Benefit concert for North Carolina musician and music teacher scheduled Sunday in Cary

24 Jun

North Carolina musician Jan Johansson needs a heart transplant, and in the meantime, he’s been living with a heart pump. Jan, who has mastered the guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, is fortunate to have health coverage through is wife’s employer, but with the cost of a transplant totaling about $750,000, his family is seeking help to help defray medical expenses and lost income.

So the good folks at Pinecone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, are sponsoring a benefit concert for Jan from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Bond Park Amphitheater.

The lineup includes: Kruger Brothers; Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion; String Machine; Kickin Grass; Hank Bowman and Lin Petersonand a grand finale with Jan and Friends, including Carolina Junction; Julie Elkins; Danny Gotham; Joe Newberry; John Wade; Lindsey Tims; Jerry Stuart and John Teer.

The performers and event organizers are donating their time and talents to raise money and show support and appreciation for all that Jan and his wife have done for the music community. Jan is a music instructor, but because of his health problems, he has not been able to offer as many lessons. All donations from Sundays show will go directly to the National Foundation for Transplants to help Jan and Theresa.

You can read more about Jan and Sunday’s concert here. If you are unable to attend and feel compelled to help, there’s also info on how you can make a donation.

I’ve started a new blog — check out

24 Jun

tfmplogofbI’m on a quest to only eat food from Triangle-area Farmers’ Markets for the next 30 days, and I’m documenting it all on I’ll also be offering updates via facebook. I need all the support and encouragement I can get. I’ll still be blogging over here, but the Farmers’ Market Project will take precedence for the next 30 days.

Two Triangle concerts worth seeing in two days

16 Jun

Two incredible North Carolina bands will perform in the Triangle over the next two days, and you really should make an effort to see one or both if you’re into Bluegrass-ish music.

I say Bluegrass-ish because the first band is Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and while their banjo invokes the feel of Bluegrass occasionally, I really have no idea how to describe their music. But what I can say is that their unique sound lured me to the tent they were performing under at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival this spring. Yep, I was listening to another band and I overheard Holy Ghost’s spirited noise at another tent so I headed to their tent and was entranced by their sound. They’re playing at the Pour House at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17. Tickets are $8, which is an amazing deal b/c I’m pretty sure this is going to be an incredible, energetic show. Get a feel for them here:

The second show I highly recommend you see this week is The Kickin Grass Band, which is undeniably Bluegrass. I first heard them on WKNC, my favorite radio station since I ditched my Sirius subscription a few months ago. They perform at 6 p.m. Friday, June 8 for free at the American Tobacco free concert series: Back Porch Music on the Lawn. Here’s a sample for you:

If you go to the Friday show at American Tobacco, you can turn your Friday evening into a night on the town in Durham. After the concert, you might consider:

* Go to the American Dance Festival. The Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollack Dance Company performs a dance at 8 p.m. Friday based on a short story by filmmaker Tim Burton. The show is across the street at Durham Performing Arts Center, so you should have plenty of time to fit in both.

*Get dinner at one of Durham’s many fantastic restaurants. Perhaps you can try Pop’s now that it’s located in its new home in West Village. Or go to The Federal and get the pork sandwich (it’s not BBQ Pork) and then send me an e-mail thanking me for introducing you to one of the best sandwiches in the Triangle. Go have a cocktail at Whiskey or throw back a beer at The Pinhook.

* Check out Retrofantasma, a double-feature of classic horror movies at Carolina Theatre. Friday’s lineup includes a 7 p.m. showing of the 1953 “It Came From Outer Space” in 3-D followed by a 9 p.m. showing of the 1986 movie Invaders from Mars.

Let me know if there’s anything else cool going on in Durham on Friday night.

No free summer concerts in Moore Square this year

25 Apr

When I was 19, I went to a Backstreet Boys concert. But before you start laughing, let me explain. I was taking two preteen girls, whose parents would rather do anything than endure a boy band show. And, I admit it, there was a time when I was known to turn up the radio in my ’86 Buick Skyhawk and blast “As Long As You Love Me.”

Ten years later, I’m happy my musical tastes have improved. So you can bet I won’t be at the new Raleigh Amphitheatre on June 6. That’s when the Backstreet Boys will roll into the capital city to christen the new amphitheater. Am, I disappointed? Yes. I didn’t even know the Backstreet Boys were still together. But apparently they are, and Live Nation is bringing them here.

I’ll spare you a rant on who I believe Live Nation should be booking. New Raleigh let its writers and readers list their picks, and if Live Nation took a cue from this post, then I’d have a little more hope for this future Raleigh venue.

Here are details from the city about the new venue:

The 5,000-seat Raleigh Amphitheatre and Festival Site is being constructed in Downtown Raleigh on land just west of the Raleigh Convention Center, bounded by McDowell, Cabarrus, Dawson and Lenoir streets. The venue is scheduled to open in early June. In addition to concerts and comedy shows, the Raleigh Amphitheatre and Festival Site will host cultural festivals and other special events. It is projected to attract up to 225,000 visitors annually. The City’s net proceeds from all events at the venue are projected to be approximately $500,000 per year for the first five years.


Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard, the free Raleigh Downtown Live concert series in Moore Square isn’t happening this year. I guess it’s probably pretty hard to get people to buy tickets to the Backstreet Boys if some other ’90s boy band is playing for free in Moore Square.

April in the Triangle: Art, Music, Beer, Barbies and More

14 Apr

It was a long winter. Seriously, I think winter 2009 has been my worst yet. I still feel like I’m thawing out and getting my Ginny groove back. It started just before Christmas, when my grandma passed away. Once that happened, I just sort of gave up on all the fun things I enjoyed and wrapped myself in a cocoon with my boyfriend and cats. I’m slowly starting to emerge, and I hope that means you’ll see more of me on my blog.

My sincere apologies to all the PR people and event organizers who have e-mailed me in recent months seeking coverage. Don’t give up on me, just be patient as I find my footing again in the social world. So let me jump back in …

Here are some not-to-be-missed Triangle events that are coming up this month:

* Durham Art Walk: More than 200 artists will have their works on display in downtown Durham on Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18. If you haven’t hung out in downtown Durham recently, this is an excellent reason to head over to the Bull City. Make a full Saturday out of it by starting at the Durham Farmer’s Market, then go across the street to the Scrap  Exchange and get lost in the randomness of recycled materials before heading downtown for art and lunch.

* Raleigh World Beer Festival: The annual event is Saturday April 24, which breaks my heart because it conflicts with my other must-attend seasonal event — Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival (see below). So for the first time in three years, I will miss the festival. My beer gut will probably thank me, but I’m still bummed about it. Tickets are sold out, but if you must attend, you can always find some on Craigslist. I would not recommend spending more than $60 on a ticket — they cost about $50 if you order them online.

* Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance: This four day festival on a farmstead in Chatham County is the only event I can think of that would justify me ditching beer fest. The music — everything from Bela Fleck and Rusted Root to Bowerbirds and Midtown Dickens — the camping, the camaraderie, the yoga, the rock gardens, the Earth Day fair, the games … it’s a blast and worth every penny. Tickets are $90 for all four days, or you can pack up the kids (children 12 and under are free) and head out to the family-friendly festival for the day. Here are details on ticket prices if you’re only going for one day.

* It’s baseball season already! The Durham Bulls have eight home games this month.

* Wicked: The hit Broadway musical flies into Durham Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, April 21 and will stick around until May 16. I’ve always wanted to see this musical. Everyone I know who has seen it says it’s remarkable. You better believe I’m going to be there on opening night. Bonus: There will be a limited number of orchestra seats available for $25 before each performance.

Random free fun:

* New Deal and Barbie: The North Carolina Museum of History has a couple of neat exhibits right now. “In Search of a New Deal: Images of North Carolina, 1935-1941″ is a powerful photo exhibit documents rural North Carolina during the Great Depression. And no matter how the recession has impacted your life, I guarantee this exhibit will make you feel better about your circumstances. After you finish up that emotional exhibit, head downstairs to see the small display of Barbies. “Barbie — Simply Fabulous at 50″ features dolls and commercial from 1959 to present day.

And on a more practical note:

* Shred-It: Saturday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Colony Tire in Cary. Shred boxes of documents for free! OK, it’s been six months since I quit NBC17 and believe me, I haven’t looked back. I didn’t enjoy volunteering for Shred-It, but employees are pretty much don’t have a choice but to sign up and work at this event. The only good thing I can say about it is that it truly is a great opportunity to shred those shoe boxes of bank statements and love letters from your ex in one single toss.

So with that, my dear readers, I shall leave you. I hope this is a true spring reemergence for me. We shall see.

Tips for How to Rawk SXSW — directly from the panelists

12 Mar

The fun, tipsy tone of the “How to Rawk SXSW” panel was set when moderator Min Jung Kim asked how many of us were “SXSW virgins” and how many people where veterans “who are here just to hear what fucked up shit we’ll say.”

Then panelist Jeremy Keith asked if anyone had a bottle opener to crack open his Shiner Bock and fellow panelist Cheezburger Network CEO grabbed his beer and did some sort of trick to open it. Meanwhile, someone shouted from the audience that the bottle was a twist off and Ben whipped a stuffed cat (of Icanhascheezburger fame) at the guy who shouted it. Welcome to SXSW — spring break for geeks.


Then the panelists passed a bottle of Bourbon (I think Denise passed her shots onto Ben though), so be prepared for the uncensored!

Here are some of the tips from panelists Min Jung Kim of , Jeremy Keith of, Cheezburger Network CEO Ben Huh and Denise Jacobs of

* Don’t just stand next to each other in the bar and RT who you’re standing next to or “you’ll just look like a fucktard.” — Kim.

*Don’t be a dick and upload your 900 pics to Flickr from the night before of people you made out with. — Kim

* If you have mobile wi-fi, don’t hot it. Share your walking hotspot “there is not enough bandwisdth in all of the universe to handle what’s going on right now.” — Huh

* Don’t be a lurker. “Everyone here is famous to exactly 15 people, so just say hi.” — Kim

* You are NOT Edmund Hillary. There’s no need to carry all of your shit everywhere. — Kim

* Don’t be cookie cutter, try to have meaningful conversations so that you can actually remember each other and what you talked about after 4 beers. — Kim (True that. I just met BJ Wishinsky from the Anita Borg Institute for Woman and Technology & learned about the Women Techies United Booth 219 at the Tradeshow).

* Sounds stupid, but wash your hands. Don’t be infectious. — Kim (Damnit, just remembered I forgot hand sanitizer in my hotel room).

* Don’t think you’ll get to see everything. Go through the schedule and note the unmissable events and make sure you get there. — Keith

* is the list of all the parties Keith suggests “hand-picked, curated by me.” — Keith

* Forget about the sponsored parties, it’s not worth waiting in line for free watered down beer. Pay for your beer and have more fun by not waiting in line. — Keith

* Turn of 3G to save battery on your iPhone. Your 2G bandwidth is good enough to Tweet and Turn off Roaming, Wi-Fi access, etc. Leave location services on so you can use GPS to check in. Do plug into the walls. AT&T has lockers so that you can lock your phone in a box and charge. — Huh

* Connect with people. Share ideas, make connections. — Jacobs BUT, as Jeremy Keith interjected, “there are a lot of social media doucebags” … so develop a bit of a radar or a “douchebag filter.”

* If you have any geek crushes or geek fandom, talk to them. — Jacobs

* Go to a panel that isn’t necessarily something you know much or care much about. Also, don’t be afraid to leave a panel if you’re not feeling it. — Jacobs

* Get one full night’s worth of sleep so you don’t get SXSW SARS. — Jacobs

There’s probably more, but I have to turn off my computer now — #alwaysbecharging.

Let’s meet! @GinnySkal

Don’t miss Raleigh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday

9 Mar

I love St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. My mom says I have enough Irish in me to justify wearing a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button, but even if I didn’t have a small claim to the heritage, I’d be downing green beer somewhere.

The Raleigh St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon Saturday. The route comes down Fayetteville Street toward the State Capitol, then works its wait toward Blount Street to Moore Square. But the parade won’t be the only downtown attraction on Saturday.


Moore Square will be filled with vendors selling Irish jewelry, trinkets, food and more. Parachuters will descend on Martin Street in front of Moore Square, where Irish dancers and bag pipers will also gather from 1:45 to 3:45 p.m. And you can even drink beer outside (always a plus) in designated areas!

Of course, there will be shenanigans at Raleigh’s Irish pubs including Napper Tandy’s, Tir Na Nog, Hibernian and others. If you know of any other Triangle-based St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, please feel free to share them in the comments section!

Have fun and be safe!

My experience sitting on stage during “Spring Awakening” at DPAC

2 Mar

My stomach was in knots as I sat in the lobby of Durham Performing Arts Center tonight, awaiting the doors to open so I could take my place on stage for the award-winning musical “Spring Awakening”. I was offered a chance to sit in one of the 40 wooden chairs set up on stage as part of the performance. I was nervous to sit under bright lights facing 2,800 theatre goers. But my role was a cinch. I just had to play the casual audience member, along with the other folks who paid $25 for a rare chance to see a touring Broadway show from the actors’ point of view. In other words, I just had to be myself.

Well, that’s not quite true. There were some rules. I was told not to wear perfume or bright colored clothes. I couldn’t eat or drink on stage. DPAC provided lockers to hold all of our belongings. No fiddling around allowed.

A quick Google search filled in some blanks about what to expect, but I didn’t want to read any on-stage audience accounts too closely and ruin the experience. But I did learn that none of us would be asked to participate in the performance and that I might not realize some of the fellow on-stage audience members were actually cast members.

Spring Awakening is a rock musical based back-in-the-day that focuses on a bunch of teenagers learning about sex and sexuality without the aid of adult insight. There’s kissing, nudity, masturbation scenes and more. But it’s portrayed tastefully.

Back to my on-stage seats. My nerves settled almost immediately after I took my seat. I jokingly waved to folks in the third-tier, pretending like I spotted a friend in the crowd. It was fun. Once the musical started, I immediately noticed the spit. It makes sense that these actors would be spewing saliva as they belt out tunes, but I’ve never noticed it from the front of the house. Fortunately, the audience stayed dry.


Photo courtesy of DPAC.

One of the opening numbers featured a lot of stomping by the actors, and it was the first time I experienced choreography that moved me — literally. I could feel the stage rippling beneath my feet, the empty chairs of the actors rattling around me as they pounded the stage. I could see the red ring one of the young actors left on the breast of his piano teacher, a small hickey that the rest of the audience may never realized was briefly real. I could see the tears welling up in the eyes of the actors in a mourning scene. When the fog rolled out in a mystic scene, I felt like the actors were being swallowed.

The one significant difference I noticed with the stage seats is that the connection with the actors and plot felt different than if I was facing them. In scenes where I think I would’ve typically cried along with the actors, I sat stoically and admired the acting instead. Also, the wooden seats were pretty uncomfortable. Cushions would be a welcome addition.

I don’t know if there are still any stage seats available for “Spring Awakening,” which runs nightly through Sunday.  But if you ever have the chance to watch this show from that perspective, definitely seize it. And if you love a little controversy some pop/rock musicals, it’s definitely a show worth checking out. Just make sure you’re pretty comfortable with the person you go with, because you never know how someone will react to mock masturbation.

New website is home for reviews and info on places to visit in the Triangle

18 Feb

You know me. I’m all about helping people explore the Triangle. It’s the whole focus of my blog. That’s why I’m loving this new site AND iPhone app created by Triangle resident Lawrence Ingraham. I went to the launch party at Research Triangle Park HQ Wednesday night and here’s what I learned: allows you to search by keywords for places to go and things to do. Type in “coffee and Chapel Hill” and you’ll be presented with both an alphabetical list of all the coffee shops in the town and a list of the most popular coffee shops based on a fancy algorithm that factors in how frequently it was visited, how it was rated and reviews by visitors. From there, you can select a coffee shop, see user-generated pictures, reviews, recommendations, etc.

So who are these visitors? Well, if you download the iPhone app, you can check-in anywhere in the Triangle area (from Chapel Hill to Raleigh to Durham to Fuquay-Varina to Clayton and beyond) and post pictures, review it, etc. If you’ve heard about the popular location-based app called FourSquare, then you’ll get the concept the TriOut app.You can even cross post to FourSquare from TriOut, so you don’t have to update your location with two apps.


But one thing that makes the TriOut app and different than FourSquare or Yelp is that it’s beautiful. The design is outstanding! Seriously, the website and the iPhone app are gorgeous.


I’ve been a Beta tester for the TriOut app for a several weeks. I’m not obsessed with location-based apps yet, but when I have an extra minute or when I’m super impressed (or unimpressed) with a place, I take a moment to check in. There are still a few bugs with the app, but Lawrence has been crazy responsive in addressing them. So if you try it out and run into an issue, don’t give up on it, just send @triout a Tweet or click the feedback form on the website.

A big congrats to Lawrence and Wayne Sutton, who has been crushing it to help bring attention to Triout through social media and other outlets.

The Triout blog has more details on some of the promotions tied to checking in to various locations you visit. The current promotion is a buy one, get one deal at Dairy Queen.

Sledding at North Carolina Museum of Art

31 Jan

I bought a sled two years ago, shortly after I moved here from Hilton Head Island. Forecasts were calling for snow, and since I hadn’t seen any in a while, I wanted to be prepared with a sled.

Two years later, I finally had a chance to use it. Daniel braved the slick roads Saturday afternoon and drove me to the hills of the North Carolina Museum of Art. We weren’t the only ones sliding down the hill beside the Vollis Simpson whirligig. A few other families (and even a dog) were hanging out at the hill.

Snow hill

That little fleck at the top of the hill is Daniel. It turned out to be a beautiful sledding venue. It was a rare treat to see the sculptures on the grounds of the museum park surrounded by snow. Of course, the News & Observer found sledders on some even steeper hills. Take a look at this photo of all the toboggans on Churchill Road in Raleigh.

BTW, you can follow the North Carolina Museum of Art on Twitter at @ncartmuseum. You can see more of my snow pictures at the museum on Flickr.