This gig I love for several reasons. I support my fellow teaching artist Miss Maggie in her efforts to bring folk music to her neighborhood in Oley and I get to travel the roads into Berks County that I drove back before Godfrey’s (BG). I worked as a carpenter after graduating from Lehigh in the mid 70’s, while living in a hippie farm cooperative situation outside Seisholtzville. I know all the back roads out here and it was a beautiful day to drive through here. There was a superb folk festival – The Lobachsville Folk Festival – that the Sheiks and Mary Faith Rhoads played in 74 and 75. We were treated like pros for the first time at a festival.
These folks are trying to preserve a fine PA farm homestead and this festival is an attempt to raise awareness. I was scheduled for a noon time set on a small stage behind one of the out buildings. I did it last year and I was fine with dealing with a small number of folks.
I got there early and caught one of the acts on the ‘main stage’, a local gentleman who performs with an array of loop pedals, creating a wall of sound for his songs. As I sat next to my friend, Mike Holliday, who was performing next while I was playing on the ‘kids’ stage’, I remarked, “How pretentious!” Too much sound for this situation in front of next to no one.
I set up and played my set for a few folks gathered on hay bales under a shedding hickory tree (danger, danger!). It was chilly, breezy and only a couple of kids. But, I engaged the few kids and parents/grand parents with scarves, rain stick and thunder tubes. It was good work.
What was curious is that the loop player was intrigued by what I was doing, initially by my new Martin and its sound. After listening from the parking meadow, he and his lady came over and sat down for the remaining last songs in my set. In my mind, I accepted the challenge to play for his ears. He was able to recognize what I was doing and we chatted about it after my set.
I thought about this later. My loop, my feedback is my audience and I use them to create my performance space. His attention is directed entirely into his devices and, unfortunately, moves his concentration away from the audience and into his sound. Now, some folks can do this subtly and still remain in immediate contact with the audience. I’ve seen it and it is powerful. I’ve tried but I’ve dismissed it as too much work.
It was a good gig for little pay but those around me appreciated my craft.