All entries filed under DF Family Shows

I signed up for a long day on Saturday after Thanksgiving. I figured if I could make it to the Godfrey’s gig with Craig and Dick, I’d be fine.

I picked up a Breakfast with Santa gig in Easton only a few days before the date, and, in spite of an initial hesitation, I decided to do it. It was in a posh venue, Bank Street Annex (banquet hall) , a few doors down from Center Circle. It was set up for families to have a fancy breakfast and then meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus. I believe the admission was fairly steep, and there were about 50 people and a wait staff on hand. I set up my small sound system about 10 am and started in when the doors opened.

I had my bag of instruments on hand, and, gradually, the kids came over and joined in. Eventually Santa came down the stairs, read The Night Before Christmas and posed with all the families. He was a pretty good Santa. I continued to play with the kids and it proved to be a good time. I seemed to add a nice dimension to the affair. I packed up and headed home.

I’m lucky to sneak into some very prestigious festivals as a kids’ performer and Saturday’s gig at the 50th Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival is an example. My friend Jayne Toohey, photographer and Philly Folk Festival volunteer has asked me to do a family set at this festival several times, and I was glad, especially after the last few Covid years, to do it this weekend.

Jayne Toohey

I do a set in an unused pavilion on the Salem County Fairgrounds as the main festival rolls on further away on the main stage. My scene is a dusty, saw-chipped empty space, better fit for cattle and sheep, with a section of bleachers up at one end, with a small sound system run by another good friend from my Philly folk relations, John Mac.

Another act, a clever Black magician Chris, was booked at 2 pm and he did his wonderful show before my set at 4 pm. He had a good crowd to play for (as do most magicians in this business), working in his tricks and clever patter. He’s really good at doing this.

I set up my guitar, bags of instruments and puppets, and waited for my time. Nobody anywhere near this pavilion. As usual, I will have to start from scratch.

There was next to none in the way of promotion of the kids area, no mention on the web site and I even had to talk my way into the festival at the main gate. No mention of me with the powers that run the festival. So it goes.

At four pm, with nobody in the house, empty bleachers and a family picking some tunes just outside the pavilion, I started playing Shoo That Fly, apologizing to the family for interrupting their session, but I had to start somewhere. The folks were gracious enough to pull it in, and I continued for about 10 minutes until a mom and dad and their two kids stopped over and sat down with their snow cones. Here we go.

I opened up my bag of rhythm instruments and encourage the boy and his sister to join in. Gradually, a few more kids, moms, dads settled in and I finally had a basic audience to work with. I ended up with about a dozen kids and scattered adults to do my set. Scarves, puppets and instruments and a cloud of dust and chips. I finished up, and after the kids helped put my stuff away (it’s going to be quite a clean up later), I handed out CDs to all the kids, fist-bumped and packed up my stuff in my car. I hoped to catch some homemade ice cream and some bluegrass music from the main stage before I headed home.

I ran into some surprising folks while on site, including a woman who knew me from her wedding that Pavlov’s Dawgs played at back in the 90’s. I did remember the site at Mensch Hill outside of a small town in Berks County. We had a great chat about acoustic music, Godfrey’s, the state of bluegrass, folk radio and more. It was remarkable to run into someone that distant in my past. Deep connections. Only my friend Fred Gilmartin made the effort to search me out after my set, knowing several other friends were at the festival. So it goes. I know I’m lucky to have a small part (but a very nice payday) in this festival.

I could only take one set from the bluegrass band on stage, and drove off into the setting,  sun in rural South Jersey, headed for home on a beautiful Labor Day Saturday.

I had to cancel several gigs during my bout with Covid, and today was my return to active duty with two hours at the Rose Garden Farmers’ Market and tow sets at the St. Thomas More Festival in the afternoon. I’ve been laying low for ten days now, feeling some fatigue (though no symptoms), but I’ve been concerned as to how my voice, my hands and my energy would be for the day. I did better than expected.

The Rose Garden gig is fairly effortless, with no sound system, a chair under the trees and a mobile audience drifting by at the market. I did check in with several folks who knew of my Covid difficulties, and was able to mix in a good variety of songs. There were few kids today, except for the final half hour. We did break into the bag for that session and we had a good time. I finished up with $20 in tips, but it was a slow morning all around.

I headed back home to refocus for the afternoon’s two sets at St Thomas More’s Festival. I was signed up for two hour sets at 1:30 and 3:30 pm, with my good friend Al Grout doing his magic/juggling/comedy show in between.

I was in the large tent on stage, following a woman doing a reptile demonstration. Per usual, once she packed up her critters, the group of kids and parents headed off for other parts of the festival. Yes, I started with no one anywhere near the stage. Gradually a few brave souls came over, and I encouraged the three girls and one boy to grab an instrument and join in. It was hard work with such a low attendance, but I got through it.

Al Grout came on and did his wonderful set, all rolling with his clever patter and obvious skill. He’s a pro – and a good friend.

Again, after his show, I was faced with a sparse audience but plunged ahead, this time with the bag of puppets the bag of instruments. I was able to invite some of the kids up on the stage and that proved to be a good idea. They danced, sang, and tossed scarves and basically gave a nice scene for the adults in the audience to witness. The second set was more animated. I finished up and made room for Al’s second set.

Chatting with the lady who booked me, she apologized for the low attendance but said it was the first festival like this in a while. She said several lessons were learned for next year. I still feel I don’t have the clout to command an audience with my music and low-key presentation. I was glad for the opportunity and, of course, the check at the end of the gig.

I was beat at the end of the day, but celebrated by treating myself to this seasons’ first Gelato at Rita’s on the way home. It was great. I survived a long day and my extended absence due to Covid.

This was one of the good ones of the year for me, essentially my only professional set at Musikfest this year, with my good friend Kris Kehr on bass. This marked my 39th MF and I believe I’m the only one left to have played them all.

This set was kicking off the Tuesday evening at the new Stadtplatz (the old Americaplatz) and I was able to link some of my old gigs at that site over the years during my set. There was some light rain in the forecast, so there was a small crowd on hand (several folks coming in to see the Americana band following me), but a noticeable group of young families with grandmoms in tow. That turned out to be a great factor in how the set turned out.

I was a little concerned about my duo set at this stage, since most of the other groups were much louder, band-oriented groups. I had asked Craig Thatcher to sit in a few days ago, but he is quite busy with his many gigs during the festival. As it turned out, Kris and I had an excellent sound crew and, together, we had a nice, phat sound ourselves. We were able to fill the arena appropriately.

I had gotten wind that several friends were going to bring their grandkids so I front-loaded the set with some kids’ material. After opening with Don’t Call Me Early, some of the kids and families started to drift up front of the stage. I went into Shoo That Fly,  and folks started to dance. That energy captured some of the older folks in the back, and certainly gave Kris and me a boost. I followed with Summertime Blues, We Are Welcomed and then into the kids’ stuff: Giants, I Like Peanut Butter (with my goth story) and We Gave Names. Eventually, we had a nice, comfortable mosh pit of kids and grandmoms and a few dads dancing in front of us. (I should have brought in my bag of scarves and instruments, but, alas, I was traveling light for this one.)

Having changed my strings before the gig, my Martin was really holding its own in the mix, and coupled with Kris’s bass, I felt energized by our wall of sound. We drifted into my adult material with Nadine, Giant, How Legends are Made, Rosie is a Friend of Mine (with the story about Rosalie’s pregnancy announcement from this stage in 1989) and finished up with a very strong Lessons From Pete. I featured Kris’ lead bass on several songs and I believe his leads surprised and entertained the audience. He was great. Nice back-up vocals, too.

All in all, we did a great set with all the elements of what I do best: family material mixed with strong adult songs, a full sound, strong acoustic guitar chops, interesting banter that was site specific and great visuals with kids dancing in front of the stage. I am quite proud of how it turned out.

It was nice to have some folks come up after the show with legacy stories.

From Joe Ann: Aryana, my granddaughter, and I enjoyed your concert today. I’m sure Ary will continue to enjoy your music as her dad and aunt (our son and daughter) did when they were her age! Thanks again.
These things matter.

 

Allentown’s Pocket Park

I was honored to have a small part in Blues, Brews and Barbeque festival in Allentown on Saturday afternoon. My arena was Pocket Park, a small grassy space among parking garages and other tall buildings. Great mural works surrounded me.

The event coordinator Liz wanted to have some family activities for a largely adult audience, and this spot was perfect for. Liz, as I found out, was a big fan as a kid, and her mom was there to greet me. This family history stuff is quite gratifying for me.

As usual, there were very few kids on a hot day in town, but I did my ‘close-up’ magic with everyone who stopped by. The families appreciated the music, joining in singing and playing rhythm instruments. Liz’s 6-month old daughter was having a good time, being passed around among grandparents, uncles, aunts. Big smiles all around. Even the cops seemed to know me and were grinning.

Liz took a chance on trying to bring some family music to the festival and I told her I appreciated the work and her effort.

At the end of the two hours, I was beat, but off to Father Folk for a 6 pm set west of Reading. The beat goes on.

Young Audiences scored me a couple of summer gigs in Wilmington, DE. I was looking to get out of town anyway. It was another 90 degree day and I’m lucky to have a air-conditioned vehicle.

When I got there, I met up with the liaison for the recreation folks in town, working with the big theater outfit as part of their community outreach. Seems Sid knew of me from The Philly Folk Fest, having worked on the Archives Crew. We had quite a few common friends, and struck a great conversation about Fest as well as David Bromberg’s moving to town.

Father Tuck Park

Father Tuck Park is situated in the neighborhood Little Italy and I enjoyed catching up on the lay of the land. Big Catholic church up the hill from the park. We set up in a shady glade with Sid’s small generator purring away. I didn’t expect any kind of crowd and was willing to forgo the sound, but we went with it anyway. It turned out that having a presence in the neighborhood was important.

There were only a mom and young daughter and a daycare teacher with two girls and a young boy. It doesn’t matter since I work with what I got. Still, its hard for the kids to relax when it’s such a small group. The two girls eventually loosened up nicely and were dancing at the end. The mom was a former preschool teacher so she and her daughter were already primed.

It was a long day, with three hours of travel and an hour show, but worth it to soak in some of Little Italy on a hot day. I’ll return later in August to another Wilmington park.

 

I was set to kick off the Summer Series of Educational programs at our local PBS TV station on Tuesday – two shows at 10 and 11 am for a decent amount of money. There were vax and mask mandates for the building but that was fine with me. I got to the studio in plenty of time and, with few families signed up, we decided to ditch the sound system and go acoustic. Cate, my good friend and educational liaison for the station greeted me warmly as ever. I set up and waited.

A few minutes after 10, Cate came in and said that the few families that showed up didn’t have vax papers and left. I was disappointed but quickly said, “Can we do it outside?” Cate said why not and quickly scrambled to tell the families walking away. With the help of the crew, we set up on a large patio out front of the station and gathered the few folks for the show.

My view of the Steel Stacks arena.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day and the setting was wonderful.  I introduced myself to the three moms and five kids. I opened up my bag of instruments and started in with I Like Peanut Butter. Away we go! The next 50 minutes were quite rich, and as I worked with these folks, Cate and other members of the staff were delighted that we were able to save the situation. They took lots of photos for later promo.

I gave away a bunch of CDs, autographed them and then waited for the folks to show for the second show. In the meantime, Cate and I had a great chat, talking about my TA skills and experiences, her time as a Catholic school teacher and my recent viewing of the Fred Rogers documentary “Would You Be My Neighbor?” Eventually, we realized that no one was going to show up for the show, so we wrapped up my equipment and I headed back to the car.

As I was writing up my set list for the day, I realized that I need to get some of my material back in shape from a two-year layoff. I Wanna Be a Dog wasn’t on the tip of my brain anymore, and I had to listen to my CD to remind myself about The Bear Hunt, both of which were “no brainers” just a few years ago. I’m getting older.

I felt good about the session, Cate’s support of my work with the station, and the beautiful day.

Cate also cut me a check for a much larger sum of money, since TV-39 wasn’t going to do the big series during Musikfest this year. She more than doubled my fee for today. I am blessed.

A weekend of return visits to my old haunts – the Emmaus Library hired me to play two hours from 11:30 to 1:30 on the front lawn as part of their Summer Reading Program Kick-off. It was unseasonably windy and cool so I was glad I had my sweatshirt on. I set up under a pop-up tent, decided to eschew the sound system and just play for folks stopping by. There were food trucks, outdoor and indoor games, and a fairly good amount of families stopping by. I launched right in with one little girl and her mom, raring to go. (It seems she was really looking forward to seeing me, and, in fact, was right up front, tuned in for over an hour.)

I opened up the small bag of rhythm instruments, engaged kids, toddlers and parents from the get go, interacting with everyone. The library staff tending to other tables nearby all were picking up on the vibes. Over the course of the afternoon, I gave away lots of CDs just to get the music out. Things got quieter later on. Next time I should start earlier in the morning.

All in all, everyone had a great time, and, as expected, the library staff was tickled with the activities. I was glad I did it acoustically and had the opportunity to resurrect a few more tunes from my old repertoire. Skip To My Lou, Bear Hunt and other.

I was paid what I asked for and what I deserve for these kind of public gigs. Off to Pottstown for a family birthday picnic.

It’s been several years since I’ve last played for the Holy Infancy parish and I was pleased to return this year. I’ve been playing at the school for 14 years, many times in the old school down on 4th Street, a block from home. They’ve moved up the hill to a very nice facility and they asked me to play inside in the cafeteria. (There was lots of activity out in the lots around the school and church. I was fine with having a small footprint.

It was a hot day and I was fortunate to play in the air-conditioning. I had a 7:30 – 8:30 set, a little late for some families, but there were a few friendly faces from my assemblies at the old school, and they made me feel quite welcome. A few teenage girls were gathering so I invited them to move closer. They started asking me for Bear Hunt, Cat Came Back and others. I realized these teens were once in first and second grade; they actually knew the songs better than I did. Pretty cool.

There were a good number of young families with little kids, so I broke open my small bag of instruments to share and we had a good time dancing and running around the stage. I eventually got out a bag of scarves and away we went. Toddlers, teens and a few adults having some food and drink in the back. I wrapped things up after about 45 minutes.

The principal thanked me, gave me a check (a first for me) and we figured times were right for a return assembly in the fall. Good Neighbors.

I was honored to be asked to do the lobby pre-show for this production from our local community theater outfit Touchstone, one I have deep connections with, having being an ensemble member back in the 80’s.

This is a wonderful part of Touchstone’s outreach in the community, reaching creative teens and preteens artists, writers, actors and more, across the Lehigh Valley. The kids get to work with some of Touchstone’s ensemble as directors. A noble endeavor.

My small part is to engage kids and families as they make their way into the large Baker Theater. I like the fact that I was along one wall, between two bubble machines! I was asked to play from 7 to 7:30 when the show would begin. I got there early, and so started in about 6:45. Why not? I immediately engaged a young family with two older sisters and their younger brother. He was wearing shades and immediately put one of my sunglasses over his, upside down, of course. The other folks picked up on this right away. I knew this was going to be fun.

As folks gathered in the building, I motioned for other kids to join in. I even told one older teen girl to put down her cell phone and take up a maraca. She smiled, and she did, and played along, When her two friends showed up, they joined in, as well. Smiles all around. That was nice. Shoo That Fly, I Like Peanut Butter, We Gave Names to the Animals, etc. All upbeat and playable.

Things dried up about 7:25 as folks drifted in for the show. I finished with Branching Out to an empty hall. Not so, as my friend Carol Schachter walked up from her station at the entrance, and said she was singing along to the song. Sweet. Lisa, Touchstone’ managing director, mentioned toward the end that it didn’t matter if it was a throng of people or that one girl in front of me, I make connections. That was a spot-on reflection.

I packed up and headed to the parking lot to retrieve my car and then back to Fourth Street.

I was asked to serve up some family music at this friendly (and large) late summer community festival at St. Ann’s Church up in Emmaus for a Friday and Saturday 5 pm set. I’m not sure how this landed in my lap, but, apparently I did play the St. Ann’s school last century, and several folks suggested me. Since I’m getting used to playing for folks these days, I jumped at the chance.

I was able to set up on the stage in a tent before the evening’s rock and roll bands went on at 7 pm. I brought my small system and it seemed to be enough for the space. At 5 pm, there’s not much action so I started out solo, and gradually some kids, girl scouts, parents and grandparents moved into range. I brought out the stuffed instrument bag, opened it up and away we go….

Friday had a bit more kids joining in and Saturday was a bit tougher, though one dad/son boogied for the whole set. That was cool. I ran into a few folks who knew who I was (the music teacher at the school who plays oboe!) but it was sparce. The small interactions were good, but, again, I really have no draw for my kids’ shows.

The sponsors were appreciative and thanked me for providing some music for the kids. They also helped me get my stuff to and from the stage which was a big help. They paid me well (what I asked for…) and will let me know about next year. It was a tough gig though.

On the final day of Musikfest, I performed in the studios of TV-39, our local PBS station for the last day of their 10 day Summer Jam series. For me, it’s an honor to be part of this run since the other performers are, for the most part, national family music professionals. I’m still a little uncomfortable to be in this fraternity. As it turns out, the crew and staff at the station think I’m right there.

Only a few weeks ago, the sessions were scheduled to be in front of two sets of kids and parents in the studio. I did a show a few weeks ago there and it was a hoot. But, with Covid restrictions rising in the last 10 days, TV-39 switched to doing one show in the studio without a live audience and extending the show to include a live TV broadcast from the station as well as a broadcast to the big Jumbotron outside of the station.

An elegant stage set.

I got there at the proscribed 8 am for the 11 am show and the 9 am sound check. No one was there and that was somewhat expected: a Sunday, the crew knew my specs and they had everything set up for all the shows that week. I finally got in by 8:30 and went through the Covid checks. All the staff had to be masked but as the performer, somehow I got off the hook. They told me that I was going to do a 27:30 set (I had planned for 45 minutes.) and that there would be a countdown clock right it front of me. I would have a few seconds leeway at the end. No problem.

My sight lines, with my monitor to the right.

Since there was no audience to play for (drat, one of my strongest suits for television) I decided to bring out some bling – my mandolin and banjo and added them into my short set. We got a sound check on everything and I settled in for the show to start. I changed strings on the mandolin, visited the deli tray in the lounge, meditated, etc.

At 11:00 they started the show and away I we go: Peanut Butter, All God’s Critters (banjo), Giants, I’m Gonna Tell (mandolin), We Gave Names to the Animals and (with 2:30 left) I finished with an abriviated Jelly in the Dish. I worked the cameras with lots of facials, finger-pointing at the audience and as much gravy as I could muster. And, as the countdown headed to 0:00, I finished by doing a “studio fade” (softer and softer) in the studio on Jelly and nailed the time with a “thanks.” I could tell the crew loved it. It was pretty cool, I must say myself. After we went off the air, the crew cheered. They were as good an audience as I could hope for.

The show was broadcast outside the TV-39 studios to any families that came by on the Sunday morning. I have no idea how many showed up but the pictures are cool.

The crew was asked not to react during the show, in that it would sound pretty weak with only a few folks in the house. But, as I found out later, during Names, my remark about a butt-saggin’ dragon made one of the camera women laugh out loud. At the end, I thanks TV-39 and the camera crew and the “camera person” in particular for their warmth and professionality. She delighted in that I gave her a shout-out and said “camera person.”

The producer Kira Willey was there, as was Katie Brennan, the production manager. Both were very appreciative of my show and they hope to use my show to help put together a potential package for a family music series with myself and the other performers in the series. I can see something nice coming out of my Sunday morning at the station.

It was great to be treated like a professional in my home town.

 

I did two morning sets in the TV-39 studios on Tuesday, this time without video-taping, simply a live session with kids, moms and grandmoms, for the most part. As usual, I was treated nicely by the staff, sound crew and all. Some of the folks go back to my time recording Play Guitar With Dave Fry back in the ’90’s up at the Mountaintop studio.

I was scheduled to do two thirty minute sets, give or take, but since it wasn’t a live TV show, I had room to go a little longer. I did much of my regular songs including Giants with two brothers on thundertubes that was fun.

I brought out The Bear Hunt for the first time in many months. It’s one that demands a live audience that I haven’t had during the pandemic. It was good to dust it off.

I was honored to be asked to be part of the series and glad that I’ll be part of the Summer Jam series during Musikfest. I’ll be there the last Sunday, August 15th.

My local food c0-0p will be moving into a large, former car dealership on the Northside of town and I was asked to perform for a couple of hours as the aging hippies gathered in the parking lot. There were some food trucks near by, our local ice cream vendor and a DJ at hand and a tented area for folks to sit and eat. I found a nook in the shade, set up my small sound system and set in to playing. I put out my bag o’ instruments and started to troll.

Many familiar faces and some folks were listening from the tent. No problem that no one was nearby. It’s all about the ambience. Eventually, several moms, dads and kids made their way over to the shakers and I had my connections in gear. One lad sat next to me and was working the maracas. He was really getting into it and was coming up with some rather sophisticated moves. I opened up some spaces for him to extemporize and got him to count off the start to a song. He really nailed it, and, later, his dad said that he does have a gift for music. Another young girl took to the scarves and lost herself in dance. Again, her dad expressed some surprise with her ease in movement.

The bugger of the gig was the fact that I was set up next to the food trucks which were running their engines during my set, a constant rumble and an air of gasoline for the whole time. I was glad I had my PA, but it was cranked up more than usual. It took a toll on my voice later that afternoon at Father Folk.

It was a good gig and much appreciated by the organic crowd. When the sun moved overhead, I packed it in a little early and I was grateful to get a head start out to Berks County.

The Gig

I knew this was a strange gig for me – a fire company carnival in July. I do applaud the organizers in booking a family folk show, but compete with rides, food, side shows? I knew what I was up against. And I am well aware of my lack of draw here in the Lehigh Valley. Still very glad to get a gig. In fact it was one of my first post-lockdown bookings. I do play the local farmers’ market and a local church, so I was glad they shopped local.

I brought Kris Kehr along for the gig, knowing I needed some umph on base for a two hour set, and some brotherly support on a set list that would have to be kids and Americana music. I’m really glad I did. Still, I was concerned that I could play a fire company carnival.

The carnival behind the stage.

We were booked for 6:30 – 8:30, earlier than some carnival shows, but I suggested the time slot for families on a Tuesday night in July. I got there, met Kris and then we figured we go over to the band shell and set up. I used my RockRoots sound system and it did fill up the stage, and, along with Kris’s bass amp, we provided a pretty good sound. I was curious why my contact Angela hadn’t shown up.

The vast and empty lawn, pre-show.

There was a miniscule audience, but enough to engage with (on a personal level), and the bag of instruments was splayed out on the lawn in front ot the stage. Again, the bag works its wonders and kids, moms, dads took some time out to play with their kids. I’m sure it also entertained Kris and me and made the night shorter.

It was a very mixed bag of songs and I’m glad I put together a long list of songs to do: R&R, bluegrass, country, family tunes. We used them all up. I can’t say enough what a good friend Kris is to back me up on these songs. He said that he even could dial up my newer stuff from my 365 Series on YouTube and bone up on my keys/arrangements. Cool. A friend indeed.

I really should have changed strings. I was battling the whole time with tuning and a thuddy sound on the Martin. The summer weather seems to kill strings. No wonder there. But, I didn’t break any, so that’s a positive.

Pavilion Stage

We made it through the two hours and we did a good job, No check or contact person. This happens.

Post Gig 

I got back home around 9 pm and checked my email and there was note, “Just wanted to check and see if you are on your way for the music for carnival tonight, we’re here at the pavilion.”  Ack! We had actually arrived on site around 5:55. I quickly emailed Angela that we showed up and played. And, of course, my mind went into “What if?”  Was the band shell and the pavilion two different places? Was I to play in the carnival grounds? Would I get paid? It kept me up pretty late.

When I got up at 2 am to post my daily YT song, there was a note from Angela: “Hi Dave – oh it was perfect, you were in the correct spot 🙂 I saw you setting up from afar and started to head over and then got pulled into helping with the food and beer tent and didn’t get to make it over to catch you before you started playing. The performance was terrific!” Big sigh of relief! This is never easy these days. Check in the mail.

 

Some gigs are starting to come in, and this was one of the first that landed in my lap this spring, before there was any sign of the clouds parting in the pandemic. I have a friend Lisa who has booked me consistently in the parks system in Spring Township outside of Reading. The date came around on a perfect late spring night. Clear skies and low 70’s.

I was in West Lawn Park, a semi-urban setting and a new one for me. There was a nice small stage overlooking a paved area and a playground in the back. Folks set up chairs and blankets in front of the stage and it was a nice mix of grandparents, parents and kids. I set up my small PA system for this one, and it worked well.

Nose Dad and Son

As folks settled in, I got out some of the foam noses to play with the kids and dads, breaking the men into this situation. The men are the hardest to loosen up and this works really well.

Thundertube Brothers

I started out with I Like Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, I Wanna Be a Dog. It’s been a while since I’ve done a set live, so I was feeling my way. I broke out the rhythm instruments for Skip To My Lou and Shoo That Fly, broke out the scarves for Jelly in the Dish, and the bag of animal puppets for We Gave Names to the Animals. This progression of interactive tools worked quite well tonight and the playground was hoppin’!

Scarves

I had a particularly nice interaction with a Latina grandmother whose tween granddaughter was having a good time. The elder woman wanted in on the tambourines, the scarves and the shakers and I made sure she knew I appreciated her energy. At the end of the night, at the edge of the stage, I blew her a kiss, and she responded with a hugging motion. So sweet and it made my evening.

The evening went really well and the parks and rec folks were quite pleased. I was paid better than any gig in the last year and I got my legs under me once again.

It was an hour’s drive to and fro, and I must admit I have missed my time on the road.

I’m still not satisfied with the production values (sound) of these online broadcasts but getting more comfortable with the content. At least, I pushed the red button this time and went on air promptly at 10:30.

I opened with Nursery Rhyme Rock, one I haven’t rally featured at all, though it’s on my I Like Peanut Butter CD.

I introduced the rainstick and followed it with Tropical Vacation. It turned out to be a good exploration, linking the instrument and the song. I did Woody Guthrie’s Finger in the Air  a Capella, and it was light and fun. I did some new verses to The Cat Came Back.

I’ve had to chose between using a mike into a small amp to my right (as in my daily Kitchen Sessions posts) and having the freedom to move (mike-less) for the performance values for kids show. The computer’s mike system is not working well, with sudden drop-outs and I tend to sing flat without the monitor. I’m hoping that my new camera (lost in Fed Ex land for several weeks) will improve both visual and audio issues. We’ll see next week.

Next up, Magic Penny and This Little Light of Mine, both on the mandolin. Both were good choices and it was nice to work up Light for the first time.

I’m having fun in the post-concert production, using the movie maker program to edit, add script to the proceedings and generally creating a more professional and education show. I’m getting better at that as I go along.

Generally, I’m pleased with where this is taking me. Still, no tips but valuable experience. Tagger’s having a great time.

We’ll see what happens on next Tuesday’s show.

 

Tuesday’s Family Kitchen Session was another learning experience and I’m grappling with the “live” part of the show. Again, I pressed the wrong “go live” button, only to find, six minutes in, it was only live to me. There’s the BIG RED one at the bottom. Hopefully, the second goof will be the charm.

I started with my Watermelon set: Watermelon on the Vine and the Watermelon Slurp tune. That set up nicely. I asked for some dance moves for an up-coming song but the chat box didn’t seem especially active except for John and Wendy. So glad to have their feedback, so to speak.

I followed with I’m Gonna Tell which went well. I’ve been doing this one a long time.

Next up, a dance tune Jimalong Joe. I went online and found two extra verses that are wonderful and give the tune some historical perspective about minstrel show/riverboat dancer Jimalong Joe. I put those up front with the two I know already. With no suggestions from the chat room, I went with hop, skip, twist and through in floss. It’s a much stronger song now that I’ve revisited it and will do it again, hopefully with more response.

I introduced Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear as a poem from my past. Again, its a very playful and short piece that ties in with my being a kid. Again, I went on line and found some extra verses, some of which border on adult themes, but that’s fine. It worked well as a performance piece and the vocal play is rich. This is another one that can be explored further.

“Fuzzy Wuzzy felt so loosey, Sat Fuzzy Wuzzy in Jacuzzi, Fuzzy Wuzzy had two doozies, with Lucy and Suzy in Jacuzzi.”

I then did my Sally set: Sally Go Round the Sun and Little Sally Walker. The first one is a one-verser with opportunity to vocalize the ‘Whooooops!” while tossing scarves in the air. I then spent some time with Little Sally Walker and got to explain how a playsong works. It seemed to work fine but, as it is with these virtual broadcasts, hard to gauge its effectiveness. Just have to trust it.

John Christie’s son Nathan at home.

I finished with a short version of We Gave Names to the Animals and asked for animal suggestions in future posts. It was a strong way to finish off, with a good dance beat.

I finished up in 31 minutes and reached 312 people but only engaged 117. It’s interesting but humbling to check the stats on these shows.

I come away thinking that the presentation quality isn’t up to professional snuff, but, by writing this blog, I find myself realizing that the material is okay and delivered in my own style. There was some new additions to the material that I can keep on using. I shall persevere.

This is a long but welcome gig on my end-of-the-year schedule. Peeps Fest is a two day family festival at Arts Quest here on the SouthSide on the New Year’s Eve and the day before. I had the opportunity to snag the day before in case a fat NYE pops up. I trade sets with Eddie Ray, a Reading-area magician in one of the “ballrooms”. There’s a small sound system and some chairs serve as a stage while various hands-on arts and science activities take up the rest of the room. Thankfully, we can hold our own in the chaos. But I have four sets with Eddie’s three sets in between. For me, it’s a long day, from 9:15 arrival to my departure at 5 pm.

I was real glad when my friend John Christie asked if he could sit in, pro bono. It made for a much more enjoyable day for me, not only for his fine licks on guitar, but his presence makes it easier for me to concentrate on the audience, stretch the songs out a little more and give the adults some nasty electric guitar along the way.

Amazingly (and perhaps because of the rainy weather) there were people in the audience from the get-go. And there seemed to be a critical mass of kids and parents for the duration of the event. There were times in the past when it was me and my guitar and the volunteers in the room.

There are always several great moments.

One family was encouraging their young son to ask me for a request. After some prodding, he said he wanted “Figure It Out” from the Playground Album. I learned it from Michael Cooney and actually seems over the head for most kids. It mentions Einstein, Buddha, Freud and Isaac Newton’s sister. Serendipitously, I had just played it the week before at Dave’s Night Out. So, I played it for him to the delight of the mom and son.

Later in the day, John and I were stretching a dance tune, and while the kids in front were playing with scarves, puppets and shakers, a tall, well-dressed black man came up and started to dance for us all. He was all arms and legs but he moved with a finesse and style that caught our eye, and eventually everyone in the room. We finished the tune, thanked him and he quietly walk out into the room. It was a wonderful moment, especially when the musicians and the dancers connect. It’s a form of communication that is older than spoken language.

I finished around 4:45. I was able to pack up quickly, pick up my daughter Rosalie in town and make it to the airport in time to pick up Sister Janet at 5:20. Such efficiency. My throat was sore the next day.  I was paid well. I got to play with mu friend John. There was dancing. It was a  good day on the planet.

This event has become a welcome annual spot on my calendar. The UCC church in Old Zionsville is the home of the Village School, a pre-school that I’ve done some work with over the years and the children’s pastor has picked up on my performance for an early evening Christmas service for kids and families.

Tonight, I had the time constraint of my WDIY radio show at 7 pm, so I was conscious of getting done by 6 pm. We started around 5.

As usual, everyone sits in the back but I lay out my bag of instruments and that seems to do the trick to gather, at least, the kids up front. Tonight, I did it before the service and that broke the ice early.

Lori, the children’s pastor started out with an interactive nativity story and I was concerned about my portion of the event. Lori was also big on using the projection screen behind me, so I had to twist around often to see if my verses of the carols were the same as on the screen. It’s a little disconcerting to have folks read the lyrics to tunes that should be in the common usage. It’s a new age.

I threw in a couple tunes unfamiliar to the congregation: Mary Had a Baby, Zat You, Santa Claus and I also did Peanut Butter and Jelly just to break things up and add a little whimsy. I tried to get the audience to hear their own voices in this nice sanctuary by dropping my own voice and guitar out of the mix. It works wonders.

It went well and grandparents, parents and kids all had a good time. I made it back to the studio in good time, feeling satisfied with my addition to these family’s Christmas Eve. It’s a good gig.