All entries filed under Fall Gigs

I got a relatively last minute gig for a Halloween campfire at Camel Hump Farm on Saturday night – two sets at 5  and 7 pm. There was an extra special event, a full “hunter’s full moon” on the rise.

The folks on the farm set up a nice fire pit in an open field and there was a good fire started when I got there. I got out my 000-1R to tune up before the first set with only a few folks around. The bulk of the audience would be arriving at the end of walk around 5 pm. The temperature was in the mid 40’s, not too bad so far.

The group arrived and I started in with Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, etc. and, with a good mix of parents and kids, the interaction was good. I found myself blanking on the second verse of Giants which showed me how out of shape my repertoire is in these Covid times. It was a good set. The adults had a really good time, and there was lots of back and forth with them. (“What’s a rhyme with witch? Careful, adults…”) I headed back to my car to regroup for the 7 pm set and review Giant on my CD player. Sheesh.

I headed down for the 7 pm set with a number of folks already sitting around the campfire. It was dark now, getting colder so I decided to start 5 minutes early. As it turns out, there were only a couple families on the walking tour, so it was a good choice. There were a bunch of teenage girls across from me and they got into the music. As I finally gathered, they were the farm interns which explained their willingness to get involved, not always a given with that age group. (I thanked Vickie, the farm’s coordinator, later for their positive energy). A smaller audience, but a good one.

The full moon rose over a copse to my left during this set so we took some time out to let out a good, sustained howl. It gave the whole evening a special punctuation mark. Though it was colder, the fire and my standing during the performances kept me sufficiently warm, and that carried through the ride home. I got my check this time, with the amount from the truant one three months ago tacked on.

I was drained though, from the gig. Again, I’m physically out of shape performance-wise but my instincts were sharp, the chatter was entertaining. Vickie commented, before I drove off, that she simply feels good when I’m there, knowing that things will be fine. That’s nice to hear, a good way to finish the gig and drive home with that on my mind.

Early Sunday morning at the SVFM

Well, well, well. Three gigs within a week! Amazing.

I really appreciate this two hour Sunday morning gig at this Hellertown farmers’ market. I get to play songs I want to play and some I need to play, and I get to gauge what I need to work on. As usual, I had the mental gaps in the lyrics to tunes I should know, I flubbed the melodies to others and I realize how much this lack of live performances shapes my chops. But, it seems my guitar playing is staying sharp.

It was in the mid-40’s this morning, but no wind and I was dressed for the occasion. I didn’t have the dry hands I had last week, so it turned out to be a good day for playing. Not a lot of folks out, and certainly not as many kids/families these days. I did a couple of Jerry Jeff songs – Little Bird and Bojangles – and they came off well with all the respect that they deserve. He is on my Mount Rushmore of songwriters and FB was awash with stories and tales of his rapscallion ways.

I was able to engage with some folks including a young girl Melody who apparently is a gifted musician, though she was quite shy with me. Another woman, Marie, parked herself right down nearby and it was nice to have someone within earshot to play with and for. She picked up a tambourine and proceeded to do “interpretive” tambouring, as I call it. It was a pleasure to make conversation with her.

I enjoy the repartee with the vendors, and I know they enjoy what I bring to the event. The orchard ladies gave me some apples, the mushroom man some fresh shrooms (I worked up Feat’s It’s So Easy to Slip for him this week, the biscuit lady wants me to include her biscuits with the peanut butter man and the pepper jelly lady in my next visit, so I know they are listening.

The time goes quickly and the weather was remarkably good for a late October Sunday. I came away energized.

 

How exciting! Another gig!

I do welcome these farmers’ market gigs. They give me two hours to work on my material, refresh myself with the tunes that I put up on FB the week before and play for the public.

It was in the 40’s when I began after the first frost of the season the night before. I was a little concerned but I found the chill less onerous than the dryness of my hands. My picks were falling off my fingers and I had a tough time with my flat pick. I asked Angela if she had any moistener and she went out and bought some from one of the vendors and laid it on me. It worked and she gave me the jar. That was wonderful. And, it worked.

Things warmed up fairly quickly and, by the end, I was in the sunshine doing fine. The vendors appreciate what I do – the peanut butter man was dancing while I played I Like Peanut Butter and the veggie lady next to me was chatting with me during the two hours. She also picked out two fine tomatoes and gave them to me as a tip at the end. It’s the little things.

Various folks stopped by to chat (masked) and it was nice to connect with them. Lots of dogs on leashes, dog folk talking with each other. The vendors say business is way off, but still it does the heart good to see people out talking with each other, being normal.

I had new strings on for the occasion and I played well. I picked up tomatoes, mushrooms, peanut butter, sweet potatoes and many masked smiles today, along with a check and some grateful tips. A good way to spend a Sunday morning. I have my last one next week.

 

It was a cloudy day but temps in the upper 60’s. Good enough. Chatting with the vendors, there’s fewer folks coming to the market the last couple of weeks, though I thought it was wonderful to see folks out at all. Still, not enough to make a living for these folks.

I set up under the pop-up tent with my sound system and launched in. Having done three hours on Friday, this was a relative breeze and I was certainly warmed up. It was a good chance to lay out some of the newer tunes I had put up on FB in the last week: Simple Gifts, Goodtime Charlie, Deep River Blues, and they all sounded strong.

Several families stopped by and I opened up my bag so that the kids could play tambourines, clatterpillars and maracas. I’m feeling better about these opportunities, with the kids distanced, masked and with parents at hand. We had some very nice interactions, and these make the gig meaningful.

One woman gave me a bouquet of flowers out of the blue and the mushroom man tossed a big handful of extra ‘shrooms in the bag. It was a very nice gig, but not much on the horizon for a while.

I had a spate of cabin fever tonight, so I headed out to Reiglesville for Andy’s Hot Acoustic Jam. Thankfully there were fewer folks in the house tonight so I got find a seat in the music room and take in my fellow jammers as well as witness the craft of Andy and Mitch Shelley on bass – how they are able to back up folks up. They listen (most of the time) first and play second. A beautiful thing.

I was on fourth and the room had settled in for the most part, the food and chatter had subsided, and my friend Mance had got folks’ attention. I came up, plugged in and launched into Don’t Call Me Early in the Morning. Though it’s a folky-sounding tune, the changes are peculiar and it was a challenge for Andy and Mitch. But I present the song with strength and count on their ears to pick up the changes. I also know that it’s a great vehicle for the audience to sing along, and that affords the my friends some slack with the chords. Posit the song and get the audience connection first.

I followed with Spoonful, one that I’ve been having fun with in the last two weeks. It’s found a solid spot since I worked it up with Craig Thatcher recently. Again, it has a slightly unique chord structure that even the most professional players miss. It has a three-part format and most blues folks are in a two-base mentality. So, I have to lead, alert them to this format, and then lay it down, to varying success. At least I have their attention.

By now, we had the room quiet enough for some witty banter, a salute to the boys in the band, and set up the sonic space for my guitar’s intro. The power of this song is pulling the dynamics back to zero, and lay out the verse/poetry of this not-so-simple song. (A fellow complimented me at the end of the night, saying that it wasn’t quite Howling Wolf but well-played. I’ll take it.) This small room is perfect for these tight acoustic trios,  the information flow, both explicit and implicit, among Andy, Mitch and I is remarkable. It’s a wonderful and creative space.

We brought Spoonful down to the bass; that is a marvelous dynamic that instantly quiets the room. It also is a humble way for me to step back and let each musician take the sonic spotlight. That energy transfers to the audience. We all get to go deeper. Andy picked it up and, on my right shoulder, let some tasty electric licks fly. I brought it around with the chorus and landed the ship securely on guitar.

Bam. The room was ours.

Note: I was preparing to do Can’t Find My Way Home all day and my friend Ken did it earlier in the night. I cursed him silently from my seat. I told him later that I said, “You bastard!” under my breath. He’s a good man.

I figured that I should get serious and lay out Lessons from Pete. I haven’t done it here since I don’t know when. But, I was horny for some righteous sermonizing and figured, “Let’s do it.” I now had every confidence that Andy, Mitch (and my good friend, Dina, on percussion) and I were in tune to nail this sucker.

It was great to start with a quiet room and rapt attention. Again, a lot of trust on everyone’s part. There are two instrumental rides in this song and I let Andy stretch the first one (I tend to keep it clean) and it was very nice and contained. Pass it around.

The second ride is designed to be a piece unto itself, landing on a very open Am/F format, and a relatively easy space for improvisation. Again, we brought it down to Mitch on the base with interesting spaces for me on guitar. A surprising moment came when I tried to bring it back to Andy on guitar and he signaled to me that Mitch wasn’t finished. I deferred to Andy, on his home stage. I liked that. It was delightful.

It was a great exploration and I was pleased that Andy complemented me, later on, about the lyrics and the song itself. It was nice to hear him say so.

These three song sets are quite a production, if you want to do it right. It’s something that I have worked on since my move to CT in 2001. No one knew me up there and I had to build my reputation three songs at a time at local open mikes. I took it as a challenge to craft the perfect triad. It was good work, and I felt I could also set the bar higher for my fellow CT players. I also vowed not to repeat a song for two years. My friends in CT recognize this effort, even today.

I’ve found that you can prepare songs ahead of time (always a good thing to do) but you still have to gauge the audience and the room in the moment. You have to also gauge the song’s difficulty and the band’s abilities to follow along. And then let it go. These moments are why we musicians become solid friends in the process.

A good night that I needed during a barren booking season.

I sign up for the Fall and Spring Open House at Flint Hill every year, and though it only pays cheese, I embrace the chance to support Kathy and her efforts on this project. It’s a functional farm with goats, horses, gardens, etc. with an educational focus. Lots of community volunteers and events for the family.

It was a spectacular day, and I was fortunate to play outdoors in the nook of the small bank barn, my favorite place. Hay bales for seats, no PA and folks wandering by checking out the animals. It was a small turn-out this morning; they do better on a Sunday, but this was the only time I could do it. Regardless, if it’s just Dave Reber and me doing hammered dulcimer tunes or the occasional family that drops by, I’m fine with it all.

I used my borrowed Republic Tri-cone today, after trying it out at the Emmaus Jam on Thursday. It’s a mighty instrument, loud and with an interesting sound. It’s a treat to play one of these instruments, especially when it’s well crafted. (That’s the trick).

I got paid in goat cheese: Smoked Mozzarella, Smoked Italian Herb and Smoked Ricotta Firma. Kathy was most generous, mostly because she has great respect for me, which makes me a little bashful. But I am grateful for that.

I took time to relish the warm sun, the changing colors of the trees and a stunning blue sky. A good day working for cheese.

It was starting to get hot as I headed out to Macungie for the LV Fiber Fest, an interesting gathering of woollies, spinners and knitters who celebrate the weaving arts. The folks who book me appreciate my folk approach and hire me with glee annually. Since I had a morning gig, they said it was fine to do a 2 pm – 4 pm set in the park. It was during the waning hours of the weekend festival, so I was glad that could play for them, and they were gracious in letting me play late in the festivities.

I set up in the shade near one of the pavilions under a big old tree, with picnic tables and vendors nearby. Folks would stop by to eat ice cream sundries, sit for a spell as the spouses shopped or as a curiosity. One elder couple set up for the duration – folks who are familiar to me from Musikfest gigs, et al. So I was able to play for them and we had a very nice conversational chat and music exchange. This really made for a enjoyable afternoon for me.

Things were relatively sparse when I played, with women drifting by with bags of yarn, and, as in other similar gigs, I was there for the vendors, as well. A few kids engaged with me with a mom and gave me a chance to work my kids’ material. But, as the day drew to a close, I was feeling fatigue and some hand spasms from the long day.

I was whipped by the end of the day and a Rita’s Gelatti helped heal me for the ride home. I made some good money this weekend, especially in Trenton, but it is hard work. I have Monday off.

There were showers in the forecast for my monthly gig at Hackett Winery, so I checked in with Bob and he said that a tent with lights was set up, and that rain was supposed to hold off until later in the evening. So, I packed up and headed up to New Tripoli.

As I pulled in, there were only a couple of women in the club house, and as I started to figure out where to play in the tent area, the skies opened up with a torrential downpour. I figured out where to plug in and not get electrocuted, find a spot where there wasn’t any creeping puddles and started in to an empty space.

As I began to consider packing it in, a couple of acquaintances showed up so, as they got some wine from inside, I settled in for the evening. John runs a local guitar shop, so I was pleased to have an intelligent audience with he and his wife. As I played, we shared some good conversation, while a few other couples came on out and sat down.

Still, I don’t have the popular repertoire for folks who don’t know me or my reputation. Beatles, Tom Petty, and I often only know one Prine song, etc. Still, I try to play my best material and I play it well.

In better weather.

A small van from a nearby hotel dropped off a whole bunch of young women, and they headed inside the club house where they had a grand ole time. I was glad that I was outside since the noise got to be pretty loud.

As the evening came to a close, with only three folks in the tent, I packed it in, headed inside to get paid.

Bob checked the till and said that it wasn’t a particularly good cash night, so I ended up settling for less than my fee while he offered me a bottle of wine as a tip. I’m willing to make a deal on my fee when there is a small crowd due to the weather, but, frankly, I came away feeling somewhat dissatisfied with the arrangement. This rarely happens and reminded me of the nature of playing in bars (and, apparently wineries) for a living.

I wish I had more of a draw and a repertoire that is more suited for these kind of gigs.

My friend Tom Carpenter asked if I would do a set at a life celebration of radio programmer and folk music promoter Scott Judy who passed away in the late summer. I had done a kids’ show for him last year at the annex of this larger theater – The Sherman – in downtown Stroudsburg. Today’s show was in the main theater itself.

I was the fourth of five regional acts: Em Mure, soloist, and a NJ folk-rock quintet from northern NJ, The Folkswagon. Tom did a short set and I followed with a 40 minute set. A regional blues band Carol Fredericks & the Dirty Jersey Band finished up.

Though there were only a handful of folks in the audience, we performers were treated to a full sound and stage set up, so I really enjoyed doing a set in this atmosphere, one I rarely get to do these days. It recalled gigs at the Philly Folk Festival and Christmas gigs at Symphony Hall. These always are tremendous opportunities to work on this kind of stagecraft.

I worked out a set of my good stuff and was able to nail the material and not break a string. Having just done three and a half hours of music, in some brutal weather conditions, it was no small thing to make it through the set without popping one.  If I had, there would be no way to gracefully change a string and resume the set.

I was able to chat comfortably about my songs and what I do as a musician/performer, and though there were some folks in the audience who were very familiar with my material, I was able to engage and entertain the small audience. Again, my 000-15M sounded like a cannon. “It sounded THIS big…” said my friend Dave Eshbach.

At the end, folk thanked me, including members of Scott’s family, but I was physically whipped on the drive home. I took the scenic route through the Poconos which helped me digest this wonderful opportunity to play a big stage and do a professional job for a good cause.

My friend Dave Reiber asks me to do a Spring and a Fall open house at this nice working educational farm outside of Hellertown. I was one of very few musical volunteers for this weekend, and having survived the earlier farmers’ market, I was looking forward to playing in the horse barn at noon. I was expecting an hour and a half of playing music to a few families out on the farm tour but as I arrived, a tour bus also arrived with 25 inner city black kids and adults. I quickly parked my seat, guitar and bag and immediately launched into an appropriately funky tune. The kids and a few adults gathered around, picked up tambourines, et al, and we started to groove. It was an incredibly energetic beginning for us all, and we hit it off right away. I said it was the best opening song I had ever done.

The folks hung around for an hour, and I maintained the funky tunes. I started with Jelly in the Dish which morphed into a very cool Old MacDonald Had a Farm, instantly more musically interesting than the original. I will keep it in the repertoire.

For the last half hour, Dave and I had a chance to play some folkier tunes on guitar and hammered dulcimer. It was a good way to settle down after a pretty exhausting first hour of intense funk. You never know who’s gonna show up or what your set list is going to be.

A hour off and then up to Stroudsburg for a stage set at the Sherman Theater.

I was asked to be part of my high school’s 50th reunion, Bethlehem Central in Delmar, NY. My friend Deane Fish contacted me, knowing that I’m still playing music, to put together two sets of dance music for the Saturday evening event at the Marriott along with members of his old band The Strangers and other players from those days. I agreed and also suggested that I could do a solo folk set as well. Good on all counts.

Deane suggested that I do the solo set during the dinner and that was fine with me. He then contacted the players to suggest songs that we could do and I submitted several ones I could front. He put together two sets of songs, balancing out two drummers, two bass players and another front man to go along with Jack Richmond on lead.

I got up to town on Friday afternoon to practice at the Legion Hall, reunite with Deane, Jack, Ed, Paul and Paul, Peter and Franklin and go over the material. It was pretty ragged and I was a little concerned with pulling this off. A good session though and we agreed to return on Saturday morning for another session.

I headed over to the hotel to check in and have a little down time before heading back to the Legion Hall for the Friday night mixer. It was great as we all tried to compare the name tags with our senior pictures on them and the face in front of us. There was lots of “Oh, I know you!” The reunion committee did a great job on Friday as well as the rest of the weekend.

I headed back to the Legion at 9 am for our second rehearsal, eliminated some of the dead wood in the set list, and I brought out Wake Up, Little Susie and Bye Bye Love medley (with a key change), Nadine, Country Roads, You Ain’t Going Nowhere and Pay Bo Diddley as a spare. Jack was having a tough time on lead, with a borrowed guitar that was hard to tune, so I lent him a tuner. That turned out to be a very good thing and Jack was able to nail his leads. The sets were all in order so that the two bass players and drummers could coordinate swapping songs. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and talk music shop with them. It made for a more comfortable time for me.

Oh, lonesome me.

We broke down the equipment and headed to the hotel to set up for the evening. I brought out my good speakers, we did a sound check and then took some time off before the dinner.

There was a cocktail hour and as we settled in for dinner, I was able to have half a salad and a couple bites of my salmon before it was time for me to do my solo set. Knowing full well that folks would be talking with each other, I launched into Don’t Call Me Early, nailed it and got some nice applause. As I went through my set, I was able to chat a little, notice some folks were listening from their seats. I brought up my alphabetical class mates Deane Fish and Linda House Maxwell (Fish Fry House) to do Giants, and that was fun.

Nelly came up to do our short set together; it was a little ragged on Reason to Believe but we pulled it off just as I got the five minute sign from Ken, the director of the evening. I had hoped to finish with Lessons from Pete but settled with Here Comes the Sun. I returned to the band table to see my dinner cleared from the table, but a chocolate cake in its place.

There was a remembrance for the classmates who have passed on as well as some short remeniences from several folks. Nice.

The band re-set the stage and and started out with a bunch of great oldies dance tunes. My songs were slated for the middle of the set, and I was cool with that. But Deane jettisoned the set list after the first song so PJ and Paul bounced on and off stage, but, amazingly the band gelled nicely, the dance floor was filled with the alumni shaking that thang and the party was on.

I eventually got up for Nadine and You Ain’t Going Nowhere and I felt particularly strong with my vocals and leading the band for the tunes. Here’s where my presence was felt and it felt good. I was also glad that I haven’t been drinking alcohol and I enjoyed having a clear head.

The second set took off with good dance tunes, relatively crisp arrangements and a lively crowd having a great time. I got up for the Everly Brothers Medley which went well and helped bring the evening to a close with Country Roads – everyone singing together at the end. A good way to finish.

I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t have more time with band, but I had my solo spot and some quality time on stage with the band. Most of all, I really enjoyed sharing the company of my fellow musicians as well as catching up with many of my old friends. I was hoping to sell more of my CDs but gave away a bunch to my bandmates. I know they’ll appreciate my music.

The Class of ’68 was a particularly wonderful set of creative and friendly folks, many of whom I was genuinely delighted to see again. As I headed home early on Sunday, my head was filled with good thoughts about the whole weekend.

Sunday afternoon gig in Macungie….

It was a yin-yang performance day for me today, starting off with a long drive down to Delaware for a noon set at the Harvest Moon Festival at a large farm/nature center. I followed my friends, The Druckenmiller’s on the stage.  Not much of an audience for them since families were roaming the grounds for the many activities, corn maze, pumpkin decorating and food. But, the music added a nice atmosphere for the festivities.

I started out with few folks, but eventually kids came up and started in on the bag. One particular young girl came up early on and supplied her energy that drew other kids in as well. It was a good set and appreciated by my friends John and Todd who booked the music for the weekend. It was a beautiful fall drive down to the Festival and it was great to hear The Druck’s in action. Tom and Betty’s son Nate came up from West Virginia for the gig and it was a pleasure to hear his fine backup guitar work on their old-time tunes.

I picked up a gig for the drive home a day before. There was a memorial service for a doctor who passed on in Pennsburg and I got a call from the funeral director. The family wanted someone to play Simple Gifts on a Martin guitar, and I said I could do it after my Delaware gig. The service was held in a large gym at the local YMCA and there were hundreds of folk who came by to pay their respects to the family of this good doctor. I was glad I brought my small amp for the song, especially since there was a fairly weak system for the speakers in this large space. I played and sang this rather short song and it fill the hall. The funeral organizers and the family were very please that I could do it. My new Martin sounded great.

In preparing for the presentation, I imagined that I would play the tune on the guitar, sing the two verses and then have the folks gathered sing the first verse at the end. One of the doctor’s sons came up at the last moment and asked me not to have the sing along. I certainly agreed but privately wished that the congregation had the chance to raise their voices in support. But, it turned out fine with this very simple but beautiful song. A few folks came up to thank me for the song. I don’t think I’ve ever been paid so much for two verses of a folk song, but it made a difference for quite a few people.

When I packed up to leave, my “new” car’s battery failed, and had I left my phone at home. A kindly 90-year old gent stopped by to help out. I used his phone and as we waited for AAA, we picked up a friendly conversation. I found out that he had a few cars at home, including a ’52 Jaguar and a mid 50’s Rolls Royce. That sparked some fine conversation as he smoked on his pipe. A nice lady stopped by with jumper cables and we were able to get my car going. As I drove my new friend back to his cheap car in the parking lot, he said that he was glad to help out and that it made his day to help someone. I added that he made my day as well.

It was a long day with 4 hours of driving with two quite varied audiences: a lively family harvest festival and a somber family memorial service.

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.