Dirty Dancing— commentary

Dirty DancingSome of y’all are going to laugh, but I watched this 80s heartthrob flick for the first time this week. A local theatre is featuring the touring version of Dirty Dancing next month, so I did a bit of research on the story and was intrigued enough to look for the original film (free with my Amazon Prime account, and if your friends and family don’t have an account, now is good time to Give the Gift of Amazon Prime.)

As for Dirty Dancing, the movie, it is a period piece anyway, as it is set in the early 60s, but the cast (and Jennifer Grey’s hair) made me think 80s, regardless. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack works great, regardless of the era, especially the Oscar winning finale, [This is the] Time of Your Life. Although the story is supposed to take place in the Catskills, the movie was actually filmed near Lake Lure, North Carolina and in Mountain Lake, Virginia. Having vacationed in North Carolina and Virginia, I enjoyed the visual feast, too, but the lack of high def photography reinforced the retro feel of the film. Another facet is the “please the crowd” ending, which is entirely unrealistic, but oh, so Hollywood, at least, as it was when their business was entertainment.

Patrick Swayze is very convincing as the working class dance instructor, and Jennifer Grey gives an amazing performance as “Baby,” alternating between the shy upper class school girl and a young woman with grit and enough determination to learn the complex dance routine. The dancing is, of course, quite good, as are some of the performances by the supporting cast. While I won’t be joining those who view this as a see it over and over again cult classic, I really did enjoy it.

I haven’t decided to buy tickets to the live action version (not yet, anyway) but I am glad I spent an evening seeing this now iconic film. And, gosh I love the music.

Bluegrass, Gospel, Pinto Beans and Cornbread

 

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Moore Brothers band at Merlefest

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My sister invited me to go with her to an event known as “Merlefest” in North Carolina last weekend. We went, along with about 75K other folks, and it was a really amazing festival. She had told me quite a bit about it, and her pitch to get me to go (apart from a four day visit with her) was that I would learn a lot to help my son, the luthier. I did learn, although not so much about luthiery.

First, I learned that God is not out of fashion in the hills of North Carolina. One forgets how “politically correct” our world has become. At Merlefest, I heard all about God, via old-time gospel music (which I love) and many casual references. Here’s an example: In introducing a love song to “Mary” country super-star Alan Jackson said that his wife’s name is Denise, but that didn’t work in the song, so he figured that maybe she wouldn’t be mad if he used the name of Jesus’ mother. It was off-hand and natural. I liked his explanation as well as the song.

Second, I learned that it is possible to feed thousands efficiently with food that was both economical and reasonably healthy. There are several places for food at the festival, but the main one is the “food tent” across from the main stage. There was a booth that sold pinto beans and cornbread for $4. This meal was delicious and filling, and far better than the funnel cakes that I expected. Later, I ate a plate of grilled veggies and rice from another vendor, which was $5. And, my sister’s favorite was the booth run by the Boy Scouts, where they sold a “wing tray” of BBQ chicken for $4. All of these booths were run by local non-profits, so the food had “home made” flavor, too. Sister got a $5 ice cream at one of the commercial spots, but I preferred the more basic fare.

Third, I learned that some acts I would never have chosen to see were among the best. On the first night, I was looking forward to seeing Alan Jackson, but one of the lead in main stage acts was the Carolina Chocolate Drops. This string band was lead by one of the most gifted vocalists I have heard in years, and their performance was filled with energy and precision. Who would have thought that a trained opera singer would be fronting a bluegrass band? Other stand outs included a band (the Moore Brothers) who were 20, 16, and 11. And, my sister and I both loved the old-time sound of The South Carolina Broadcasters.

Lastly, I learned that the many of the festival folks were more tolerant of discomfort than I am. There was rain on day two, so we scuttled into an auditorium and stayed until the showers passed by, but others just found a tree or a tent for a few moments. On the third day, it was hot, and we left the “hillside” during the opening bars of the “album hour” because we didn’t like being fried. Apparently most of those perched on that steep hill stayed. Perhaps the oddest discomfort came from having the more expensive “reserved” seats. As the evening shows progressed, each group was louder than the one before. On the second night, our ear plugs weren’t enough, so we left early, and on the third night we ended up in folding chairs at the back, leaving our reserved seats empty. Some of the performers were asking people to move up to the reserved seats, so I gathered there was a sea of empty seats, which must have been disconcerting (pun intended) for the performers on stage.

The instrument sales tent was filled, with everything from high-end custom guitars to “vintage” instruments, such as a Silvertone guitar in need of a neck reset. I even met the owner of Deering Banjos, a company about to celebrate 40 years as the premier maker of banjos in this country. As for luthiery, two Virginia guitar makers, Wayne Henderson and his daughter Jane, did a presentation that was pretty darned interesting, especially  when he played his first guitar which sounds pretty good, despite the bullet hole in the back.