- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2001

Valerie Vigoda and husband Brendan Milburn of the band Groovelily were moving their belongings from New York City to Charlottesville when the call came. Cyndi Lauper wanted Miss Vigoda to join her on tour as a backup singer.
A member's odyssey into the big-time rock world might have killed a lesser band, but Groovelily survived Miss Vigoda's grueling tour schedule. Credit that to the strong relationship of pianist Mr. Milburn, violinist-vocalist Miss Vigoda and drummer Gene Lewin.
Groovelily, back with a new CD and a full schedule of touring ahead, plays the Herndon Summer Concert Series on Thursday.
Mr. Milburn and Miss Vigoda are in a reflective mood on a recent sunny afternoon, sitting in the shade in the National Arboretum to discuss the band's background and its plans.
"We had to leave New York City," Miss Vigoda says. "We felt like gerbils in those wheels running around."
Groovelily formed in New York in 1995, after Miss Vigoda tried her luck as a solo artist.
The centerpiece for both her solo work and Groovelily is the Viper, a $2,000 electric violin with a chest support that allows Miss Vigoda to play and sing at the same time.
"It took about six years to get a decent following in New York," Mr. Milburn says. "It was hard. You really had to be out of the ordinary."
Miss Vigoda's life before the band was anything but dull. She grew up in McLean, the daughter of jazz pianist Bob Vigoda, and she learned to play the violin at age 8. Her musical skills were honed by stints in school musicals, playing with her father and even busking on the streets of Georgetown.
She later graduated from Princeton University, where she studied sociology; made second lieutenant in Army ROTC; and did songwriting and voice work for Children's Television Workshop and "Sesame Street."
"Jungle and Sky," the band's debut CD in 1996, was released to positive reviews. Mr. Milburn and Miss Vigoda were married a year later. Not long afterward, they made the choice to escape to Virginia. But the decision was put on hold after Miss Vigoda started touring with Miss Lauper and then Joe Jackson.
"I'm a much more powerful singer because of her," Miss Vigoda says of Miss Lauper.
That comes across on Groovelily's second album "Little Light," the first with a producer (Alain Mallet). The added professional touch shows: Miss Vigoda's electric violin isn't used as a novelty instrument but as an essential part of the band's sound. In some cases, it's no more noticeable (or less essential) than a looping bass line is to most rock bands.
On the first two songs, Mr. Milburn's keyboards and Miss Vigoda's voice steal the show until Miss Vigoda bursts into a stellar violin chord progression on "I Don't Wanna Fall in Love." The violin line should dispel any worry by rock fans about Groovelily being "classical," and the almost-folk sound should attract country fans interested in something new and different.
"It's the most polished, honest set of songs we've ever put down on a record," Mr. Milburn says.
For now, Mr. Milburn and Miss Vigoda have sold their New York apartment and stored many of their belongings in Miss Vigoda's parents' house in McLean. They plan to travel the country in an RV. Steady touring and a positive response to "Little Light" have made it possible for the band to become full time.
"We're going to just keep riding this weird roller coaster," Miss Vigoda says. "It's time to go out and really do this."

WHAT: Groovelily
WHERE: Herndon Town Green, 777 Lynn St., Herndon
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

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