A few months back, a folk duo from Seattle called The Gloria Darlings stopped in York while touring on the East Coast. They're friends of my friend Ronn Benway, and he encouraged them to visit York during the tour. He booked them a few shows around town and made plans for them to stay at my house. Pandi and Milly fall into the category that all my favorite people fall into - they're the sort of people you meet, and then five minutes later you feel as though you've know them forever.
The girls got to experience what many touring musicians have discovered about York: it's welcoming, people appreciate music, the cost of living is low, and it's easily accessible to many larger markets. Within 48 hours of their arrival, they were looking around at houses and wondering whether they ought to make York their home base.
So they returned last week, this time with boyfriends in tow so they could check it out, too (the guys were visiting from New Mexico and New Orleans). Ronn helped arrange some more gigs, and also included them in a monthly open mic he hosts at an office furniture outlet (yes, really). The plan was for the Gloria Darlings to be the featured act at the Thursday open mic at The Depot, hosted by local musical genius and all-around good guy Andrew Naylor, then play at Bistro19 (a restaurant/bar) Friday night, the furniture store gig on Saturday, and then be on their way on Sunday.
They arrived at my house very late on Thursday night after playing the Depot and immediately fell into bed. I worked on Friday, so I didn't get to catch up with them properly until Friday evening during a set break at Bistro. Pandi's boyfriend Joby played a set at Bistro, too. He plays banjo while sitting on a vintage suitcase outfitted with a kickdrum pedal, and has a kazoo in a harmonica holder around his neck. It is impossible to be in a bad mood when there's music like that swirling in the air around your head. Joby got up early the next morning to stake out a busking spot outside Central Market. The GDs joined him a little later in the morning.
Saturday was my first visit to the furniture store open mic. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were there, and especially by the variety of people - from many different circles within the community. By the time I arrived, the sign-up board was completely full and the performances were in full-swing. At some point, two guys I'd heard about but had never met showed up: Shine Delphi and Nathan Rivera. There was a small commotion when they arrived; apparently they knew Joby from New Orleans, and there was a happy reunion. Since they were scheduled to play Bistro19 a short while later, they were bumped up in the order and I got to hear them before I left. Within the first 30 seconds of their first song, I was completely enamored.
The furniture store has a stage, and a baby grand piano on the floor in front of it. Joby joined Shine and Nathan on washboard and in the middle of a song, Nathan took off his accordion, hopped off the stage, played the piano, then hopped back up and strapped his accordion back on in time to sing the next verse. By the time they finished, I'd already decided to cancel my other plans for that evening and go hear them play a full set at Bistro.
The long weekend was full of good music, my house full of good people and good cheer. My guests decided to extend their visit by another day, so we invited a few more friends over and had a big family dinner on Sunday. If they decide to relocate to York, I hope we'll have many more family dinners with them in our future. Earlier in the afternoon, while most of the gang was out running errands, Milly and her boyfriend Jacob sat on my front porch playing the violin and mandolin, respectively, as I happily bustled around the house tidying up and wishing I could run a musicians' hostel full-time.
There have only been three CDs in rotation in my car over the last week: The Gloria Darlings (their new album, "Come Home to Me," is wonderful, and I'm so proud to say I helped them release it with a modest contribution to their Kickstarter campaign), the Gin Jars (Joby's self-produced album), and The Black Resonators (Shine and Nathan). Combine any - or better yet, all - of these CDs with a little sunshine, and you've got an instant mood enhancer. Just try not to smile.