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Andre Pope – Photo: Scott Smallin

On Tuesday, the world lost a real gem – Andre Pope.

I met Pope with my brother on the same day we met veteran podcaster Dave Slusher, whom Chris had arranged to meet after listening to his podcast and discovering that he lived in Conway. I had agreed to tag along that day probably 12 years ago. We got together at Bummz Beach Café in Myrtle Beach.

I knew nothing about both of those guys, except for the fact that my brother always mentioned Slusher when he talked about podcasts. I was still relatively new to the Grand Strand, having moved here in 2005.

Andre must have been like 27 then, although I perceived him to be younger than that. He was cordial and kind – and as I would find out would be a through-line in our friendship, always willing to help.

He told me that he was then a partner in an outfit called 803 labs. We talked about blogging, podcasting and social media – and it wasn’t long before the subject of tech meetups came up – and how cool it would be to launch an event in Myrtle Beach.

I’ll be damned if those guys and others didn’t put together an event called CreateSouth, which took place for several years.  My brother and I provided the entertainment for two of these. Another friend, Paul Reynolds, helped me get set up with my first Blogspot blog.

Andre leaves behind a wonderful wife, Heidi, and two awesome kids – Memphis and Ryder.

I’d have to say that Pope was a renaissance man, and somebody else recently referred to him on Facebook as a doer. He was a major proponent for cycling in our area, an expert pit master, entrepreneur, designer and family man. He taught graphic design at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and was creative director at a graphic design/marketing/advertising firm called Design Cypher.

At Bummz circa 2007 – Seated: Andre Pope, Dave Slusher / Standing: Roger Yale, Chris Yale

Early on, he invited me to lunch at Magnolia’s at 26th, a southern-inspired buffet here in Myrtle Beach. The man genuinely loved meeting and getting to know people, which is why I wasn’t surprised that he was also involved with a coworking space called Cowork MYR. He was a consummate connector.

Andre was one of my go-to sources for stories, especially during my time writing for Weekly Surge, a McClatchy product and local alt-weekly under the umbrella of The Sun News – and this covered a variety of subjects from tech to social media to cycling and more. He was a busy guy, to be sure, but never once did he turn down an interview request. He provided credibility to whatever piece I was working on, was always patient and never failed to teach me something.

For a while, he would look slightly different every time we saw him – perhaps with low sideburns at one time or a totally different getup the next – so much so that my girlfriend always told him that she was never sure if it was him. That was a trip – and I wonder if anybody else noticed that over the years.

Pope at a meetup at Liberty Tap Room & Grill Circa 2008

He was also a part of a group that I call the “yeah, man” guys – meaning that this was his way of saying “you’re welcome.” I loved that.

When I last saw him, he was resting in a camper outside The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach, where a packed benefit was going on in his honor. My brother, his wife and my girlfriend and I only visited him for a few moments. I gave him a hug and a peck on the top of the head and told him I loved him.

I swear to God, the man said to let us know if there was anything he could do for us.

That was Pope for you.

My heart goes out to his sweet family. Andre leaves a void that can never be filled. I will miss his intellect, his humility and his “yeah, man.”

My New Yorker

The last day of our New York trip in March began with a couple of coffees from the Row NYC bar I brought back up to our room – while getting plans together with my daughter, Taylor.

When Tay arrived, we headed out toward Rockefeller Center. I had been here on my last visit a couple of years ago, but it was fun to revisit with Brenda – and watch the folks outside, still ice skating in March. We tried to imagine what the Christmas tree might have looked like in its spot – up close and personal. We also hung around The Shop at NBC Studios, where those so inclined could grab a souvenir – perhaps a t-shirt emblazoned with “SNL” or a Rachel Maddow mug. How about a book of “Seinfeld” scripts from the first and second season, a deck of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” playing cards or an NBC Peacock hoodie? It’s all there, and much more.

But really, why cram a carry-on with such bric-a-brac? It’s all online, of course. Just looking at that stuff in that venue was enough.

We wandered around inside the mall there for a bit and then ventured outside again to watch the ice skaters while we finished some top-notch banana pudding we picked up at a spot called Magnolia Bakery. Unbelievably good.

Peeping Ice Skaters at Rockefeller Center

We then set our sights on Bryant Park, where we were going to meet Ivanna Fortunato, another friend of Taylor’s who wasn’t at the office on the day we visited because of a knee injury.

Content on the Bryant Park website says that the location is “known as Manhattan’s Town Square…famous for its lush seasonal gardens, free activities, world class restrooms, and al fresco dining.” Believe me – any public restroom in the area is a godsend, and my visit for a tinkle was a pleasant one. At my age, they should have one on every other block.

We grabbed some coffee at a kiosk and Taylor kept an eye out for Ivanna, who arrived on her lunch break from SpotCo. She was wearing a brace, and seemed to be handling her knee issue like a trouper. It was a delight to meet her, and I felt as if we already knew each other because Tay told me so much about her and we are Facebook friends. It’s refreshing to actually meet somebody outside of the virtual world.

Ivanna is getting married in the Dominican Republic in July, and I am happy to report that Taylor is going to be there. I wish Ivanna and her fiancé the very best.

To see Taylor and Ivanna is to assume that the two young ladies have been friends for a long time. The four of us hung out and chatted for a good while – and of course snapped photos and selfies. I am like the drunk uncle who has to document every moment. Every family has one. I hope somebody finds all of those digital memories after I am gone. Perhaps I should send thumb drives to a couple of key loved ones. Unfortunately, they will only contain the photos. No account numbers for offshore accounts.

After saying our goodbyes – I needed an updated photo outside of the New York Public Library, which was right next door. We also got hot dogs from a street vendor – and I took a photo of the Empire State Building, which was looming over a tree line nearby.

As we made our way back to Eighth Avenue, I was content that we had done so much in a few short days without going nuts and without breaking the bank. I recall looking into Sardi’s and taking in some of the celebrity caricatures on those famous walls – and passing by the Copacabana.

We wanted to ship some clothes and other belongings back to Myrtle Beach in an attempt to avoid luggage fees on Spirit Airlines – the reverse of what we did on the way – but we had more shit to pack now. We passed The UPS Store and bought a decent-sized box and took it back with us to the hotel.

But we still had big plans, specifically “Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theatre – a show that Brenda had long fantasized about seeing in New York someday. It is one of her all-time favorites, and we had tickets for that night – box seats – thanks to my son’s fiancée, Leigh Schwartz, who had given them to us as a Christmas gift.

HOLD FAST TO YOUR DREAMS

We packed up that box with everything we could – and Taylor and I took it to a Staples location nearby. The layout was nothing like any Staples I had seen – especially the whole multiple floors thing. But a very nice young guy helped us and dispensed sightseeing advice, albeit a bit too late – and it only cost me eighteen bucks to ship the box. Things like that please me. It was like a little surprise.

We didn’t yet eat properly, but we had an agenda.

Much like when she was in college, Taylor found a home bar where the folks were down to earth and she felt comfortable. In Charleston it was Smoke BBQ.  In Hell’s Kitchen it is Hold Fast, tucked into a laid-back space with a brick and hardwood interior on 46th Street. One of the owners, Jason, grew up in the Charlotte area. We talked briefly, and I told him that my sister used to live in Cornelius until she moved around Lake Norman to Denver. Turns out he used to go to the dentist in Cornelius. Small world indeed.

Hold Fast in Hell’s Kitchen

I had bone marrow and a soft scrambled egg with soy glaze, tobiko and toasted artisanal bread. Most excellent, and thankfully on the light side. I didn’t want to fall asleep at the theater.

I feel like Taylor made a good call when she chose Hold Fast as a hangout. Both Jason and co-owner Chris seemed to be really nice guys – and I love the name of their bar. Taylor told me that another co-owner named Shane is equally awesome. I wish them continued success with their enterprise.

THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT

We gave Taylor our hotel room key before leaving Hold Fast, just in case she wanted to hang out there while we watched “Phantom.” She told us that she would likely hang out at the bar. In any case, we wanted to see her again to say our goodbyes because we were leaving in the morning.

The walk to the Majestic was short – basically just down the block and over – and the line was already forming. We got behind a massive school group, but we were inside the theater in no time. After stopping to grab Brenda a t-shirt, we were ushered to our box seats at stage right.

I was hoping the box was just for the two of us, but there were two other seats there. I vape, so I’m always looking for a strategic spot to sneak in a rip – and I thought I was home free, but a young couple was seated beside us just before curtain.

You can believe I thought about Abraham Lincoln many times. Sic semper tyrannis and all that rot. Same seating situation. Poor bastard.

By now, we all know all about Phantom – but just because we were late to the party didn’t mean we didn’t enjoy it. Ben Crawford was terrific as The Phantom. I thought it was interesting that he shares the same last name with the original Phantom, Michael Crawford. They are not related. Kaley Ann Voorhees was excellent as Christine. One of the benefits of our seats was the fact that I could look directly down into the orchestra pit to see the musicians at work. I must admit that I was glancing down there quite a bit.

It was nice to see my girlfriend so happy. Glad she can cross “Phantom” off her list at long last.

We strolled back to Hold Fast to grab Taylor, but hung out for a little while longer. It was good to be with her – and she was in her element.

But it was getting late and Taylor had to catch a train to Brooklyn. We all ducked back into the same pizza joint Brenda and I ate at a couple of days before and enjoyed a slice (there’s that expression again).

It takes me forever to say goodbye to my daughter – and no matter how many hugs, there is always the chance for one more. This was true when she was close at hand, so you can imagine how it is when she lives far away. Finally, she disappeared down into the subway and we went across the street to our hotel.

The next morning came quickly, and we took a cab to LaGuardia. No issues. No delays. No problem. We were back in Myrtle Beach like nothing had happened.

But it did happen.

And our UPS package was waiting at our front door when we got home.

FAVOR - Concert of Hope

My friends at the Grand Strand chapter of Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – are working tirelessly to remove the stigma attached to those in recovery, and I have always loved their mantra: “We do recover.”

The advocacy group recently moved into a new space in Myrtle Beach, located at 4953 US 17 Bypass South.

According to executive director Nicole Criss, FAVOR recently took over operations for the Refuge of Hope transitional house in Myrtle Beach.

“It’s a house on Third Avenue North,” she said. “There are 12 or 13 guys living in it, and we were officially given the OK from the landlord to take it over.”

The recovery house had plans in the works to present an event at Chapin Memorial Park, called Concert of Hope. By default, according to Criss, this is now a FAVOR event.

“They already had that in the works, and they needed a 501(c)3. They wanted us to umbrella the event as well,” she said, adding that proceeds would go to FAVOR to be distributed where appropriate.

The Concert of Hope will take place on Saturday, July 21 from 11 am to 10 pm, and will feature Christian artists such as Josh Paul, Charles Scarlette and Doug Corum – with a special appearance by pastor and author JP Miller – and more.

Happy to say that The Yale Brothers will be performing from 4:15-5:00 pm.

FAVOR will be selling raffle tickets for $10. First prize is $500 cash. Other prizes include gift cards for restaurants, zipline, golf, and more.

For more information about the wonderful work being done by FAVOR, click HERE.

FAVOR - Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Waccamaw Getaway FestivalLast year, the Bucksport Marina in Conway, South Carolina hosted the inaugural Waccamaw Getaway Festival – a three-day event boasting more than 25 bands from near and far, including singer/songwriter Randall Bramblett, folk/blues/Americana outfit The Ben Miller Band and local “reggae jam rock” stalwarts, Treehouse!, who have been steadily gaining traction at festivals and venues across the U.S.

With the idyllic Waccamaw River as its backdrop, the event featured vendors and artists of every stripe and offered camping, boat docking, food and much more.

And it’s about to happen again over Memorial Day Weekend – May 25 through May 27.

This year’s headliner is Todd Nance and Friends. Nance was the original drummer for Widespread Panic. He left that outfit in 2016.

Scott Mann, radio personality and program director for local classic rock station WAVE 104.1 co-founded the festival with event production entrepreneur Scott Hyman of 3930 Music in Conway.

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Scott Hyman and Scott Mann – Photo: Myrtle Beach Life/The Sun News

I recently spoke with Mann to get the skinny for this year.

RY: How did you guys manage to snag Todd Nance and Friends for the headliner? Did you have to go through hoops?

MANN: A friend of a friend. A friend of mine is a friend of Todd’s and he came to me and said, “I think I can make this happen.” I said, “Please try to make it happen.”  So, thank you, Chris.

Q: What’s new with this year’s lineup? I see a mix of returning acts as well as some new names.

A: There are definitely some returning bands. As long as there is a [Waccamaw] Getaway Festival, there will always be a spot for Groove Fetish. We also have Dubtown Cosmonauts and Electric Soul Pandemic returning. This year, we managed to snag a lot of bands that we couldn’t get last year because we had such a short amount of time to put it together.

Q: You had three months to put something together that typically takes maybe nine months.

A: It’s something that you want to take as much time as you can to have the biggest number of bands that have the dates open. But we put the first one together in less than 90 days, so this year, one of the first things we did was go after the bands that we couldn’t get to last year because they were already booked.

Q: And you seem to still have a good mix of local, regional and national acts. Is this by design, or did the roster just come together that way?

A: Well, the first year, the roster came together the way it did because of time constraints and we got very lucky. The basic idea here is that this is a destination festival, but we would obviously like to get as many locals there as possible.  The idea of this festival is to present original music from around the country and make it a destination for people.

Q: Tell me about the late-night sets. Is this a new addition?

A: Last year we had some late-night DJ sets. That was pretty neat, but this year we also have some special late-night stuff lined up. First, we are going to have a late-night DJ set from Plenny G. And we also have – and this is so exciting for us – Tru Sol in a late-night set. Although the focus of the festival is original music, there are certain things that one does not say no to. When the opportunity to have a dance party with Tru Sol came up, we were real psyched about that.

Daniel Combs of Jahman Brahman (one of the bands we wanted for last year) has gotten together with Wade McMillan from Oracle Blue. They are going to do a late-night electronic jam kind-of-thing with whoever else is going to sit in with them. The great thing about the bands at this festival is that they are from all over the region and around the country. You’ve got bands coming in from Athens, GA and Boston. The Ben Miller Band is coming in from Joplin, MO. We’ve got bands coming in from Tennessee, and North Carolina is very well represented. A lot of these bands have been at different festivals with each other, and they have gotten to know each other. We really don’t know who will sit in with McMillan-Combs and Friends, but there will be friends.

 

 

Q: Tell us about the Artist’s Area and the Flow and Fire Area.

A: The Flow and Fire Area is once again manned this year – or should I say womanned – by our good friend Ann Virginia [Ann Winnard] of Over the Moon Productions.  Annie and all her crew are going to be there – spinning fire – spinning LEDs – and they invite people to bring their own toys and participate. You just need to sign a little waiver-thing.

We are also going to have the vendors area in a new spot this year – they will be right out there in the middle of everything – outside of the music area but also very much within earshot of the music. Everything is very close together this year, and the vendors will not be sequestered away in a separate building.

Right next to that will be the Art Tent, and a friend that we designated the Waccamaw getaway Festival’s artist superhero – Stephen Rullo – is going to make sure that the art tent is doing what it’s supposed to do, which is basically be a zone for artists who will come in and listen to the music and spend part of their day creating art live on the spot – painting and whatever. We have a limited number of art spaces – and just like we did last year, we gave them out to artists for free. Artists are an essential part of what we’re doing, and yet how many artists do you know that have any money.

Waccamaw Getaway Festival Band Lineup

Q: You must have learned what worked and what didn’t work from last year.

A: We did learn a number of things, which happens when you do something for the first time and you try to do it again. We are taking those things and putting them into action this year to make it just a better experience for everybody.

Q:  Tell me about the addition of Seth Funderburk [Sea Note Recording/Waterway Run Management] as co-organizer?

A: Seth helped out with a lot of stuff last year, and he was on the sound board quite a bit. He has a lot of experience with production, booking and promotion. He’s done everything you can do in the music business around here, and he is a great asset and a great resource. Seth and I both serve on the board of South by Southeast together, so we’ve known each other a long time.

Q: How are you guys getting the word out?

A: WAVE 104.1 is presenting the festival as the official Summer of Live kickoff. We have been giving away tickets and upgrades to three-day passes that include camping. We will do the same thing with support from 96.1 WKZQ. But WAVE is the presenting radio station, so I will be on scene the whole weekend.

We’ve done some promotion outside of town, of course. Like I said, this is a destination festival. We have done some radio and other promotions in Wilmington. We have some street-teamers in Wilmington, with posters, flyers, and the like. We also have a street-teamer in Florence, making sure the flyers and posters go where they need to go.

Oracle Blue

We have been promoting through social media, of course. We have promoted through all of the regional important jam-band websites and hooked up with the Homegrown Music Network.

Most of all, people are just spreading the word around because they are excited about it and want to share it with their friends. People are supporting it left and right. We have no big conglomerate behind us. This is a family-created festival, with bands being booked because one person knew another person.

Q: But you have sponsors. Tell me about them.

A: We’ve got New South Brewing as sponsor, and you know they are as local as you can get. We’ve got sponsorships from Tito’s Handmade Vodka. While it’s a very well-known and popular vodka brand – it’s certainly not one of the giant big dogs taking over the world. It’s some guys from Austin, TX. We hooked up with  Waccamaw Riverkeeper,  and we will give them a portion of our proceeds so that they can keep the river that makes the festival so beautiful – clean and safe– and this whole thing is just an effort by a bunch of people who just want to see us have a good music festival.

Waccamaw River

For more information, visit www.waccamawgetawayfest.com.

For ticketing, go HERE.

Myrtle Beach-area locals can save money by picking up LOCAL’S ADVANTAGE three-day day passes at New South Brewing – 1109 CAMPBELL STREET, MYRTLE BEACH, SC 29577  (843) 916-2337   Info@NewSouthBrewing.com.  Hours: Tuesday-Friday from 4pm-7pm and Saturday from 1pm-5pm.

 

 

 

20170927_201843_1506620141028

Sunday, I bid my son farewell before he headed back to base in Virginia.

Wes had been overseas for seven months, and was able to spend the past two weeks on leave here in Myrtle Beach.

As he pulled away, the reality hit me again, as it often does, that my son is a United States Marine. A Devil Dog.

Teufel_Hunden_US_Marines_recruiting_poster

Surreal.

I was also astonished to think about all he had done in the time he was here – a testament to squeezing as much enjoyment and quality time that you can out of a limited visit to a particular place.

The iffy thing for parents, spouses and loved ones of active duty servicemembers is to nail down exactly when they will be arriving, despite what they tell you. We have all heard horror stories of military delays, last-minute changeups and other logistical snafus. This can suck when it comes to airline reservations – particularly because there is really no way to get the best deals – not only for the servicemember, but also for family that might also want to fly in.

In this case, that family is my daughter and his twin sister, Taylor, who flew in from New York City the following weekend.

We also wanted to make sure that Wes had the proper welcome home that he deserved, and once we knew for sure that he was set to arrive, I got in touch with several of his friends to make sure that he had a greeting party ready for him at the Myrtle Beach Airport.

An outstanding group of friends from Tinder Box Myrtle Beach rallied as well – and we had an impromptu reception at our humble apartment here in Myrtle Beach afterwards.

I am beyond grateful to Stephen Shuessler of CrossFit Myrtle Beach for putting the word out at his box [CrossFit lingo for gym] – and helping to gather a group of Wes’ CrossFit family. It warms my heart to feel the love.

His Uncle Chris [my twin brother and musical accomplice] and Aunt Betsy [my sister-in-law] were there also – as well as Wes’ best friend and de facto brother, Xavier Pringle – and we wore the amazing tee shirts my dear friends Tonya and Kenny [A Plus Screen Printing] made for Wes’ graduation at Parris Island 16 months ago.

Here’s a laundry list of what he was up to:

CrossFit. A half-marathon in his 30-pound flak vest, or Modular Tactical Vest [I guess he did want his MTV]. Multiple trips to Chipotle. A dinner out, looking awesome in his Dress Blue Deltas. A walk on the beach with yours truly and his twin sister. A jaw-dropping new tattoo from the master, Shay Haf-Ded, at Red Raven Art Company.

The young man took the time to catch Yale Brothers gig at Liberty Brewery and Grill in Myrtle Beach. That meant a lot. We dedicated the night to him and he was received enthusiastically.

I had a bet with my girlfriend Brenda as to how long it would take before he and Taylor bickered about something. Answer: Not long – and it was music to my ears. Being a twin myself – I understand the dynamic. The old cliché’ stands: They might bandy about all day – but don’t get it twisted. They have each other’s backs.

My regret is that Taylor’s job required her to be back in The City – and she was only here for a weekend. But she was here, and that was awesome.

My adult children. Who knew?

My main man. My son. My Marine.

Semper fi, son!

 

 

 

 

Yinz listen to this – we finally made it to Pittsburgh last month.

I first started getting a hankering to visit Pittsburgh because of my friend, Bob Coyne, who grew up in Irwin, Pa., which is roughly 20 minutes away from Pittsburgh. During the years we worked together here in Myrtle Beach, Bob taught me a lot about the city, the slang and his shenanigans in and around Pittsburgh when he was growing up.

Several other local friends and Myrtle Beach transplants have been sharing Pittsburgh lore with us for years.

About ten years ago, my girlfriend and I became friends with two of the coolest couples anywhere: The DiGiacomos and the Scangas. We met them originally when I was playing in a Myrtle Beach classic rock cover band called Sick Stooges, and over the years became closer on their semiannual visits to the Grand Strand – my bandmates and their wives and girlfriends included.

Every time Steve and Kathy [DiGiacomo] or John and Barb [Scanga] came to Myrtle Beach, we’d hang out – and we’d learn more and more from them about Pittsburgh – and Brenda and I would comment on how cool it would be to visit sometime.

We finally put our money where our mouths were after we were invited to John and Barb’s daughter’s wedding on August 5.

Because we are usually on a shoestring budget, Brenda and I decided to fly Spirit Airlines – and opted to ship our clothes, saving us a few bucks. We also booked a hotel not far from where the wedding party was to be staying in the Pittsburgh suburb of Harmarville [Harmar Township]. It was only after we arrived that we realized that we could practically throw a rock to the TownePlace Suites by Marriott from our decidedly more economical Days Inn.

When we pulled into the parking lot of TownePlace in our rental car – the rehearsal dinner festivities were well underway on a patio out front – and we were all reunited.

The next day, it was wedding time. Although everyone was busy, Steve surprised me with a loaf of Italian bread from Sanchioli Bros. Bakery – and some home-made Sopressata. I knew brother Steve was looking out for me when he handed me a serrated knife so we wouldn’t be left in the lurch. I will always remember that moment.

After a beautiful wedding downtown – or dahntahn – Steve, Kathy and their daughter Kristin took us through their neighborhood in Bloomfield – home of Little Italy Days (Steve had to retrieve some Limoncello at his house), it was on to Veltre’s Wedding & Event Centre – a sumptuous venue at the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the Plum and New Kensington areas through floor-to-ceiling windows on the overlook.

The bride and groom, Jessica and Jon, are amazing young people, and it was an honor to be there as friends of the bride’s parents. Italian food like you wouldn’t believe – and a breathtaking cookie table with something like 900 dozen of them. Excellent DJ, an open bar with top-shelf libations that almost made me wish I wasn’t an alcoholic – but not quite – and awesome people.

Excellent job indeed, John and Barb.  What a day!

The next day – Brenda and I decided to get lost. Hell – we had a rental car, a full tank of gas and GPS.

First on our on-the-fly itinerary was the Duquesne Incline, which came highly recommended by almost everyone we talked to. The Incline scaled the iconic Mount Washington – and once at the top, we poked around a museum containing awesome memorabilia, photos and bric-a-brac from various eras in Pittsburgh history – and took in stunning eagles-nest views of the city from the observation deck.

From there it was on to Station Square, a sprawling retail and entertainment complex on the Monongahela River – or “The Mon” – directly across from downtown Pittsburgh.

After a stroll in Station Square, we decided to leave the car and head across the Smithfield Street Bridge and wander around dahntahn.

It’s always good to freestyle, and we did just that – taking in the architecture and the lay of the land – until we arrived at Point State Park, where a massive festival was underway to commemorate the 2017 Three Rivers Regatta, which Steve, Kathy and Kristin told us about.

We stuck around for some live music, and idiotically, I didn’t take note of the band we enjoyed – but it featured a bearded guy playing an upright piano, which made me think about Coldplay. I also ate a very good gyro from one of the local vendors.

We enjoyed the experience of traipsing around – and I loved seeing a historical plaque commemorating the first commercial radio station – KDKA – which is still in operation as an AM news radio outfit. KDKA went on the air in 1920. Interesting that the call letters feature a “K” – usually the domain of stations west of the Mississippi River – but this was long before a 1923 boundary shift.

Back across the bridge, we retrieved our car and went into downtown Pittsburgh – and after a while found ourselves in the fabled Strip District. It struck me then that this city’s inhabitants arguably wear more sports-team apparel than anywhere else. The Strip District was so full of logoed merchandise featuring the Steelers, Penguins (Pens) and Pirates that it was almost overwhelming. Pittsburgh is nothing if not supportive to its sports teams.

Pittsburgh - Yinzers

I regretted eating that gyro when we came across the original Primanti Bros restaurant.

Eating a Primanti Bros. sandwich was part of the plan, but unfortunately, now wasn’t the time. I still wanted to set foot inside the location that put them on the map. You should have seen a server’s reaction when I said I was full but wanted to look around. One of my friends here in Myrtle Beach couldn’t believe I didn’t muscle through a sandwich in spite of the gyro that was still halfway through my digestive tract.

Our last bit of freestyling was to make a point of heading out the Fort Pitt Tunnel so that we could turn around, head back in and see the city open up in all its glory – just like Kathy told us.

We weren’t disappointed.

Cutting our drive short in Squirrel Hill – right before that tunnel entrance, we stopped at a Starbucks to recharge before heading back to Harmarville and the Days Inn.

Now it was time for Primanti Bros., and as luck would have it, there was a location in Harmarville. Brother Steve met up with us there.

A Primanti Bros. sandwich features “grilled meat, melted provolone cheese, sweet-and-sour coleslaw, fresh-cut fries, ripe tomatoes and our house recipe Italian bread.” Everybody had suggestions for the type of sandwich I should order. I heard “cap ‘n egg,” “Italian Sausage,” and what not, but I opted for the New Yorker – a strange name for a Pittsburgh sandwich – but it was loaded with corned beef and pastrami. I couldn’t lose.

The sandwich was massive and delicious. It’s kind of like smoking a Cuban cigar. You have to have been there and done that. I was glad to finally partake, wannabe yinzer that I am.

Roger Primanti

After heading to the local Sheetz for water and various sweets, Brenda and I called it a night.

The capping moment for our trip came the next morning before we headed off to the airport – a wonderful breakfast with Kathy and Steve at a family-owned spot in Lawrenceville called Barb’s Corner Kitchen – close to their house. It was wonderful to report our adventures from the day before with these two – and to watch Steve in action when he saw a longtime friend from the neighborhood. Everybody knows Steve DiGiacomo.

This trip cemented my fascination with Pittsburgh – and my love for these dear friends.

I officiated my niece’s wedding last month.

Cathy and Pat Altar

Cathy and her now husband Pat had met and dated in high school in the 1980s, and as life happened, the pair went on to their own lives and respective marriages.

They reconnected nearly ten years ago, rekindling the fire that never quite went out between them – and on June 24, they made it legal and tied the knot.

Aside from being flattered and honored that they would have thought of me for such a milestone, I also felt unqualified – to say nothing of the fact that I was not an ordained minister.

But I also knew that I could do this. I officiated a wedding at the last minute here in Myrtle Beach a few years ago, when a minister failed to show up to a friend’s wedding. Thankfully, there was a notary on hand to make the deal official – and I did the best I could to drum up an impromptu ceremony. Nothing like a little pressure – but we all know enough about weddings from movies and TV shows we have seen and other weddings we have attended to know the basic routine of a wedding ceremony.

Cathy and Pat Wedding Group

I said yes immediately, thinking that we could replicate the whole notary-on-hand thing. The problem was this: After a quick search on the Web, I discovered that a notarized wedding is not allowed in North Carolina.

Cathy sent me a link to an outfit that ordained folks online – and it was perfectly legit – only I wasn’t particularly down with the oath I was supposed to take before proceeding. This was something to the effect that marriage was only for a man and a woman and I would have to swear that I agreed with all that – including a decisively fundamentalist doctrine.

Check, please.

It should come as no big surprise that I am for marriage equality – and diversity. Call me what you will, but I believe that if they so desire, any two people who love each other should be entitled to marry and to enjoy all the privileges, benefits and yes – the headaches – of married life.

I also believe in God, but I can live without some of His people.

After a brief search, I was happy to find an organization called American marriage Ministries, which more accurately lined up with my beliefs – and after a simple process, I became an ordained minister.

Some states require that officiants register within the counties in which they are to perform marriage ceremonies, but North Carolina is not one of them – so I was good to go.

The cool thing about my ordination is that I am free to design and perform whatever type of ceremony the couple wants – from uber-religious to secular to quirky – and I am not hamstrung by one set of beliefs.

Cathy and Pat opted for a traditional Christian ceremony with an added feature called a sand ceremony, where the officiant and the couple pour different colors of sand into a vessel, signifying the union in a nice visual and symbolic way. The sand ceremony is an alternative to the better-known unity candle ceremony.

Roger With Cathy and Pat - Wedding

The gathering, at my sister’s home in Denver, North Carolina, was attended by friends and loved ones – all in all a beautiful setting.

Saying yes opens doors and paves the way for sometimes unexpected opportunities. I believe that.

Roger Filling Out Marriage License

I remain honored to have been asked – and happy that I punched another hole in my comfort zone.

ICI Exterior

International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach

Over the years, I have frequently read about the value of saying yes to opportunities that expand our horizons and take us out of our comfort zones.

Even though I have been performing music professionally for years, work in a public-facing job at a high-end cigar shop and have interviewed hundreds of people for my newspaper features, I still consider myself a bit shy.

Many of my friends might scoff at this because I enjoy friendship and camaraderie, but at the same time I still experience a bit of social awkwardness in new settings.

Which is exactly why I said yes last month to take on two wildly different roles – as a judge in a culinary competition and as a wedding officiant.

The following is part one of my week of saying yes.

My friend, Joe Bonaparte, is executive chef at the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach. I have profiled him a couple of times – once for The Sun News and once for the now-defunct Weekly Surge, an alt weekly that was under the umbrella of The Sun News and its parent company, McClatchy Newspapers.

When Joe asked me to participate as a judge, this was on the heels of a story I had just finished about a pitmaster named Phil Wingo of an outfit called #porkmafia, who visited the Institute for a barbecue intensive.

Naturally, I thought I was judging a barbecue competition.

Nope.

I was nervous enough about saying yes to this because I felt like I didn’t know enough about barbecue to be of any real value – but Joe assured me I would be fine.

But what I didn’t know was that this competition was a bit more, shall we say, complicated – than barbecue.

Judges' Table

The event for which I was to participate as one of three judges was the National Pork Board’s “Be Inspired” cooking competition for foodservice educators, part of the 13th annual leadership conference for CAFÉ – The Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education – a 3-day program chock-full of culinary events, breakout classes and presentations.

CAFÉ is headed up by executive director Mary Petersen, who founded the organization in 2002, but brings more than 20 years of experience to the table, promoting the professional development of foodservice educators.

Marilou Tate

Chef Marylou Tate

The International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach, with Bonaparte at the helm, played host to this ambitious conference.

The cooking competition was put together by Chef Paul Sorgule of Harvest America Ventures, LLC, which according to its website is “a network of seasoned food service professionals who collectively have the ability to provide any service that an up and coming restaurateur may need.  This network covers all typical issues faced by a chef/owner as they set the stage for a successful restaurant venture.”

I was overtaken by the sheer awesomeness of the institute’s brand-spanking new, $15 million facility – gleaming in all of its glory. And folks – foodies, teachers, visiting chefs, culinary students – were swarming the place.

I felt outclassed and definitely out of my element.

But after I met a few people and said hello to Joe – I and relaxed a bit, realizing that the event, while earning the chef-contestants continuing education points, was meant to be fun.

Thankfully, I was able to get a few pointers from a fellow judge, Chef David Bottagaro of the National Pork Board as well as from Sorgule – the upshot being to enjoy the process while tasting some wonderful food from three outstanding chef-instructors – judging on categories like effective use of protein, taste and flavor, plate composition, plate presentation, and texture and temperature.

Sorgule, Bottagaro

Chef Paul Sorgule, Chef David Bottagaro

The other judge was Don Odiorne of the Idaho Potato Commission.

My only regret is that I didn’t have anything meaningful to say afterward when the chefs were called in for individual critiques.

Sorgule was gracious when he told me that all I really had to do was think about whether or not I enjoyed the individual dishes and whether or not I would have ordered these in a restaurant. Thanks, Chef Sorgule.

Stay tuned – I will have more about Chef Bonaparte and the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach in future blog posts.

Culinary Contestants

Chef-Contestants

 

 

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Never got to see Sublime? Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime has been channeling Sublime since 2001 – and they are at The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach this Sunday! Check out my Q&A with drummer and co-founder Scott Begin, which just posted on The Sun News companion site, Myrtle Beach Life.

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Sunday, The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill hosts Badfish: A tribute to Sublime as part of its 2017 Summer Concert Series.

Badfish_PressPhoto_2016_boat

Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime has been active since 2001, dedicated to playing the music of Sublime and building an impressive fan base along the way – some of which never got the chance to see Sublime.

Just two months after Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell’s untimely death from a heroin overdose in 1996, the band experienced considerable success with its third album, Sublime. That album hit number 13 on the Billboard 200, and the song, “What I Got,” became a number one hit single – and other well-known songs like “Santeria” and “Wrong Way” came from that album as well.

But without the presence of its lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, the writing was on the wall. Sublime was to be Sublime’s final album.

Badfish, not to be confused with the Southern California-based band of the same name, has been channeling the spirit of Sublime since its inception in Rhode Island 16 years ago, with no sign of letting up.

Badfish drummer and co-founder Scott Begin spoke with The Sun News by telephone last week.

Q: Do you guys still live in Rhode Island?

A: The bass player [Joel Hanks] and I live in Rhode Island. The singer [Pat Downes] lives in Hawaii. Dorian [Duffy – keys, guitars, samples] lives in Chicago. We’re kind of all over the place, but as much as we have a home base, Rhode Island is it.

Q: I read that you were computer science majors at the University of Rhode Island. Can you give us a rundown on this? How did Badfish come together?

A: Just [Joel Hanks] and myself were the computer nerds. He and I met in classes right here at the University of Rhode Island. It was the type of thing where – not to generalize, but I think a lot of the people in those majors or fields of study tend to be less inclined to do something like play music. They’re pretty much in front of a computer screen.

Joel and I were more like, “yeah, this is cool and we like the computer stuff,” but we also were musicians too and this was a passion of ours – so we realized that we had that in common. We just started to develop the idea of trying to put together a Sublime tribute show – which is really all it was at the inception of this whole thing – and see how it goes.

We loved Sublime. All of our friends loved Sublime, and there were no bands doing that then. We put on a show at our local beach bar here, and it went really well – and then we said why don’t we keep doing this once a month or here or there – and try to branch out.

Between 2001 and 2003, things started to snowball, and the next thing you know, we’re graduating. I worked for maybe a year in the programming field until Joel and I said we can keep ourselves busy enough to continue to keep this ball rolling – and maybe I am playing drums now for a living instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.

And that’s how it all went down.

Q: How do you capture the essence of Sublime?

A: We never got a chance to see Sublime – but just being so in touch with them by playing their music over the years, we always try to bring a show that we feel has the energy and the vibe of that a Sublime show would have been.

There are cover bands all around the country that play other people’s music. To any music fan, it’s clear when a band is sort of phoning it in. You can tell. But the songs themselves are not difficult. It’s not like we are playing progressive rock – so what you have to do then is not to just play the chords and sing the lyrics, but you need to project a vibe that feels authentic. By way of enjoying Sublime’s music so much – and having the crowd sing all of the words back to you – it’s a really cool synergy in a show. We feel like it’s a really cool, authentic experience.

And it’s honest, what we play. It has enabled us to keep going. We really have a passion for it.

Q: You guys are playing up and Eastern Seaboard until September, with some interesting stops, including The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., and something called the Garden Grove Festival in Southwick, Mass. The festival seems like an anchor for Badfish. What is that all about?

A: A few years back, we had done a few of those Garden Grove Festivals. We’re trying to kind of build the festival. It’s sort of Sublime-themed, with bands that we are friends with and kind of have a Sublime vibe to them.

The idea sort of got shelved for a little bit, but we’re trying to resurrect it right now. There have been some new bands that we played with since then that just really incredible bands – part of a really great scene, and we really want to get this idea kicking again.

Q: Is this your first Boathouse show?

A: We have done at least twice already at The Boathouse. Maybe we have even done three. We will do House of Blues at different times of the year. The Boathouse is always a free show, it’s always on a Sunday, and it’s a really cool hang right there. It’s always a really, really fun gig.

Q: Are you actively involved in the bookings anymore?

A: We work in conjunction with a booking agency out of L.A., but we are pretty hands-on when it comes to the booking stuff. It’s not so much that we just say go ahead and book us a tour. We’re actively involved in making decisions about how often we play, where we play – and how long we are away from home.

Q: Since you have been at House of Blues Myrtle Beach and The Boathouse, you are no strangers to the Grand Strand. Do you guys have a rabid fan base here?

A: I think that we do.

Q: So you are well-received down here?

A: Yeah. I think we started playing at House of Blues 10 years ago at least. Maybe even 12 years ago. We played a couple of smaller spots around town, but it’s been pretty consistent with people coming out to check us out. We see a lot of familiar faces when we are out there – people that have been coming for years and years, so there has definitely been that good core of rabid fans, I guess. And you always meet some people who say, “this is the first time we saw you, and we really enjoyed it” – so that’s encouraging as well.

Q I am sure you have the superfans too – the ones who know more about Badfish than you do.

A: Oh yeah – we do. Sometimes it’s pretty surprising.  People tell me where we are going to be playing in four months – and I’m like, “I’m glad you know because I don’t.” It’s wonderful to have fans like that.

Q: Did you get a chance to poke around here and experience the fabled Southern Hospitality? Or do you just stick and move?

A lot of times, it’s, in town – do the show – and get out of town. I’d say more than Myrtle Beach, we probably spent a little more time in Charleston. I feel like we’ve had a few days off there where we’ve been able to kind of get out – walk around – get some good food. That’s one of our favorite spots too, and it’s got that kind of vibe – that southern hospitality kind of vibe.

[Badfish is scheduled to play The Windjammer in Isle of Palms with Sun Dried Vibes on June 26.]

Q: What about the younger fans –the people that didn’t get a chance to see Sublime? Does it surprise you to see young faces at the show?

A: It doesn’t surprise me in the sense that we do. I feel like it’s more spread out now than it was when the band started. When it started, it was just college-aged kids – like people that were fans of Sublime. But now those people – myself included – have gotten older, and what’s happening with Sublime is that it has sort of gotten passed down through the generations – or through the generation, I guess.

We see a larger spread of ages now, and it’s really cool to see how the legacy of Sublime has sort of meandered through the fandom to really illustrate what kind of a band Sublime was. They had this unique thing going on. I can liken it to kind of a Grateful Dead thing where they have a cult following. They might have had a couple of radio hits, but they still have a following that gets passed down as younger people get turned on to it. It keeps us busy.

Q: The mantle has kind of fallen on you guys now, 16 years in.

A: We have been lucky enough to get sort of the unofficial blessing from people that were involved with Sublime. Bradley’s wife was at a show in Anaheim – and she was onstage, rocking out with us. A couple of the horn players that have played with Sublime have sat in with us and have even done little tours with us.

I feel that we have always tried to be respectful to Sublime’s legacy. We try to bring the best show we can bring. If people consider that we are kind of carrying the torch, we don’t want to let them down.

Q: What are future plans for the band?

A: The plan is just kind of just keep it trucking. We’re working on a few different things with these outdoor festivals that we are going to try to build. A few of those that we have done for many years have done well, but we’d like to try to make a couple more big events happen. Otherwise, we have our spots that we love to go to and that love having us back – like Myrtle Beach and so many other places between here and there and around the country. We’re just going to stay the course and keep going for it.

I look forward to being at the Boathouse and doing some day drinking.

Yale Brothers by Buzz Berry

[Above photo: Buzz Berry]

Thursday marked the final performance of The Yale Brothers‘ winter engagement at House of Blues Myrtle Beach – in all, 22 shows from 5:30-8 p.m in an intimate setting on the stage inside the restaurant.

After committing to the gig as a solo act, my brother Chris agreed to join me on these. I couldn’t have been happier, figuring this as a good way to hone our craft weekly in the same room, and cultivating our audience as we went along.

[Above performance photos: Rob Grindstaff]

Chris still gives me a hard time about the fact that the marketing promos and menus were printed with my name only – but deadlines are deadlines – and hopefully all was forgiven when he saw that The Yale Brothers appeared on the electronic marquee out on U.S. 17.

Yale Brothers HOB Sign

The cool thing about this gig was that we were able to deliver a combination of thoughtful covers as well as originals. This is always ideal, so in addition to great stuff by Faces, Elton John, Tom Petty, Radiohead and Johnny Cash, for instance, we enjoyed introducing our material – songs like Chris’ “Famous Last Words,” “Roll Away the Stone” and “Castaway” to my twisted ballad, “It’s Not Love” and Stax/Volt soul-inspired “Is That What It Is.”


Here’s our cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” [Video: Brendan Wright Images]

Many of our friends came out to see us – some more than once, and for that we are grateful. That was above and beyond. We also made the rounds of the tables and introduced ourselves to people who just happened to be in there for a meal or a drink – and made new friends.

The vibe at House of Blues is unmatched, and the kindness and camaraderie we enjoyed with staffers was astonishing. Thank you all for making us a part of the family.

[Above: Chris with Show Marketing Manager Megan Ramhoff / Brand Marketing Manager Dawn Temples Knopf kicking off a Hopped Up Tap Takeover]

Moving forward, The Yale Brothers plan on writing and recording, playing select shows – and finally getting our podcast up and running.

Stay tuned for details about next winter.

Yale Brothers HOB Water Tower