Melissa Mesko: A Musical Gypsy

“Musicians do what we do because we simply can’t NOT do it.  We are compelled.  We need it.  When you love what you do, you’ll put in the extra effort.”

Guitarist, vocalist, and percussionist, Melissa Mesko, has fed that compulsion for quite a while now. She has gathered an eclectic range of styles and genres in her travels, which she now shares with Roanokers through her main bands, Melissa and the Growlers, and The Meskos, as well as performing in numerous side projects.

We caught up with her last month to find out what got her started and what keeps her creating.

An Intimate Conversation with Mipso’s Libby Rodenbough

When I read that Mipso was playing the Jefferson Center, my heart skipped a little beat and I said an audible “hell yeah” to myself, and have anxiously awaited the show ever since. I am probably one who gets too excited about live music, but this one my friends, is MY top ticket for 2017. I’ve seen a LOT of great shows this year, and as super pumped as I am for Dawes, Willie Nelson, Third Eye Blind, and Amos Lee to come to town, but it’s Mipso that I’m looking forward to the most.

It may be because I have never seen them live; It may be because they just released a new album (WHICH IS FANTASTIC); It may be because the tickets are going for $15 (what a bargain); Or it’s simply that Mipso has been a constant on my playlist for quite some time now. Regardless of the reason, this North Carolina-based indie Americana quartet and its growing setlist of accessible songs are a real treat for the ears.

Their 2013 release, “Dark Holler Pop”, is one of those albums I listen to from start to finish and don’t skip a single song. “Coming Down the Mountain,” which was released in April of this year, is just as good, sparkling with gems like “Hallelujah”, “Hurt so Good,” and “Cry Like Somebody”.

I was able to chat with Mipso’s fiddle player, Libby Rodenbough, about the new album, songwriting styles, and their recent serious car accident. Read more and purchase Mipso tickets before they sell out!

Creekfest: There at the Inception

Beer and music have become a bit of a hot trend in the Roanoke Valley. Now, a local brewery is starting an inaugural festival that highlights both. This Saturday will see the launch of the first annual Creekfest, a celebration of music, beer, and community, in downtown Vinton.

The brainchild of Andy Bishop, cofounder of Twin Creeks Brewing, the day promises to be a family-friendly event, featuring three live bands, five food trucks, vendors, and of course, Twin Creeks signature brews. Bishop has partnered with the Town of Vinton to commandeer the Farmer’s Market area and main stage, to transform the place into a regular block party permitting guests to wander among vendor stalls of local merchants, all while the melodies of regional music acts Mason Creek, Josh Marlowe, and Faded Travelers drift over the crowds.

Story Behind the Song – Appalachian Soul

Per the gentle persuasion of a friend, I was recently introduced to new Roanoke band, Appalachian Soul. Having a penchant for soul and R&B music, it wasn’t a hard sell for me to fall immediately in love with the groove and moving lyrics. Appalachian Soul is a new project for veteran Roanoke songwriters, Phil Norman and Will Farmer. The two have been performing together for years as part of an acoustic, “not-quite bluegrass” band, Blue Moonshine. Wanting to expand their sound, they added Mike Parker on bass and Breyon Fraction on drums. They’re set to record an EP this fall, and if word of mouth keeps their music traveling, it will be a happy highway playlist for all of us.

Their song “On Your Own Now,” which was written by Farmer and Norman this past winter, actually helped inspired the sound for the band. That’s the power of a song: it can totally define a musician’s moves. And it surely lives up to the hype. When I first heard “On Your Own Now,” I couldn’t stop tapping my foot and dancing in my chair, and by the end of the song I was singing along with the chorus. It was stuck in my head for days, and I was totally fine with that. You can see Appalachian Soul live on September 17th at Fork in the Alley, and then on October 12th at the Five Points Music Sanctuary. In the meantime, listen to “On Your Own Now,” and read Appalachian Soul’s story behind the song:

FloydFest

FloydFest: Freedom to Find Your Tribe 

Since its humble beginnings in 2002, FloydFest has made steady progress to become one of the must attend events of the summer. Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the festival continues to only get better with deeper line-ups and family-friendly activities that aim to achieve Across-the-Way Productions’ mission to “be the best music experience of our time.”

FloydFest has become the go-to “happy place” for thousands of loyal fans who have developed their own tribes within the five-day long event. Whether there strictly for the music, or some combination of healing arts and outdoor activities which range from mountain biking, trail running, river floating, and hiking, festival-goers are sure to find kindred spirits who will deepen the experience and create lasting friendships.

FloydFest

Enjoyable Noises: Helping the Town Create New Sounds

There’s something sacred about a music shop to a musician. A good music shop can feel like going home; it can feel like a place you can be yourself, a place where your interests are common interests. In Roanoke, we’re lucky to have a couple of really great music shops, and 2017 saw the opening of a brand new one: Enjoyable Noises.

Located at 631 Campbell Ave. in downtown Roanoke, Enjoyable Noises is in a prime location for meeting one’s musical needs. Owner, Aaron Parker, a Berklee College of Music graduate, opened the shop in January 2017, after 15 years of working part-time at the recently closed Ridenhour Music in Salem. I visited Enjoyable Noises to speak with Aaron and his lovely wife, Jessica, to find out more about the store, and to do some shopping for myself!

Floyd Fandango Rings in the Summer!

What do you get when you combine 10+ hours of live music with craft beer tastings, a farm-to-table dinner, trail races, children’s activities, and wellness workshops, all in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains? It’s none other than the next generation cult classic: Floyd Fandango. Being billed as the “FloydFest Love Child,” Fandango…

Randy Williams: The Story Behind the Song

One of the best things about attending Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association meetings is getting to hear the incredible songs that come from local musicians. Last month, SVSA member Randy Williams, brought a song to get critiqued by the group, and it’s so beautiful, and perfect for a special Father’s Day edition of Story Behind the Song.

Williams began writing songs as a teenager, but didn’t start focusing on songwriting until after his kids were grown. Crediting Angaleena Presley, Shawn Camp, Jason Isbell and Richard Thompson as some of his songwriting heroes, he writes to inspire others to see things from an unfamiliar perspective. His only real goal with songwriting is to be able to share an emotion or struggle that people can connect with. And with the song, “Look Up”, he truly accomplishes this goal. He recorded the song at Summit Sound with Jake Dempsey, who Williams said was crucial in bringing his songs to life.

The Magic of FloydFest Returns to Downtown Roanoke

Across-the-Way Productions (AtWP), an event management company best known for its flagship event FloydFest, brings its unique vibe back to the Star City with two early June events. The first, a picnic-themed day of music, the Giant Jam Sandwich, is this Sunday, June 4, and features a delicious compote of bands at Elmwood Amphitheater, including festival jam band favorites Tauk and Big Something.

The following Friday, June 9, pop country duo Montgomery Gentry takes the Elmwood Park main stage. These events come after AtWP brought the Star City Concert Series to Elmwood Park in 2016 with nostalgic acts that included Huey Lewis, Blondie, and Brian Wilson.