I had a rather easy trip in and out of Philly today. Not bad for a Friday afternoon. I was booked as part of the Philly Folksong Society’s Odyssey Program for assemblies for inner city schools, schools that perhaps can’t afford to bring in folk music acts otherwise. I’ve done these in the distant past, and was, in fact, part of my introduction to playing the festival back in the 80’s. It also was the origin of my RockRoots program.
Back then, the folks who booked me said that I couldn’t just come in and sing folk songs, that I had to have a program of some sort. It’s then that I figured that I knew and loved a variety of roots music (back before it was called ‘roots’) and put together a kind of history of music It l liked: blues, bluegrass, Beatles, Irish tunes, swing, early R&R and more. It was from that format that I got together with my then current electric band, Out on a Limb, and created the assembly program that is now with Young Audiences.
Today I returned to do a solo version of the show, something I have offered to the Odyssey program along with my solo folk show. It seems that a few schools have asked about it, and today I got to do it for 150 sixth, seventh and eight graders in an auditorium.
I had figured on it being in a black neighborhood, and was looking forward to trying some new interactive elements, especially in the New Orleans segment, getting some kids up to demonstrate second line percussive improvisation. It would be tough and intense, but I’ve always enjoyed the challenge and the reward of great energy from these students.
I was in Fishtown today, which is a predominantly white neighborhood. I changed my plans and though to do my straight show. The kids were polite and somewhat subdued, and the teachers supportive. All in all, it was a good, hour-long show.
As I did I Like Peanut Butter, usually a good interactive vehicle, with kids up on stage. I picked four guys who were eager to come up on stage. That’s what I look for when I pick them. Unfortunately, these guys were into goofing off royally, never really tried to anything as a group, giving me a bunch of off the wall things like ‘twerking’. It was like trying to herd cats, and though it was fun for their classmates, I didn’t think it was cool. Out of control. But that’s a function of the age, and sense of privilege.
It went fairly smoothly, mostly because I have the spoken parts down, the glue between the musical segments, but I wish I had a fatter sound on guitar, and better lead chops to help sell the artistic parts.
But, as I said, the teachers really appreciated the show, and the kids, for the most part took it well. Several kids dozed off in the chairs, but they were quiet and respectful. I was glad for the work, and, today, it was work.