Seattle Weekly: The Dip’s Got Some Spicy Soul Flavor

“I feel like no one should fault you for putting more dip on your chip.”

Local funk group The Dip specializes in making smokin’ soul sounds, loyal fans, and cleverly enough, homemade hot sauces to sell alongside its delicious new self-titled record.

The Dip was born out of the house-party scene at UW, where most of the seven-piece band majored in jazz studies. “We were just trying to form a group that could play some house parties, get into that vibe, and have fun,” drummer Jarred Katz says. “We were so busy with music at school . . . [we wanted] to have something extracurricular, an outlet.”

That outlet soon grew into a bigger project, especially as the group honed their sound and added a vocalist, Tom Eddy from Beat Connection (of which Katz is also a member). “[Eddy] was a natural fit, he made it more than just a jam party thing . . . something you really can sink your teeth into,” Katz says.

With a solid underlying groove and tightly arranged background horns, The Dip pays due respect to the R&B tradition, but has a sound all its own, attaching pop, rock, and jazz influences to the soul train. Their popular track “Stateline” is a perfect example, with Eddy’s crooner-esque vocals, a rock-’n’-roll guitar break, and a tenor sax sound reminiscent of Michael Brecker’s. Think Blood, Sweat and Tears, but with some special sauce.

On that note, The Dip has been known to play up their name’s association with food. “We have played a lot of food-oriented music festivals, like the Ballard Seafood Festival,” Katz says, “[and] we did have a special barbecue sauce that we put our own label on that was the cover of our first EP.”

More recently, the band members made their own homemade hot sauce to sell at their album-release party in April. Eddy said a song they played when they started out planted the seed. “There was a line in the song that went ‘Servin’ it up, yeah buddy,’ ” Eddy says, “People at our shows learned the line and would yell it out. So when the record release came, me and Jacob, our guitar player, went and got 12 pounds of jalapeños and roasted them in my backyard. [The hot sauce] is really good! We didn’t sell it all, so I still put it on my eggs some mornings to remind myself to stay spicy.”

Along with the band’s affinity for barbecue and churning out “saucy” grooves, Katz says their name comes from the way the audience looks when they’re dancing. “It’s like, ‘dipping your hips’ . . . and it’s not about tobacco,” he says with a laugh. “It’s also a homage to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings; we’re really inspired by them.”

You can’t listen to The Dip without shaking your tail, and that is exactly what’s earned them such a reputation. “They are super-fun—I saw them one time at a random house party and [loved] the vibe that they gave off, you couldn’t help but start moving. Five minutes in, I knew I had to have them at my own house parties,” says UW graduate and friend Ayala-View Goldstein, who’s hired The Dip many times.

As of now, The Dip is writing new tunes and working hard toward releasing an all-instrumental EP in the fall. This group thrives on double dipping, so they’re giving fans plenty of opportunity to come back for more. As Eddy said, “I feel like no one should fault you for putting more dip on your chip. Go get it if you need it.”

music@seattleweekly.com

The Dip With Tuatara. Nectar Lounge, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020, nectarlounge.com. $10. 21 and over. 8 p.m. Fri., Aug. 21.

Smartists: Nora Jane Struthers

Published on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

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Nora Jane Struthers was waist-deep in her career as a high school English teacher and working on a graduate degree, when “the slow trickle of suspicious dissatisfaction that had been dripping in the back of my mind for years turned into a gushing realization: I was being successful in building the life I had set out to build but there was still something deep within me that was unfulfilled,” she said. Then, Nora Jane decided to be brave. In true Smart Girl-y fashion, Nora Jane “sold most of her stuff, packed her minivan and drove to Nashville” and is now a rising songbird in the country-folk world.

Nora Jane Struthers was born into a loving family in Ridgewood, NJ, a suburb of New York City. She spent a lot of time playing in the woods and singing harmony with her dad, as he played banjo or guitar. “I’ve been singing my whole life,” she said, “I picked up guitar when I was 14.”

Music came easy, but school was challenging. When she was four, Nora Jane was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“I knew I wasn’t stupid…I just had to work a lot harder than most of my classmates to understand and retain new information and processes.  My parents later recalled that my reading specialist told them I would never go to college,” she said.

Nora Jane attended NYU for undergrad, and earned a B.S. in Secondary English Education with a minor in Africana Studies. (She showed that reading specialist!)

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The cover to Nora Jane Struthers’ newest album, set to be released February 24th.

After college, Nora Jane taught English at a charter school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for three years.

“I really loved teaching, especially working with teenagers, and in my third year of teaching I had been promoted to the position of English department head. I was 23 years old.”

But still, a part of her was screaming.

“I had always wanted to be a musician but until I started connecting with traditional music communities in the south I did not see it as a viable career option.  I decided I had to make a change and take a risk while I was still young and unattached… it wasn’t long before my fear of failure was dwarfed by my fear of regret.”

The rest is history. Nora Jane has been touring non-stop for five years, and has released two, soon to be three, recording projects.  Her newest album ‘Wake’ is dropping February 24th.

“It is the best album I’ve ever made,” she said.

Nora Jane writes all of her own music, and describes her creative process as a sort of intriguing  math equation: “solitary mornings+coffee+emotions and/or intentions+luck=songs.”

Much of her work is inspired by the powerful story telling and singable melodies and holds high women’s point of view.

“My last record, ‘Carnival,’ was a collection of my original story songs, all from the female perspective.  Inspired by my heroes Gillian Welch, Hazel Dickens, and Ollabelle Reed, I wanted to bolster the canon of American folk music and try to balance the P.O.V. scale a little.”

Nora Jane isn’t singing protest songs necessarily, but she does use her music to give a voice to generations of women left voiceless, and challenge the standards women are held to in society.

“One of the themes in my new album ‘Wake’ is the de-objectification of self.  I am 31 years old and I am very grateful I made it through my teens before social media was a pervasive part of our culture.  Culture has always shaped identity and our culture has always objectified women.”

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Picture by Todd Roethe

She goes on to show how this focus comes from a personal place, too, when she tells me about her considerations of her own body and privilege.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about are the societal expectations attached to the body in which I happen to reside.  I’m 5’9, blue-eyed, naturally blonde, 150 lbs….  I think about Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears…I know these are all talented, hard working women. I respect them.  I do not know the extent to which they have called the shots in their careers, but from where I’m sitting, it feels like there are a bunch of men in suits telling them what songs to sing, how to sing them, what to wear, what to say, etc…I just really want to be a role model as a leader and a decision maker and I resent the likelihood that I will be grouped into this category of, for lack of a better metaphor, music-business-barbie-marionettes. I write my own songs. I play guitar. I am the bandleader. I run my own record label. I pull my own strings, damn it.”

Nora Jane is entirely and unequivocally herself, and wants to encourage you to do the same, “…spend time doing whatever it is that makes you feel like there are sparks bouncing around your sternum,” she says.  In other words, pull a “Struthers”, follow your heart, and never look back.

Watch this (amazing, feminist, kick-butt) music video of the song ‘Let Go’ by Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line!

Smartists: Sarah Jarosz

(Published on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls)

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23-year old bluegrass-folk singer and Smart Girl in the Arts, Sarah Jarosz, has always seen the value in community. “I love that music can be a connector between people… The communal aspect of music was one of the first things that drew me to it when I was a little girl attending the jam for the first time.” After hearing her crystal clear voice through my car radio, falling in love with her music and learning her story, I thought it only natural that she be unveiled to our Smart Girls community.

Sarah Jarosz was born in the small town of Wimberley, Texas, to a family and greater community that were big on music.

“I’m lucky to have parents that love music, so I was surrounded by it for as long as I can remember. I started singing when I was about two years old, took piano lessons when I was six for a few years, but then when I was nine, my parents bought me a mandolin for Christmas. I fell in love with the instrument and never looked back,” Sarah said.

Soon after her introducsj_finaltion to the mandolin, Jarosz discovered a weekly bluegrass jam in her city, and instantly clicked with her fellow Bluegrassers, if you will.

“[…I just] fell in love with the music and the community of musicians. I played a lot of local gigs around Austin and Central Texas, and began to branch out by attending music camps and festivals during the summers, such as RockyGrass Academy and Festival in Lyons, CO, and The Mandolin Symposium in Santa Cruz, CA …” Jarosz said.

But it’s safe to say her visit to Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2007 was one of her most memorable camp experiences. There, as a girl in her mid-teens, she had the opportunity to play her first main stage set. Gary Paczosa, producer, engineer, A&R at Sugar Hill Records, was in the audience and approached Jarosz after her show. Gary took a liking to Jarosz’s music, and that meeting eventually lead to her signing with Sugar Hill at just 16 years old.

Since then, Jarosz’s life has been a tornado of touring, schooling and writing her music. Instead of taking off after high school to tour, Jarosz decided to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She received her Bachelors in Music in May 2013.

Now, Jarosz devotes herself entirely to touring and writing. You’re probably thinking, how does she stay so generative?

Jarosz said, “I…collect lyrical and melodic ideas along the way… Whether it be listening to music I love or listening to the world and people around me. I do find it challenging to write songs on tour, but that is normally the time when I collect the most ideas, and then when I have time to chill out and be home, that’s when I sift through those ideas and figure out what works together, and normally, hopefully, that leads to a song.”mg_7113-credit-scott-simontacchi

Her openness to the offerings of the world has brought about dozens of original songs and utter courage has brought them to listeners’ ears.

“From an early age, that was always the fastest way to learn [and share my music] – to put myself in a situation that scared me, like jamming with my heroes, for instance. I would always walk away from those experiences having learned something new and being so fired up to practice and write and become a better musician,” Jarosz said.

That, in a nutshell, is Jarosz’s advice for the Smart Girls reading this: don’t let obstacles like fear scare you away from what lights your creative fire.

“Recogniz[e] what excites you. Once you have that figured out, latch onto it and do anything in your power to make your goals a reality… and always remember to make time for yourself. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin when opportunities start rolling in, but I find when I start to become discouraged, if I set aside a little time for myself, whether it be to write or just do something completely unrelated to music, that’s when I’m able to get back to the good stuff and feel re-inspired,” she said.

So there you have it, Smart Girls, Jarosz has given you permission to pursue your passion and buy yourself that pint of Cherry Garcia. How could you not love her? (I can guarantee you you’ll love her music too. Jarosz has completed three albums, and her most recent release, “Build Me Up From Bones,” received two Grammy 2014 nominations!) For more information about her songs, touring schedule, and upcoming projects visit sarahjarosz.com.

Published in the “B” Side

VISITING WITH THE VONVETTAS

By: Alexa Peters

Sam Chue, a staple of the local music scene, namely as a co-founder of The Vonvettas, is going places. Literally. He just got home from an impromptu cross-country solo tour, and can think of little else besides hitting the road again, this time with the rest of The Vonvettas, a dream that with the release of their new highly anticipated, thirty-track album, “Lucy and Jet Black” will become reality.

But the story of Chue and The Vonventtas starts years before all this buzz.

“I began playing music in the fifth grade, starting with the drum set,” Chue said, “then my dad taught me the guitar.” A native of the Bellingham area, Chue comes from a family and community that’s “very musical, wherever you go in Bellingham there’s always another person who plays guitar better than you, or sings better than you. I love that there’s always room to grow.” And grow he did.

After years of playing on his own, Chue met the other half of The Vonvetta’s songwriting partnership, Thayne Yazzie, in the halls of Sehome High School.

“Thayne and I have this really amazing thing together, something I don’t think I’ll find again, at least not in this lifetime. We have a similar artistic vision, and we both are very committed to our music,” said Chue.

Shortly after meeting, they formed the first incarnation of the band called Olio and began playing and developing a following. Then they were forced to change their name after another California band named Olio bought the rights for the name.

“We had written a song called Vivid Vonvetta, so I suggested to Thayne that we use ‘Vonvettas’ as our name instead,” Chue said.

Thus, after a couple personnel switches in the rhythm section, The Vonvettas were born: Chue on guitar and vocals, Yazzie on lead guitar, Lyman Lipke on bass, and both Eli Savage and Dan Frank on drums.

About the band’s influences, Chue said, “Everyone who knows me, knows I am influenced most by Tom Waits and Ween, a psychedelic alternative band from the nineties. The dynamic duo of  Ween–Dean (Mickey Melchiondo) and Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman)–are what Thayne and I model our band off of.”

Amusingly, Chue’s solo tour took him to New Hope, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Ween. Although he knew that going in, he never expected he’d run into Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) himself.

“I was standing at the bar smoking when I heard, ‘what kind of guitar you got there?’ I turned around and there was Dean Ween. I was totally in awe–he’s a childhood hero!”

Aside from Waits and Ween, Chue says he is influenced by Arlo Guthrie, Leo Kotky and Taj Mahal. “I love the story-telling and melody-sharing aspects of folk and blues, I really relate to it. Plus, I love using the blues pentatonic scale in my playing,” Chue said. This melding of folk Americana, rock, and blues is what creates their identifiable sound.

Currently, the group just completed their first double-disk studio album entitled, “Lucy and Jet Black.” The name is inspired by Chue’s dog, Jet Black, and Yazzie’s dog, Lucy, who died around the same time.

“I’d had Jet since I was three, he lived a full life, but Thayne’s dog Lucy was hit by a state trooper as a puppy,” Chue said, “in light of these stories, we thought we’d have one CD of older, backlogged stuff, and one CD of our newer material.”

The band reached their minimum goal of $2,500 on Kickstarter on November 13th, allowing them to complete the project and according to the words on Kickstarter, to “spread [their] love and passion of music/art to greater audiences worldwide.”

That ‘passion’ is one of originality, authenticity, and integrity. As Chue sums up, “For Thayne and I, it’s the songs that is the most important…we believe that if you write what’s true and important to you, people will recognize your authenticity.”

What’s Up! Magazine: Austin Jenckes

Austin Jenckes: From Bellingham to the World

by Alexa Peters

It’s the silent rule of most music connoisseurs: you won’t find quality artists or music by following mainstream “star-making” shows like The Voice. After all, isn’t that how image-based, auto-tuned, drivel-quality pop music is perpetuated? That was what I always believed until I began following the story of former Bellingham resident Austin Jenckes, a contestant on the most recent season of The Voice.
Born in Duvall, WA, Jenckes started playing guitar and singing when he was just nine years old, joining his father, a singer-songwriter, on musical outings.
“Dad and I would go down to Fremont, WA and do open mics at the local cafes. He was the one who motivated and convinced me to get on stage,” Jenckes said.
After graduating from Cedarcrest High School, Jenckes moved to Bellingham to study at Western Washington University. During that time, Jencke’s was playing often, gigging at venues all over Bellingham.
“I played at the Green Frog weekly for two years,” Jenckes said, “and at other venues downtown as well as on Western’s campus.”
It was those local shows, he said, especially those at the Underground Coffee House, that kept him humble and true to himself throughout his experience on The Voice.
“Whenever I was on that huge stage with 15 million people watching, I would imagine that I was back in the Underground Coffeehouse. When I looked at it that way, I never had to be anything I wasn’t… it helped me be myself,” Jenckes said.
Authenticity was not necessarily a quality I associated with becoming a rock star in this day and age, but Jenckes serves as refreshing evidence to the contrary.
“Everyone I worked with on The Voice, like the hair and make-up crews, were very accommodating to the image I wanted and my musical coach, Blake Shelton, worked together to help keep me true to my musical vision. Every time we rehearsed he would say, ‘do what you want to do, it’s about you,’” Jenckes reflected.
But still, Jenckes said that being a contestant on The Voice seemed very surreal and was a major “culture shock” that all began after Jenckes moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
“I graduated in 2010 from WWU and spent all of 2011 playing music. I had no job, but my own shows at the Nectar or Tractor Tavern and bar gigs where I played covers and originals. I moved to Nashville for songwriting and had enough money to hang out for six months. I worked a bunch of odd jobs. A friend there asked if I’d be interested in auditioning for The Voice so I followed up on it.”
Jenckes explained that he snagged a scheduled audition and he made the first cut. A 6-month process followed, during which time Jenckes flew to L.A. four or five times to audition in front of the show’s executive producers, until the contenders were whittled down from 400 to 150.
“In June we were flown out with our families to film our back stories [and possibly land a TV audition.] There were 150 of us. There were four days of blind auditions and we didn’t know until the night before if we were auditioning the next day or not. And, we couldn’t leave the hotel for four days because they didn’t want people talking about who got in.”
Jenckes was the second to last person to make it among the 48 contestants that had a chance to audition on stage for judges Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera. Jenckes said he was “lucky enough to get an audition [in front of the judges.] There were a lot of people who didn’t get one. They just spent two weeks in their hotels waiting.”
Singing “Simple Man” to the backs of the four red judges thrones, Jenckes got what he waited for. Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton accepted him first, the latter adding “holy crap balls America,” before Cee Lo finally asks Jenckes name. And that was it, he became one of the final 20 who made it on the show.
For the next 80 days Jenckes performed on the live TV show. Though he grew in popularity as he surpassed every cut, he remained down-to-earth throughout the whole process, working arduously to better his music.
“I like to tell stories, I like to make music that allows people to be vulnerable… I want people to feel something, evoke and emotion that people can connect with.”
Jenckes was eliminated as part of the top 10, but the experience was the win for him. “[I] met a ton of really awesome, super talented people… and I was lucky that being on the show wasn’t the end all be all for me. It wasn’t that if I didn’t win I would stop playing, but for some people that was the case….[But] most importantly, I would say that the experience taught me how important it is to be yourself. I learned that as an entertainer and performer, it’s really important to be happy and grateful for the life that you have. Be thankful that people love you for what you do.”
And of course, being on The Voice wasn’t bad for his fan-base either. “Yeah, it was definitely a good tool for exposure,” Jenckes chuckled, adding that many of the shows on The Voice’s West Coast Tour are sold out. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that before.”
Now that he can pack a venue, you’ll be sure he’s taking full advantage of it.
“The next 3-5 years, I want to be on the road…[plus] it’ll be two years in January that I moved to Nashville with my girlfriend and we just got engaged. [One of our] dreams is for me to make enough money so she can quit her job and come out on the road and tour manage for me.”
Yet, as much as Jenckes has wings he also has roots. “I love the Northwest—it’s a great place. I’d love to move back eventually… and I love Bellingham… people responded to my music well there. There were always a lot of gigs on campus, and many opportunities downtown, [and] great musicians to play with,” Jenckes said.
Lucky for us, in true homage-paying style, Jenckes will be back in town, playing a show at the WWU PAC Mainstage on Jan. 10.

For more information, see http://www.austinjenckes.us.

Article in What’s Up! Music Magazine

Galapagos: True expression

by Alexa Peters

Bellingham band Galapagos classifies their music as “…explosive, wild,” and without a doubt, the band’s sound is nearly as ever-evolving as their namesake implies.
Comprised of Kendra Hackett on keyboards and vocals, Ryan Nutter on guitar, Matt Taggart on bass, and Nick Robinson on drums, the group combines the grandiosity of progressive rock bands like Yes, Rush, and Pink Floyd, with a conception of funk grooves and a jazz improvisation often ascribed to artists like Herbie Hancock. But really, their style won’t—and can’t—be pigeon holed, a fact that keeps the band inspired and their listeners coming back for more.
“When we started this project [in 2012], we basically decided to throw out the rulebook and express ourselves purely and honestly without worrying about what other people think… Rather than picking one genre and sticking to that category, we decided to use all of our collective knowledge and inspiration to create multi-genre compositions with many surprises around every corner,” the band stated.
This approach is confirmed by each member’s diverse background in music. Kendra Hackett, the group’s keyboardist and singer, grew up studying music in Boise, Idaho. She has played piano most of her life, initially focusing on classical then branching out into jazz and composition in high school and at the Albertson College of Idaho. Hackett later got into the funk-rock scene in Boise, and played in various successful bands around town. A little over three years ago, Kendra moved to Bellingham in search of a more diverse music scene and began jamming with bassist Matt Taggart.
Taggart, too, has been playing music for most of his life. In that time, he has entertained the masses in multiple musical endeavors ranging from ska, punk, metal, funk, rock, reggae, to hip hop. He has recorded three studio albums and won the 2002 Bellingham Band Slam. Taggart also played in Mellow Green and Sway, two notable projects from around the area.
After meeting Hackett, “[We] spent over a year looking for the right unique and serious players to come along that had the same musical vision [we] did.” Once they became acquainted with Nick Robinson and Ryan Nutter through the hip-hop group Dead Reckon, everything fell into place.
Nutter and Robinson grew up playing music together, and shared a similar progressive artistic vision. Nutter has played guitar for almost 11 years now, and in that time has performed with various bands whose styles ranged from classic rock, hip hop, jazz and beyond. Nutter has also been involved with several musicals performed at several different venues, including WWU. By his side, Robinson has played drums for about 16 years, playing in an afrobeat band called Ruzivo, a rockabilly group named the Scott Greene Band, as well as multiple projects with Nutter.
After just one jam session, it became very apparent that the four of them had stumbled upon something very special, and Galapagos was formed. Within only a year, the band has developed an impressive resume in Bellingham and around the Pacific Northwest. “We’ve played shows at venues like the Wild Buffalo, the Shakedown, and… events around the area including the Urban Music Festival, Worthy Festival, Downtown Sounds, and Harvest Festival,” the band said. “Galapagos has also been branching out to Seattle and Idaho, and played the Idaho-down Music Festival in July 2013.”
After winning the 2013 Road to Rockstar competition hosted by 92.9 KISM Classic Rock Station and Checkmate Music, the band was awarded studio time at Blue Frog Studios in White Rock, B.C. They’ve been recording their first full-length album entitled Symposium, and will have a release show on Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Wild Buffalo, with openers Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers.

Support the “This Christmas” EP

We’ve entered the season of giving, and boy, do I have a friend who embodies holiday benevolence. Jonathan Gipaya, a fabulous local musician and friend of mine, has recorded a Christmas EP to raise money for the Bellingham Food Bank.

Inspired by his love of Christmas music (he was already singing Jingle Bells in September of this year—uh, talk about a die hard!) and a desire to give back to the community, Jonathan brought together some of the Pacific Northwest’s best musicians (himself included) to record “This Christmas,” an EP including four Christmas tunes, arranged by Jonathan himself. Vocalist Matt Bishop from Hey Marseilles, musicians from The Prime Time Band, and other local greats like Chad Petersen can be heard on the EP. And Jonathan, who’s performed with acts like Macklemore, Allen Stone, Bruno Mars, Hey Marseilles, and March Fourth Marching Band, plays piano and trumpet on the recordings as well. All and all, 21 incredible musicians donated their time and musicianship to this project.

Recently, I was privileged enough to get a sneak preview of the tracks and take it from me, a self-admitted music snob, this is a quality arranged, performed and recorded EP. And it gets even better when we take a closer look at whom specifically this project benefits.

The proceeds from every EP sold will go to the Bellingham Food Bank, an organization that hands out approximately 220,000 pounds of food to those in need every month. The food bank puts no limits on the help they’ll provide and many families visit weekly to receive a mix of perishable and non-perishable goods. Consequentially, this food bank helps 15% of Bellingham’s families at least once a year and 50% of food bank recipients are children and the elderly. Plus, on top of their immediate feed-the-hungry mission, the organization also works to be an environmentally friendly member of the community. For instance, their facility was designed and built by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognized program that regulates “green” buildings.

So, there’s no need to second-guess if your money will be well spent. By purchasing this EP, you’ll acquire four unique Christmas songs to add to your collection AND give back to an organization that is doing amazing things for their community. (I’m sold and admit it–you are too!)

To support the cause,  join the “This Christmas” event on facebook.  There, you can stay updated with the status of the EP and how to pre-order and download the “This Christmas” EP come its release date on December 25th, 2012.  And don’t stop there, spread the word by sharing the event with your family and friends (this EP would make a fantastic gift!) Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/314725495307435/?ref=ts&fref=ts