Say what you want about Frederick and its occasionally fickle music scene, but the one thing that remains constant is the Weinberg Center and its knack for making this town just a little bit cooler than most other towns of the same size.
John Healey, who doubles as not only the executive theater manager of the Weinberg but also my favorite person in all the city, always puts together an eclectic mix of everything from bluegrass to jazz to world
music to good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll. And I consider the Weinberg’s announcement day one of the most anticipated on the Frederick arts scene’s calendar of events.
So when the press release went out on Aug. 1, informing the public of what the theater has in store for the next nine months or so, I couldn’t help but scour the list for the things I can’t miss, the things I don’t want to miss, and then the things that I could admittedly do without (I mean, I love the Beatles as much as the next guy, but holy wings, you sure do love your Beatles tributes in Frederick, don’t you?!).
That said, behold the five things I’m looking forward to the most on the Weinberg’s initial schedule. Please note — and as John always likes to remind me — this isn’t the be-all and end-all,, of course. There’s a very strong chance that dates and events will be added and announced between now the end of May 2020.
But as far as first looks go, here’s what I’m digging the most.
Sunday, Sept. 29, The Wailers
Word has it that Bob Marley’s band will perform one of their most aggressive albums, 1979’s “Survival,” from front to back during set No. 1 before moving onto what they say will be a “second set of classics.” Either way, this is a must for anyone who claims to have even a remote interest in reggae music.
Many could argue that without the Wailers backing him, Marley’s impact on both popular music and popular culture wouldn’t have been as cemented as it still is, all these decades later. Simply put, the Wailers brought an honest and real spirit to each and every performance that their iconic leader delivered.
“Music is so different than it is from when I was growing up,” Bob’s son Ziggy told me in 2012. “Back then, it was real and it meant something. Today, music is great for entertainment, but it is lacking soul; it’s lacking substance, and it’s difficult to find good stuff.” Rest assured that there will be no lack of soul once the Wailers hit that Weinberg stage in September.
Wednesday, Oct. 9, Craig Ferguson
Heading out under the “Hobo Fabulous Tour” moniker, Craig Ferguson has settled well into Life After Television, penning some books, touring the world and occasionally popping up on late-night shows again — only this time as a guest rather than a host. He’s always had an everyman appeal, and for those who continue to lament the end of his “Late Late Show” run (welcome to the club!), you’ll remember his expert ability to walk the line between absurd, smart and funny in a way few others can anymore. If nothing else, James Corden owes him the debt of a career after Ferguson made The Show That Comes On After David Letterman relevant again for the first time in years. So for those who continue to worship at the altar of Carpool Karaoke, take a minute to pay respects to the guy who actually opened that door and allowed CBS to be funny again sometime in the wee hours of the night. And what better way to do that then to head over to the Weinberg in the second week in October?
Tuesday, Oct. 15, ‘The Office! A Musical ParodY’
It’s so intriguing, you can’t help but wonder what it’s like. And if you can’t help but wonder what it’s like, the only way you can have any of your questions answered is to actually see it … right? Created by the same people who also offered musical parodies of “Friends,” “Saved by the Bell,” “Full House” and other things you might suspect could receive the musical parody treatment, this show has received an impressive amount of mainstream media coverage, what with Mashable calling it “the world’s most elaborate inside joke, created with a whole lot of love, just for fans,” and Vulture allowing the cast to come into its own offices to perform for a video.
Perhaps the biggest seal of approval the production received came from Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight Schrute on the NBC sitcom, when he invited the cast on for a giggle-infested satellite interview during a televised fundraiser he hosted. The same guy who plays Jim also plays Andy. The same girl who plays Pam also plays Erin. And Michael Scott? That’s up to Emma Brock, whose credits include a stint on the Disney Cruise line. If this isn’t enough to sell you on seeing it, I don’t know what is.
Friday, Nov. 1, Steep Canyon Rangers
Steve Martin’s favorite bluegrass band will hit the Weinberg stage sans their famous friend, but that shouldn’t matter at this point: The Asheville sextet has earned respect on their own by playing stages and festivals worldwide for nearly two decades now. Having earned a Grammy in 2012 for “Nobody Knows You,” these guys have carved out an immense and intense following since forming at the University of North Carolina in 2000.
Since then, they became one of the best-kept secrets of the bluegrass world … until Martin sought them out for a collaboration that would end up lasting the better part of eight years. That working relationship included two studio albums — 2011’s “Rare Bird Alert” and 2017’s “The Long-Awaited Album.” Their most recent effort, 2018’s “Out in the Open,” peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass albums chart less than two years ago. Their performance in Frederick promises to be can’t-miss — the last time they appeared in the area was in May when they took the stage at Baltimore’s Charm City Bluegrass Festival, and as Austin Dickey wrote for the website The Retriever, the night was “nothing short of delightful.”
Friday, Jan. 24/Saturday, May 2, Classic Albums Live performs David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘Damn the Torpedoes’
That’s right: A bonus entry! Two for the price of one. Cover acts are a tricky thing to discuss within the confines of Frederick, but if you’re going to go out of your way to see one, there’s truly none better than the Classic Albums Live crew. For the upcoming Weinberg season, they’ll be tackling a few records, front to back, but these two stuck out to me the most. Why? Well, for one, anybody who tries to mimic “Ziggy Stardust” deserves points anyway, and if they manage to pull it off adequately, they’ll immediately launch up the rankings of Things to See at the Weinberg forever and ever (amen).
And secondly, “Damn the Torpedoes” might sound simple to most, but the nuances of the complete collection make it one of the most fun listens in the modern rock recording era (and if the performers at the Weinberg work in the almost inaudible dialogue from a woman at the beginning of “Even the Losers,” they deserve a raise). Two trips down memory lane that promise not to disappoint. What’s not to love?
For a full list of events this year at the Weinberg, click here.