Sometimes I just have to put sports on the back burner and soak up some culture or history.
With trips to Gettysburg and Colonial Williamsburg in the books and a visit to Boston for a trek on Freedom Trail and a Whale Watch pending, my wife Lisa and I turned our attention toward music. And let me tell you that there is not a better venue anywhere than Infinity Hall in Norfolk.
Norfolk, long a center of culture as home to the Yale Summer School of Music, is located on Route 44 in the Northwest Hills west of Windsor and just east of Canaan.
Infinity Hall features an acoustically perfect setting in a stunning Victorian building that once served as a community center. Adjoining the cozy theater is the new Infinity Bistro with an eclectic menu as interpreted by executive chef Dan Fortin, who has cooked at such respected restaurants as Apricots in Farmington and Trumbull Kitchen in Hartford.
We didn’t eat at the Bistro. We certainly will after seeing it and viewing the menu, but back to the music.
There isn’t a bad seat in the house. Most of the seats are in an orchestra section in front of the stage. A limited number of higher priced seats that feature waitress service for drinks and meals from the Bistro are located in the mezzanine that hangs over the floor.
The stage is living-room snug. Given the acoustics, the surroundings must be quite inspiring to the musicians. Speakers are suspended from the ceiling on either side of the stage.
Our introduction to Infinity Hall came last winter when we saw Atlanta Rhythm Section, a hard-driving Southern rock band whose volume sent some patrons home early. Our second visit on Friday was to watch Aztec Two-Step perform the music of Simon and Garfunkel.
Aztec Two-Step – Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman – have been performing their mellifluous blend of folk and rock since 1971. They were joined on stage by New York City radio personality and Simon and Garfunkel biographer Pete Fornatale, whose personable manner and knowledge of his subject add a unique and welcome element to the show.
Rex and Neal methodically, passionately and brilliantly conducted a musical history tour of S & G’s incredible career, touching on all their greatest hits including “Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Boxer” and “Scarborough Fair.”
The intimate gathering, obviously well-versed in the music of both S & G and Aztec Two-Step, sang along with such verve that it visibly inspired the musicians.
The familiar sound of thunder could be heard over the music toward the end of the second set. As Rex sang the final verses of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the building experience a power failure. Incredibly, the crowd joined Rex in singing the final verse. The power returned. Rex looked out over the audience and exclaimed, “Awesome!”
I’m a veteran of hundreds of concerts in my time and I have never witnessed such synergy between the performers and the audience. Hearing the timeless treasures that S & G bestowed upon our generation meticulously performed by a duo that has rocked regional audiences for nearly 40 years had a tremendous emotional impact.
We will be returning to Infinity for Pure Prairie League in September and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in October, but the venue books a wide variety of musical genres well beyond my folk rock/bluegrass tastes.
August brings Livingston Taylor, John Lee Hooker Jr., Roomful of Blues, Al Stewart and Suzy Bogguss. Herman’s Hermits, Tom Rush and Loudon Wainwright III are among the September acts. October features Johnny Winter, Ray Parker Jr. and Allman Brothers guitarist extraordinaire Dickey Betts.
Check the schedule yourself (http://www.infinityhall.com/) because there are many others, some famous and some more local, with tickets priced accordingly. If you go once, I assure you that you’ll be back.