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Killer apes, wine and country
August 11, 2011 - April Diodato
It may be cooling down as we approach mid-August, but summer sure isn’t slowing down. This week, I have an interview with a hometown guy who’s found success as a country singer, details on a benefit for a good cause, more fun things to this weekend and a review of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Let’s go!
SEAN PATRICK MCGRAW
After making it to the semi-finals on “Nashville Star,” Dunkirk native Sean Patrick McGraw has found success as a country singer and songwriter – but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Among his accomplishments and accolades are a national tour with country juggernauts Toby Keith and Trace Adkins, first place honors in the American Songwriting Competition and the Mountain Stages New Song Festival, a song featured on the hit TV show “True Blood,” and he sang the National Anthem at a White Sox game last July. McGraw is on the road a lot and has become known for putting on a good live show. Luckily, McGraw still has a soft spot for Chautauqua County, and he’ll be performing at America’s Grape Country Wine Festival on Sunday. I had the opportunity to ask McGraw a few questions ahead of this weekend’s concert and found him to be quite witty. Read on:
- What initially sparked your interest in country music?
I was trying to go visit my momma in prison one day only to find my truck was gone and my dog was dead, I guess it was inevitable ... but seriously, I remember Keith Medley going on and on to me one day about how great Dwight Yoakam was. So whose fault is it, Dwight’s or Keith’s? I'm not sure.
- Even though you've found national success, you come home often to perform shows in the local area. What keeps you coming back?
My phone keeps ringing from people calling me offering me beer and cash to sing my songs. Their area codes just happen to be 716.
- What do you miss most about Dunkirk when you're away from home?
My friends and family of course. Them and the lake.
- What is your most memorable experience while on the road?
Well, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the best stories are the ones you can't tell” ... forgoing that, playing to an audience of 20,000-plus in Scranton, Pa., in front of Toby Keith where the crowd response was so loud it hurt ... that was something.
- What is your favorite song to perform?
My favorite song to sing is called "Someone Somewhere Tonight," written by my friend Walt Wilkins. It's simply spiritual. That, and chicks dig it. (Just kidding). It's not one of those songs that makes the girls swoon, but from an artistic perspective it's a pretty profound piece of poetry, and from a singer’s perspective, it fits my voice like I wrote it myself.
- In your musical career so far, which accomplishment are you most proud of? What are your goals?
As of right now I've gone almost a full year without resorting to singing "Mustang Sally" to please an audience! Seriously, I don't know. I don't feel especially accomplished. My goals have always been to write a top 10 song and get a major label record deal. I've done neither. On the other hand, I've managed to get to do some really cool things in my life and I feel very blessed.
- What's next for Sean Patrick McGraw?
Lunch? I can't tell right now, my crystal ball is fogged up from all the humidity.
McGraw’s show is at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk. Uncle Kracker will also be performing. America’s Grape Country Wine Festival will be held Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and starts Sunday at noon. Expect a wide variety of wines and vendors, food, live music and plenty of boozy fun. For tickets to the concert and festival, as well as the full schedule of events, visit www.agcwinefestival.com.
REMEMBERING NATE GEORGE
At age 27, Nathan George died unexpectedly in a car accident in May 2009. The memory of the beloved Fredonia native lives on in a series of fundraisers to benefit the Nathan George Foundation, to support sports programs in need in the local communities and schools, and awarding scholarships to area athletes – a fitting tribute for the avid baseball player.
Among this weekend’s events are a spaghetti dinner event at the Fredonia Beaver Club Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., with live music by Last Call and a Chinese auction; the third annual Nathan George Memorial Softball Classic on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., followed by the softball classic’s after party Saturday at 41 West with a performance by Transcendental, getting started at around 8:30 p.m. (with music slated to begin at about 10).
“(Nate) was just one of those people everybody liked,” said Transcendental’s (incredibly sick)* guitarist Ryan Holser, who makes the trek home from North Carolina just to perform at the benefit show each year. “It's a tragedy the way he died so young. The way that his girlfriend, family, and friends have banded together to make good things happen in his name is really incredible. I've not seen anything else like it in Fredonia.”
“Nate was a fan of our band, so when we reunited for our first show in eight years in July '09, only a couple months after he passed away, we decided to make it a benefit for the scholarship fund which had been started in his name,” Holser said. “Since then the Nathan George Foundation has grown, and we have been asked to return to the stage twice now to play the after-party for the Nathan George Memorial Softball Classic. It's our honor to do so and as far as I'm concerned we'll play every year (as long as they'll have us).”
Make a donation to the Nathan George Memorial Scholarship Fund at the show (I saw it last year, it is not to be missed!) or mail checks to Nathan George Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1315, Dunkirk, NY 14048.
MORE WEEKEND HAPPENINGS
- Walleye Willie’s Huge Party will be held Friday night. Let me give you the play-by-play. The final registration for the Homemade Bikini Contest is at 6:30 p.m. If you are interested in participating – and with a $500 grand prize, who wouldn’t be? – be there between 5:30 and 6 p.m. The Blue Light Lime Party and the Blue Light Girls begin at 6 p.m. Dunk them in Walleye’s very own dunk tank. "America's Got Talent" contestant Shemika Charles will be performing a special limbo show at approximately 7 p.m. Judging for the bikini contest is at 8:30 and live music by New York Rockin Revue gets going at about 9.
- The Fredonia Beaver Club's annual Party on the Hill continues now through Aug. 28. This Saturday, the Beaver Club is proud to host Ion Sky from 8 to 11 p.m. On Aug. 17, start your engines and bring them down to the second annual car show. Registration is at 4:30 and DJ Joe McCaffery Jr. will provide the tunes.
- Bart's Cove will feature Big Tone from 5 to 9 p.m.
It’s the biggest cinematic surprise of the summer. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a frighteningly good horror flick and in what has turned out to be a winning season for films, it ranks among my top three – and in an attempt to find solace in the blissful air conditioning from my sweltering apartment, I’ve seen almost everything.
“Apes” was certainly not on my short list of movies I was psyched to see in summer 2011. In fact, at first viewing of the trailer, I do believe that I said, “You could not pay me to see that movie.” But like a freakishly intelligent killer ape sinking its teeth into the oppressive flesh of mankind, I will now happily eat my words. A prequel to a sci-fi series with roots in the 1960s – and many missteps along the way – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” has done the seemingly impossible: it has revamped the franchise with a thoughtful, heartbreaking and exciting film that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater. This is not just another silly creature feature.
In the film, scientist Will Rodman (the smug but tolerable – for the purposes of this film -- James Franco) is fervently trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the cause of his father’s (John Lithgow) quickly deteriorating health. Tests on chimpanzees result in a rapid increase of intelligence – with some side effects, and the experiments go awry. The focus of the film is not on the humans – it’s about the apes, specifically the struggle of Caesar, the baby of one of the lab’s chimpanzees that had to be put down after contamination. Caesar comes home to live with Rodman and his father, and begins to display an astonishing rate of mental and psychological development. Caesar’s world gets turned upside down after a misunderstanding, and that’s when the tone of the film completely shifts.
Did the creators of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” not get the memo about the low-quality sequels that Hollywood is cranking out these days? It’s a good thing they didn’t, because we are rewarded with a moving film rife with rich character development, raw emotion, phenomenal digital effects and many thrilling moments. “Apes” was left open-ended for a sequel I actually welcome, encourage and look forward to.
Catch “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” at the Dunkirk Movieplex.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments and events to email@example.com
*I was just asked for clarification on this: It's an expression. I meant he's really good.
Sean Patrick McGraw will perform Sunday at America's Grape Country Wine Festival.