  21 punk-powerpop tunes by this classic '70s Syracuse rock group, who I had previously only heard one song by ("It's You Tonight" on Yellow Pills Vol. 1). All of these CDs were steals at $5 a pop.

Vintage Underground's decor is creative, the vibe is fun, the hip factor is off the hook, and the owner is genuinely warm and engaging. And in honor of Miles Davis's Memorial Weekend birthday, Jen told me that if I said "Happy Birthday, Miles!", she would give me one CD for half-off - I did (I chose a Dexter Gordon CD - I think both Miles and my dad would approve) and she did. Hey, that's swell!

Vintage Underground proprietess Jen Mason

So if, like us, you like to get physical with your media (books and records and CDs, oh my!), then Biblion and The Vintage Underground are not to be missed! You can spend hours in these shops - and we certainly did! Oh, and let the record show: I bought The Velvet Underground at The Vintage Underground! How's that for poetic justice?

Related Links:
"Vintage Underground a hip new Lewes Shop" (Cape Gazette)