Hello lovely blog folks! Long time no see, and I heartily apologize for that. I’m trying to return to a space where I can churn out blog posts and document my mental and physical state more regularly. I have a bad tendency to get really down on myself if I miss a deadline I’ve set for myself which makes it way harder to get things started up again. So here I am practicing self-forgiveness for neglecting the Miss Minstrel blog and I’ll try to keep up with the writing.
Over the past week we’ve spent some time at the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp (MWROC). MWROC is a yearly event that brings together electric and alternative string players from around the country to collaborate on music and techniques. MWROC is where I really started learning about the potential of the Viper violins. I learned looping, singing while playing, and improvisation techniques there. It’s been several years since I’ve been able to return to camp as finances and touring schedules have gotten in the way. But to return even for a few days brought me back to the familiar and familial space that MWROC seems to cultivate almost unintentionally.
A lot of business and institutions talk about their own particular “culture”, a set of social standards and behaviors that rise mostly out of group-think. Leadership can help steer culture by setting examples and consequences (which sounds downright parental but such is the nature of our social hierarchy oriented primate brains). The culture at MWROC revels in instrumental and sonic risk taking, and the safe space it creates for experimentation is indescribably valuable. Over the 4 years I attended, first as a student, then a counselor mentoring children, I saw shy hesitant players blossom in just a few short days. This was so contrary to the classical music experiences at camps and in orchestras I had as a young student.
From there we drove off to Knoxville Iowa to play a show at Peace Tree Brewing. The space is charming and warm with some industrial flair but lots of tables and spaces to socialize. There was even a stage in the corner! We had an amazing show and spent the evening hanging out with the local patrons, including a group who had driven down from Des Moines to see us perform (thanks guys!). On the beer side, Peace Tree is killing it on their sour beer “Kiss by a Gose” which had just enough tartness to make me very happy. Kevin’s favorite was the “Imperial Stout” which was chocolaty, delicious, and brewed with one and a half times the normal amount of barley. We were reminded by the bartender that this stuff is 10% ABV and boy it was dangerous because you couldn’t tell! We spent the night in Knoxville with Taylor, one of the staff who also has a travel bug. We traded stories and beer until about 12am then crashed out in the van.
Next stop was Genoa Illinois – a very tiny town about an hour west of Chicago. We piled the gear into Cademon Brewing in the center of town. This brewery had a super industrial décor and a distinctive steampunk flair. The space feels very welcoming with Tupperware bins of chocolate pretzels, potato chips, and home-made peanut butter cookies available for patrons to pair with their beer. At the end of the tasting room near the vats there’s a long table with tons of board games as a space to socialize for larger groups. I could totally see many of my friends feeling right at home in this place. Kevin and I both agreed that our favorite beer here was the “Bloodshot Hefe” which was an orange infused German-style hefeweizen. The flavor was crisp but subtle. I really wanted to like the Vanilla Demonic stout but the batch they had on tap was just too crazy sweet for me. After wrapping up for the evening we headed off to a rest stop and went to town on a Chicago style deep dish pizza we had purchased earlier in the day – so yummy.
Over Sunday and Monday we continued our glutton tour by heading up to Wisconsin to be tourists. Sunday found us in Madison, WI enjoying local coffee at Coffee Collectivo and eating one the BEST burger’s I have ever had at Dotty’s Dumpling Dowry (there are no dumplings…it’s confusing). We ended the evening hiking at Devil’s Lake, a state park just north of Madison.
Monday found us in Milwaukee and boy did Kevin start the day with a PLAN. We began working from Anodyne Coffee, which has some of the most creative and amazing concoctions. I had the almond vanilla cappuccino and Kevin had the Turtle mocha latte (chocolate and caramel). Neither of our drinks were overly sweet, just foamy and amazing. We then drove over to the Basillica of St. Josephat which is a very old church founded by the Polish community in the late 1800s. It’s absolutely beautiful in there and the church has a lot of old interesting relics and details about the founding of the Basillica.
From there we ate our way through Mader’s, a German restaurant famous for it’s authentic food. With food coma imminent we got our digestion going by trekking up the River walk to one of the top rated Italian delis – Gloriosos. After buying some cold cuts and antipasti for dinner snacks we headed back down to a local cheese shop to buy some famous Wisconsin cheese. The amount of samples available to try were amazing and I was in cheese heaven! We ended our tourist day by driving along the edge of Lake Michigan. I convinced Kevin to pull over so I could take a dip. Damn that water is COLD!
So there you have it! An absolutely packed week of one camp, three states, two shows, and lots of food! We’ll likely tone it down a little on the food exploration next week as we plan on being in Chicago the whole time. Our waistlines and wallets will thank us but we can’t wait to play some of Chicago’s breweries – we will tell you all about it next week!