One of the joys of summer is Arlington's annual Arts al Fresco series, which features family-friendly free outdoor performances sponsored by the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division. The series, which began last month and runs through September, includes a special treat this weekend -- a street fair to celebrate the re-energized Crystal City. The celebration is headlined by the Grammy-nominated retro-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Arlington's own DaVinci's Notebook, in the group's only public performance this year.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy got its name from bandleader Scotty Morris's fateful 1989 meeting with blues guitar legend Albert Collins, who signed the young studio guitarist's poster to "the big bad voodoo daddy." Morris, in the band's press bio, said it was "the coolest name I ever heard on one of the coolest musical nights I ever had. So when it came time to name this band, I didn't really have a choice. I felt like it was handed down to me."
Since helping to start the swing revival in the mid-1990s with its appearance in the film "Swingers," Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has toured relentlessly, often performing more than 200 dates a year in the United States and Europe. The group's newest CD, "Save My Soul," is scheduled for release next month and pays tribute to the musical city of New Orleans, which serves as inspiration for much of the group's style.
Sunday marks a reunion of sorts for DaVinci's Notebook and its local fan base. In an open letter to followers in late 2003, the group announced that it would be drastically reducing its performance schedule because "life as full-time touring musicians -- while enormously fulfilling -- has become increasingly difficult to maintain." Bernie Muller-Thym worked on solo material, and Richard Hsu moved to the other side of the music industry street as a booking agent.
It was left to Paul Sabourin and Greg "Storm" DiCostanzo to carry the torch, performing original, funny music as Paul and Storm. The duo's debut, "Shame and Cookie Dough," released in July, doubled the fun with bonus audio commentary for each of its seven tracks, and a new CD, "Opening Band," is imminent. (You can find more information at www.paulandstorm.com.)
Still, there's nothing like getting all four of these goofballs onstage together. DaVinci's Notebook evokes the vocal magic of Bobby McFerrin and the pop chops of They Might Be Giants or Barenaked Ladies mixed with a dollop of "Weird Al" Yankovic parody. (Check out www.davincisnotebook.com for examples.) The outfit's wild live shows feature lots of audience interaction and hilarious improvisation. In an e-mail to members of the group's mailing list, Sabourin said: "This will be your only chance to catch us in performance in 2005, so don't say we didn't warn you! A good time will be had by all. (Or else.)"
This week's Arts al Fresco schedule is full of good times. The Lubber Run Amphitheatre series opens at 8 p.m. tomorrow with poet Kwame Alexander performing works from his latest book, "Dancing Naked on the Floor," accompanied by jazz and folk musicians. Local R&B diva Anne Sidley will do a lunchtime performance at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at the Spice of Life Plaza, and '60s-style girl group the Fabulettes will be at Courthouse Plaza at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. For a full schedule of events, visit www.arlingtonarts.org.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
Crystal Square 2 is at 2121 Crystal Dr., Arlington, three blocks from the Crystal City Metro station. All Arts al Fresco events are free. For more information, to request a brochure or to learn about cancellations because of inclement weather, call 703-228-1850 or the Arts al Fresco Hotline at 703-228-6966. Picnics are permitted, but alcohol is prohibited in the Lubber Run Amphitheatre.
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