Builders, butchers and bastards

The crowd was sundry–a mulleted guido in man-capris perched next to an over-the-hill beefcake in a leather-studded kilt. Did I miss the punk-white supremacist/Euro-trash memo?

Fortunately, my summertime cutoffs go with any crowd. And after a Two Hearted, any concern was blissfully left by the wayside.

Cosmic Charlie’s was teeming with tension and anticipation last night as Lexingtonians from near and far gathered in spirited affection for Erika Wennerstrom and her Heartless Bastards.  Hammering hearts in a Heartless bar.  And lead singer Wennerstrom brought it– a gritty, rough and rockin’ queen bee in a sea of honeycombed flannel.

AjZig and I missed opening songster Peter Wolf Crier, which we ended up regretting during The Bastards’ harmony-driven encore.  But after some delicious grilled plantains and attiéké salad steeped in Sav’s West African goodness, we managed to arrive in time for The Builders and the Butchers.

Aah! Ryan Sollee cranks it up -The Builders and the Butchers.

The Builders were hungry, bringing the groans of the Dead Weather and a spider-webby Decemberist-ed  haunt all held tightly in the raw storytelling of Blitzen Trapper…with definitive Black Crowes and Neil Young influences. Builders lead singer and guitarist Ryan Sollee’s facial expressions would make fellow ginger Conan O’Brien green.

Cosmic’s was up and jumping and clapping and loving every minute of The Builders’ performance. This was indie rock minus the pop — a dearth easily observed in AjZig‘s visage. While he was wholeheartedly enjoying The Builders, let’s just say that their indie raucousness lent itself more to warped wood blocks, than hand-claps or high-hats.

Great harmony, windingly narrative lyrics, a strident sound and sweet deconstructed drums from Paul Seely and Ray Rude, which really kicked things up a notch. The Builders will definitely continue on this revelatory musical path. Anything’s better than the unending dark of Alaskan winters, the land from where these boys hail. Salvation and sunshine.! Rock on, brothers.

My attempt at capturing the deconstructed drums; Ray and Paul looked much clearer on my beer-addled-phone.

And then there was Wennerstrom. A garage rockabilly diva, as far as I’m concerned. And she had great arms. That passionate playing coincides with some nice muscle tone, chica.  #Just sayin’.

The Bastards led the dance and the day, as was to be expected. At the set’s start, guitarist Mark Nathan and bassist Jesse Ebaugh were so confident in what was to come, they seemed plain lethargic —  at ease in both set-list and status.

That was fine with Cosmic’s and fine with me. AjZig and I shook our tails and boogied down, every once in awhile staring at each other in amazement at that voice. Wennerstrom didn’t have a bad line, which is especially noteworthy in keeping up with The Bastard’s customary roughness. Bar blasts of Janis Joplin. Simplicity with swagger and no regret.

Tear - we missed Peter Wolf Crier's initial performance, but got a taste during a sweet, harmony-infused encore.

Erika Wennerstrom, Queen o' the Bastards...can I just be you?

For those of you who followed Charleston’s Cary Ann Hearst:  if only you hadn’t of let that bassist move to Utah, Cary Ann.!!!

Now, the kilted stud is smoking his last cigarette, and AjZig and I are swilling the last of our brews. The performance proximity of The Builders and The Bastards provided an interesting comparison. Yes, I must.

The Builders are ravenous, young and obscured. Talented and raw — ceaselessly searching. The Bastards: whole, mature and well-known. Talented as well, but  losing the new, the untried — lost but now found.

As an artist and as a human being, how comfortable is comfort?  Should longstanding building walls be butchered when appropriate? Is it ever appropriate? I feel that there’s a time, place and season for both security and starvation — tradition and innovation. And I’m looking forward to the cabaret.

Near-sighted nerd alert.


Summering with Fannie and Sofie

A couple of weeks ago, AjZig and I decided to reward our recent  bout of hard work and cure our hot weather woes with a growler of deliciousness from the Beer Trappe.

Purchasing a growler is a bit of a game-changer, too.

Having a full growler in your refrigerator does not mandate you to finish the beer that night, by any means. But you could. Or you could have two or three good friends over to help out. There are so many possibilities with a growler that a six-pack just doesn’t give you. And –it’s called a growler–the utmost in toughness.

We headed on down to the Trappe and were pleasantly surprised at a few options on draft. While there’s the ever-present temptation to go hoppy or go home for AjZig and I, we decided on something fun, light and cheery – a farmhouse ale from Chicago’s Goose Island Brewing named Sofie. And she was pretty.

Sofie came in a bit over-budget… so much so that I wanted to get our old friends at CBX on the phone with Trappe — to give some friendly pricing advice. Fortunately for the bar clientele, AjZig calmed me down and got me home, where we started on our next adventure: dinner.

Some of you know that we’re involved in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) here in Lexington. After two months, I am converted.

Hook, line and sinker– I’m in bed with organic, local produce like Lebron and Miami. We’re eating Patty Pan Squash like Potato Chips, and Blackberries like Klondike Bars. Maybe I’m exaggerating…but our CSA(s) truly have been a challenging sort of fun.

I mean, what’s more of a riot than two heads of cabbage and a bagful of beets me?

That night, we were staring at a couple of lively green tomatoes…upon first glance, their role was simply to tantalize us until next week’s first crop of juicy reds.

But, come on…we lived in Charleston for seven years.! And my family migrated to Mobile for five. My mother, a native of Vermont, cooks the best crawfish etouffee this side of the Mississippi.!!

That’s when it came to me. Green tomatoes. Whistle Stop, Alabama. Mrs. Threadgoode. Barbecued Frank Bennett. Mary Kay Cosmetics. Idgie. Smokey.  May I say that Fannie Flagg was my idol throughout middle school.?

Fried Green Tomatoes. Yep. We were going to conquer this southern delicacy, an appetizer standard of of lazy porches and sweet tea.  And recipes are for amateurs.

I thought that they turned out quite good… crunchy, salty, sweet and tangy. Magnolia’s ain’t got nothin’ on us.

This photo might not do it justice, but homemade fried green tomatoes and Sofie Saison made a pretty picture to me.!

The Sofie was supreme, even if it was priced a bit proud. This Saison poured out typically hazy, but was quite light in color.

Cool but tangy, with plenty of character, the Sofie changed flavor profiles as it warmed, with the yeast increasingly taking on a leading role. I felt like this beer was a bit luxurious to be labeled a farmhouse ale, but I guess they don’t all have to smell like a barnyard to be legitimate.

The fried green tomatoes made a nice pair with our Sofie — frivolous and light, but rooted in tradition. We cleaned our plates.

Yes, we should have probably used a tulip glass for the Sofie, and I probably should have whipped up an aioli to go with our FGTs, but, as in life, sometimes you just have to buck the rules; the world of gastronomy is up against the same demons as a young married couple desperately fighting tradition.

Here’s to combination, carbonation and motivation, folks.!


I think this Ghost is a go.

Toby Singer:  a man of wide musical and lyrical talent, interests and projects…so many that he often forgets to finish meals…but in true rock star fashion, rarely turns down a drink.

This Ghost of a man recently visited Cosmic Charlie’s here in Lexington for a night of drinking, dancing and debauchery.

Singer’s newest indie project, Go, Go, Ghost, recently toured a slice of the Southeast, a teensy bit of the Midwest and then headed back to Brooklyn in a whirlwind, month-long tour.

AjZig and  I were fortunate enough to check the trio out while they were in town.

Go, Go, Ghost combines catchy, keyboard melodies with Singer’s winning lyricism. Pop at its finest, and I’ll bite.

Summer Stunner, Singer’s third full-length album, takes a sharp turn from the Ben Folds-esque piano rock of his former band, The Guilt Trips.

From an artist who’s circled the color wheel of musical genres at least twice, the mutability didn’t seem to be much of a struggle.

GGG provides listeners with simple but tight instrumental, as well as the distinguishing feature in all of Singer’s efforts: memorable lyrics that affix to the brain like glue.

Or gum in your hair. But the kind you want there…if that’s possible.?

Give me Amos Lee with a side of Broadway ballad and perhaps a generous douse of John Legend…

Yes. This time around, Singer does possess a soulfulness that I haven’t heard before. Love lost? Heartbreak? Werewolves? A Renaissance of resonance…a maturing musician.

As for the live show: Bruce Kung’s key slapping is uncomplicated but accurate, providing rhythmic support at times.

Jacob Stein, usually a front-runner (check out the Pop Ups), takes more of a backseat on this run. Stein went with the Cajón, or Cuban box drum, for the majority of the show. Like Kung, Stein kept it easy, or looking easy, at least.

Each man did his job, and Singer hit the high notes.

Summer Stunner is a well-mixed album, featuring Singer and varied instrumentalists. Ironically, no one in attendance on the month-long road trip is actually on the album.

As for future plans, you’ll have to ask the idea king personally, but I can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next. I can assure you it will be first-rate.

In the meantime, if you happen to catch this posse o’ hipsters around town, I wouldn’t miss it. Listen to the album gratis at


Chillin’ at Churchill

I probably shouldn’t include “chill” in the title of this post, because Saturday, June 12 was anything but.

And if I was chillin’ in the sense of relaxation, it might have been due to a heat coma from the 90-degree mugginess that graced us with her presence that day.

I’m not going to lie. I haven’t formed a formal opinion about the hallowed Home of the Kentucky Derby. And I don’t think that mid-June is the best time of year to shape one.

But enough bitching about the heat. AjZig‘s excitement at seeing Rachel Alexandra and watching his bosses at Winstar Farm O-fficially be awarded the Derby trophy was enough to make Kim Jong-il smile.

The two of us rose early and arrived at Louisville’s Churchill Downs a bit before lunch. The kind folks at Winstar, where AjZig is helping out, giving farm tours by day and dreaming about his debut as a thoroughbred horse owner by night, had offered us their grandstand seats.

A view from the grandstands at Churchill... feel the heat.!

Yes. This was a big day for Winstar, Todd Pletcher, Calvin Borel, and by association, AjZig. The Kentucky Derby winners would be receiving their engraved trophies down at the track.

What can I say? Churchill Downs reminded me of our 2008 trip to NYC’s Belmont Park in many ways. I could imagine the heyday of racing in the regal towers and arched entryways surrounding the well-manicured track. But I also saw its decline in the line of toothless and bedraggled bettors already smacking their lips on a fifth morning Budweiser.

Maybe it was the heat and the stench of school cafeteria/bar close that got to me. But I wasn’t having it. And unfortunately for AjZig, he had to deal with me. For better or worse, baby.!

The highlights of the day included an appearance by the infamous Rachel Alexandra, and she is as beautiful in person as she is on TV; surprisingly delicious chicken fingers; Borel’s eternal grin (he managed to win on about every horse he rode that day); and a trip to Winstar’s Jockey Club Suite.

Seven races into the day… with an eternity to go…

After seeing our imminent dehydration and my combustible emotions, what only can be described as a guardian angel appeared from Churchill’s concession stand, leading us to air conditioning and horse racing royalty. Sacred ground. We rode the elevator for miles to a deserted island of classiness, complete with a a private betting and bar area…no need to interact with the sweaty masses below.

The Winstar box was really nice; they had food and a bar set up to themselves. Good people. Down-to-earth and friendly Midwesterners/Southerners/Texans.

AjZig made good on this one.  I wholly appreciated the angel’s saving grace and was much improved…even pleasant and slightly talkative after a fancy champagne with a strawberry on top.

Fancy champagne with a strawberry on top.

The history and tradition of Churchill Downs is something to be appreciated, and I truly can’t wait to return and learn more. Seriously. No sarcasm here.

Some things take time and energy to appreciate; and I’m getting there. Not everyone likes cabbage, hoppy India Pale Ale or weirdo-Indie-electronica-trippy music…upon first taste.

Give me some time, some air conditioning and maybe a few more of those fancy-schmancy drinks.

The Daily Racing Form: a sacred text to horse bettors.

Moral of the story.

AjZig and I learned a few things from this trip.

1)  You don’t have to be as passionate about every hobby or interest your significant other possesses.  Support, empathy and kindness is more than enough.

2)  Don’t take an easily-overheated, Scotch-Irish woman to the racetrack in the middle of June. Even ice-cold, aluminum- sheathed brewskies with fried chicken fingers will not assuage her irritation. Telling her she looks pretty will not work either.

3)  Dairy Queen milkshakes, however, can fix about anything.

A Drosselmeyer, Buzz Bomb surprise

Amidst the continuing organizing, reorganizing, decorating, frustrating chaos that lends itself to two lives uniting into one, AjZig and I took a break Saturday to take in some of the Belmont Stakes.

Correction-I took a break Saturday to take in some of the Belmont. AjZig might have taken the whole day in devotion to the storied Triple Crown race and all of its online gambling glory. I prefer to be ignorant on that point.

We don’t have cable, so I suggested trying to get ABC with rabbit ears on the ancient 36″ POS pawned off on us by my clutter-maligning dad. But I hear those ears are a thing of the past. Yes. I do have a blog.

We solved the problem by heading down to the Beer Trappe for a drink.

I went with a classic-tasting Foret Saison. I’d never had it on tap, and I was quite impressed at the crispness of the citrus, along with the typical yeasty character, compared to my bottle experience a year or so ago. I could probably have had another one of these. But at 7.5% abv, I probably didn’t need to.

AjZig went for the Dogfish Head Black & Blue, which didn’t taste at all like its 10.0% abv. The Belgian was quite sweet, too sweet for some of the Trappe clientele, as I noticed from the running commentary present at this increasingly busy bar. I enjoyed petite sips of the Black & Blue, but might not have enjoyed an entire glass.

A pair for the ages: Dogfish Head Black and Blue and Foret Saison.

Actually, our brews tasted pretty good together, which was a bit of an aberration for hops-lovers. Most of the time, one of our brews overpowers the other. I would even go so far to say that this time, the Saison  complemented the B&B.

Locally-owned Drosselmeyer performed in the Run for the Carnations to a surprisingly cool crowd. They seemed ambivalent compared to AjZig‘s enthusiastic whoops and hollars. The boy won his bet.!

We had to celebrate, so we chose the bright and summery golden Buzz Bomb from Brooklyn Brewery.

Our clever bartender clearly spelled out the various ways “buzz” could be employed in the brew’s name, just in case AjZig and I forgot our brains at home. (OK. That was a bit harsh. He was a nice guy.)

There was, in fact, a bit of honey in the palate, but the Saison could have altered my buds. Buzz Bomb is a bit high in cohol for a session beer, but a few of these on a grillin’ out summer night would be pretty perfect, I think.

A delicious way to end a Saturday. Sometimes putting two and two together isn’t have bad.