The best Memorial Day party this side of the Bay Bridge is coming soon. Rockville’s Hometown Holidays will celebrate 25 years of music, food, and fun in town center next month. The weekend will include five stages with more than 30 bands, the Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of Rockville event with area restaurants participating, amusements and entertainment for children, and the Memorial Day ceremony and parade. Events start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 25 and continue through Monday, May 27. In the 25 years since Hometown Holidays began, 1.2 million people have enjoyed the event.
Performing on Saturday will be:
- Maryland native Shane Gamble Band, performing at 4:30 p.m. on the Regal Stage
- Country singer-songwriter Sunny Sweeney will headline Saturday evening’s concert line up
- The Dirty Guv’nahs, a six-piece rock-n-roll collective
Performing on Sunday will be:
- Christylez Bacon, a progressive hip-hop artist from Washington, D.C., performing at 6:30 p.m. on the Town Square Stage.
- The Waiting, a tribute band to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
- The Nighthawks, an award-winning DC-based blues and roots rock band
Watch Rockville’s Channel 11 for Hometown Holidays All Access, a show previewing some of the musical talent coming to Rockville this Memorial Day weekend. For updated information, visit www.rockvillemd.gov/hth.
The City’s Hometown Holidays Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RockvilleHometownHolidays) will be updated as the celebration nears, so stay tuned there for announcements of more bands and food vendors.
Hometown Holidays is one of Rockville’s biggest events and spreads out among several streets in downtown with artists, restaurants, music, kiddie rides, businesses, and local organizations. For a few hours today I joined the volunteers in the food ticket booth in a wonderful location between Oro Pomodoro and Bombay Bistro, two great Rockville restaurants. Oro Pomodoro brought their wood burning stove and prepared the pizzas next to me, which was fun to watch (and I ordered a pizza al funghi when I finished my rotation in the booth). Strolling the artists’ booth, I encountered Charlie Barton of Baltimore, who creates stunning silkscreened images that merges high contrast panoramic photography with the boldness of 1960s psychedelic art. If you collect contemporary art by local artists, he’s one to watch.
When Rockvillians are looking for live music, their tendency is to look south towards Silver Spring, DC, or, heavens! across the Potomac. Well, those are great places–who can argue with the concerts at the Kennedy Center, The Fillmore, 9:30 Club, Wolftrap, or the Birchmere. But there are plenty of great places for seriously good music in and around Rockville if you know where to look and when to show up. In no particular order, here’s my list of concert venues and presenters of good live music:
- The Institute of Musical Traditions may be based in Takoma Park but it holds a concert series of Celtic, folk, bluegrass, and Creole music at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (they call it Rockville, but it’s south of White Flint on Old Georgetown Road, so perhaps North Bethesda or South Rockville). Takes a break during the summer. Tickets run $15-20.
- Unplugged on the Rooftop, a Tuesday night concert series in Town Square featuring a mix of established and undiscovered local bands, such as The Digits and Meredith Seidel. Admission free, cash bar.
- Wine Down is a Thursday night series from June through August that features live acoustic music while sampling wine and food from the nearby restaurants. Free.
- Friday Night Live starts the weekends from May through September with free outdoor concerts (mostly rock from the 80s and 90s) in Rockville Town Square on Friday nights.
- Focus Music presents concerts of acoustic traditional and contemporary folk music at three locations around DC, including the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockville.
- Folk ‘N Great Music hosts intimate house concerts every other month on a Saturday evening (yup, in houses around Rockville and it’s the very first unionized house concert series in the US). Next concert in June. Reservations required, donations encouraged.
- Maryland Summer Jazz Festival, now in its eighth year, includes public concerts and a jazz camp in July. Not exactly sure of the location but I suspect it’s somewhere in the south end of Rockville judging from the list of sponsors.
- Rockville Concert Band, Potomac Valley Youth Orchestra, and other musical groups perform at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater in Rockville’s Civic Center Park throughout the year. Admission fees vary and most recommend reservations.
- Also in Civic Center Park, Glenview Mansion hosts monthly concerts on Sunday afternoons in its conservatory. Admission free.
- Music Center at Strathmore is certainly of the region’s crown jewels and just ten minutes from my house. It has two venues: the large new concert hall and the intimate music room in the historic mansion. Both present amazing performances by some of the leading artists in the country as well as being a home for the National Philharmonic (Rockville’s own Piotr Gajewski is conductor), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Washington Performing Arts Society.
- Hometown Holidays, a regional event hosted by the City of Rockville, takes place over Memorial Day weekend with something like forty free concerts on eight stages (this year’s headliner is country singer Easton Corbin), along with lots of food, craft booths, and of course a parade.
Wow, there’s plenty here in Rockville to keep your feet tapping all year but I’d love to make it a dozen. If I missed a local concert venue or presenter (local means within two miles of the Red Brick Courthouse), please share it in the comments below.
It was a bit warm this weekend, but still a great time to enjoy Rockville’s annual Hometown Holidays. I love seeing lots of people downtown enjoying our fair city, and I also like to see what’s happening with restaurants through the “Taste of Rockville” (you may figured out I’m a bit of a foodie). Lots of restaurants were there and the most exciting was Oro Pomodoro, who was making pizzas with a portable wood-burning oven. Some people may be disappointed in the lack of variety, but participating in a “taste” event is very difficult–restaurants often have to stretch their resources to staff a second location for two days and then guess at how much food to bring. Most do it as a community service and hope it will result in future customers–they rarely make any profit at these events. Alas, the “tastes” were large and typically cost $5 so I only managed to try out three restaurants. I hope next year they’ll include smaller menu items in the $1-3 range to encourage people to take a risk on something new.
There was plenty to do for families (which also meant lots of strollers to navigate) but adults could probably explore it all in a couple hours unless you enjoyed an entire performance. The City did a great job of placing and scheduling bands carefully throughout downtown, but setting up all the stages and chairs also pointed out that we lack obvious community gathering places downtown (hardly any benches and shade trees arranged for a group of a dozen or more people). Let’s hope the new buildings going up soon will solve that.
I’ll be filling a booth at Hometown Holidays on Memorial Day weekend so I can meet people and gather signatures for my petition to get on the ballot as a candidate for Rockville City Council. By itself, that can be a pretty boring activity for a booth, so I’m bringing a couple “talk-back” boards (a pre-blog/Facebook technique used in museums to encourage interaction with an exhibit) to allow people to share ideas and concerns about Rockville. Plus, I’ll bring my postcards of Rockville, which I’ll be giving away (but encouraging a donation to Peerless Rockville). Hope to see you then!