Wilmington is my go to place to visit when I want to get away from Fayetteville. Last Friday, after going to a much needed hair appointment, I hopped in the car with my friend and we drove off towards the coast. In what proved to be a short trip, we ate, walked along the river downtown, and then ended our adventure at Airlie Gardens. Always a beautiful place to visit, we went there to see The Midatlantic, a Folk/New Grass/Americana band as part of their summer concert series.
I was given a membership to the garden as a gift and it is truly the gift that keeps on giving the whole year! (Any Christmas Vacation fans out there?) I’ve been to the garden five times just this year. Every time I visit, I see something new. I love it! Close to the ocean, right on Bradley Creek, the garden is “the garden by the sea.” The salty sea breeze blows and you breathe in that saltiness. The concert was on the oak lawn, home to the 467 year old oak tree. A spectacular specimen, you can only imagine the sights this tree has seen over the centuries. So what better venue for a concert?
We parked our car at an old movie theater parking lot and took the trolley to the garden. Our driver, Fred, a grumpy retiree, started creeping out of the parking lot, paying little mind to the oncoming traffic. Fred finally mashed the gas pedal down and we crawled towards the suicide lane. Squeezing my eyes tightly I hoped the slow moving trolley would make it without incident. Several minutes later we crossed through the wrought iron gates of Airlie and were soon deposited safely in the parking lot. We disembarked and meandered down a winding path towards the oak lawn. Surprisingly, there were numerous people already picnicking.
We learned some things that night. First, you can bring just about anything you want to carry into the garden – chairs, tables, coolers, food, alcohol, drinks – you name it. We thought you could only bring chairs and drinks. Au contraire! The sky is the limit as long as you’re willing to carry. Second, there are two kinds of people attending the concerts. Group one is there to see the concert. Group two is there for a who’s who social gathering with no thought of the other group. If you are there and fall into group one my suggestion to you is this: under no circumstance should you sit near a group with a large folding table, multiple coolers, and the chairs situated into a circle. Why? Because more than likely they are there socializing and will likely talk over the band, forcing you to move if you want to hear them perform. If you are really lucky they will stand so close that when you turn your head you can kiss a well tanned cheek!
Socializing aside, the concert event venue is ideal. It is a large enough area to house people, yet not so large you can’t see the band, even from a distance. The Midatlantic, a dapper group of musicians, took the stage after a pre-show group huddle. A mix of classical instruments such as a cello, bass, and violin with a guitar, drums, and mandolin give the band a modern bluegrass/folk music sound. Jason Andre, one of the band’s singers, has a pleasant voice and plays a mean mandolin. Sharply dressed, he shares the singing with his bandmate, Steve Schroeder, the acoustic guitar player. As they play, the band harmonizes beautifully. They have a good variety of songs, and surprisingly I enjoyed them all. The Midatlantic played the full two hours, never once taking a break. By the end of the concert people left the comfort of their seats and were dancing and singing along with the band on the grassy area in front of the stage.
If you are looking for something to do on a Friday night, the Summer Concert Series at Airlie Gardens is a fantastic way to spend a few hours! You can’t beat sitting in your chair, snacking on goodies, while listening to some music as the ocean breeze blows gently. You can relax and take in local culture on a beautifully tended lawn under a centuries old oak. If you are looking to discover a local band that you and your family can enjoy, I recommend finding out where The Midatlantic is playing next and go see them. You will not be disappointed!