I played my 31st Musikfest on Saturday with my ‘adult’ set with Kris Kehr on bass and Ed McKendry on guitar. It turned out to be a very nice set with a whole variety of my material, as well as some solo songs by myself, Ed and Kris.
It was a comfortable afternoon in Liederplatz in the courtyard of the Sun Inn. It’s one of the best places to play and the sound system with Dave and Terry is as good as it gets. There only a few familiar faces, which also means there were a lot of new ones.
Don’t Call Me Early is a strong opener and we followed with Blue Heartland, a nice swinger that gave me the opportunity to introduce Ed and Kris with their leads. July followed, again a strong tune with a sing-along that was mellow on the audience’s part (they don’t expect it). Barrelhouse and Shoo That Fly gave ’em the blues and the R&R. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2jQ_CgjCM8&index=2&list=PLsYWH4p-yiE8m67DykCObINZgyICbvsXK)
I followed with two solos: I Wanna Be a Dog (with howling) and Voodoo Chile on the mandolin. It stayed in tune for me, and surprised a few folks. One gentleman came up afterward and said he loved it. I’m still unsure of how it goes over, but I do it for shock value.
The lads came back for Centerfield, one of my new favorite covers, mostly because it resonates with my deep history with the Phils, my son, my dad and my granddad. It also is a good uptempo tune. Ed nails the lead.
I introduced Kris for a solo and he did one of his originals on his big 12 string. It was a nice break in the set, and showed another side of Kris’s stuff. I like passing the spotlight to my friends.
Here’s where I took my chances with Smokin’ Babies. I tried to not over-introduce it and just play it, only mentioning irony once. It sounded nice with Ed’s leads and its wonderful chord progression. We nailed it. I couldn’t really read the audience other than a few head tsks in the beginning. But I’m glad we did it, just to say we did.
Ed did his solo Southside Sunday Nights, talking about GD’s open mike, legends dropping in, etc. He was in great voice and as he played it, I stood next to Kris. He had never heard Ed’s stuff before. Much mutual respect going on.
I ditched the remaining set list and followed with John Gorka’s Legends. I had planned on doing it solo but Ed remained on stage and filled in some nice backup. Serendipity.
This led into Lessons from Pete quite naturally, speaking of legends. We had worked out a trio arrangement on the spur of the moment the day before and I was really looking forward to playing it live for the first time today. The lads picked up the progression immediately and I am finally comfortable with dealing with words. The kicker was the jam we stumbled upon the day before, based on a simple Am / F chord change. It’s built for improv and has a great dynamic to the build. Today it took several nice leaps and I beamed during it. I felt tickled like I haven’t before.
It was time to finish the set with a bang so we cued up Pay Bo Diddley. As I was introducing the song, the Honeydipper pulled up behind the stage to vacuum up the porto potties and started into a 200 Hz drone. I said, “I can’t believe this.” So we set out with this incredible drone going on in our space. We did it as best we could (one lady came up afterwards saying the audience couldn’t hear it, phew.). As we went through our three solos sections, I said, “and here’s a solo from the honeydripper..” The band brought it down to just the hum of the sucker and the audience simply loved it, and we finished the song. (The guy finished only two minutes later, sheesh.)
Ed and Kris are pros. We had one (and a very good one) rehearsal the day before, the first time Ed and Kris had ever met. We hit it off right away as we relied on our listening skills, doing the homework on each of our parts and performing it for real in front of a festival audience. I had complete confidence that we could do it, and we did. I have a community of artists that support me in so many ways, and today was a microcosm of that, in spades.
The Honeydipper Story is simply a great way to remember the unbelievable things that happen out of the cosmos. Things you can’t prepare for but, eventually, are incredible ways to connect with your audience, only if you allow yourself to celebrate them and not let them bring you down.
There were very few LV musicians, Open Mikers and GD folks in the audience. I would have loved to perform my ‘good’ stuff for my fellow musicians from this area, but outside a few FaceBook nods, we (myself included) don’t go out to support our cohorts by sitting in
the audience and listening. It’s a strange beast and one I recognize and accept.
I simply wish my fellow players could see me do my real music and not just think of me as a kids’ musician. I know they couldn’t do kids’ stuff, but I’m not sure they think I can do this ‘for real’ stuff. Too bad. Ed and Kris and the GD community knows, for sure.
I was proud of the whole set. We had a fat folk sound, we explored Celtic, blues, swing, family, rock and roll, original music, improvisation, humor, musical craftsmanship, bizarre happenstance and a really good time together on stage. This was a keeper.