Smartmouth Brewing has come an incredibly long way over the last nine years. Founded by company president Porter Hardy and his wife Kim alongside Chris and Chris Neikirk, the brand has become a supremely regarded staple in Norfolk’s ever-flourishing craft beer scene.
Head brewer Jimmy Loughranand and his immensely talented crew produce five beers year-round and three seasonal styles, with various limited edition brews popping up regularly. Their Safety Dance Pilsner won a Gold Medal at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival, and they have also received national attention for their limited “Saturday Morning” IPA.
This Saturday, 10/23, to celebrate the company’s anniversary, they’re “kickin’ it back with a good old-fashioned block party in the street!” It’ll be an all-day free event at their Norfolk location with limited brews, a variety of food trucks, and a live music lineup featuring some of the region’s most popular bands.
The evening’s headliner, The Last Bison, is well known on the national touring circuit. Founded in Chesapeake and made up of vocalist/guitarist Ben Hardesty and cellist/bassist Amos Housworth, their “mountain-top chamber music” sound has drawn comparisons to The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes, and Mumford & Sons. In 2011 the group received high praise from local radio for their track “Switzerland,” which helped build a fast following in Hampton Roads. This successful momentum eventually led to three releases on the Universal Republic label. The group has played all over the country, including appearances at the Newport Folk Festival and Firefly Music Festival.
Also on the bill is accomplished singer-songwriter Logan Vath who has one full-length album and two EPs under his belt. He grew up in Nebraska and is now living in Norfolk. He’s got a style that reminds me at times of “Graceland”-era Paul Simon mixed with some inklings of the Saddle Creek label bands he cut his teeth on in younger days. Vath’s live band comprises some of the best musicians Norfolk has to offer. Drummer John DiGiorgio, a part of melodic punk outfit Mean Jesus and once in abrasive hardcore groups like Converge and Canephora, is one of Hampton Roads’ most consummate timekeepers. Bassist Jessica Denniston is also a member of Virginia Beach’s beloved dream/psych outfit BERRIES. Guitarist Zack Gehring is in noise rock rippers, Demons, and long-running local favorites Mae. They all compliment each other well and add nuanced dynamic to Vath’s impeccably well-crafted songs.
The event will also feature performances from Richmond singer/guitarist Landon Elliot, who impressed listeners with his latest single “Bigger Fish,” Virginia Beach indie-folk group The Lazy Dangers, and solo artist Matthew Birch.
Hosted by WHRO Public Media, the block party is a free event from noon to 10 pm on Saturday.
The Last Bison “Switzerland” Video
Logan Vath “Once Was” Video
Dave Allison runs the record label and website Custom Made Music and is part of the bands The Quintz and Last Remaining Pinnacle. He also makes his own solo recordings and has worked in the music biz for over 30 years. His first-ever performance was playing "Shout At The Devil" at the age of 10 at his Catholic Elementary School. He's regularly out in Norfolk watching bands and vending at various events around the area.