Sturgeon City: A Band of Nice Pickers

As my blog entry from last week pointed out, last Wednesday was my birthday. Throughout the day, and over the next couple days, I was, of course, asked that ubiquitous birthday question, “So, you feel any different?”

My answer was always, “Nope.  Feeling great!” I have two small kids and a teenager. I don’t have time to feel old. I have to have a little pep in my step to keep up with everything I have going on in my family’s life and don’t have time to slow down. So, generally, I feel pretty good and don’t spend much time thinking about being over 40.

But then I heard about a band called Sturgeon City. And I felt old. Or, at least, older.

I was turned on to this band – a bluegrassy quintet from Richmond – when I became reacquainted with John Michael Nobile, an old friend from my days living in Poquoson, Virginia. I was starting college at Old Dominion University and J.M. was about the same age as my younger brother. He might have been in middle school. Over the next couple years, I coached J.M.’s soccer team and was often the all time quarterback in some hardcore touch football games on Evans Grove Road.

Other than a chance encounter at the Blue Ridge Mountain Sports store in Charlottesville a few years back, J.M. and I haven’t been much in contact since I left Poquoson in 1994. But I was stoked to hear from him again, as I knew that he and his younger brother, Brett, were both into music, and I was especially excited to hear that J.M. was in a band. A band, as it turns out, that is damned good.

And then I realized it was over 20 years ago that we met. He was a young kid. I was a slightly older kid.

For a moment, I felt old.

Sturgeon City recently shared the stage with another one of my favorite Virginia bands, James Justin & Co., in Richmond. Bailey Horsley, banjo player for JJ&Co., reached out to me after the show, telling me that the guys were awful nice and awesome pickers, too. That bodes well for Sturgeon City; it’s tough to root against a band of nice pickers.

Sturgeon City will be part of another sweet bluegrass bill this weekend when they join Larry Keel & Natural Bridge at The Southern Café & Music Hall in Charlottesville. Keel has long been one of my favorite guitar players. A flatpicking master, Keel has worked, since his days in Magraw Gap, to push the boundaries of bluegrass and acoustic music. Keel’s willingness to bend and warp what the masses see as bluegrass is something I appreciate; Keel has taken the genre, turned it on its head, shaken it just a bit, and then turned it right side up.

And I really like what Keel does when he is done shaking things up.

You can catch Larry Keel & Natural Bridge and Sturgeon City this Saturday, December 7th, at the Southern Café & Music Hall. I’d like to give you the chance to score a couple tickets for free by answering the trivia question down below. You know how it goes – email the answer to A winner will be chosen from all correct responses received by noon tomorrow, December 5th.

Question – Larry won the prestigious guitar competition at what Colorado bluegrass festival?


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