Arts + Entertainment

Performing in the Harrisonburg Community

Throughout the past few months, I have had a lot of opportunities to speak with local bands and performers. Most recently, I’ve chatted with guitar player and singer/song writer Andrew Rohlk and two band members from the Deems, Mitch Waranch and John Armstrong. I thought this would be a great chance to share a little insight on what it’s like to play and perform in the downtown Harrisonburg community.

Andrew, who plays and writes folk pop with some R&B and jazz influences, got his start playing downtown as a freshman at James Madison University about three years ago.  After playing at a variety of venues including Clementine and the Artful Dodger, he said he really enjoys being a part of the downtown music scene because of the overall atmosphere of the community. He said of the individuals you meet in the music community, “people are friendly and welcoming.”

Last month, I covered a show at the Blue Nile featuring the Deems. The Deems incorporate multiple genres from funk to heavier influences. As Mitch and John described, they are inspired by the “improvisation associated with jazz, but in a rock scenario.” With such a wide range of influences, you can imagine the Deems have been able to play in a variety of settings in the community.

The band started out playing downtown after connecting with Mark Finks, who does booking at the Blue Nile. Since then, they’ve seemed to find their niche. They noted the great energy, space to perform, and unparalleled sound quality as reasons they feel really comfortable performing at the Nile and other downtown venues. One theme that ran through both conversations was the friendly atmosphere unique to the area. Once they got their start playing, they said people with the same mindset and interests just seemed to “come out of the woodwork.” Mitch stressed to me that the point of it all is to have a good time and build friendships within the community.

Check out Andrew’s website  for upcoming  downtown shows and catch the Deems Thursday, March 22nd, at the Blue Nile for $5.

Katina Stevenson is the Promotions Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Communication Studies major with a concentration in Public Relations at James Madison University.


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