Trail Mix – The Last Bison

It isn’t often that I break out the My Town edition for the Trail Mix blog and have my respondent cover most of the eastern half of Virginia.

But, seriously, I am not complaining.

Ben Hardesty, of The Last Bison, hails from the Tidewater area of Virginia but now calls Charlottesville home. When I called on him to about some of his hometown’s best destinations for food, spirits, and music, I didn’t realize he had moved on from Hampton Roads. But Ben was kind to expand the radius, so to speak, and highlight hot spots from all over the Commonwealth.

Ben and his mates in The Last Bison, Andrew Benfante and Amos Housworth, have been churning out melodic, atmospheric folk rock for most of the last decade. The band released their newest record, SÜDA, last week, and this month Trail Mix features “Cold Night,” a track Hardesty notes is rooted in the recollection of a fractured memory.

“We all have memories of experiences that deeply affected the way we individually view the world and the people around us. As we grow older, many of the details of those memories begin to fade. For me, often times I don’t realize how significant those moments were until trying to recall them years later. This song is an internal dialogue about that process. It’s about me sitting by the fire on a cold night, trying to connect the dots and fill in the missing details of a distant memory, one that seemingly changed my perception, a memory that I’m just far enough removed from that I can’t put every piece of it together.”

Planning a trip to Eastern Virginia? Already here and call it home? You’d be smart to check out some of the local favorites listed below by Ben as he dishes on a couple of his hometowns.

BRO – Favorite brewery/distillery?

BH –  There’s a lot of good beer in Virginia, but I’m going to shout out a couple breweries from where I grew up in Hampton Roads. I am a fan of Big Ugly Brewery and Smartmouth Brewing Company. When it comes to spirits, A. Smith Bowman Distillery, in Spotsylvania, is my favorite.

BRO – Best place to catch a post-show libation?

BH – Catching a drink after a show is a great way to wind down, especially when there are friends at the show. I’ll give a few. In Norfolk, we always hit up Public House. In Charlottesville, where I currently live, we love to get a good cocktail at Brasserie Saison. They make my favorite Negroni in town.

BRO – Something an out-of-towner should see on a visit?

BH – Here in Charlottesville, one of my favorite things is our food/drink scene. We have some awesome restaurants, bars, and breweries. If you’ve just gone for a good hike and make your way into town, I suggest taking a stop at Kardinal Hall for a German beer and sausage. A walk up and down the Downtown Mall is amazing. Jefferson’s Monticello is also worth a visit, or if you’re here in the summer, go to King Family Vineyards for wine and polo.

BRO – Favorite locally owned restaurant?

BH – This depends on what you are in the mood for. I’ll keep it local to Charlottesville. If you want pizza, definitely check out Lampo. For a good burger, hit up Citizen Burger on the Downtown Mall. Lastly, if you want something a little fancier, C&O is absolutely incredible.

BRO – Best place to hear live music?

BH – Virginia has a wealth of great venues. The Norva in Norfolk, The National in Richmond, and The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville are great spots to see prominent acts. When it comes to more intimate venues, I love going to The Southern in Charlottesville, Jammin Java in Vienna, or The Camel in Richmond.

BRO – Some local bands our readers should know about?

BH – Definitely want to plug some of my friends that are in great bands right here in Virginia:  Super Doppler, Bonne Chere, Lowland Hum, and David Wax Museum. Just like Virginia has so many great venues, it also has countless amazing bands.

BRO – Favorite shop to hunt for vinyl?

BH – If you’re in Charlottesville, definitely hit up Sidetracks or Melody Supreme Vinyl Records. If you’re in Hampton Roads, check out Skinnies in Norfolk or Birdland Records in Virginia Beach.

BRO – Favorite memory while playing a hometown show?

BH – The first time we ever headlined our hometown venue, The Norva, I remember being nervous, because the room is large and we were a small local band. I will always remember the overwhelming turnout. To know that your town supports what you are doing is huge for a band. Over 1,300 people showed up and they sang the words to every song. I will never forget it.

Goodness. Food, beer, and music fans take heed. Ben has laid out a roadmap of great places to visit in Eastern Virginia. Take a chance on one, two, or all of those places if you find yourself in Charlottesville, Richmond, or Hampton Roads.

The Last Bison will be in Charlotte next weekend, October 6th, before hitting the road again in late November. For more information on tour dates or how to get your hands on the new record, surf over to the band’s website.

And be sure to take a listen to “Cold Night,” along with brand new tunes from Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Thomas Cassell, and Malcolm Holcombe on this month’s Trail Mix.

Places to Go, Things to See: