Staples grads Colleen Cook Stonbely and Wirt Cook were 2 of the 4 new owners. The others were Wirt’s wife Karen, and Colleen’s husband Ted (who would have been a Stapleite, had he not been shipped off to the Gunnery).
The proud owners of the Redding Roadhouse (from left): Ted Stonbely, Colleen Cook Stonbely, Karen Cook and Wirt Cook.
The quartet had big plans. The place definitely rocked, with music from local favorites (and owners’ friends) Dylan Connor, Mark Mollica and Merritt Jacob.
But this Saturday night (May 14) marks the end of the Roadhouse. Today, the owners announced that they have been unsuccessful in negotiating a lease with their landlords.
“The unfortunate results,” the Roadhouse team wrote, “are the closure of a small business, the demise of an iconic restaurant and Redding landmark, and, most importantly, the loss of 30 jobs.”
The Redding Roadhouse
The owners worked closely with the community, partnering with the Mark Twain Library, local schools and other organizations. They raised money for good causes, and bought from local farms and artisan businesses.
They’ll open at 4 p.m. for the rest of the week for a less-than-happy Happy Hour. When they close, remaining inventory will be donated to the Connecticut Food Bank and other area pantries.
Westport’s Dylan Connor plays his final gig on Saturday.
It’s a sad day for Redding, the Roadhouse — and the 4 great owners. But you can’t keep good young folks down. They’ll be heard from again.
Selfishly, I hope their next venture is right here in their hometown.
Eight years earlier, singing at Southport Brewing Company’s karaoke night, the Westport native met a Syrian woman named Reem. She wouldn’t give him her number, or take his.
Desperate to talk, he gave her a CD of his music. She was impressed that an American sang anti-Bush, anti-Iraq War songs.
Over a long period of time, they fell in love. Her family finally granted her permission to be married. Dylan and Reem had a daughter, Fayrouz.
Traveling to Syria — a country he had known little about — Dylan was overwhelmed by its history, beauty, food, sights and people.
He wrote a song about it. After the revolution began — and seeing horrific photos and videos of protesters being shot — Dylan wrote more songs, and posted them to YouTube. They were played on Al Aribiya. Syrians were moved that Americans cared.
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Dylan organized and played at benefits in 7 states. He has helped raise over $1 million for Syrian aid.
Now, in 2014, Dylan is still singing about, and trying to help, the country he has grown to love.
On January 14 he’ll release a CD called “Blood Like Fire (Songs for Syria).” Available worldwide on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and more, it chronicles the Syrian crisis. He sings in both Arabic and English.
Each song was written at a crucial moment in the nation’s struggles, as seen through the lens of Dylan’s family members on the ground.
The cover of “Blood Like Fire.”
All proceeds will benefit the Karam Foundation’s Camp Zeitouna, which brings educational programs to displaced Syrian children. Dylan has been invited on their summer mission to Amman, Jordan, where he will provide arts programs to kids.
On Friday, January 17 (7 p.m.), Dylan celebrates the CD release with a show at FTC Stage One. His backing band includes very talented Westporters Merritt Jacob, Mark Mollica, Joe Izzo and Dan Asher.
Then Dylan heads off for performances in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego.
His Syrian in-laws have lived with Dylan and Reem for nearly 3 years. Their New Year’s wish is to be back in their country — a free country — next year. Those are high hopes.
In 2013 Dylan helped some family members leave Syria for safer pastures. It was, he says, “intense but satisfying work.”
He also collected clothes, so Syrian children can stay warm this winter. They are, he notes, “literally freezing to death.”
Life is brutal in Syria. Many Americans are still only dimly aware of the conflict. Through songs, concerts — and relentless activism — Dylan Connor is doing what he can to change all that.
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“She said she was studying finance at the University of Bridgeport, but was going home soon to Syria,” Dylan recalls. “I had no idea where Syria was.”
She wouldn’t give him her phone number. Nor would she take his.
Finally, in desperation, Dylan — a singer/songwriter — gave her a copy of his CD.
A few days later she called. She’d listened to a couple of Dylan’s anti-George Bush, anti-Iraq War songs. She hadn’t known Americans could think like that.
She started to like him. Still, Reem said, they could never be together. Her culture would not allow it.
“That made me free,” Dylan recalls. “We could just be friends. I didn’t think of anything beyond that point.”
Over long walks, they fell in love.
After many months, her family gave permission to get married. They found an apartment in Black Rock. Their daughter, Fayrouz, was born in 2008.
Life was changing for Dylan. A Westport native — his father, Dave, is a well-known therapist and former English teacher here — Dylan grew up next door to Trevor and Davis Coen. Their house was always filled with music. At 9, Dylan started guitar lessons. In high school he formed a band — the Exceptions –with Davis, Trevor and Joe Izzo.
At Skidmore College Dylan got into the solo/folk/coffeehouse songwriting and performing scene. After college he started another band — M.Headphone — and moved to San Francisco. They toured, and did well. Dylan had a part-time gig teaching Latin at a Berkeley private school (his degree was in classics).
Dylan Connor on tour. (Photo/Miles Steuding)
In 2003 he moved back east, hooked up with producer/indie rock hero Bryce Goggin, and made a record.
Then he met Reem.
The summer after they were married, the couple traveled to Syria. Dylan was overwhelmed by the country’s history, beauty, incredible food, wonderful sights and fantastic people.
“I had known something about Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, but nothing about Syria,” Dylan says. “Our press portrayed it as a place for terrorists. I didn’t know it was so secular in dress and style. There are clubs. Syrians know how to have a good time.”
Inspired, Dylan wrote a song, called “Blood Like Fire.” It was filled with dark images. He could not figure out why. He now realizes it was prescient.
Two years later — now, with a baby – they returned. Dylan played a couple of concerts there. The family planned to visit Syria every 2 years.
The revolution interrupted all that.
Seeing horrific photos and videos of protesters being shot, Dylan felt compelled to do something. He added graphic images to his “Blood Like Fire” song, and posted it to YouTube.
Syrian revolution blogs picked it up. Hundreds of people commented.
Reem’s family is from Dera’a, where the uprising began. In March 2011 the city was under siege. Communication was impossible. Finally, Dylan and Reem heard that her family was safe. Dylan — who had been learning Arabic — wrote another song, “Feza, Feza.” It translates as “Help, Help For Our Province.”
Within 48 hours he recorded it, and made a video. It took off on YouTube, and was played on the Al Aribiya television network. Syrians were moved that Americans cared.
A third song, “Weary World,” was inspired by the siege of Homs.
“I felt like I was connecting to Syrians,” Dylan says. He was invited to perform around the US, at fundraisers for humanitarian relief. He was given a plaque, for helping the cause.
Last January, Dylan organized a fundraiser in New York. He also performed at the larger “Songs for Syria” event there.
Dylan Connor’s songs and videos tell powerful stories. (Photo/Manny Santiago)
Playing at a Syrian wedding in Detroit, Dylan met a man from Dubai. He wanted to contribute to the revolution, by supporting Dylan’s recordings and videos. Dylan went into the studio with Westporters Trevor Coen, Joey Izzo, Merritt Jacob and Mark Mollica. The songs, with accompanying video, will be released internationally within a month.
Americans may not know much of what’s happening in Syria, Dylan says, but when they hear of it — sometimes through his work — they’re “stunned.”
His students (he’s also a Latin teacher at Bunnell High in Stratford) “soak it up,” Dylan says.
“They’re riveted by my updates. They’re shocked by the brutality. They want to know more.”
Dylan Connor is eager to teach us — and them — all that he knows.
Bunnies (and a carrot) by the banks of the Saugatuck.
Hah! This weekend — for the 1st time in 39 years — there are new categories: digital art, wood, jewelry, glass, ceramics and fiber.
So you not only have the usual art show — 140 booths featuring original drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and watercolor — but you can take care of all your fiber needs too.
Take that, New York street fairs!
Several years ago, the Downtown Merchants moved Westport’s show from an actual street (Main) to a parking lot (Parker Harding) and island (Gorham). The move was controversial — some store owners thought they lost business — but we’ve still got “street” performers (everyone’s talking about the mime).
Children’s activities include a balloon artist and face painter.
Art — or a human being? You decide.
Music ranges from a steel band, jazz and local hotshot Dylan Connor to a sneak preview of the Staples Players’ summer production “Willy Wonka, the Musical.”
Refreshments are provided by Blue Lemon, Oscar’s Du Soleil Catering, Rita’s Italian Ice, Everybody Scream Ice Cream, and J&D Kettle Corn.
There’s also ice cold beer — and, new this year, wine.
If wine doesn’t say “Westport Downtown Arts Festival” — well, every party has its pooper.
(Added bonus: The Westport Library‘s annual book sale takes places a few yards away. The highest-priced item ever is on sale — a signed Andy Warhol volume, for $1,000 — but most books, CDs, etc. are $1 to $5. )
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