Last Tuesday there was a concert on campus in Covington. But on the grand stage where you might usually find classical musicians and graceful dancers, there was instead a bluegrass band and a bare-footed man.
The Roots concert hosted two musical performances. The first act being The Java Brothers, a local bluegrass band (you’ve probably seen them jamming out at River City Grill on Monday nights) followed by one-man-band, A.J. Gaither.
Dr. Bay, professor of art education, initiated and organized the event, with the goal to introduce Roots to Radford, a movement which puts emphasis on the process of creating. Dr. Bay introduced the performers in his familiar sense of humor that the College of Visual and Performing Arts knows and loves. With help from the Art Education club, a canned food collection and a raffle also was hosted, offering up original art and a signed cigar box guitar from Gaither. Appalachian Studies and The Scholar Citizen Initiative were also connected to the event.
Being a student in Radford, located in the Appalachian mountains, it is hard not to become attracted to the bluegrass genre that originated here. The Java Brothers stayed true to the origin of bluegrass with some older customary songs, but also had many great originals created by the band members. The crowd was alive with the music, and we listened as The Java Brothers harmonized and each instrument took turns playing lead breaks. The energy of the band was infectious.
Next on stage was A.J. Gaither, a bearded man with bare feet and overalls, who is known mainly for two things: being a one-man-band, and creating his own instruments. As he sat at his place on stage, you could see him surrounded by drums, cowbells, cymbals, all connected to foot pedals. On his neck was a harmonica, and at the ready were some of his home-made guitars and other stringed instruments.
A.J. joked to us that he started making his own instruments because he was cheap, and that even now, with all his new instruments, he still finds the most enjoyment playing with his old cardboard guitar. The songs he sung were about inspirations in his life: some about breakfast, drugs, drinking, his truck, but they had humor in it. His music got the entire crowd clapping and dancing along in their seats.
It was astounding to hear how good his instruments sounded. Many of them sounded like normal guitars, but with a sound that was new and different. His instruments ranged in shape and size, and they were all completely unique. A.J. Gaither played under the banner Home Made, and his instruments were a perfect example of the roots concept of creating art.
Overall, the show was fun, and it was full of creativity and life. Dr. Bay hopes to have a concert similar in the future.