You Might Be a Family Camper If…

You Might Be A Family Camper If...

Last year, due to the girls’ school schedules, I had to miss the vacation I’ve taken with my family in the Adirondack Mountains since 1968. Halfway through that week, hearing me emit yet another heavy sigh, my husband said, “Whether or not the girls have school that same week in 2015, you need to go with your family. You’re not right without it.”

So last week, after seeing our kids through the first days of high school, I hopped on a red eye Tuesday night and went to Family Camp sans family. Well, of course, you can’t swing a dead cat at Family Camp without hitting one of my relations, but I was there without MY kids. Which is maybe why this year felt a little…sparse. So many of us have been going for so long and our kids are big now, off to college and such. You could get onto whatever horse ride you wanted to sign up for. It only took ten minutes to wait in line for oatmeal, rather than the customary 15. You never had to wait for a paddleboard, though you might have to wait for a few minutes for the three people it took to balance you when you tried to stand up for the first time.

So I’m making a recruitment pitch. Bring your families to Family Camp next year! It’s good wholesome family fun in a beautiful spot, with the added bonus of maybe running into a bear but definitely running into deer, turkey, and a backhoe that will be digging out some cabin’s septic system.

Of course, we don’t want just any warm bodies filling up Family Camp. Can you meet a few simple requirements?

1.) Do you have a high threshold for exhaustion?

After the aforementioned redeye on which I slept for four hours, I made it to camp around lunchtime, which meant I still had time to squeeze in a kayak race, a swim, and a hike up Rocky Mountain to watch the sun set. I actually Periscoped (@midlifemixtape) the Rocky Mountain summit, but I was so delirious with lack of sleep that I narrated an ode to the wrong lake. Better you should just look at the still.

Rocky Mountain High

At any rate, if you’re able to go from Polar Bear swim at 7 am to archery at 11 to tie dying at 2 to cheese and crackers on the porch at 5 to square dancing at 7 to shooting pool at the Glenmore at 11 pm without a break in between, and keep that pace for seven days straight, you might be a Family Camper.

2.) Does personal safety take a back seat to fun for you?

Yes, it’s incredibly dangerous for middle aged project managers, realtors, tourism professionals, or writers to strap on life vests and haul their carcasses onto a floating disk in the middle of the lake called “The Spindle,” in order to chase each other around in a circle while a lifeguard in the center bounces on a trampoline to try to get you to go airborne into the 65 degree lake water. It’s even less wise to try logrolling in 18 inches of water when your only qualification as a lumber jack is having seen the Monty Python skit. Even as you’re laughing so hard that you forget to hold your breath as your head goes underwater, you’re picturing the explanation you’ll have to give your co-workers on Monday morning about the crutches/black eye/upcoming surgery that will be the inevitable result.

The Spindle

If you’d do it anyway, you might be a Family Camper.

3.) Do you consider a dip in the lake the same thing, more or less, as bathing?

Here’s a shot of my Family Camp Feet. I had used them to bushwhack around the lake that morning, and the dirt was really ground in there good from the barefoot-through-the-lake-inlet portion of the adventure.

Family Camp Feet

But why shower? I was going next to horseback riding, then my daily Spindle session. Any time taken to shower in the admittedly updated Girl’s shower house would have caused me to miss after dinner kayaking, or the Cheese and Cracker Porch Sit. The Spindle was kind of like running yourself through a washing machine anyway, right?

If you think, “I’ll shower when I’m dead,” you might be a Family Camper.

4.) Are you the opposite of a Paleo-Vegan?

Sure. We all start out on the first day with a giant plate of salad from the salad bar. But by the third day, when we see daily menus like this posted, we’re not only looking forward to it. We’re wondering if we have time to sneak out to Eagle Bay Donuts for a bag of fresh hot cinnamon sugar donuts to down between breakfast and lunch.

camp menu

If you consider two pancakes and a piece of coffee cake a balanced breakfast, you might be a Family Camper.

5.) Can you get worked up over bocce, bingo, and brownies?

We are a nerdily enthusiastic bunch. Family Campers may be the only people in the world who would miss a flight home in order to see the gripping bocce tournament finale, played by four people whose only training was last year when they played. We get excited enough to whoop and holler when the date and time for bingo, or the Sunset Kayak, or the distribution of wooden boards from the Craft Barn for family commemorative plaques is announced over the PA or at meals.

If you think the only sane response is to “There are brownies for dessert” is “YEEEEESSSSS!!!! WOOT WOOT WOOT!” with maybe some foot stomping thrown in for emphasis, you might be a Family Camper.

6.) Do you have a talent to use for skit night?

Because we need more. Not that the little girl doing no-handed pogo sticking wasn’t AWESOME, because she was.

If you have a guitar and can carry a tune, or let’s face it, even if you don’t, you might be a Family Camper.

7.) Can you dish it out as well as you take it?

There was a big new family this year, lots of adults and kids in the mix, and their presence all over camp made me self-conscious about how much of my day at camp comprises trash talking fellow campers. I mean, many of us have known each other since people still had milk delivered by milkmen, so there is a lot of history upon which to draw. You name a Family Camper, I will shorthand for you an embarrassing story and/or nickname that the rest of us will never let go. They would gladly do the same for me.

Same with practical jokes. The backstory is far too long to go into here, but one lucky Family Camper opened her car door on the last day to find this strapped into the driver’s seat. Don’t ask. (Do note the septic system backhoe parked in the background.)

Polar Bear

At one point I was out on the Spindle with a bunch of Family Campers; most of us had met early defeat at the hands of Physics and were floating in our life vests like human ice cubes, hurling invective at the remaining runners until only one man was standing: a guy from the new family named Mark. Could I restrain myself from screaming to the lifeguard, “Bounce him off! Bounce him off! Get Mark! Get him!” even though Mark and I had barely been introduced to one another? No I could not. Afterward I found him on the beach and apologized. “It wasn’t very nice of me to yell that about you.” He said, “Frankly, I felt bad that you guys didn’t go after me harder.”

He’s definitely a Family Camper.

Moonrise

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Khos Don’t Camp

Khos Don't Camp

For years, whenever a three day weekend approached, friends here in the Bay Area invited us to go to one of the fabulous camping spots within a few hours’ drive of Oakland. Normally they hear our family mantra in response: “Khos Don’t Camp.” (Family Camp doesn’t count because there are beds – hard beds, but still beds – and a Mess Hall.)

We used to camp. I mean, before kids. My husband and I met in Arizona where it was an easy drive up to the Grand Canyon for the weekend between classes at our grad school. We’re sturdy hikers, and we’re good at carrying things. What eludes us is logistics: setting up the tent, figuring out what food to take, having correct change for coin operated bathroom showers. Luckily we were likethis with the president of the campus Outdoor Club, so we just asked him what to pack and where to park and how to cook, followed his directions like lemmings, and then we were fine.

But on our own, we’re easily confused. We like hotel rooms; there are no tarps or pegs involved. We’re fond of pillow top mattresses. And in a hotel, when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it’s five feet across the carpet rather than 80 yards in the dark with a flashlight to an outhouse. (Yes, I know that you know that we know there are more, ahem, primitive solutions involving a tree six feet from the tent. Let’s preserve everyone’s dignity here.)

Still, a handful of times, the “Khos Don’t Camp” response was simply ignored by our more experienced camper friends and we found ourselves forced outside into the wilderness, wearing fleece and roasting weenies and taking slow hikes that we called “walks” so as not to set off an insurrection by our kids. We were let in on the big secret of group family car camping: it mostly consists of sitting in camp chairs around a fire and teasing each other, while drinking cold beer.

And we always loved it. The girls always loved it. It was cheap, wholesome, and fun.

Each time we’ve camped, in fact, we’re so inspired that we follow it up with a trip to the REI store for some new piece of camping equipment to the pile in the storage area. Then a year or three passes, and the inspirational new camping equipment gathers another thick layer of dust. “Khos Don’t Camp” just trips off the tongue more easily than “Hey, let’s book a camp site now for next July!” which is what you have to do if you want one of the California State Park sites that isn’t an additional 80 yards from the outhouse.

The latest people to ignore our creed were our friends Dawn and Patrick and their two daughters, who sherpa’d us up north of San Francisco to the Anderson Valley for Labor Day weekend last year. Hendy Woods State Park comprises two ancient redwood forests alongside the Navarro River (not named after Dave, I asked.) Dawn packed enough food to get us through to 2016, probably right after she assigned us to bring dinner fixins’ for Saturday night, and we responded by asking, “Isn’t there a restaurant in Boontville where we could get burgers?” We ended up cooking s’mores for both dinner AND breakfast. The girls jumped off a big rock into the river, and scaled felled redwood tree trunks like they were jungle gyms.

It was wonderful. It was relaxing. We wanted to go to REI again.

By now we’ve accumulated really clever 3-in-1 foldable cooking utensils and cutlery and lanterns, and even a Camping Box to store it all in. However, Hendy Woods drove home the message that our next priority purchase is an air mattress because we are old, and the one-inch thick foam camping mats that may have been fine on our 20-and 30-something year old backs on the floor of the Grand Canyon now make it feel like we’re sleeping on a bed of Legos. Every time we turned over in our sleep at the Hendy Woods campsite, it was a new adventure in agony. On the second night my husband, who rarely drinks, settled in with two entire beers and a grim determination to get buzzed enough to sleep through the night. It didn’t work, but man, was he funny at the campfire that evening.

In fact that’s probably why Dawn and Patrick invited us to come along with them again last weekend, to Big Basin State Park near Santa Cruz. We’re still sans air mattress but they assured us we had a tent cabin with actual beds. When we got there, I realized they were “beds” but still: better than a foam pad.

As usual Dawn had food enough to serve the entire campsite for a full week. Meanwhile I’d left both the Saturday night appetizers AND the Sunday lunch fixings resting peacefully at home in our refrigerator. Also, the bottle opener, and bug spray. As usual, we relied on their cook stove, their kettle, their handy-dandy s’more roasting sticks that folded in half for easy storage.

But at one point, Dawn needed a paper towel. And I had them in my Camping Box, and she didn’t.

I didn’t want to gloat, but I think we just earned our “Khos Can Camp” merit badge.

The kind of camper with which I am much more familiar.

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On the Record with Mick Rock

This is a sponsored post, for which I received compensation. But all opinions are my own, and I only recommend it because I think Midlife Mixtape readers will like it as much as I did.

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If you want to spark a (probably non-fatal) fistfight amongst music fans, just ask a “greatest ever?” question. Greatest band? Album? Show? Immediately, you’ll find lifelong friends squaring off over the Beatles vs. the Stones, Straight Outta Compton vs. Licensed to Ill, U2’s Joshua Tree tour vs. that time you saw Lyle Lovett do a solo acoustic act at a hole-in-the-wall. The only way to calm it all down is to get everyone to agree on who ISN’T the greatest (Nickelback.)

As conflict averse as I am, I find Greatest Ever debates endlessly fascinating, because of what they reveal about the debater, their innate biases and the level of ardor. Which is why I loved the whole concept of a new Ovation show, On The Record With Mick Rock, which follows legendary rock-and-roll photographer Mick Rock as he visits the hometowns of musicians Josh Groban, Patti LaBelle, Kings of Leon, and The Flaming Lips and asks them a series of Greatest Ever questions.

Beyond possessing what, back in the day, my hometown newspaper columnist called “A Name That Works!”, Rock is a fascinating guy. His nickname, “The Man Who Shot the Seventies,” gives you some inkling of the backstage access he had during that era, shooting iconic images of David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Debbie Harry, and more. (If you want to go down a rabbit hole, click through to his photography portfolio. I dare you to stop at just one Lou Reed.)

But he’s not stuck in the ‘70s. He continues to shoot 21st century acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Black Keys, and Lady Gaga.

Snoop Dogg Snoop Doggy Dogg Snoop Lion DJ Snoopadelic Snoopzilla Bigg Snoop Dogg Snoop Lion Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. is another Mick Rock favorite.

The conversations between Mick and the band members as they traverse hometown haunts are candid, unconventional, and shed light on the unknown stories behind an album cover, record release, or tour. Of course, having come out from behind the camera for a change, Mick has earned as much of a right to share his views on the music industry and its players as anyone.

The series premiered on August 2, and you can catch new episodes every Sunday at 8 pm ET on Ovation. In the next episode Mick’s heading to Oklahoma City to hang out with the Flaming Lips, and the following week he’ll be with Patti LaBelle in Philly, my old stomping grounds. I can only hope they get into a Greatest Cheesesteak Ever debate between Jim’s and Geno’s.

And I definitely hope she takes him on a visit to West Philly’s Irvine Auditorium where I saw what was, empirically, quantitatively, scientifically, the Greatest Concert Ever: Echo and the Bunnymen, April 1986.

Do you beg to differ? Hit me (figuratively) in the comments.

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Summer Diary

Summer Diary

While moving some boxes in the storage area last month, I came across a marigold-colored paperback diary that I kept during the Summer of ’79, chronicling ten turbulent, torrid weeks of my thirteen year. Aside from documenting random nastiness directed at my undeserving mother that directly contradicts my memory of never being any trouble for her, and confirmation that $0.75 for an hour’s babysitting was then considered phat stax of cash, I was struck by how many of the entries written by a melodramatic adolescent girl traced a direct line to the middle aged woman I am today.

I pulled a groin muscle. Ooh la la, I can hardly walk. Hey, at least I had full use of my shoulders.

Did you know I have more than 95 books? Do you know I still need at least five unread books on my bedside table be able to sleep at night?

I cut up a lot of pictures and words to make a plague. Now it’s my Pinterest boards that look terminal.

My sister and I did our “Disco Down” dance. And we reprised it at BlogHer15.

I pulled my muscle again. Because, not physically gifted.

We had a Ouija board. Wait until I get around to writing about my trip to Lily Dale last month.

I was real mad. So I Tweeted about it.

I baked cookies. Yeah. Still doing that on the regular.

After 4 tries, I made it up on waterskiis! Then I fell. And people wonder why I never took up snow skiing.

Maria and I were laughing our heads off while everyone else was crying. It’s with a different Maria now, but we still laugh when everyone else is crying.

And of course, there was this:

1979 Music Notes

Hot Stuff.

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Concert Review: Johnny Flynn

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The Band: Johnny Flynn, August 5, 2015. He’s a South African-born, British bred singer and actor, a.k.a. Dylan on the Netflix series Scrotal Recall. Flynn’s music sits squarely in the folk arena, with a little bit of Ye Olde English traditional ballad singing thrown in; a nice fit for his rich and rangy voice, and his solo acoustic guitar playing.

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The Venue: Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco.

From the mezzanine toward the stage

I’m a longtime lurker of their show schedules but this is the first time I’ve gone inside the building on Fell Street disguised by a giant purple octopus mural. Here is my primary tip to make your trip to the Rickshaw Stop easier: when the concert time says 8, that’s actually just the time the doors open. And if you’re not one of the first 15 people in line, you have no hope of grabbing one of the benches pulled up to the railing of the two mezzanine levels that look down on the stage and the standing room floor. There are big cushy velvet couches further back on the mezzanines, but we quickly learned that if you sit there, you’re going to be blocked by waves of latecomers who stand between you and the balcony, and you won’t see a damb thing. I don’t blame the people who stood directly in front of us; I do blame the people who stood directly in front of us and also talked throughout Flynn’s set. I may have flicked a straw full of water in their general direction to get them to shaddup. It may not really have worked.

Better door than a windowOverall, the club has great acoustics and cheap beer. The ambient light level is set to “black hole.” There are rickshaws, and excellent ladies room graffiti.

(We) You are strong and cool

The Company: Maria, who called me approximately one month ago and said, “Oh my god, you have to watch this show on Netflix with a terrible name called ‘Scrotal Recall.’ You will love it.” Ninety minutes and six short episodes of Season 1 later, I was so desperate to stay in the Scrotal Recall bubble (ewwww) that I started Googling the actors, trying to find a way that to extend the Scrotal Recall ride (ewwww.) Saw Johnny Flynn was playing two US dates, one in San Francisco, and called Maria to inform she’d be coming with me. Like that was a challenge.

The Crowd: Maria said it best as we walked up Fell Street and saw a line stretching a block to get into the Rickshaw Stop: “Wow! People know who Johnny Flynn is? I thought it was just going to be the three of us.” Not only did the crowd know who he was, they knew all his songs, which is way more than Maria and I could claim. The audience members looked like they had spent every moment of their median-age-22-years memorizing Johnny Flynn lyrics.

Age Humiliation Factor? Have you ever seen movie scenes where competing gangs come together for a delicate meeting in which they agree to divide up the turf? Guess what: young concert fans, you get the Rickshaw Stop. It’s not them, it’s me. Even if I am with it enough to have Periscoped a song during the show (find me @midlifemixtape,) I’m too damn old to queue up on a city street for a half hour before the doors even open, then race for a seat, then watch the entire show through the constantly shifting spaces between someone’s bent arm, their beard and/or artfully messy bun.

The final straw? The opening act, acoustic duo Rachel Dean and Tim Gray, announced that they were going to “sing a song by the Boss.” I was one of two people in the whole crowd to show any signs of knowing who they were referring to, and definitely the only one who yelled, “Brruuuuuuuuuuuce.” (The song was “Fire” and Rachel sang it beautifully.)

So, Team Youth, you get the Rickshaw Stop. (The Fox in Oakland is still mine.)

Worth Hiring the Sitter? Yeah?

Look, this entire post is basically an excuse for me to recommend Scrotal Recall, which follows Flynn’s character after he is diagnosed with chlamydia and must notify all his old girlfriends. But it’s really the story of a puppy dog man looking for love, accompanied by one sidekick who is hilarious and the other who is obviously his true love. They bumble around Glasgow using the British all purpose “yeah?” as the answer to any question, and drink ale by the barrelful.  That Flynn is a really talented singer whose songs reflect the best of the UK roots music tradition is just a bonus. I don’t think I was the only one having trouble separating the singer from the fictional role; at one point after Flynn shared some charming mumbling stage patter, the dewy young thing next to me sighed, “Yes, he’s his character.”

It was totally worth going out to see Dyl onstage, even if I couldn’t yell, “Are you involved in choosing the music for the soundtrack, because it’s brilliant?” or “For the love of all that is holy, when will Season 2 be available?” Whenever that day is, don’t hire the sitter. Just stay home and binge watch the show.

This was a touching moment in the show: Flynn asked the audience to sing Laura Marling’s harmony, and they sang like they’d just been waiting for him to ask. Nailed it.

Next concert on the calendar: Brandi Carlile, The Fox, September 18

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A Master Plan for Music

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I know she hates when I say this, because it makes her sound old instead of like the vibrant, preternaturally youthful woman she is, but Janis Cooke Newman has been one of my most important writing mentors. I read her historical fiction novel Mary in 2007 and loved it; found that she was teaching a one day class in the form and signed up, and have been in her thrall/debt ever since. She’s been a cheerleader, a sounding board, and a connector extraordinaire. I invited Janis to write a music-themed post for her new novel, A Master Plan for Rescue (Riverhead Books, July 2015,) “a magical novel about the surprising acts we are capable of in the name of love,” which is getting all kinds of raves and being favorably compared to Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See. I had no idea she’d pick some of my very favorite music acts as part of her literary mixtape.

A Master Plan for Music

by Janis Cooke Newman

Though my novel, A Master Plan for Rescue, is set mostly in 1942, I spent exactly zero time listening to music from that era. This is in keeping with my general feeling about research—I’m not a fan. Perhaps an odd trait for a writer of historical fiction, but I’d rather be writing than holed up with a stack of history books.

It’s the fictional part of historical fiction that interests me—the story. I write—and read—historical fiction because I want to know what it was like to live, and love, and sometimes even hate, during a certain period of time. And you don’t get that from history books.

Much of the research for A Master Plan for Rescue came from the stories my father told me about his boyhood growing up in New York City during World War II. And also from other fiction written during—or about—that time. And when it came to music…sure, all my major characters had their own soundtracks—just contemporary ones.

The soundtrack that belongs to Jack, the twelve-year-old boy who can ‘see’ the radio, is played entirely by The Decemberists. Like all twelve year old boys, Jack stands equally in the realms of childhood and adulthood. And when he loses the person who means the most to him in the world—his father—he copes with his grief by telling himself stories. In my mind, Jack shares an imagination with The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, an imagination that would allow him to dream up stories as inventive as those of “The Crane Wife,” and “Eli the Barrow Boy,” and “Billy Liar.”

It’s The National that provides the soundtrack for Jakob, the young Jewish man who leaves behind the woman he loves in Hitler’s Germany. Whenever I pictured Jakob on his Lower East Side tenement roof, imagined him tying a message to his lost love onto the leg of one of his carrier pigeons, I could almost hear Matt Berninger’s mournful voice on “I Should Live in Salt,” or “I Need My Girl,” or really, on anything from Trouble Will Find Me.

Jack’s Uncle Glenn wants nothing except to be a war hero like his own father, a man who lost his hand fighting in the First Great War. But Uncle Glenn is classified 4-F because of his asthma, and this turns him disappointed and envious of everyone. Uncle Glenn’s soundtrack is Teddy Thompson’s Family album. Teddy Thompson recorded this album with his more famous father, Richard, and his equally famous mother, Linda. On it, he sings, “Born to the manor and never quite clamoring free”—a line I imagine Jack’s Uncle Glenn might have written, had his ambition led more toward music than soldiering.

Rivka, the deaf refugee, is barely twelve when the Germans march into Paris, and over the space of a year, she watches the French police take away her father, her mother, and her brother. Her soundtrack could be nothing except every song Lucinda Williams ever recorded. Rivka’s heart gets broken—over and over again. But it doesn’t turn her hard. It makes her clear-eyed and practical. Makes her into a survivor. A lot like Lucinda.

It’s not the least bit surprising to me that I found contemporary soundtracks for these 1940s characters. The things that drive us—grief and guilt, envy and heartbreak and love—don’t change over time. They remain the same. No matter what historical period we’re writing—or living—in.

***

Want to win a copy of A Master Plan for Rescue? Leave a comment below with your favorite literary character and the contemporary song you think they’d listen to. We’ll pick a winner on Friday, August 7 at 5 pm PST.

And I hope to see you at A Great Good Place for Books (6120 Lasalle Avenue, Oakland) at 7 pm on Monday, August 10th, when Janis will be in conversation about A Master Plan for Rescue with MidlifeMixtape buddy Alex Green!

Janis Full-resolution (4 of 4)

Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the novel A Master Plan for Rescue, just out from Riverhead. She is also the author of the novel, Mary; Mrs. A. Lincoln, an LA Time Book Prize Finalist, and the memoir, The Russian Word for Snow. She is the founder of the Lit Camp writers conference.

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Concert Review: The Avett Brothers

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The Band: The Avett Brothers, July 29 2015. The Avetts are an alt-country-bluegrass band from North Carolina with a decidedly rockin’ edge, bringing punk and honky tonk to the country mix. Their eighth and most recent album, Magpie and the Dandelion, came out in 2013 and was their third produced by hip hop maverick Rick Rubin. Sibs Seth and Scott Avett, along with bandmates Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon (not to mention their sizable, string-instrument wizarding touring band) contain multitudes, music-wise.

The Venue: Constellation Brands – Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center, aka CMAC. Nestled close to Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York, CMAC was the perfect spot to ride out sunset on a 93 degree day. There’s seating under a big metal canopy but we headed to a shady spot on the lawn with a picnic blanket and a view of the big screen that would help us see the ant-sized performers. Hint: Constellation Brands, the largest wine producer in the world which is headquartered nearby, has naming rights to the venue, so if it ain’t carried by Constellation, you’re not buying it at the concession stand.

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The Company: I’m in upstate New York on an extended visit with my folks while the kids are at camp. Having already traumatized my movie-loving mom by subjecting her to Trainwreck and Magic Mike XXL, I was looking to even the score and take Dad out for an evening. He’s an OG country music fan, so I knew he’d love the Avetts. I also knew that he would have a meticulously mapped out alternate route from his house to CMAC that would bypass traffic on a Wednesday night, because my dad is the human version of Waze. So we popped a couple of Avett Brother CDs into the car stereo and drove down through picturesque towns like West Bloomfield and Lima (that’s LIE-ma, because no town in New York named after something is pronounced like its namesake. Java Center = JAYva Center, Chili = CHAI-li, Charlotte = Char-LOTTE. But I digress.)

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Then, as we were sitting on the lawn and I was starting to be super annoyed by the people around us yelling loud greetings to their friends instead of listening to the opening act, my sister’s oldest son strolled by with a group of friends. “Daniel! DANIEL!! DAAAAAANNNNIELLL! YOO HOO! I’M UP HERE WITH GRANDPA!” I never run into relatives when I go to a show in the Bay Area. Because they’re all at CMAC.

The Crowd: Ghosts of People Past. Understand that I haven’t lived in the Rochester area for thirty years, and that when I am home I am on constant alert in case I run into someone I know. So every person who strolled past and looked to be within five years of my age, I stared at thinking, “Hey, I think that’s the kid we used to call The Big Polack! Wait – is that the girl who danced in Anything Goes with me junior year? That bald guy could be one of the Baseball Jeffs, but I doubt it.” It was a relief when it got too dark to see anyone anymore.

The Opener: First up was Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. I love this story – they’re a mother and son folk duo from Kansas City. What young man forms a band with his mom? An awesome young man who realizes how good his mom is, that’s who. Really great set flawed only by being too short.

Next up was Shakey Graves, a blues/country rocker from Austin who wowed us with his one-man band opener, singing and playing guitar while using two different drum pedals to back himself up with percussion. He was joined onstage by two backing musicians and it got loud and hard – not quite the country music experience I’d promised Dad but I liked it and my nephew loves Shakey so that’s good enough for me. Props to Shakey for trying to pronounce Canandaigua. It ain’t easy for non-natives.

Age Humiliation Factor? Three generations of over-21 family members at a concert. That’s an Age Domination Factor, yo.

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Worth Hiring the Sitter? Y and E and S

This extended trip to Mom and Dad’s, sans kids or husband, has been unexpectedly relaxing because let’s face it, I’ve probably regressed a little. I’m almost 50, but Dad drives me around and pays for things, and Mom is doing my laundry. I’m staying in a guest room containing the pull-out couch I bought in high school, back when I convinced my parents to let me get rid of my bed so that I could set my room up as a salon (I had visions of my 17 year old friends drinking Bartles & Jaymes and discussing literature and world affairs, and my parents were too exhausted by my older brother and sister to protest.)

So it was nice to snap back to my regular life for a few hours and introduce Dad to The Avetts and their multi-talented, multi-instrumental, multi-faceted show – and to have my nephew there was the cherry on top. From “Live and Die” to “Pretty Girl from Michigan” to “Slight Figure of Speech” and “Kick Drum Heart,” the band puts on a high energy, highly engaging show, jumping deftly from country ballads to punk anthems to clap-along bluegrass. Dad was particularly impressed by violinist Tania Elizabeth, the sole estrogen rep on the stage. *power salute to lady fiddlers*

As we scooted to the parking lot before the encore (because Dad knew a way we could get out of the parking lot and over to the thruway before everyone else) we sang along to the strains of John Denver’s “Country Roads” that filtered out of CMAC behind us. And as we set off for the long drive home, I could only think of my favorite Avett Brothers lyric about family, from “Murder in the City”:

Always remember there is nothing worth sharing, like the love that lets us share our name.

Next concert on the calendar: Johnny Flynn, Rickshaw Stop, August 5

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