I had my second gig with the reconstituted Odyssey Program for the Philly Folksong Society, an outreach program for some inner city schools that can’t afford quality assemblies. The Society pays the bulk and the school pays $25. Not a bad deal, and it connects me with the PFSS folks. It did in the past and, I’m sure, it helped me get into the festival this year.
This was a parochial school in Chester, PA, mostly black kids. I always enjoy both Catholic schools and black kids. The kids are respectful and like to have fun. A good combination, though I initially wonder how they will react to an old white guy playing an acoustic guitar. I should never worry.
I did my solo version of RockRoots for some of these Odyssey gigs. In fact, the RR idea came out of these shows 25 years ago. It’s not a particularly ‘no-brainer’ gig for me, being used to having a band fill in so much of the music. But, I do have the spoken part down, a strong rhythm guitar and my bag of performance tricks. But today afford me the opportunity to work on this solo version of the show, and experiment, as well.
Starting off with Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music is always a double-edged sword in that the kids often consider it ‘old’ sounding music. But its a good tune, the teachers dig it, and it sets the stage nicely. I do have to sing it better.
The set then picks up on folk dance origins and, in the real show, Kevin plays a nifty African beat on the drum set. I decided to try something different and it really worked out well, especially in the warming up the audience.
I had my bag o’ instruments and passed out a handful of maracas, etc. to six students (mixed grades, including the tougher 8th graders). I then clapped out the Bo Diddley beat, got the players to play and the audience to clap along. The energy was great and engaged immdeiately; in fact, the kids took up a foot stomp and added it to the mix. I then said, “Everybody get up and dance!”, and they did. It sealed the deal and I could be educational and entertaining from then on.
Another moment of spontaneous smarts that made the gig creatively engaging and fruitful at the same time. Instincts.
The gig flowed smoothly and I felt I was close to being comfortable in doing this solo RR again.