A return to Troopathon

A Memorial Day weekend tradition of mine that’s sadly missed is the Concert for a Random Soldier, which for many years featured a late, lamented friend of mine and her husband as part of the band Semiblind and oftentimes double duty as they also played as an acoustic duo called Dog and Butterfly.

With that event’s demise due to issues with the venue, I thought this could fill the bill as somewhat appropriate for Memorial Day weekend.

It was back in 2008 that I became aware of an event designed to help the morale of our armed forces fighting overseas. And since the event was patterned after the longtime successful Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethons for muscular dystrophy, it was called Troopathon.

Despite a struggling economy, a presidential election where our foreign policy was a key source of debate, and a general weariness of overseas fighting against the irregular forces of radical Islam, the first Troopathon was a huge success, bringing in well over a million dollars that purchased care packages for these overseas trips. It was such a success that they did it again the next year despite the change in administration and shift to a more inward-looking foreign policy. Once again they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for these care packages.

Over the next few years, they took advantage of coverage from websites like mine to use them as conduits for contributions. For awhile I had a badge on my site telling readers I was a part (small, but nonetheless a part) of a silver-medal winning blog team led by the Hot Air website. I brought it back for a cameo, as you can see below.

Back in the day.

But as the years went by the Troopathon concept became a more modest one. Goals which were once lofty such as $500,000 dissolved to $300,000 and the withdrawal of most of our Iraqi troops allowed people to place this event out of sight and out of mind. Even I pretty much stopped covering this after the 2014 session, as bloggers raised a paltry $600 combined. The last time I mentioned Troopathon was three years ago, when I sheepishly realized I missed the event.

So I was happy to see that Move America Forward (MAF) was still plugging away with trying to support the troops through the one-night telethon, which is scheduled this year for June 28. Instead of having it at a presidential library, as has often been the case over the years, Troopathon 12 will be broadcast from the studios of Newsmax TV, which has partnered with MAF to broadcast their event to cable, making it available in over 60 million households. This year it should eclipse the $6 million mark in total donations.

It’s also interesting to me to ponder if there’s a local angle to this. In the Salisbury area we have an organization called Operation We Care, which also packs troop care packages – about 2,000 a year, according to their website. I suspect these are two separate organizations, but perhaps they could figure out a way to join forces, even if the Operation We Care volunteers do the packaging of the care packages for which Troopathon raised the money.

It turns out that several young men my family knows are in the military now, with at least one or two deployed overseas (although not necessarily in a “hot” theater of operations.) While they (and all other military recruits) are promised long-term benefits for sacrificing their time and efforts in the short-term, it’s good to see people still care enough to back these groups.

While I’d love to see the need for a Troopathon eliminated because our nation has peace through strength, we’re nowhere close to a pax Americana at the moment. Thus, our troops are worth supporting whether it’s through Troopathon or by Operation We Care.

Weekend of local rock volume 68

I’m about two weeks late on this, but it’s better late than never when it comes to the Concert for a Random Soldier held back on Memorial Day weekend.

There were over a dozen bands on the bill, but we arrived about halfway through the event so we missed some of the acts that I remember as more of the oldies groups. (One thing about CRS: many of the same bands participate year after year.) So we walked in on Scrapple – it’s not just for breakfast anymore, but they were a first-time participant who enjoyed the affair.

They were probably one of the first to play the heavier stuff, doing some Godsmack and a great mashup of Rush’s Working Man and War Pigs by Black Sabbath. I would have liked the solo at the end of Working Man to make it a circular medley, but no matter.

As the stage was reset between bands, there were acoustic acts set up off to the side. Captain Mike was one of those who did a couple stints.

In this case, he yielded to the Joey Fulkerson Trio, which is the three-piece variant of Nothin’ But Trouble.

They reached back into a blues-based set that featured some B.B. King and wrapped up with the Jimi Hendrix classics Hey Joe and Voodoo Child. That was an enjoyable set as the fellas were jamming.

After the return of Captain Mike, the stage was set up for Welcoming War.

They were definitely a power trio, with the additional distinction of not having a lead singer. So all of the songs were instrumental.

In that respect it was much like listening to jazz – which is also often instrumental – but with rock instruments. It was a unique sort of a heavy metal/jazz fusion that I think I can get into because I don’t much care for jazz but heavy metal sometimes needs a different take.

The mood shifted for the final acoustic act of the day-turned-evening, Mike and Savannah Shockley.

Savannah did a credible job on a Stevie Nicks classic, but she really did well with the couple originals they did. It’s interesting that some of their music is programmed while the remainder is live, as you can see. Obviously this can be done in a professional manner as I’ve reviewed a lot of albums put together by one person, a handful of instruments, and a computer, so we will see how they develop.

From what I understand this was their second gig, so Savannah will learn over time and performance just what songs work for her and which ones she should avoid.

There was no avoiding the heavy from the last act of the day, Modern Day Addiction.

Blasting their way through a bevy of covers like TNT, Fuel, Dio’s Holy Diver, and a great version of Tainted Love, a song made famous a quarter-century ago by Soft Cell, they also threw in some great original stuff. The mosh pit was in full effect while they were playing, even if it was only a couple people.

There have been a couple years where the company was ready to go by the time MDA played, so I was glad to stick around this time.

Of all the acts and all the love they had for the cause, though, there was one thing sadly missing. My friends Jim and Michele Hogsett used to play this event annually, whether as part of Semiblind or as solo performers (and sometimes both.) Regular readers of mine know Michele lost her battle with cancer late last year (WLR volume 67 covered her memorial concert) and it’s hit Jim hard, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I definitely missed him at CRS, and I’m sure the Cliftons did too.

But they promise “a few exciting changes” for next year, so I hope to see you out there. Great music for a great cause is always good.

As a programming note: you won’t have to wait as long for WLR volume 69. It will truly be a weekend full this time.

A weekend to remember, 2016 edition

Once again I spent a significant portion of my Memorial Day weekend honoring both the living veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Unlike last year, the vibe was quite a bit different this year due to threatening skies and an occasional rain shower. But the show went on at the eleventh annual Concert for a Random Soldier up in Long Neck, Delaware. I think this is about the eighth or ninth I’ve attended, and it seemed the threat of rain brought the attendance down a bit.

There have been several years where all the rows of picnic tables were full and another few dozen scattered around the perimeter (as Kim and I did for most of the show.) It was a shame that more weren’t there, although the silent auction still seemed to be a moneymaker.

It continues to be the case that the Chad Clifton Foundation is the presenting sponsor and the beneficiary is Guitars for Vets. Chad Clifton is the “random soldier” in question, as he was killed in Iraq in 2005.

With a lot of help, Chad’s mother Terri Clifton has spearheaded the event.

Obviously it’s a tribute to her fallen son, but she also intended the event to increase the awareness for living veterans and assist them as she could through the charity side of it. All of the food, shirts, and silent auction items were donated and the bands volunteered for the gig – many have done so for several consecutive years. (I’m going to cover the latter half of the program in an upcoming Weekend of Local Rock segment.)

But for seven hours the area around Long Neck was rocked and rolled by bands that ranged from acoustic cover artists to those performing the oldies to some heavy metal artists playing great original music. It’s certainly a different style of Memorial Day weekend tradition than the event Kim and I attended this morning.

The somber mood of this annual Wicomico County observance was matched this year by somber weather that forced the event indoors for the first time since I began attending it in 2005. The event program remained pretty much the same except for not being able to lower the colors (usually performed by members of a local JROTC unit) and the honor guard needing to step right outside the door to do the volley of arms.

As you may be able to tell from the photo, something I brought up last year still rings true: this event is being organized and coordinated by an ever-graying generation of soldiers, sailors, and airmen. For most of the last decade, our fighting forces have been the subject of budget cuts, accusations of barbaric acts from the left side of the aisle, and social engineering – all while seeing their mission change on the capricious whims of those in office. There’s still a generation that supports the military, and I don’t think we’re to the nadir of respect for the military those who returned from Vietnam endured.

Yet it’s worth considering that the clear majority of the 191 names on Wicomico County’s list of war fatalities were killed during World War II, and there are precious few of their brothers in arms remaining among us. (If you signed up the day after Pearl Harbor on your eighteenth birthday, you would be 92 years old now.) Korean War veterans are perhaps a decade younger, and those who served in Vietnam are mostly at retirement age. While the sacrifice is a burden to bear for any family that lost a loved one in combat, the simple fact that the death toll from Vietnam is roughly eightfold that of the engagements since means Memorial Day is a little less in mind for the bulk of Americans, even as much as some of us try to goad people into remembering.

So it may be that the ranks of those who are asked to stand because they lost a family member in combat get a little smaller year by year, but those who have gone generations before still deserve to be remembered as if it were yesterday. Let’s remember that for next year.

Weekend of local rock volume 64

Last weekend was a good weekend for local music buffs, particularly in the Long Neck, Delaware area. I’ve often wondered if those people who live by American Legion Post 28 there sit outside on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and listen in. Of course they could just come on down, too.

Anyway, the Concert for a Random Soldier began at noon but since we were still in church at that time we were casually late enough to get there just in time for the longtime event staple 33 1/3 to wrap up; meanwhile, one of the acoustic acts played while we grabbed some lunch.

So band number one on my agenda was Pros from Dover.

Despite the name, none of them are from Dover. The name is actually a reference from the book version of M*A*S*H.

They played somewhat of a country-tinged set in song selection, which was fine for an event which generally works its way from oldies to classic rock to heavier and more modern as the day turns to evening.

Speaking of country, you can’t beat the unusual start to the set of Slinging Daisies.

It’s probably been 25 years since I heard the old C. W. McCall chestnut “Convoy” and it wasn’t a cover band that did it. They did a set that featured a handful of originals, but also played the song that’s tradition at the Concert for a Random Soldier: “Paint It Black” from the Rolling Stones.

The reason this song gets Terri Clifton onto the dance floor is that it was her son Chad’s favorite song.

Another band that’s been doing the CRS annually in recent years is Judy Sings the Blues. They come as advertised, playing a number of standards and one original about Judy’s fear of spiders.

One band that didn’t come as advertised was Semiblind. Due to an unfortunate series of mishaps, the band was truncated down to its founding members Jim and Michele Hogsett. These longtime staunch supporters of the CRS played instead as their acoustic duo Dog & Butterfly.


Things then got a little funky, as Conjunction Funktion took the stage with some brass.

Again unusual for a cover band: how many would lead off with “Josie” by Steely Dan? These guys did.

Sadly, we had to leave as Conjunction Funksion played so I missed the band I would have liked to check out, Modern Day Addiction. Besides those guys and 33 1/3, other bands on the bill were Oh Boy, JB Duo, Beach Trip, Captain Mike, and The Runner-Ups. Several of these also have played the event in recent years, and they should be thanked for supporting the Guitars for Vets cause.

So next year, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the 11th annual CRS will likely feature a number of these same acts for a day of music, food, and fun.

A weekend to remember, 2015 edition

In previous years I have detailed some of those events I have attended, and this year is no different except I decided to take fewer pictures and enjoy (or take stock in) the events more.

On Sunday our family made a regular stop, honoring the veterans through music at the Concert for a Random Soldier in Long Neck, Delaware.

The event is now in its tenth year (more on that in a bit) and it benefits this veterans organization, Guitars for Vets.

Naturally, local veterans organizations use this both to inform others who may be interested in their service and to gather together.

Since this event has now reached a decade in duration, I found it very cool that the Delaware General Assembly saw fit to honor it with proclamations from both their House of Delegates and Senate. Senator Ernie Lopez presented the Senate version to event creator Terri Clifton.

Delegate Steve Smyk did the same for the House, but that was prior to our arrival.

Originally I wasn’t going to do a second post but as it turned out I had enough band photos that I will do a separate Weekend of Local Rock post next weekend. The Concert for a Random Soldier also featured a modest car show, raffles, and good food. Next year you should make plans to join in this worthwhile family Sunday.

Another event which has become an annual tradition here in Salisbury is the Memorial Day ceremony at the Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center.

As it has become tradition, I decided not to do a full pictorial of the event – if you want the blow-by-blow, previous coverage will suffice.

But each year I notice that, while there is a handful of new people there, the majority of those who attend and participate have some number of gray hairs. It’s worth pointing out that the revival of patriotism that was a reaction to the mistreatment of those who returned from Vietnam almost a half-century ago is itself nearly 25 years old. (The Reagan years birthed the resurgence, but it began in earnest when we sent troops over for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1991.) Those who served in that particular theater of war are now themselves middle-aged.

Instead, those in the present generation of fighting men (and women) are once again saddled with the fact they fought in what became an unpopular war where any victories gained were squandered by subsequent military decisions and strategy. I sense at times that patriotism is once again becoming a parody of itself – talking about “‘Murica” and all that. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the current political leadership, but to me it’s still there.

Memorial Day, however, is a day to set aside political feelings for the conflicts we find ourselves ensnared in, for the thousands and thousands who have perished in defense of our land are the ones we should be remembering today. Just because the federal government made it a three-day weekend, replacing the traditional May 30 date to instead insure it’s always on a Monday, doesn’t mean that the sense of loss for the families comes to an end or that the sacrifices were any less ultimate.

I hope those who are growing up come to understand the true meaning of the holiday, for I sometimes get the bad feeling their generation may bear the brunt of future observances. Let’s hope my hunch is wrong.

Weekend of local rock volume 60

In lieu of a review this week, my WLR feature is hitting the big six-oh with some scenes from last weekend’s Concert for a Random Soldier, which occurred at American Legion Post 28 in Oak Orchard, Delaware (close by Long Neck.) This is one of a handful of local fundraising concerts that have become a tradition, with another I generally frequent being (Save the) Breastfest in September during Bike Week.

There were actually eight bands and four acoustic acts on the CFARS bill, with the latter reserved for set changes. We arrived later than planned, so we missed exactly half – these were mainly the oldies acts (Oh Boy, 33 1/3, The Runner-Ups, and The Funsters) and two acoustic ones (The Volcanoes and Bryan Scar.) In fact, we arrived just as the Mari Hill Band was closing up shop.

Since there was no acoustic act slotted after Mari Hill, I wandered around a bit. Earlier in the day there was a car show, but by the time I got photos this old guy was pretty much all that was left.

As a little bit of history, the CFARS was set up in memory of Chad Clifton, a Delaware native who was killed in Iraq in 2005. A foundation was set up in his name, with this particular event benefiting an organization called Guitars for Vets.

In keeping with the veteran theme, the Veterans United Outreach of Delaware had a trailer full of information as needed.

After all that, the hard rock of Factor was ready to hit the stage. They definitely appealed more to the Iraq and Afghanistan set than the Vietnam-era veterans.

Unlike the other groups, they slammed out a diet of originals with the exception of a song Chad often requested from them, “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. Their version was a little more amped-up, though.

So it seemed a little jarring to hear the acoustic duo called Dog and Butterfly, playing a variety of lighter classics. Jim and Michele Hogsett have honed this act for several years as a side project to the former Semiblind.

They played while Judy Sings The Blues set up. And Judy was exactly as advertised.

If you don’t believe me, here’s their set list.

The day’s final acoustic act was Captain Mike and Joe Garvilla, who had fun with some easily-adapted songs like “Jack and Diane.”

I noted earlier that Jim and Michele Hogsett were in “the former Semiblind.” Over the winter they decided to change the name to Something Grey.

It was many of the same staples that Semiblind did so well, except for some issues which affected their sound – the bass kept cutting out. I happened to see their set list afterward as well – the stage area was littered with them.

I was pleased to hear them bring back “Sweet Emotion,” which was one they had on the shelf for awhile. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d heard “Her Strut,” which shows how they massage their songlist as time goes on.

So as the sun set on a beautiful night and the crowd went home, we looked back on a gorgeous day.

Next year (May 24, 2015) will be the 10th annual event, and it seems like they’ve found a good formula for success – good enough that they ran out of chicken to grill because so many came. If I can make it, I’ll be there and so should you.

Weekend of local rock volume 53

As I mentioned Monday, I spent part of my weekend getting sunburned but listening to some great music at the Concert for a Random Soldier. I missed last year’s effort but saw most of what went down this year.

We were running late as often occurs, so we missed the first act entirely and came just in time to see the Mari Hill Band wrap up.

How did I know it was the Mari Hill Band? Because they were playing this very song:

That video was from the 2011 Concert for a Random Soldier, so as you can see the setup is basically the same. The set order may have differed, but the sound was there too.

This meant that the first act we saw in its entirety was the acoustic stylings of Kyle Offidani, a Delaware native who returned from Austin, Texas to do the show.

His was a complex, complicated set of mostly originals which seemed to be received tepidly. It wasn’t the standard upbeat set of cover songs most acoustical acts are known for locally.

But somehow it worked rather well in setting up Lost Weekend, which came at us with a very blues-oriented set.

I didn’t see if this couple had red shoes, but they danced the blues.

The C4RS always seems to have at least one blues act, with one of the more prominent being lower case blues. These guys were no exception, and they played the role rather well.

The next acoustic act was actually a stand-in, as Joey Fulkerson played a brief solo set in place of Ashley Mitchell, who was originally scheduled.

Since the acoustic acts were set up as sort of a side stage to the main bands, Joey didn’t actually yield the stage to C4RS staples Semiblind, but once he finished Semiblind started their set of covers which spanned a generation.

They appealed to both young and old with their mix of songs, and spare instruments.

I found out later that Michele brought the extra instruments intentionally knowing these kids would be there. Nothing like a little music appreciation for the young.

Returning to the acoustical stage, Lisa Says No came on for the first of their two musical interludes.

They played a set more modern than most acoustic cover sets, with a lot of songs from this century or just beforehand. I guess these would be the songs our troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan grew up with.

Many of the Vietnam vets grew up hearing what Oh Boy brought to the stage.

Oh Boy! is a band which variously bills itself as a tribute to Buddy Holly or a tribute to rockabilly, depending on the show. In this case I would go with the rockabilly, judging by the set list which blew over to me.

These songs got quite a few of the older folks there to their feet.

They may have also recognized some of what the next group did, but it was shaped musically to a more unique form by the Joey Fulkerson Trio.

This is actually 3/4 of a band better known as Nothin’ But Trouble. But Joey was doing nothin’ but shredding on some Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix – if you were comfortably numb after that you were probably dead.

Bassist Greg Haughey was enjoying the moment, too.

After all that, I almost felt sorry for Blind Willie as they had to follow a really good show. But they held their own, returning to mainstream rock for the time I was there.

From what I understood, the last act was to be a jam session featuring a number of musicians who stuck around to play, but hay fever won out on us.

It’s worth noting that host Terri Clifton pointed out in her remarks that they had 12 acts, but three times that were interested in playing the event (for free.) I’ve said this a few times over the years, but it’s worth stating the case again that artists are happy to make time to help out charities like Guitars for Vets and the Chad Clifton Foundation. Next year I’m sure a couple dozen bands will want to do the same.

A weekend to remember, 2013 edition

The last time I did this combo was two years ago and I called it “A weekend to remember.” This rendition will be somewhat longer but recount the same two events two years on: the 8th annual Concert for a Random Soldier at the American Legion Post 28 outside Millsboro, Delaware and the annual Memorial Day celebration here in Salisbury at the Civic Center – I believe this is the eleventh under its current format and location.

It was a little windy in Delaware yesterday, but the show went on.

I missed last year’s CRS but in many respects it was like embracing a long-lost friend: several of the acts play the event year after year, and the organizer who tirelessly puts it all together is Terri Clifton, on behalf of the Chad Clifton Foundation – named for her son who was killed in Iraq in 2005.

Of course, she has a lot of support in the effort. This year I noticed the presence of the state’s Vietnam Veterans Association in a much more prominent role.

As always, since it’s a Concert for a Random Soldier, nearly a dozen bands and acoustical acts played in the event. I’ll highlight them in a future Weekend of Local Rock post, but this shot was taken as the Joey Fulkerson Trio was playing.

But there were other things going on as well. It’s hard for me to resist a car show, with this black 1959 Chevy El Camino grabbing second overall. It won the monoblogue prize as my favorite, though.

A close runner-up in both instances (third overall) was this Chevy, which as my memory serves is a 1962 model.

It’s rare that you see a bumper sticker on these classics, but the owner here felt he had to make an exception.

That was pretty much the extent of the political, although one musician noted that a government which wasn’t doing anything could learn the example of these people, who were doing something. That something was supporting Guitars for Vets, which uses music as therapy for returning veterans who need the help.

Not only were the bands donating their time, so were the people making the food.

Grilling chicken (mb) (640x480)

It takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to make this sort of things work, even to the extent of decorating the tables.

But sometimes you just have to give it up for divine assistance with a near-perfect day – certainly not blazing hot and humid like our Memorial Day weekends are generally known for. I just liked this picture.

Those who gathered this morning at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center this morning probably also appreciated the cooler weather, although the gathering didn’t seem to be any more or less attended than usual.

Upon arriving, I heard the mournful sound of bagpipes and saw a brief practice going on.

There is a point to be made with that, trust me.

But in general, the ceremony remained within its familiar ritual, down to the same donation box. It wasn’t very full when I peeked in, though.

As always, the master of ceremonies was Tony Sarbanes, an Army veteran and former County Council member. Sitting beside him were members of each service branch who would contribute with the recitation of their branch prayers and Ed Tattersall, who annually reads the names of the 190 Wicomico County men who have been killed in action since World War I.

Prayer readers (mb) (480x640)

Sarbanes stepped aside for a invocation by the Rev. Harvey Dixon and singing of the National Anthem by Ronny Cheezum before leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the colors were lowered by the Wicomico High School JROTC.

With SM Chief Dave Suiter ringing the Red Knights Memorial Bell before the list from each conflict, Sgt. Tattersall read off all 190 names.

While those who read the branch prayers and conducted the ceremony tended to be of the Vietnam generation and older, there were signs that youth was beginning to be served. As the wreath was being laid, bagpiper Matthew Wallace was joined for the first time by his son Payton.

After the Wicomico County Sheriff’s detail presented the volley of arms, the event was concluded with the playing of Taps and a benediction. John Jochum has played Taps in this ceremony before but I didn’t recall Tara Bramble having done so.

So it appears more of the next generation are taking an interest, which is an encouraging sign. Another is the media attention, as I wasn’t the only media there.

Granted, those I ran into over the weekend were probably but a few of the Americans most interested in honoring those who gave of themselves so we can have the freedom we enjoy today. This isn’t the time to debate whether we are really more or less free than we have been previously, or whether the most recent sacrifices have been in vain. We have 360 or so other days for that.

But many millions more look at the Memorial Day weekend as a gateway to summer, bolstered by the fact that a few decades ago the federal government changed the date from May 30 to the last Monday in May. (Just like Independence Day, this year that date would fall on a Thursday.) Great for tourism and commercialization of the holiday, but bad for remembering the actual sacrifices of those who have fallen.

Weekend of local rock volume 38

Left over from last weekend’s photo was the musical part of the Concert for a Random Soldier held in Millsboro, Delaware. Yes, I promised to do this so here you go.

Kim and I arrived in the midst of act number two of nine featured bands, the outfit called 33 1/3. (Apparently we missed the acoustic stylings of one Matt Lafferty.)

With a cast of seven players and their various instruments, the band could pretty much cover the gamut of songs popularized in the golden era of album rock and Top 40 radio. And that’s what they did, placing a spin on a number of popular oldies.

The same could be said about the next band in line, 8 Track Flashback. The instrumentation was a little different, but they also set their stamp on the grooveyard of forgotten favorites.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that the set changes were not quiet. A second stage of sorts was set up for acoustic acts to play between band sets. One example of this was Jim and Shel, and another pictured below them was Adam Murray.

We had a definite change in tone with the fourth band of the nine-band lineup. The Mari Hill Band brought a sassier, bluesier feel to the proceedings as she and her band belted out a mix of old favorites along with an original or two.

And then things were shaken up even more by Ashley Mitchell and her acoustic partner, Donny Marvel. If you never thought of songs like ‘Rock the Casbah’ done as an acoustic duo, well, that’s one they tried. They succeeded rather well at it, too.

As veterans of several Concerts for a Random Soldier, Semiblind knew just what the crowd wanted, and they gave them doses of classic rock while trying out a few originals.

It was a trend that would be continued by the next band, which was the final band we saw at the show. By far it was the heaviest, too.

The Saints of Chaos were once known as Factor, and like Semiblind before them SOC has done a number of these shows. But it fell to them, as Chad Clifton’s favorite band (the one he snuck into bars to watch play) to play his favorite song – a high-powered version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black.’ That was one of just a couple covers SOC tossed in their set – theirs were mostly originals.

The only drawback to SOC’s set (which also affected Semiblind to a slight extent) was the sound. While for Semiblind it was a matter of getting the proper instrument mix (the bass was apparently not going through the monitors loudly enough), the Saints of Chaos were simply too much wattage for the system to handle, as they blew out a breaker – twice (including on ‘Paint It Black,’ which was a bummer.) Yep, they were loud, but it was good.

Unfortunately, Kim and I couldn’t hang around for the final two bands – but Blind Willie should be back for next year’s rendition. Interestingly enough, the final act was a reunion of a band which played at the first Concert for a Random Soldier in 2006 called Lisa Says No. Perhaps they will make that an annual event as well.

In all, there were nine bands plus a number of acoustic acts in the space of nine hours – a veritable potpourri of music that one should check out next year. The Concert for a Random Soldier promises to be bigger and even better in 2012.

A weekend to remember

Some people go to a Memorial Day weekend picnic, others head to take advantage of sales or see a movie, and judging by the traffic heading westbound on U.S. 50 today a LOT of people spent their Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City. But I march to a somewhat different drummer and chose to honor those for whom the event was created in both traditional and nontraditional ways.

This is where Kim and I spent a large portion of our Sunday, for a good pair of causes.

No, it wasn’t your traditional celebration. I’m going to talk about the music itself in a future post, but the Concert for a Random Soldier up in Millsboro, Delaware featured other events as well. This classic Dodge pickup from 1941 was the winner of the modest car show held there.

This was a place where veterans could get together and comfort each other. The concert began as a method for one set of grieving parents to heal and honor their son’s memory six years ago and has grown from a small gathering to an annual event which is getting more coverage in the local media. One local radio station did a remote from there.

Terri Clifton (left in photo) is the face behind the Concert for a Random Soldier, but she doesn’t do it alone. There are literally dozens of volunteers, supporters, and people who find a way to help out behind the scenes. Consider the musicians who create the draw for the concert, which featured seven bands and a number of various acoustic acts this year – many of those have performed at the show several years in a row (for free) because they felt the need to help out.

Add in the vendors who provide the food and secure what turns out to be a very pleasant and visible venue along Delaware Route 24, and it’s obvious that pulling off an event like this doesn’t come that easily.

Without getting too much into the musical content (since I’m saving that for another post) it’s fair to say that there was something to appeal to most veterans, whether Vietnam-era or those who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I noticed that the crowd was considerably less gray as the day wore on since the more modern acts were scheduled last.

But regardless of who was playing, the theme was the same: we support our troops.

It’s something which seems to be lost nowadays simply because we’re several generations removed from an all-out war effort. You can ask those who grew up in the World War II era about rationing and war bonds, but that generation is slipping away quickly. A world which has recently seen the passing of the last veterans of the “Great War” (what we call World War I) is perhaps thirty years removed from that same disappearance of World War II veterans and maybe two generations from losing our Korean soldiers.

By the time we got to Vietnam, the attitudes changed, and many of those Baby Boomers who didn’t get drafted into that war were the ones protesting it. Practically no one likes war, but there are those who chose to fight and paid for that decision with their lives.

Most of us do what’s politically correct, festooning our abodes with red, white, and blue – besides, it comes in handy for the next big holiday as well. And don’t get me wrong: I’m glad Memorial Day weekend is a big tourist attraction for Ocean City. But I believe we are losing sight of the sacrifices made by those in the military because so few of us are affected anymore. Less than 1 percent of the general population is now active-duty military, so we don’t have the streets with houses with blue or gold stars in the windows as we did nearly 70 years ago. (Yes, the next Pearl Harbor Day will be the 70th anniversary one. That’s why we’re losing World War II veterans at a increasing pace, since they’re now in their eighties or nineties for the most part.)

And I saw a few of those veterans at the more traditional celebration Wicomico County holds at the Civic Center each Memorial Day.

It actually was a very pretty day for a service.

And it appeared to me, since I’ve covered a few of these in a row, that the crowd was roughly the same as it had been in previous years.

And the veterans were still there to honor their individual service branches.

But there were some subtle changes to the program. An addition was giving certificates of recognition to two people: the widow of a Veterans Memorial board member and a retiring JROTC coordinator. The students caught a break as well, as they were released from flag duty once the colors were lowered. No longer did they have to stand at attention throughout the ceremony and risk passing out from the heat and humidity as a few have over the years.

Also, instead of having veterans recognized by branch of service, they were recognized by conflict. It pointed up the dwindling number of World War II and Korean veterans who could get to the program.

Even the bell ringer was new. But, the one thing which didn’t change was the number of names read – it stayed the same as last year as no one from Wicomico County lost their lives in an active war zone.

While there are many who are earnest in their desire to see us no longer need to fight wars, the stark reality is that we will always have enemies among our brother nations. We’ve become close friends with our first enemy as well as those we fought against in subsequent wars, but one never quite knows where the next threat is coming from and it’s a reminder we need to be ready.

The events of this weekend make me proud to know there are those among us who respect the fact freedom and liberty are worth dying for.

Weekend of local rock volume 33

It wasn’t the weekend just past but last weekend that my significant other and I made the rounds to check out our friends and a number of other bands. This all began in Crisfield thanks to a speedy Shorebirds game and a gorgeous warm night on Somers Cove.

It's not a perfect shot since I didn't have a tripod handy but doesn't that look relaxing?

That’s where we caught up with our friends in Semiblind.

Don't even ask why the picture is off-kilter - I think I was trying to take a shot from hip level. This was at the Crisfield Tiki Bar on May 28, 2010.

Little did we know that the winds of change were about to blow there, but more on that briefly. After taking a time out from the local music scene on Saturday we returned to the Concert for a Random Soldier on Sunday.

I went through some of the particulars here but didn’t talk about the bands we saw. We picked up the show about halfway through, beginning with the oldies of 33 1/3. (No, I won’t do the obvious and change the post title to reflect the group – funny that I’m on volume 33.)

The first band we saw at CRS played a dose of classic hits from the 1960's. 33 1/3 was similar to several other bands who donated time for the event.

One thing about the day and the background – bad for picture taking. That also bedeviled me for the next band.

3/4 of the band 'Nothin' But Trouble' were present, so I called them the Joey Fulkerson Trio.

The highlight of their set was a wild ride through a medley of ’60’s music from pop classics to TV themes.

Between sets, there were various combinations of acoustic players – one of those combos being Jim and Michele Hogsett from Semiblind.

Michele and Jim Hogsett doing the duo before the full band set later on.

Jim and Michele have a wide variety of songs in their acoustic playlist. They played as 8 Track Flashback got set up.

I used a wider shot in my previous post on the Concert for a Random Soldier, but 8 Track Flashback went way back with their playlist to get some of the elders moving and grooving.

These guys played stuff I hadn’t heard from a rock band – how about a cover of “Minnie the Moocher?” I think the older folks under the pavilion enjoyed it more than I did.

Semiblind was next up, but they had a personnel issue. Fortunately, Alan from Blind Willie was all ready to step in and filled in well for Semiblind’s set. And let’s just say next time I see my friends at a show there will be a different drummer once again.

It wasn't the tightest set I've ever heard from the band, but Alan from Blind Willie did a yeoman's job filling in at the last minute for Semiblind.

In fact, Blind Willie was the next band. We had to leave, though, just as they started their set.

Blind Willie was just getting started when we left the Concert for a Random Soldier.

Had we stayed until the end, we would have been treated to a much heavier sound as Destroying the Catalyst was the last band scheduled. Even their trailer says ‘metal band.’ I did notice there were a few more of the Millennial Generation arriving as we left so it’s obvious DTC put the word out on the show.

At some point I would like to catch these guys live - it just wasn't to be last Sunday.

Arriving late to the event, unfortunately we missed the sets from Blue Thunder, Hyde Park, and lower case blues. But we had another place to go and support another friend in the music business. We were off to a bonfire.

This bonfire was outside the Oasis, unfortunately the bands were inside. There's something wrong with that picture.

We arrived at the Oasis in time for the seventh band of the ten or so scheduled for the day, called Living the Dream.

The three-piece 'Living the Dream' had some help on the hard rock classics as host Skip Dixxon played the drums.

These guys bashed through a number of hard rock classics before yielding to a more modern rock cover band I’d heard about but hadn’t seen yet, Dust n’ Bones.

Dust n' Bones seems to play a lot at one of my favorite places to eat, Station 7. This gig was down the road a piece from there.

The one thing which sticks out in my mind is that they could use another guitar to bring themselves a fuller sound. It didn’t seem like the lead was very prominent in some songs.

Then things calmed down for the last two acts of the night. One of them was a reprisal of Jim and Michele playing an acoustic set; something they’ve branched into over the last month or so as a way of getting additional gigs in different places.

Jim plays guitar and Michele sings. You can't get a whole lot simpler than that for keeping it in the family.

Last but not least was the stripped down acoustic version of Crookedfinger.

A stripped down version of Crookedfinger wrapped up the show as the bonfire burned outside the Oasis in Whaleyville.

The one thing which was disappointing as far as the four bands I saw at the Oasis – no originals. Having not seen Living the Dream and Dust n’ Bones I wouldn’t have known they were (I assume) strictly cover bands, but the acoustic sets could have been a little more adventurous. Those guys all can play.

But it made for a full weekend. I wouldn’t have minded getting to one musical event I missed (Greenwoodstock) but that wasn’t to be. This is the time of year it’s a little harder to find originality because the tourists demand the same old songs in repackaged form, so I was hoping for something new and exciting out of the groups I saw. It was still entertaining, though, especially for a summery Friday evening and Sunday.

A tale of two celebrations

It was a memorable Memorial Day weekend, and the many methods of celebration provided a contrast in styles.

Yesterday I found myself at an American Legion post outside Millsboro, Delaware for the Concert for a Random Soldier.

Just as the sign says, this is the Concert for a Random Soldier. A total of nine bands participated, with some players also doing some solo work.

From the reports given, this concert gets more participation and attendance each year.

It was a pretty full house under the pavilion at American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro, Delaware.

Some people got up and danced the day away. Later this week I’ll do a separate Weekend of Local Rock post, but here’s the reaction to one of the bands, 8 Track Flashback.

This couple enjoyed the oldies played by one of the participating bands, 8 Track Flashback.

It was a pretty day and venue.

Looking at the venue from the parking lot. The pavilion is about three years old and proved to be a fine venue on a sunny day.

Yet there was more to do than just listen to music. They had plenty of food for sale as well.

How about some bratwurst? This was just one of the things you could eat at the Concert for a Random Soldier.

Or you could take in the car show; this one was my personal favorite.

Aaaaah, the era before OPEC raised its ugly head. This is a sharp Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 convertible from 1972.

How about buying a shirt? Actually, this is what I wore today to the following subject of my post.

For a donation, you could buy an event shirt. The nice thing is having the band list to see who helped out.

The beneficiary foundation was named after a local soldier who was killed in action.

The foundation gets the money, but the proceeds from this event were going to a group called Guitars for Vets.

His mother, Terri Clifton, spearheaded the event after Chad was killed in 2005. From humble beginnings it’s grown over the last 4 years.

Event organizer and Gold Star Mother Terri Clifton.

In truth there were actually nine bands since one dropped at the last minute, but it made for a full day of music. Nor is this the only event the Chad Clifton Foundation holds.

A 5-K run in July might not be the first thing on my to-do list, but for those in military shape it should be a piece of cake.

The final picture in my Concert for a Random Soldier story is just because.

I just liked the picture of the tank and flag, that's all.

Perhaps it leads me into my description of this morning’s events at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Unlike the growth and change in the Concert for a Random Soldier over the last four years, Wicomico County’s commemoration ceremony changes little from year to year, even to the point of many participants being longtime veterans of the event itself. One example: Tony Sarbanes as master of ceremonies.

As has been the case each year, former County Councilman Tony Sarbanes served as master of ceremonies.

The Junior ROTC provides the manpower to lower the flags to half-staff.

JROTC cadets stand at attention after lowering the flags at the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony, May 31, 2010.

Unfortunately, the oppressive heat claimed one of their numbers as a casualty, but she was relieved quickly and the ceremony carried on without her. Seemingly the event is always held on a warm, muggy morning.

Those who are various members of the military are recognized, along with elected officials. We also get representatives from the offices of Maryland’s Senators and Congressman Frank Kratovil.

County Executive Richard Pollitt (center) looks on during the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony, May 31, 2010.

A group of county elected officials look on during the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony. From left is County Councilman David MacLeod, a man I cannot identify, County Councilwoman Gail Bartkovich, County Councilman John Cannon, Sheriff Mike Lewis, and County Councilwoman Stevie Prettyman. County Councilman Joe Holloway, State's Attorney Davis Ruark, and Delegates Norm Conway and Jim Mathias were also present.

After prayers to represent each branch of the military, we moved on to the tolling of the Red Knights Memorial Bell and reading of the names of Wicomico County’s fallen. These tasks have always been done by John Lynch and Ed Tattersall, respectively.

John Lynch always doubts he'll see the next year's ceremony but he hasn't been right on that yet. He tolled the Red Knights Memorial Bell at the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony, May 31, 2010.

Ed Tattersall recites the names of nearly 190 Wicomico County citizens killed in war since World War I at the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony, May 31, 2010.

While Matthew Wallace plays ‘Amazing Grace’ a wreath is brought forth to a place of honor.

Matthew Wallace plays 'Amazing Grace' on his bagpipes during the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony, May 31, 2010.

The wreath used at Wicomico County's Memorial Day ceremony.

The Wicomico County Sheriff Department has a detail which handles the volley of arms.

The volley of arms is performed by a trio from the Wicomico County Sheriff's Department.

One change comes in the duo playing “Taps.” This year it’s Isaiah Oakley and John Jochum doing the honors.

The mournful sound of 'Taps' being performed at the Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony, May 31, 2010.

With that, we hear the benediction (as always, performed by the Reverend J. Harvey Dixon) and we move on.

Most linger a little while to catch up with old friends; sadly, in more and more cases each year’s ceremony is the last for a certain number of World War II and Korean War veterans, with Vietnam veterans not that far behind in getting older and grayer. Soon it will be up to those who have survived the wars of my generation fought in the Middle East to carry on the tradition – including those contemporaries of Chad Clifton.

They will inherit a tradition left in good hands by those who fought decades or even a half-century ago. But even they simply carried on a line of honor unbroken since the aftermath of the War Between the States and I’m faithful in my belief that the torch will passed on to yet another Greatest Generation. While a concert may break from a solemn tradition, it is one way to remember the fallen and a reminder that there’s no “right way” to honor those who served.