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Art of the State



I Want to Learn How to Fly

Fame's a funny thing, innit? Say you're living in Richmond, working as a baggage handler, or as an au pair, or as someone who drives something. But then suppose you've written a song that's become a club hit in Bangladesh -- does that make you famous? Hard to say.

You may not know this, but Aaron Lewis, fiddler for that band of bluegrass jesters Special Ed and the Shortbus, just returned from the Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax, where he took home the blue ribbon and no less than $185 as first-place winner out of 134 folks.

"It seemed like fewer," he says. "I think that's how I won." Perhaps he's being too hard on himself — the hirsute fiddler snatched second place last year. Many of the festival-goers are themselves musicians, so the week is one big jam. Lewis, perhaps humbly, was just as proud of the way he and his mates rigged a blue tarp over their campsite, even if it was so low they had to crawl to get under it.

"Every year we try to make our campsite a little more spectacular," he says. Indeed.

Lewis spends his time with the Shortbus, but also plays with Jackass Flats, Los Huevos Diablos and the Shockoe Bottom Boys. Not content to rest, he's shipping out for Brighton, England, to represent his country in the World Beard and Moustache Championship Sept. 1, to vie once more for fame and recognition, based this time not on his musical skill but on his relentless testosterone.

Sadly, he's just going to miss Richmond's fun-time thrash band Municipal Waste, which will just be ending a European tour. Luckily, the band's (say it with me now) big in Europe, and so was featured in an episode of Bruce Dickinson's "Friday Rock Show" on BBC-6, to air Aug. 24 ( Dickinson, of medieval torture device Iron Maiden, set up the interview, but Waste singer Tony Foresta interviewed his own bandmates because, believe it or not, Dickinson is an airline pilot and had to go to work.

"It was really weird," Foresta says.

The Waste has been touring for its album "The Art of Partying." Foresta came back to Richmond to oversee Best Friends Day, the weekend holiday for the PBR generation. But they're heading back to England to play the big festivals in Reading and Leeds.

They've come a long way from basement shows.

But there are other ways to the top. The perennial puberteens of Hanson are holding a contest to be their opening act for their Toad's Place show Oct. 10. The price of fame, right? Just imagine the female fans throwing rubber bands from their braces right up onstage. It's a dream in some monasteries.

Says Foresta: "Oh my God, What's the date of that, 'cause I want to do it." Sadly, Municipal Waste will be on tour.

New kid on the block

But who knows the love of a child better than Karen Coltrane, the new president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. Coltrane replaces Randy Wyckoff, who's retiring after four years of dealing with grape soda spilled on the exhibits.

Coltrane says her reign will be marked by shifting the focus of the exhibits, since the museum has identified its audience as being from birth to 8 years old rather than birth to 12. So Coltrane can look forward to being mobbed in the streets by newborns and kids with sticky purple fingers.

"A lot of little hands have pulled on things around here, so it's time to switch out our exhibits and get things in alignment with our audience," she says.

The people have babbled. S

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