This is always a nice set, especially being part of the Godfrey’s Day at Musikfest, with Dina and Kris and Andy Killcoyne sitting in. We didn’t have a chance to practise for this one but Dina is comfortable with Andy, since they play together often, Kris and I are tight and all of us had passed around the tunes electronically (the new way to prepare) so we felt confident in tossing things up in the air on stage.

Don’t Call Me Early was the first song and it’s a good opener, but Andy is a little unfamiliar with the ‘celtic genre’ but began with fills early on. I asked him to stay away from the ending, but never had the chance to lay it out in a practice. I found myself telling him, “Don’t play, don’t play…’ while I was landing the tricky ending. I think he felt the burn. It was a rocky beginning, but things smoothed out nicely quickly. I planned a set where Dina and I swap fronting the band and it works well, giving the both of us to retreat into backup mode. Very comfortable.

Andy is used to running a premier local jam, and often finds himself leading the band behind less professional folks on stage. I am quite comfortable in leading my songs, and confident in establishing the tune’s structure and endings as well. Andy and I don’t get to work together that often in a formal situation like this, and his natural instincts turned on, to fill the spaces. I understand this, but I’ve been doing this for a long time, both with a band and as a solo. But that’s why we needed some face time for this gig, and develop the trust in each other.

Dina and I swapped tunes, I got to play mandolin in support of her tunes, Kris was solid on bass, and Andy settled in with some fine Strat leads. The mix of tunes, instruments and patter was good and we played well. It was only an hour set so the time flew by and I had to cut some songs out, but I got in Legends and Lessons from Pete and ended with Rosie is a Friend of Mine. Dina stepped up as well with her good stuff plus a new One Big Love that she dedicated to the turmoil in Charlottesville this weekend. Quite appropriate and a tip of the hat to her for connecting the song and the situation. A nice FB video showed up, with a scan of the song, kids playing up front, panning to an audience listening to good music and back to us on stage. It captured the beauty of the moment in these fractious times.

It was a good set and appreciated by those in the audience. I thought it wasn’t as tight as it could have been, and not as good as the Trio stuff we did last Saturday. Still, it was a good representation of the local folk playing on the big stage in support of our home town venue. Claudia Schmidt did a knock-out solo set, the Best of Open Mikers did strong sets, April Mae and the Junebugs did a killer opener, and Chaise Lounge finished the evening off in style. I was in charge of booking the day so I was glad that it fell together nicely. Godfrey’s did well, promoting our spot in the now crowded LV arts calendar. My friends Terry and Dave did a great job on sound. Mike Duck did a wonderful job handling the emcee work, as well. Ramona worked her tail off, as always. Good friends all around making for a nice day celebrating Godfrey’s at the major festival in our town. All hands on deck!

I’ve been maintaining a low profile these days, so I had a good time roaming the courtyard and running into familiar faces, both old and new. It reminded me why I enjoy this festival. It is as much about running into friends and acquaintances on the fly, sharing our connections across the years and situations.  One young dad came up and said he remembered me from a 1st grade assembly in the early 90’s. Several other young families came up with their kids who are now Dave Fry fans. Older folks that used to come out to Godfrey’s in the past reconnected. I had a good time being surprised by each and every situation. I’m learning to enjoy some gratification from these encounters. Some folks even said I look better these days. Hmmm. This is good news.

I even took the opportunity to mention that I’ve played all of the Musikfests, along with polka king Walt Groller. 34 years. I challenged him to dueling polkas next year. It was a good day on the planet. I love my town.

 

I signed up to do my Topsy Turvy Tuesday set this week, anticipating the fact that Musikfest no longer books kids’ music during the festival. It was a small but responsive audience of about 30 people, with familiar faces in the crowd. I was lucky that my friend Dave E. had his wits about him to help me call Doug to come down and open up for the morning’s show. It turned out fine.

It was a mix of Fry-fans, young kids, grandparents and moms in the big open space that served well, especially for the young lad who was born to run…. There were some folks visiting grandparents from England, and their young daughter was quite precocious; she knew my stuff and had her favorites and it was a delight to have her chat with me in an English accent. There were three girls who simply wanted to dance, and the scarves gave them the opportunity to express themselves that way. Other kids gradually warmed up, and, again, the bag of instruments gave me the way to connect. Still, there are some very shy boys that don’t quite know how to react. I make an effort to engage each child in a non-threatening way (I am quite daunting…) and succeed in various ways. That is my main artistic challenge.

The secondary challenge is to engage the adults as well, and enjoy adding asides, curious verses and more, in order to entertain them as well, especially if they buy my CDs.  (Just kidding, kinda…)

It was a good gig under the radar during Musikfest.

I was asked to do a pro bono set at an old folks home on Monday, to help bring a little Musikfest to the residents. I haven’t done one of these gigs in a while, and I forgot the challenge that this audience requires, and how important music is for folks in these situations.

There was scepticism from some ladies up front when I brought out my bag with puppets, scarves, et al, but I explained to them why I carry these with me. I also knew that putting shakers, tambourines and maracas in their hands would be an important connection with them, some of whom were in relatively unresponsive modes. As I rolled through my songs, I added some tunes they would know (You are My Sunshine, Tennessee Waltz, Hank Williams tunes, etc.) and it was good to see them singing along as best they could. I did my other stuff, including Hannah, a young girl, volunteer and Fry fan from the past, who did I Wanna Be a Dog with me in front of the crew. I found myself drenched in sweat with the effort to entertain these folks who went to considerable effort to come down for the music. I also realized that I should have done my homework and brought more singalongs that they know, stuff I have packed in my musical library from similar gigs in the past. I can always do better.

The two ladies up front thanked me at the end and said they had a good time. A gentleman in the back who played tambourine waved goodbye. Folks visiting older relatives were glad I was there. There may not be applause at the end of each song, but we all chipped in, in our own way, to celebrate making some music together. It’s the best I can do.

This is the big one, a nice afternoon set at Liederplatz at Musikfest. I only get this chance to do my adult material in an acoustic band situation quite rarely, especially in a concert setting like this, great sound and a listening audience in a festival courtyard. I put together my friends John Christie and Kris Kehr for this jaunt, and a set list of new, old and some kids’ stuff, too. A very nice mixture of folk music and commentary for a listening audience on a perfect day.

Kris, John and I had worked up some good material, and, in spite of a rocky gig the day before (perhaps because of…) we really did a fine job. I was tickled at the end of set. Kris was solid as ever and John provided some great (often nasty) guitar leads. We didn’t need a drummer – that’s how strong we played. I had a rough set list and took it on the fly and weaved through the blues, country, novelty, Canadian, rock and roll material and played strong and sure. I also committed to playing standing up, not an easy thing with my hip problems, but it felt great to move to the music, and add to the theatricality of the show. (Yes, it is a show….)

My good friend Bruce Gaston showed up for his yearly set during my show, and I am always glad to see him in the audience. He is a manualist – he plays music with his hands. Vaudeville at its finest (and I feel I’m part of that tradition…). I love to sit behind him and watch the audience react to the initial sound (a tortured balloon) and then recognize the Bruce’s ability, genius and practiced craft, all delivered in a compact 5 minute piece with great entertainment chops. He’s amazing, and he gives my set an incredible breather, and sets us up for the grand push. Really, I relish having Bruce Gaston in my audience.

I had folks up on stage for Giants and Thunder Tubes (great interaction, as always), I badgered the audience to sing along, we got some good jamming among the three of us going, some serious tunes, my Stan Rogers tune Giant that continues to be fun, Rosie is a Friend of Mine had some ladies dancing up front, and Lessons from Pete finished out the set on a strong note, with spotlights on John and Kris. I thanked everyone for coming out, big thanks to Terry and Dave for the superb sound, mentioned that I have played every Musikfest and landed to gracious applause from the hometown crowd. Very, very satisfying and one of the better gigs of the year.

It’s not a tight musical presentation, but I think folks recognize that the musical spontaneity, the song diversity and the friendly presentation make for a pleasing show. I am proud of what I do, and glad to have friends help be do it.

 

I headed back to Das Awkscht Fest for my family set in a pavilion off to the side of the swings. These sets have been tough to gather folks for over the last several years, but I respect the festival for trying to include family shows. Again, they hire the local clowns, magicians, jugglers and other friends who ply the trade here in the L.V.  I had an 11 am show, knowing I had a 2 pm show at Musikfest.

It was spectacular weather, almost a crisp fall day, and as Balloons The Clown drove off, having performed for no one, I settled in to play tunes. I was glad they had a PA set up, just to broadcast that I was playing. A mom and her two sons pulled up outside the pavilion, and seeing that it was empty, they hesitated to commit to coming in. Luckily, they were familiar faces and I encouraged them to look through the bag for instruments. (I can’t tell you how important that bag is, in engaging kids, and transferring their social angst with a live musician into something less imposing.

As I played, families drifted over and joined in, egg shakers and maracas, rain stick and puppets, all headed out into the crowd. It was never a big crowd, but kids, parents and grandparents and myself (and the sound guy, too) had a good time.

As I finished up with few folks in the pavilion, one grandmom was having her hands full with her toddler grandson. She was a former special ed teacher who had worked with me in the schools, and she asked that I do Spider on the Floor. I obliged, and it was interesting how the boy linked in to the tune, obviously bemused with the live version of one of his favorite CD cuts. Stopped him in his tracks.

I’ve run into this phenomenon with young children who have to process the live rendition of familiar tunes, especially when it is my voice on the CD and now live in front of them. Fascinating and enlightening. I love these experiences.

Off to Musikfest for the final gig of the tour….

Das Awkscht Fest is a premier vintage auto show, right here in the Lehigh Valley, and the promoters actually book L.V. acts to play in the wonderful band shell in the Macungie Park. I was asked to put together a band for the Friday afternoon schedule so I asked Kris Kehr, Dina Hall, John Christie to join me in a fairly benign gig, great sound system and a smattering of audience members. An opportunity to play for pay.

We put in several practises. Dina, Kris and I have played together before, but we had some new tunes to try out. John Christie, a friend who has worked with me on family gigs, was available and eager to join the project. John worked on the material and his guitar work was professional.

A beautiful day in the park and in the bandshell. It’s alway fun to have full stage sound with monitors. We got set up and started in on the set. Things were a little rough early as we adjusted to the situation.

It was a tech nightmare for me and I was quite lucky to have Dina Hall to lean on while I dealt with my guitar problems. Dina has become a very stable performer on stage, with command of her guitar, vocals, introductions and all the finer points in leading a folk band. She saved the day.

I was set up to lead my tunes on guitar and then back up Dina on mandolin, things I love to do in this musical combination. I broke a string during “I Can See Clearly Now”, a new and challenging song in the repertoire, and my guitar went wildly out of tune, to the point that I didn’t want to hit the last chord. We limped through it. Tough. Thankfully, Dina had some tunes to lead with while I changed my string.

I had a wonderful time finding my role as a mandolin sideman, adding fills and rhythm chops. good stuff.

When it came around for me to present the next song, I got fuzzy sounds from my guitar. The battery was dieing so I had to sideling myself again, find a battery, de-tune two strings and reach inside to pull the bad one out and replace it, re-tune my guitar. Then I broke another string. Melt down in Macungie. Again, Dina stepped up in style, as did John and Kris.

Eventually, I had my guitar back and ready to play. I mentioned that at least we weren’t playing in public (not too many folks in the seats). We finished off with Lessons from Pete, and it was the real deal. We ended strong. We actually had some folks come up and thank us for the music. We were the only acoustic band on the schedule, and were appreciated for that sound.

Tomorrow I travel with two guitars.

My nightmares most usually revolve around technical glitches, like faulty chords, mike stands, guitar failure, followed by getting-to-the-gig trauma woes, but today was in real time, though I survived thanks to my real time friends on stage.

My first gig this weekend was at the Da Vinci Center for another camp visit (the topics are Musical Mayhem (I’ve got that down) and Coding, an interesting take as well) on Friday morning, with a band gig later in Macungie. There were a bout 20 kids and 6 counselors in a comfortable class room at the museum. We did the usual stuff, with the emphasis on mayhem. One older girl settled in and I mention dancing. She said, “I don’t dance.” Hmmm. I took that as a challenge.

It was a good mix of intelligent kids, some very chatty, some not so outgoing, but all curious minds. We talked about coding with being able to think backwards, so we decoded, of all things, The Tutti Tah. I also compared a Martin Guitar with a Thunder Tube. Pretty heavy stuff, but actually quite good as teaching experiences. A good session and I was assured that I will get my check when the treasurer returns from vacation. I told the gentleman, “Well, I have something to live for.”

To Macungie this afternoon.

 

There are times when I question my drive to earn money in CT, my old home state for 10 years. Over the last week or so, I’ve driven a bunch of miles, made some righteous money but in two of the shows, have faced a very lethargic audience. Today was notable.

I was glad to be included in this series of family shows in a very nice park setting, with a splendid grass lawn, under the trees on a beautiful summer day. Folks pulled in with strollers, kids, blankets, food, for an hour in the park with children’s music.

As I plied my craft, the kids came up, played along, asked questions (why do you have bare feet?) and we all had a good time. But….

I noticed there was little response from the audience in places I expect response. Even with the kids. I remarked at times that this was a TV audience, not expected to respond. I found myself, time and time again, asking for a response. Part of it was the distance from the crowd, but a larger part is the cultural distance from live performance. These folks like to socialize, eat snacks, enjoy a day in the park, and I am only a vehicle for child care. It all shows up in the fact that I sell no CD’s after the show. I am a tool.

There are always great moments with the individual kids, but I scratch my head with the adults.

I was asked by good friends Christine and Craig Thatcher to return to this 16th year community benefit for Coopersburg folks who need the help. Community taking care of community.

I glad I could do the opening set at 1 pm, part of their ‘kids first’ effort to bring the families out to the festival. It worked much better, with balloon guy, crafts, etc. I was set up with a great sound system on a fine stage (yum!) pointing toward another tent with some seating. Unfortunately a hot space of macadam between us. And, as I supposed, there were more elders than children in the audience. But, then again, that’s okay. The old folks get it faster than the kids.

It was a very good set, especially with musicians Craig and Nyke in the house. I had better play good. I did and it was fun to play a good, crisp set for a good cause, in front of people who listened, supporting my friends on a perfect July Sunday afternoon. I got paid in food that I am enjoying even as I type. That’s pretty good!

This is such a good gig for me. The good folks at the Florence Griswold Museum hire me regularly (a beautiful thing) for various events, not the least is the Midsummer Festival in Old Lyme. This small coastal CT town was abuzz, with art shows, events, food, music, etc going on, along side the museum’s festival. The joint was jumping. I had a very small part.

The FloGris is a spectacular site that includes a contemporary museum, wonderful grounds along a river, an elegant New England house that is a museum unto itself, as well as an active, hands-on children’s art workshop. It celebrates the first America impressionists’ community/colony. These artists would gather at Florence’s house, head out to the nearby river and paint au plein air.  And their artwork adorns the wall of the old house. It’s a magic place. https://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/

I had two sets in a small barn area, a good space to work in, and engaged a bunch of people, kids, new parents, etc. as they happened on the site. No big spotlight on this gig, but I do what I do. Small gatherings but some good contact. They pay me well, but they pay me as an artist. That’s why the remains a special gig.

Long ride home in I-95 traffic, but these treks to CT are good for me. It’s nice to know I’m appreciated outside of the Lehigh Valley.

I had my semi-regular gig at the Madison Farmer’s Market on Friday afternoon, and prudently planned for Friday traffic and got there a mere 40 minutes ahead of time, enough to catch a quick meditation to help erase my traffic mentality.

It was one of the better Madison Green gigs I’ve had, with some new families getting to know me and several familiar families, mom’s, grandmom’s, kids, etc. One small girl got into it early, and then passed out shakers to her larger group of family members, including a bunch of men(!) who all started to play off to my right. The young girl and the grandmother then began to dance around the family circle, waving their instruments. A very nice moment. I gave the girl a CD, of course.

As the folks settle onto blankets under this large shade tree on a wide green, the kids come up, go back to the folks, play instruments, get pizza and ice cream from the vendors, let the moms shop (the secret of my FM success). It’s a good, extended time in a peaceful space. It’s a strange and wonderful gig, and I love it.

Then again, I got $17 in one dollar tips. No $5’s. There are things about CT that drive me nuts.

Up to Ron and Susan’s place for some companionship with my noble Innkeeper for the Displaced Folksinger. Food, conversation and bed.

I finished up the day in the courtyard of a coffeehouse in Emmaus for my developing monthly jam. It was a good night to be outside with just a few folks, and a good way to wrap up a busy day. Only a few folks showed up, but just enough to make it interesting A couple of fiddles, mandolins, a banjo, a bass and uke player and others. I enjoy leading the way as well as making space for the others to contribute. There are always surprises and I like how the genres move from bluegrass to swing to soul to folk and I enjoy the patter that goes on in between. It is as much a social session as it is a music session.

It was a very nice way to finish off a day filled with music.  Off to CT tomorrow.

This was a gig I was looking forward to, working with some kids at a rather sophisticated camp sponsored by The Bach Choir, a week-long camp exploring vocal music (and other forms). I was asked by a Moravian music professor to present a workshop on folk music, and I relish these situations.

I put together a session about the essence of folk music and community singing. I started with The Cat Came Back which worked well from the get go. Storytelling, chorus, etc. I introduced work songs, religious songs, social justice songs, Motown and pop songs, all with some nice dialogue with the kids. Heady stuff.

At the end, I introduced I Like Peanut Butter and asked four kids to be back up singers with me. Out of that, I decided to involve everyone and it turned out to be a great workshop exercise. I divided up all of the other kids into four groups and had them work on adding movement to the song, and I gave them roughly 5 minutes to do it. It was great to see them work on the project, see folks take charge and lead (see a few other kids not grasp the idea of working together – but that’s an important part of the process) and then present their work in front of the others. It’s a big step for some of these kids, and I was glad to give them the opportunity to experiment – along with me.

These are wonderful chances for me to expand on my music workshop chops and grow with the kids.

I had three gigs today, starting off with a last minute pick-up at the Da Vinci Center’s summer camp. It was in my wheel house, with their theme of music, beats, codes and more. I had the K, 1st and 2nd kids, with some counselors tossed in. A good group to work with, though one boy proved to be a challenge early on, and I had to assert myself and put him in the back. I tried several time to encourage him, but nope. It worked out in the end.

It was fun to engage the kids with some science, with music, physical vibrations from the guitar and the Thunder Tubes. We worked on rhythm as well as just having fun. I had a nice talk one of the directors, a fellow engineering student who drifted into science/education. Nice to know that younger folks are picking up on this as a vocation.

A couple of the counselors brought in some instruments – harmonica and guitar – and I gave them the opportunity to join in. Always involve the counselors.

I’m coming back for a previously booked gig next Friday, and I also picked up a gig in August for the moon eclipse. I’ll work up some sun and moon songs for that one. A very nice connection developing with this educational center in Allentown.

I had a one set visit to a daycare/camp in a small, urban church today, one that I remember from last year. The group was a little sluggish, having been glued to a big screen Netflix cartoon series. The counselors were off to the side and uninvolved. Such is the reality of these centers. It takes a bit of work to shake them up and get them involved, and there’s not much help from the teen counselors.

A couple of the kids knew me from last year and were warmed up to have some fun. Others were new and, I figured didn’t know much English, so I had my antennae up to figure how to play this out. I explore several ways to engage them. One boy seemed not to know English and was uncomfortable with the Peanut Butter, and other response tunes, so I got him up with the Thunder Tube. He lit up. Another older boy seemed put off by the “childish” stuff, but when I introduced the rain stick and gave it to him to play for the rest of the session, he also locked in and did some great dancing with it. Another male counselor started to dance with Jelly in the Dish with some stylish moves. I invited him into the group when everyone was up and dancing. Scarves, puppets, shakers made for a lively 15 minutes at the end.

I gave out foam noses at the end as they rounded up the instruments for the bag.

I always have my doubts of how to interact with such a wide gulf of cultures, but – and I am always amazed – it always works. I relish these opportunities to learn and grow.

It looked to be a gray Sunday morning with no rain and, thankfully cooler temperatures. Good for the open air market. I have three hours to play music among the vendors and shoppers, kids and dogs and for myself. I had some time on Saturday to recover from the jaunt to CT and back so I was looking forward to exercising my repertoire.

I snag a few kids and parents as they drift by, but I notice the vendors really appreciate the music, with one lady tossing in a five spot and smiling the whole time. That’s pretty good. One precocious girl was in a dancing mode, and was familiar with most of my set list, so she was a delight to play to, as well as talk to. Her mom know all the words to my songs, as well. It only takes a few interactions like these to make the time spin right through the three hours.

I got a lot of good work in on a bunch of tunes, old, new and half-remembered. Tomorrow, Trenton.

I relish the chance to land back among my CT friends for some real time with Ron and Suzie and some picking time with some really good friends. Tonight I got in early and caught up with Ron and Suzie at their humble country home – marvelous hospitality off the road for me.

A couple of friends showed up, Bill and Frank, both good pickers and country singers and more. Ron is as good as it gets. Together we share tunes, beer, cheese, dogs, stories and songs around the kitchen table. So very fine…..

I get to bring out my newer tunes, noodle on mandolin on their tunes, and swap some good stuff that only true friends can share. These are precious times among friends. Priceless. It’s why I go back to CT, in spite of some dark memories. These folks gave me an anchor during my ten years up there.

This was pretty cool, to be asked to return to Camp Happiness in Milford, CT. I’ve been playing for these kids, counselors and staff for around a decade or more. I didn’t realize the span that these several generations of folk that have put in, serving their community with great attention to their special-needs community. I’ve had the privilege to perform every summer, and I’ve achieved some sort of rockstar status. It only happens here, friends.

There were a bunch of alumni in the house for the hot dog picnic at noon. I pulled up to check out the situation and Maureen broadcasted that I was in the house. The picnic erupted. That’s cool.

I headed back to the air-conditioned auditorium to set up for the show. Praise to the AC, it would have brutal outside in 90 plus July temps.

It was a good session all around. There were some older folks in the back, and I was able to engage them, and as the show went on, it was gratifying to see them smiling and even getting up and dancing. The kids gave me suggestions so I rolled out Bear Hunt, Cat Came Back and Peanut Butter. I’m glad I have some ‘hits’ to call on. I picked on the counselors and they pitched right in, as they have many, many times before. They are an essential part of making these visits so successful. The kids and the counselors really have great relationships and they are the bridge to my music.

These folks have paid me well on an annual basis, and they allow me to learn things from every gig, stuff that I carry into the next season. I’m am particularly thankful for this opportunity to play for this community and earn their wonderful respect that I so rarely enjoy out on the road. I must be making a difference.

Off to Northford for some kitchen tunes with friends tonight. A pretty good day on the planet.

This has been a busy week with my fourth gig in three days, this time at my local farmers’ market a block away from home. Things were a little laid back today but that means I get to work on some of my tunes and crank them up with a sound system. I started off strong and got some good work in, and then a couple of moms with kids showed up and I went into my kids’ mode, with the magic bag of instruments laid out. It turned out to be a healthy session, though, as I was picking up some tomatoes from one of the vendor’s, he remarked that he liked the adult stuff better. Me, too!

Tomorrow, up to CT to Camp Happiness and an evening pickin’ party with my old friends Friday night.

I get invited back to do one of these concerts in the PP&L Plaza every summer, and though the turnout is usually slim, there are always some good moments. I also get to bang my music off of the city’s buildings. Several familiar faces came by and took in some tunes, but there were several kids that tickled me. One particularly precocious girl came right up and suggested Magic Penny. She said, “I’m still three.” We had several conversations throughout the afternoon, and she had no fear of coming up and starting a chat. It was amusing to the audience as well.

Another group of folks came up and requested Peanut Butter, and, though I had done it earlier, I complied. The dad came up while I was packing up and said that his daughter was in town from the West Coast, with her daughter and wanted to come out to see Dave Fry and hear some of the music she grew up on. This generational thing is fairly regular now, these days. That’s cool.