New Concert Series at N.E. Church:

The Bottom Floor Gets Off the Ground

by Amelia Wood

The hilarious and irreverent group DaVinci's Notebook, a nationally-known comedy and a cappella music quartet, will perform a benefit concert on Saturda, May 11 on behalf of CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocate program of Baltimore.

Musicians pooling their talents, utilizing their energy to make good music and help the community—that's the idea behind The Bottom Floor Concert Series. The series began at the end of 2001, amid the fear and uncertainty of living in a new era of terrorism. Performers saw a need to ensure that the arts kept our spirits alive, and that those who already face lives of uncertainty—the homeless, the abused, the neglected among us—continue to get the help they need.

The Bottom Floor Concert Series, the brainchild of David "Jasaga" Sawyer and Rev. Howard Nash of St. John's United Methodist Church of Hamilton, currently produces two shows a month, on the first and second Saturday night, with plans to expand to fill every Saturday of the month, September through June.

The first Saturday of the month features "A Songwriters' Showcase" hosted by Baltimore Songwriters' Association member Jeff Swiss. Local and regional singer-songwriters perform original music.

The second Saturday night of each month features "Live at The Bottom Floor," hosted by Joanne Juskus. Performers such as Red Letter Day, Rachel Cross, 9bobNOTE, Amikaeyla Proudfoot Gaston and Cletus Kennelly have been featured at this monthly celebration of eclectic music. The Bottom Floor has also held jazz nights featuring performers such as Rhonda Robinson, the Kuumba Collective and the Michael Raitzyk Trio.

A Page Right Out of DaVinci's Notebook

On Saturday, May 11, The Bottom Floor presents its most ambitious event so far: DaVinci's Notebook. The nationally-known comedy and a cappella music quartet will perform a benefit concert on behalf of CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocate program of Baltimore. This hilarious and irreverent group, which hails from the Washington, DC area, has been characterized as "Bobby McFerrin and 'Weird Al' Yankovic colliding on stage." Their shows can range from song parodies to audience requests to rock classics, spontaneous rap to conga lines, and even a Britney Spears imitation for good measure. This award-winning musical team has played to packed houses at such notable venues as The Bottom Line in New York, Atlanta's Variety Playhouse and the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tickets for DaVinci's Notebook are $10 each ($8 for students) and are available at the door, which opens at 7:30 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m. with a special appearance by Boston's James O'Brien and New England's Kristin Plater, called "a best-kept secret who overflows with personality and talent" by the Boston Globe.

Help is on the Way

Putting on the music series is a formidable task for the hard-working musicians involved. Already, people seeing the positive energy flowing from the series have stepped forward to help. Damian Einstein, music director and DJ for WRNR-FM (103.1) Annapolis, has invited Joanne Juskus to appear during his "Homegrown Music" program every second Thursday of the month from 9 to 10 pm. Joanne talks to Damian about the upcoming concerts and plays samples of the music to be performed.

David's Natural Market of Columbia has also gotten involved. The store has donated a $15 gift certificate to be given away in the Door Prize Giveaway held every second Saturday at "Live at The Bottom Floor." They have also given The Bottom Floor a sizeable discount on the purchase of concession items for the series.

Residential Underground Recording has been involved from the beginning, donating a sound system and expert sound engineering by Jeffrey Silverman and Dale German. They have also provided recording services for musicians. (They can be reached at 410-663-0210.)

The series is always looking for volunteers and supporters. Corporate sponsors receive mention on the monthly WRNR broadcasts, as well as mention on fliers and during the shows.

Looking Up from The Bottom Floor

Plans for future Bottom Floor shows include a June 8 Indiegrrls Showcase, featuring members of the large Internet collective of independent female musicians such as Sarah Pinsker, Relative Sight, Meghan Cary and Joanne Juskus. After a summer hiatus, The Bottom Floor will be back in the fall featuring such notable performers as the Mayfields, Brad Allen, Naked Blue and Annie Wenz, to name a few. There are also plans in the works for a festival to be held in the Summer of 2003.

Performers who are interested in finding out how to play at a future Bottom Floor show should contact Joanne Juskus at 410-730-2421 or email her at And local charities who are interested in applying to be a beneficiary of the concerts, or potential corporate sponsors should contact Joanne as well.

The shows are held at the church, at 5315 Harford Road. For directions, call 410-426-8177. There is plenty of free parking. Most shows are $7 per person ($5 for students), unless otherwise stated. This is an alcohol- and smoke-free listening environment. Shows start at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Refreshments are for sale and door prizes are awarded throughout the evening.

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This story was published on May 2, 2002.