NEW COLUMN: “AROUND THE PENINSULA”
Welcome to our first “Around the Peninsula” column, a monthly grab bag of short news items of interest happening in South Baltimore. The surprising, the fun, and the random all have a home here.
This month’s column utterly failed the “random” requirement. This was not our fault. No theme was sought, but May had her own plans. The month struck a clear musical note that you just couldn’t miss. This is what we heard:
New Album from Local JazzGrrl
It has been quite a few years since singer/songwriter Sandy Asirvatham played her jazz-pop tunes at the Riverside Park gazebo or a Federal Hill street festival. The long-time SoBo resident was also co-lead of the creative team behind 2013’s “Mobtown Moon” album, a tribute to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” featuring dozens of area musicians.
So it was great to hear that Sandy – now going by her full first name Sandhya – used her pandemic time to finish a new album of her own compositions, recording her vocals last summer at home on the peninsula. That album is titled “Innocent Monster” (JazzGrrl Music), and it’s out today, Friday, May 14. You can order a CD, download, or stream from her Bandcamp page.
Sandhya describes “Innocent Monster” as “an art rock album with flavors of jazz, funk, and classic rock. These are the best 10 songs of over a decade of songwriting here and there while I was also busy as a mother. Every single one is a vivid individual story.”
Plans for live performances of the album are on hold due to the pandemic, Sandhya says, but she hopes there will be some with the full band before the end of the year. Keep an eye on her website for updates and more.
‘Beatsville’ Lands in Locust Point
Mad Daddy and Diabla have arrived on our shores and they got the beat – obscure funk and soul, horror-tinged surf rock, occult psychedelia, dirty blues. You name it. If it’s more-than-a-little off-kilter, Dom and Charlene Salemi know it, love it, and stream it from their rowhouse in Locust Point.
The couple produce a free weekly streaming radio show called “Beatsville” on Mixcloud, the British music streaming service. Each 2-3 hour show dives into a particular genre or theme ranging from bizarre Beatles covers to Christmas cult classics. Their on-air alter egos (the aforementioned Mad Daddy and Diabla) offer commentary on the weird and/or wonderful tunes they have unearthed.
“Beatsville” grew out of a midnight show Dom and Charlene started on a low-power FM station in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years ago. They moved to Baltimore last year mid-pandemic and plan to stay now that they have wrapped up careers in law (Dom) and telecommunications (Charlene) while living in northern Virginia. “We love Baltimore,” Dom says.
They also clearly love music of all types and have indulged that passion by organizing a music festival (Colonial Beach Blues Festival in Virginia) and publishing an off-beat pop culture zine (Brutarian). New musical discoveries are part of the kick, says Charlene, who added Nigerian music from the 1970s to the Beatsville repertoire thanks to a book she found at the American Visionary Art Museum’s Sideshow shop.
Surprise Jazz Jam at Riverside
There were no Facebook posts, no email blasts, no posters announcing this week’s surprise concert in Riverside Park on Tuesday, May 11. News spread by word of mouth around the neighborhood that someone would be playing in the park and everyone was invited.
The someone turned about to be Baltimore bassist Ed Hrybyk who has recently been organizing Tuesday jazz jams on the downlow in different area parks. The music started at 5 p.m. with a small jazz combo (bass, drums, guitar, trombone) that grew over the next two hours to a dozen or more musicians each sitting in for a song or two.
The audience also grew as the evening progressed. Over 50 people stretched out on the lawn around the gazebo on chairs and blankets with kids running here and there – just like a mini version of the typical Riverside summer concert crowd.
The free concert was sponsored by the Baltimore Jazz Alliance and the Friends of Riverside Park. To find out where you can find the next Tuesday jazz jam, Ed suggests messaging him on Instagram (@edhrybyk).
New Orleans Live on S. Charles
There’s no surprise about two other live concerts coming to the peninsula this month. Straight from New Orleans, piano powerhouse John Papa Gros and trumpeter Shamarr Allen are playing separate shows the same week at Mother’s Grille (1113 S. Charles). Gros plays a seated, ticketed solo show inside on May 28; Allen plays a free show on May 23 outside, weather permitting. (See our Events Calendar for details.)
And it’s no surprise that two of Crescent City’s finest are appearing at Mother’s. Owner Dave Rather has hosted many NOLA musicians over the years, including George Porter Jr., Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and Bonerama. “I have a deep love for New Orleans,” Dave explains. “The city’s music is feel-good, happy music. And we all can use some good times right about now.”
Waiting for The 8×10
All signs point to the eventual reopening of the 8×10 (10 E. Cross St.), the peninsula’s premier live music club. The 8×10’s prospects did not look so good this time last year after the pandemic shuttered music venues far and wide. But the club’s loyal following stepped up with a big GoFundMe response followed in January by the announcement of an even bigger economic recovery grant from the state.
No news yet on when doors will open again, but it sounds like when they do, there could be some extra fun involved. On April 5, the owners floated the idea on their Facebook page of a BBQ cook-off on the street outside the club to celebrate the reopening. The post received 102 enthusiastic responses so … fingers crossed! – Steve Cole