Last summer, L.A.-based folk-pop duo The Ditty Bops bicycled their way across the country instead of taking a tour bus, all as part of an effort to promote clean air and cycling. Perhaps 4,700 miles of pedaling worked up quite an appetite, as this year Amanda Barrett and Abby DeWald are taking a Farm Tour. Over the course of this summer, they're playing traditional shows as well as benefit concerts on farms to raise money for The Growing Connection and Farm Aid.
This tour includes a stop in Madison, where they will be playing at the Barrymore Theatre on Friday, August 24.
During the tour so far, the Bops have been visiting organic and co operative farms, including a youth farm in Eugene, Oregon, where "kids get to learn how to farm organically and grow produce for a local food bank and farmer's market." They've been gifted with everything from vegan cupcakes to an organic pie eating contest held at one of their shows.
"On the bicycle tour we rode by thousands of miles of corn and soybean fields -- crops being grown as animal feed," recalls Barrett. "It made us want to learn more about small family farms and to bring attention to the people who are feeding their local communities." The Farm Tour, ultimately, is their way of learning about and raising awareness of family farms, co ops, organic restaurants, health food stores, organic dairy suppliers and vegetable growers.
Wisconsin certainly is a good place for this kind of stuff. As of the last count in 2001, there were about 50 certified organic farms in the state, putting us second in the nation.
The Ditty Bops have swung through town on a number of occasions since their debut album was released in 2004. Attendance at each concert since has grown in size and enthusiasm, illustrating the band's following in Madison. The appreciation seems to be mutual, as at their last show in town they declared: "We love Madison! You bike in the snow, you've got a great co-op, and lots of gay people!"
Stylistically, the duo create a unique fusion of vintage rag time and jazz rhythms and tight, pleasing harmonies, with entertaining and often interactive vaudeville style theatricality. They've been known to feature all manner of costumes and props at their shows, including a set of vegetable dresses designed specifically for their Farm Tour. The songs are mostly upbeat, enough to get audiences up and moving and even to inspire dance offs, which are often held to the tune of "Sister Kate." The pervasive mood at these shows is light hearted and family friendly.
The show on Friday at the Barrymore will feature an opening set by the Bop's bandmates under the guise of Ice Cream Truck, along with a farmers' market in the theater lobby and a silent auction for Family Farm Defenders. If the torrential rains have you feeling blue, this will be one surefire way to get your toes tapping and your body bouncing.