Sunday, July 14, 2019


The last couple of days have been a whirlwind. As I wrote about in my last post, Thursday night we were in the city at Radio City Music Hall, and sadly, my body is still recovering from that. On Friday, I spent the day catching up on all of the work I had in my job work folder from Thursday and Friday, which was more than a full day's worth of work. I also did my write-up on the Chvrches/Charly Bliss show, because I knew I had Arnoldstock coming up on Saturday, and I didn't want to let my blog reviews pile up as well. In a perfect universe, Saturday would have been a day of rest, but I knew that that wasn't going to happen.

As I've mentioned from time to time in this blog, the last year/year-and-a-half has been a stressful period for my family, and we all handle the stress in different ways. It's hard on Denise, because the more anxiety there is in the home, the more she wants to go out to free her mind for a while, and the more I feel too overwhelmed to go out a lot. One of the blessings Denise has found is the WLIR Facebook Group. This is an online group of like-minded '80s music fans who all love the new wave '80s music that Denise holds most dear. They meet up at the concerts of the various '80s bands, and at WLIR dance parties at venues such as Aura and Eleanor's as well. This has given Denise the opportunity to go out, make and meet up with new friends, and dance off some of the pressures of our everyday lives.

Unsurprisingly, a few of these new friends are musicians. One couple that Denise met through the group are a couple named Christine and Marcelo Pena, who play out acoustically at venues such as the Babylon Bean under the name of Melic. Denise has gone to see them several times, and I'm hoping to catch up with them at some point.

A couple of months ago, Denise mentioned that they hold a concert in their backyard every summer where they and a bunch of their musical friends get together for an all-day musical event. They call the event Arnoldstock (presumably because their house is on Arnold Avenue.) They sell tickets and donate the money to charity. She asked if I was interested in going, and I told her absolutely.

As it happened, a few weeks ago, we spoke my kids' uncle to set up a week-long visit at our house with my niece from upstate. After checking our calendars, we decided that this week would be the most convenient week for everyone in which to schedule that. Unfortunately, it meant that the day of her arrival was also the day of Arnoldstock. It wasn't that big a deal, as I knew she'd be spending most of her time with my son and/or my daughter anyway. But it was definitely an overlap.

As it happened, I was so busy with the Radio City show on Thursday and my work on Friday that I wasn't able to get hold of her Dad ahead of time for an ETA. I figured from past experience they'd be at my house at the crack of dawn, as it's much easier to make the trip from upstate during the overnight hours when there's no real traffic. So after getting our house/disaster area as ready as we could, I forced myself to go to bed by 1AM on Friday night (several hours earlier than usual), and dragged my sorry ass up at 5AM. (Which is really an obscene hour, by the way -- to all of you morning people, what is wrong with you guys?!)

After I got up, I learned that the party from upstate wasn't going to be arriving until 9:30 or so. This wasn't the worst thing, as there's a couple I've been working with at my job whose adoption is just about coming to completion. So being up by myself in the very quiet hours gave me the chance to catch up on some details I needed to attend to to prepare for their adoption. But I also knew that I was going to have to try to grab some more sleep sometime during the day before attending Arnoldstock at 5PM or so that night.

My niece and her parents showed up at about 10. Denise woke up shortly thereafter. After exchanging pleasantries with my niece's parents for about an hour, they got themselves together and headed back upstate. (And they must have hit a ton of traffic, because I understand they didn't get back up to the Rome area until 7:30PM.) Denise left the house for our usual Saturday Weight Watcher's meeting (and don't try telling me they call themselves "WW" now because they're WEIGHT WATCHER'S and they always will be, OK? WW! Phooey!). I skipped the meeting this week to take my son and my niece out to breakfast. Well, for me, second breakfast. I'm part hobbit.

Breakfast was vaguely traumatic. It's bad enough that my own kids have grown up so fast, but my niece, who is, in fact, their little sister, has suddenly become a young woman, making plans for college, getting her own place, etc. The Rolling Stones really nailed it -- Time really does wait for no one.

While we were getting breakfast, I got a text from our friend, Rich Da Drummer, who was coming with us to Arnoldstock today, telling me his car had broken down and asking us to pick him up at the Babylon train station instead. I also got a text from one of the parents I'm working with, to coordinate when we could talk about the upcoming adoption Covenant Ceremony. So by the time I got home and worked all of this out, I was fried. Luckily, because the kids are big enough to amuse themselves now, I was able to grab a few hours sleep at this point, so I'd e fresher for the show.

(If you haven't noticed, this is a typical write-up for me -- I've been writing for an hour now, and we still haven't gotten anywhere near showtime.)

Denise and I headed out at a little after 4:30. Then we got up to the corner and realized we didn't have the tickets. So after a quick turnaround, Denise and I headed out a little after 4:40. We picked Rich up at the Babylon railroad station, and headed to the event, which was blessedly nearby.

Unfortunately, we'd been warned ahead of time that parking in the area was scarce, and they weren't kidding. This wouldn't have been so bad, except that D. and I are that point in life where you're only as happy as your ability to find the next bathroom. We drove around in an increased state of panic, until we thankfully located a nearby Dunkin' Donuts. We used their facilities (I'd give them about a 7.9 -- nothing fancy, but reasonably clean and functional, at least). We bought some ice coffees, in gratitude for the use of their bathroom, and Rich marveled at Denise's Dunkin' Donuts app -- she's a Dunkin' Donuts frequent flyer! We then started our quest for parking for real.

Happily by this time, a spot had opened up right up the block from the show. I volunteered to carry the blue bag, which was a huge mistake on my part, as it was filled with bottles of hard cider, and weighed about four hundred pounds. (At least, that's what it felt like!)

We walked up the block, carrying our chairs and bags of goodies. We could hear the music as we walked. As we entered, Denise met about four hundred or so friends (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little), some of whom I knew and some of whom I didn't. As we said our hellos, the frickin' blue bag was exhausting me, as I had to hold it all the way up because I was carrying my Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee in the same hand. (I'm thinking it might be time to think about getting some exercise once in awhile, huh?) We walked around the yard for a little, playing a game of "Here? No, how about here?" until I was ready to collapse. Then, blessedly, we picked a spot and settled in for some music.

So, finally, let me tell you a little about Arnoldstock. This was the fifth consecutive year for the event. It's held every summer in Christine and Marcello's spacious backyard. People buy tickets, with the money going to charity. This year's event was raising money for Camp Loyaltown (I think I've got that right -- I thought they said "Camp Royaltown", but I'm looking around online, because I do some very professional research for this blog, and it looks like Camp Loyaltown is actually the right place.) This is a summer sleep-away camp for special needs kids, which apparently do a really nice job for them. The event was also raising money for the Brookville Center for Children's Services. Christine told us from the stage that both of these organizations have been very helpful to she and Marcelo and their young son.

There were a bunch of nice prizes on display that were donated to raise more money for the charities in question, which were being raffled off at a Chinese Auction. The event supplied free sodas, as well as barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages. (This warmed my heart. I don't need any of the fancy stuff -- you can keep your ribs, steaks, chicken, etc. -- if you've got hamburgers and hot dogs, I'm a happy camper. The sausages and salads were just a bonus.)

The couple had two separate stages set up in their backyard -- a smaller one (The "Diamond" stage) for duos and solo artists, and a larger one for fuller bands. The flyers advertised six main stage acts and six side stage acts.

I can only imagine how much work went into this event. Happily, the couple has a large group of friends who helped set up for it the day before, and who worked it all day, cooking, doing sound, working the admissions table, etc. It was really nicely done.

They couldn't have had a nicer day. It was sunny, but the trees provided shade for a large portion of the yard, and for most of the evening, there was a lovely, cooling breeze.

The show had started at about four, but by the time we parked and were settling in, it was about six PM.

The band that was playing as we were saying our hellos was called Lost & Found. (I think. There was a huge chalk board with a list of bands, but the show didn't seem to be consistently following the order on the board.) Unfortunately, we were too busy saying our hellos and carrying around that six thousand pound blue bag for me to tell you too much about them. I can tell you that they sounded really good, and that they were covering songs like Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Madonna's "Borderline". This was just fine for me.

The first act to play once I was settled and was able to concentrate was an excellent 5-piece called Sons of Sanford (as in the old Redd Foxx show -- "I'm coming, Elizabeth!"). They played an energetic brand of funk rock. A few of the songs that they covered which I jotted down included the old Sam & Dean (and Blues Brothers!) tune "Soul Man", Sublime's "Santeria", Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Superstition", and Blur's "The Woo Hoo Song". (Well that's what I call it! I guess technically it's called "Song 2", but that's a stupid name.) I don't know much about all of the covers that this band can play, but something about them makes me think they could totally do justice to a really raucous version of "Mississippi Queen".

As we sat enjoying the evening, various friends from the Facebook group popped over, including Tina Zito, who was doing her photography thing all over the event, and Linda, who was back here this summer all the way from Israel. I also saw Patti Morrone, an old friend (and a damned fine singer) from my LIMC days.

In between sets, I texted back and forth with my son, checking in that things were going OK with him, my niece and his friends. He chose this occasion to causally mention he needed a Triple A card, causing my heart to jump up to my throat as I envisioned that he and my niece had had a car accident. (They hadn't.) I also mentioned that I'd loved to have invited him and my niece to the event, but that I knew that he'd have hated it. (He mostly listens to gangsta hip-hop). I told him my niece might have enjoyed it, as the music was similar to the classic rock that her father plays in his band upstate. My son's one-word response: "Ew."

The next act up on the diamond stage was a fine solo artist named James Gallagher. He played electric acoustic, and ran through a setlist that included Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" (as opposed to CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain," which I originally jotted down in my notebook and then had to cross out -- those guys really liked rain songs); Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic"; The Doobie Brothers' (who I'm seeing at Jones Beach this summer) "Listen to the Music"; and the old Leiber and Stoller standard, "Stand By Me".

I think it was around this time that I went for some burgers and a dog, which elevated my blood sugar level, and made me very happy. I also encouraged Rich to keep giving away those Apple Cider bottles, so the damned blue bag would be lighter when we left.

(When I look at the stuff that my brain focuses on sometimes for these reviews, I can see it's really sad. I totally identified during the Beavis and Butt-head feature film when they went to the Grand Canyon, but the feature that they were most impressed by were the auto-flush toilets -- "Whoa! This is the coolest thing I've ever seen!).

Next up on the main stage were the heroes of the day, Melic. As I mentioned, normally they play out as an acoustic duo. For this occasion, however, they celebrated by having a couple of their friends join them to play as what was billed as "Electric Melic". They had a nice, smooth sound right from the get-go. Their set included what I will always think of as a Patti Smith song (even though Bruce Springsteen wrote it), "Because the Night"; an earthy version of Elle King's "X's and O's"; Alice Merton's "No Roots"; and a bunch of covers of various 10,000 Maniacs songs, who of course, also recorded "Because the Night". 10,000 Maniacs is obviously a favorite artist of theirs -- I even suggested to Denise that in the future, they should consider changing their name to 10,000 Melics.

(This reminded me of when I grew up in Flushing and used to rent horror movie videos from this little mom and pop video store. One day, I rented out the Herschel Gordon Lewis splatter classic Two Thousand Maniacs! The little Greek man who owned the store looked at the box ponderingly for a moment. Then he looked at me, and softly affirmed, "That's a lot of maniacs.")

Anyway, I'm looking forward to catching Melic in their more typical acoustic form. They have a very pleasant sound.

Now one phenomenon that several of the artists noted from the stage that I haven't mentioned so far is this: for some reason, maybe because the yard was so big, the crowd of people that were there (which was probably in the range of 75 to 100 at any one time) had chosen to set up their lawn chairs relatively far away from the area where the two stages were. I didn't think anything about it when we entered -- I certainly wasn't going to drag the damned blue bag all the way up by the stages if I didn't have to -- but it did make it a little harder to understand some of the artists when they were talking.

By this time, it had gotten dark. The next artist up on the Diamond Stage was a solo artist named Matthew Ponsot. The sound system really wasn't cranked up for him, and there was a lot of socializing and crowd noise going on. This was OK, in that it was fun to talk with friends. But it was also unfortunate, in that it distracted a little from the music. It was doubly unfortunate because what I could hear of this man's music, I really liked. I think he was playing mostly originals, which, of course, is my passion. He opened with something called "Don't Say You Love Him," and followed it with something called "Tell Me What You Know". (I'm guessing on these titles. They were the main lyrics from the choruses.) He soon went into something moody and quiet that I could hear just enough of to be able to tell that it was right up my alley.

By this point, though, between the stresses of the last few days and the lack of sleep, my body was starting to shut down. It was probably about 9:30. Denise and Rich looked tired too, although I'm sure if she'd been on her own, Denise would have chosen to stay for awhile longer. But as Mr. Ponsot's set ended, she asked me if I wanted to go, and I had to tell her yes.

I'm going to definitely have to catch Matthew Ponsot again, when I'm in a livelier state of mind. I just checked his Facebook page, and I know more half of the musicians he has listed in his friends section, including Todd Evans, Robin Eve, Toby Tobias, Lori Llyn, Rick Eberle of Iridesense and Liz Smith, so it shouldn't be too hard to track him down again. (Namedrop much? Nah!)

Denise, Rich and I packed up and started saying our goodnights. This time, Rich took the blue bag, which we'd probably reduced to a more manageable two thousand pounds by now. We trudged back to the car, dropped Rich off at the train station and headed home. I was in bed, and fast asleep by 11.

Anyway, kudos to Christine and Marcelo Pena of Melic and their many helpers for pulling off a fun and impressive event. Next year, I hope to attend with a little more energy.