When I was in my late teens I pretty much listened to one band and artist the entire time: The Smiths and their lead singer Morrissey. I grew out of this maudlin stage of life in my 20s and hadn’t given much thought to their music since. So, imagine my surprise last month when my 16-year-old daughter Madeline announced to me that a band called Girlfriend in A Coma, a tribute to The Smiths, was playing at Tally Ho in downtown Leesburg, and that she and her friends wanted to see them. I had no idea she had even heard of The Smiths.
I immediately got them tickets and embarrassed her by accompanying them to the show.
I’m not going to lie, it was spectacular. The lead singer was a dead ringer for Morrissey, and the band had the 200-strong crowd dancing up a storm, flowers in hand, until close to midnight. I hadn’t had so much fun at a concert since… well a few weeks earlier when I went to see the iconic Virginia band Emmet Swimming at the same Tally Ho venue, a sell-out show with close to 800 people.
There’s an incredible energy and excitement to Loudoun’s art and music scene these days. Tally Ho is central to that but it’s not the only driver of the music scene. September 23 is the penultimate show in the wildly popular Tarara Summer Concert Series, a roughly 4-month long series of live Saturday concerts that started in May. The featured act this Saturday is Eagles tribute band 7 Bridges and they are sure to draw a crowd. Join them for a peaceful easy feeling.
While summer concerts may be winding down, music stays alive with bands and singer-songwriters performing most weekends at Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville and at multiple Loudoun wineries and breweries including Lost Barrel Brewing in Middleburg, Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont and Hillsborough Winery, Brewery & Vineyard.
But music is not the only show in town...
Loudoun’s art scene is booming, too and you can find incredible art in the least likely of places. Take the recently renovated Historic Douglass High School in Leesburg, Loudoun’s only African American high school until 1968 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Completely renovated in early 2023, it now features an extraordinary collection of historic black and white photographs on the walls of the building inside and black history themed sculptures and murals in the gardens and playground out back. Next to a bronze sculpture of Frederick Douglass for example is a collection of playground murals featuring portraits of Black Civil Rights leaders and musicians such as Louis Armstrong.
In western Loudoun, graphic designer Addie Moore’s captivating 29-by-9-foot postcard-style “Welcome to Purcellville” mural is emblazoned on the side wall of Purcellville Family Restaurant. At the corner of Main and South 20th streets, it has become a popular and colorful selfie spot.
Over at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Kelsey Montague’s interactive balloon mural has visitors lining up to take pictures of themselves looking as if they’re flying through the air, carried away by the balloons. If you’re looking for the biggest murals in the county, look no further than the giant 6,000 square-foot “new urbanism” murals on the back wall of the Alamo Drafthouse, also at One Loudoun. The abstract pieces – one by Loudoun artist Ed Trask – depict birds, planes, flowers, glass buildings and open sky, said to be representative of the five principles of “new urbanism”: harmony, social, connected, organic and urban.
No Loudoun public art scene would be complete without an equestrian statue, of course. Stroll the gardens of the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg to see a handsome bronze statue by British sculptor Tessa Pullan of Sea Hero, the 1993 Kentucky Derby winning horse owned by famous local resident Paul Mellon.
As for contemporary art, the three-acre Raflo Park back in Leesburg is home to the sculpture garden ArtsPARK, a rotating series of conceptual pieces by five local, regional and international artists that changes every two years. The latest rotation features two knitted sail-like paracord sculptures, a metal work sculpture titled “Oh Joy” and two unique pieces comprised of metal, found cedar and thrift shop items.