All entries filed under Farmers Markets

It’s my last farmers’ market of the season on Sunday in Hellertown. It was pretty chilly early on, with frost visible on the grass in front of me. For the first hour, my left hand was cold and I remarked that there was frost on the northside of my guitar, right where my fingers go. Still, I was glad to play this particular market over the summer. Play local, buy local.

From warmer times.

One of the nice things about this market are the familiar faces that stop by. The lady on her way to church, various folks from other FM’s, the vendors, and, most spectacularly, the kids running across the open lawn in front of me, eager to jam with me and dig into my bag of instruments. Cartwheels, spins, dances, big smiles, followed by the smiles of the moms and dads in tow. There are other folks who re-introduce themselves to me, and I often don’t recognize them until they fill me in on our old circumstances. Today, my friend Tom stopped by, and reminded me of his son Eric’s guitar lessons in the basement of Godfrey’s for many years. It was great to catch up with him. Another woman/teacher from Hopewell ES stopped by; Baby Shark was a feature at her wedding 20 years ago.

Lots of dollar tips today, gave away a few CDs to parents, and finally warmed up in the last hour. I’ll miss these extended practice sessions over the winter. I find them great opportunities to work on remembering the lyrics to my songs (gettin’ old…), trying out some hazier newer tunes, exercising my fingers and working on my social skills, as well. A lot goes on and I love being engaged publicly, and the time goes quickly.

I made the long haul to Madison on Friday on a spectacular fall day. The traffic up was light and I had a chance to land some Chinese food before the gig at 3 pm. I set up under the tree and launched in. Things were friendlier in Madison today, with a good flow of $1 tips. (One would hope for a few $5’s, considering the average New England wealth). Gradually, kids and families stopped by, and, half-way through I turned my chair around from the market to the open green where families gather on a Friday evening.

I have two bags now – one with rhythm instruments and the other with puppets, so I can sort of guide my way through a long 3 hour gig like this with a few aces up my sleeve. The up-close work with the individual kids is particularly rewarding, and I like to see the older folks watch the interactions with smiles. I’m giving away lots of kids CD’s these days, and that’s okay.

I struck up a conversation with the Bagel dude, and he gave me a half-dozen onion bagels for later. Good barter, as I gave him a Troubadour Cd.

The trip home was longer, with traffic heavy on a Friday night headed into New Haven. But, I enjoy my time listening to full CDs and left-wing podcasts. I am alone with my thoughts.

I got back around 10 pm, another 12 hours or so on the road for $100 and tips. Still, somehow, it’s worth the drive.

This is only my second FM here, a block away from my home at Farrington Square. Deb, the market manager, likes what I do and I like what I do, too. I still wish I could play here regularly.

I set up in the middle of the square, unfortunately away from any traffic so the prospect for tips is diminished, but Lehigh sends me a check in a couple of weeks, so it’s a trade-off. I am able to wheel in my equipment in one trip, my small amplifier sounds great in this acoustic shell, so things are good.

I started off a little rusty as far as remembering the lyrics to some of my songs, and, if I am the least bit distracted, I am tending to mumble a few words – not that anyone other than me notices. But, I notice. But I’m glad I’m not using a tablet to read the words like so many of my FM comrades. I still think it’s a cheat.

I have a festival gig at a fiddle contest on Sunday, so I was able to play some tunes that I may break out for that particular gig: Blue Mule, Don’t Call Me Early, Rosie, I Wanna Be a Dog, Drinking Whiskey Before Breakfast and a few others. It was a good run-through of my material.

It was a glorious day, weather-wise, lots of Lehigh coeds chowing down, a few friendly faces from my community on-site and a happy Peanut Man, glad to have me playing music. A good day.

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.

I certainly was ready for a local gig after a long day on the road to CT and back on Saturday. This farmers’ market is one of my favorites, a good selection of vendors, familiar faces and a pretty good source of tips. I was asked to cut my set a little short due to a local school jazz band’s appearance after my set. I’m always ready to shorten my gig.

It’s still pretty hot and humid, but I have a pop-up tent and water so I figured I’d be fine. I started out well, with a few kids, parents stopping by to sample my instrument bag. A good chance to chat with folks and work on exercising my repertoire.

I struck up a conversation with the school’s music teacher who said she remembered me from my assemblies at Tinicum ES along the Delaware. She was in the audience as a child. I remember that school well. We talked about giving the kids a chance to play in public and various other Teaching Artist’s subjects. She was carrying the music on. Pretty powerful stuff.

On a serious note, my left hand started cramping up and I’m not sure if was the heat or the long gig yesterday. I barely made it through my set, even singing a few a cappella tunes. Something to pay heed to. Damn.

After three gigs on Saturday, I was looking forward to a simple two-hour gig on Sunday in Hellertown. It was going to be another hot one, and the market was going to close down at noon. Still, early on, there was a good crowd and folks tossed bucks into the mandolin case, kids stopped by to play instruments and time went quickly.

My strings were shot after 5 hours in the heat and humidity so I just thudded along. Boy, my Martin sounded pathetic and was really hard to keep in tune. But, I found myself concentrating on my singing, taking some chances that I usually don’t do. Interesting.

One of the nice things that happen at these farmers’ market gigs are the donations from the vendors that pop up at the end. Today, I got a fresh lemonade and a loaf of artisan bread from tow vendors. That’s really nice and it puts a sweet finish to a good gig.

 

The first gig today was from 10 am – noon at Easton’s Farmers’ Market along the Delaware River. It was cool to have some trains go by during the gig.

They put me on the outdoor stage, away from the market traffic so I end up playing to an empty lawn. Folks did find some tables and chairs in the shade on either side, so I had some folks to play to. I used my little amp with voice and guitar inputs and it works really well, and looks good, too.

There were some familiar faces who stopped over to reconnect, and some curious kids who came up to play instruments from the open bag at the lip of the stage. These small interactions really make a difference, and make the two hour gig flow quickly. I made decent tips, too.

I got paid by check and $25 in wooden coins for use at the market. I came away with plums, cherries and fresh peaches. Not to shabby.

Off to Allentown for Blues, Brews and Barbecue at 2 pm.

 

I was a little fuzzy today, following my long jaunt to CT and back the day before. Another spectacular day, weather-wise, and only two hours today. I set up in the grass and started off. My lyrics weren’t sharp at all, but that’s no big deal. I enjoy being the sound track for the market.

There was a steady stream of kids and families picking up instruments, scarves and puppets. Several super-charged boys with little focus or quizzical looks on their faces. It was also nice to simply have some conversations with the parents, the kids and various Bethlehem friends as they stopped by. No pressure to keep on playing all the time.

One woman with her young teen daughter loved some of the oldies I played and then started requesting Chantilly Lace, Johnny B. Goode and other songs I don’t know. I started to get pissed after she said, “How can you Not know that song?!” She kept it up while I was trying to state my philosophy on learning songs that mean something to me, songs that I enjoy learning. I eventually gave her my Troubadour CD to help give her a clue as to what I like to play.

I finished up around 11:30 and hung out a little with Mary, the market manager, talking about community and the market’s place in it. Tips were good – about $60 and I got my check for the whole season from a local realtor who is sponsoring me.

This was my first Madison Green Farmers’ Market of the season; a long haul for small pay, but I was reminded why I enjoy the trip. When the traffic’s fairly light (if I leave early enough on a Friday morning), I get to enjoy listening to my podcasts and full albums in the car. That’s actually a rare experience these days.

I got there in plenty of time, set up under the old oak tree. It was a stellar day, weather-wise and I set into my three hour set. I gathered a few kids early on, and there was some fine interaction. As usual, most of the elder shoppers breezed on by but picked up a few tips from parents and grandparents.

About an hour in, as families gathered on the green behind me, I turned my chair around to face the new audience. It seems young families use the opportunity to spread out blankets and socialize and let the kids hang out together. It’s a nice scene.

There are familiar faces, moms, kids, etc. and always some new folks there to capture the moments with their kids. Six pm rolls around quickly enough and I head back to PA into the sunset, appropriately. Tips were much better this time – around $60 and I got my check for $100, cheap, cheap, cheap. (I had asked for more but the vendors and market managers said no.)

Again, I enjoyed the ride home, alone with my music and my thoughts.

 

Clouds roll in towards noon.

Twas a spectacular morning on Sunday, with temps in the high 60’s, no wind and drifting clouds and May green in the trees. I settled in for my 9:30 start with my new amp, my bag of instruments and took a survey of the place. It was nice to see the vendors consolidated; post Covid, they didn’t have to have a vast lawn like the last year, and there seemed to be a stronger sense of community.

I saw the former market manager Terry as I first landed and congratulated for no longer being in charge. He chuckled and said he was feeling good about just being a volunteer. It was good to see him. The new folks came over as I set up and I thanked them for the work. I know we’ll do fine over the summer gigs.

The smaller amp seemed to do just fine, though with less bass, but enough volume to fill the space in front of me. I’m able to keep things down so the vendors can chat with the customers. Rule #1. I started off with Shoo That Fly and felt right at home.

Lots of dogs show up with their humans. Directly to my right is the Dog Biscuit couple, and happy dog tails are shakin’ that thang when they arrived. The dogs know (nose). It certainly takes the spotlight off me, and I have a front seat. There were few families at first, and parents (and kids) were hesitant to commit to playing shakers. I’m fine with just giving them a CD. That even coaxes a few bucks for the case/cause. Eventually, a few familiar kids and moms stopped over and we had some good moments, and I could see some older folks stopping and watching from a distance. I love the fist bumps with the kids. One kid Oliver through in a high five for good measure.

It was good the exercise the repertoire again, with most stuff in good shape. I played well and the time flew by. I usually don’t even look at my pocket watch til after an hour. My mahogany Martin remains a joy to play, and certainly makes me sound competent.

As I packed up a couple vendors came over, signaled a heart-bump, and one lady gave me a small loaf of Japanese Milk Bread. (??!!) I’m enjoying some luxury toast these mornings.

I was simply a delight to be back at this Farmers’ Market, and have the chance to mix things up playing live music in the neighborhood. Record tips and a few CD sales! I can do my laundry this week!

The farmers’ markets are starting to roll in, and I had my first of the season on Thursday a block away from home at Farrington Square (formerly Campus Square). It was a grey and somewhat breezy day with temps in the upper 50’s, still a little chipper, but a good day, none the less.

I set up my new combo vocal/guitar amp for the first time outdoors and I was mostly pleased with it, in spite of a few annoying barks when I overdrive my guitar playing. (What, me, bangin’ on the guitar?!) I also baptized it with a new dent when it tumbled off my wagon at the end. Oh, well. All in all, a nice addition to my gear for some of these small gigs.

Being the first of the year for the market itself, there were new vendors among some of the old faces (Peanut Butter Man), lots of Lehigh coeds (what’s with the bare midriff theme? brrr…) and a few folks who knew who I was.

One particular coed came up and asked if I ever lived in CT. That was a surprise. She then asked if I had played the Atwood Library in Northford. Yes, that’s near where I used to live in Northford. She said she remembered me playing there as well as listening to my I Like Peanut Butter CD all the time. Amazing flashback. Cool.

The gig went quickly and I had a few verse conniptions, but that’s what these gigs are for, getting my repertoire up and running again.

It was good to be active again.

 

It’s a late Sunday in October and my last farmers’ market of the season. These events have really kept me in the ball game all summer with few festivals and school gig on the books. The Saucon Valley one is a regular one for me and I appreciate the work as do the other vendors. I even got some applause and appreciative waves from several of them.

It was in the low 50’s and mostly cloudy today, but I played well, and, as long as I didn’t stop for long, my fingers did fine. I was able to throw a couple of songs on the fire from my notes – a couple of Beatle tunes, a Bo Diddley song so that kept things fresh for me. It started to sprinkle close to the end, so I packed up a little early. A couple of vendors came over with some nice tips: a bag of mushrooms and a small jug of maple syrup. Yes, yes, yes.

These gigs give me 2 hours of uninterupted practice, working on my material, my vocals, my arrangements and a chance to play for some kids and adults. I’m going to miss these for the winter months.

I had a long day on Saturday, starting with my last Rose Garden Farmers’ Market of this season, a two-hour set from 9:30 to 11:30 am. It was another spectacular day on the planet and a pleasure to play outdoors. It was a slow day at the market, due to a downtown Bethlehem event, but it was relaxed and friendly, with several friends stopping by to chat. It is neighborhood, after all.

With the recent rash of FM gigs, I’ve been playing strong, working on songs and simply enjoying playing my repertoire, regardless if it’s perfect or not. The time goes very quickly. The tips are a bonus.

I had a birthday party to attend mid-afternoon for my grandson, Jayden close by. I took some time to readjust for a somewhat stressful visit to my former wife’s house for the party. I am not comfortable among them but felt it necessary to connect with my son, his wife and Jayden. I was hoping that other kids would be there so I could play some music, but not to be.

My next gig was a Camels Hump farm for an “Open Gate” event. When I got there, there wasn’t much action. Several snafus had curtailed the responce to the event, so I bided my time and finally played a set in the barnyard, without a PA. A few folks were there, including a young family with a precocious girl, so I mixed my set up with some good adult material and then concentrated on the young family.  As the sun set, I pulled it in, gave out a CD to the girl and headed home. I gave back most of the money to the woman in charge.

A long day.

I got a call from the Madison FM on Tuesday to see if I could fill in for a cancellation, and, of course, I said sure. Let’s drive for 3.5 hours up and back, play for 3 hours for $100. No problem.

I still had a good time since I played well and made some great connections with some adults and a bunch of kids in the process. The first two hours has me playing towards the vendors as the elite clientele goes walking by. About 45 minutes in, one woman tossed in a couple of bucks and I shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, I finally got a tip! Thank you, Madison!” It was taken in good spirit but it needed to be said.

As folks gather on the lawn behind me, I turn my chair around and face the large green. Families tend to set up a little scrum of blankets and chairs, order pizza from the vendor, let the kids loose and socialize. It’s really two gigs in one. The kids come up and dive into my bag of instruments, puppets and scarves and we have a great time.

I am giving out a bunch of CDs these days, especially to the kids and families that interact at close range. I play right to those folks, and it’s important to seal the deal with a CD. Worth it.

The drive home is not so bad, with a fresh stick of podcasts and some adrenalin from the gig. I’m nuts to do this but I love it, for some reason.

This was my second Campus Square (old name) Farmers’ Market of the season, a bonus from the single shots of past years and the swing-and-miss of last year. I’m glad Deb gave me an extra one, since I’m a local guy living a block away. The day started out cloudy but eventually turned to sun.

We were under new Covid protocols since there were 150 new cases of the virus on campus in the last two weeks. I masked up and set up for a 11:15 start for a two hour set. Students were milling around so there was at least some movement, unlike the June gig. Crazy Joe and his peanut butter got his tune early on.

There were a bunch of students sitting at a few tables up front and I started some chatter, refering to days at Lehigh as an Arts-Engineer, which brought a rise from the kids. There were a few in the group. About 20 minutes in, my friend Amy Forsyth showed up, and I found out that these were her students in design. That explained why they were hanging out with sketch pads. They stuck around doodling away, and it was good to have Amy’s ears in the audience.

I played well and, as usual, the vendors appreciated the sound. I did take the mask off to sing. A friend Lisa A. dropped by towards the end, a big fan of July, so I did it up for her, gave her the CD compilation that it was on. I makes a difference to have friendly ears in the crowd.

I actually got a few $1 tips from the students, though I did shame the art students into donating. (Amy insisted) They simply do not make the connection of why the tip mandolin case is there. One student said that they never carry money with them – they have cards now But, I still find that hard to believe. Still, I was glad to make it out with $30 or so.

A good day for play.

Sometimes there’s not much to say about my gigs other than “Thank god for the opportunity to sit and play for two hours.”

I had actually counted on having the day off from a run of gigs over the last 5 days. I  was also glad that I wouldn’t be playing in the rain. Well, thanks to social media, I found that I had this Saucon Valley FM gig misplaced in my book as being next Sunday. Phew….

The hurricane Henri is skirting up the coast east of here and the weather wasn’t awful; only a few sprinkles during the set and I was covered with a pop-up tent. Half the vendors didn’t show up so things were really slow (except for the dog-walkers coming to visit the puppy biscuit stand in front of me). I dragged out my bag of instruments but never opened it since there were very few kids in tow today. Just as well.

I banged out my repertoire, found a few holes in my memory on some tunes, played some of the Beatles tunes that I had worked out during the end of my pandemic series, worked out on the mandolin – rusty… – and played to the big void in the middle of the market, glad to add some vibes for the vendors as they endured this slow day. I only got about $20 in tips but glad that folks made an effort to trek over my corner of the market.

I’m glad to be busy and that I’m putting $$ in the bank in case things get locked down again. I’m beat though.

At least I got a couple of days notice for this one. Still, it was touch and go getting there in time. I found out that I had to do a set at Donegan School at 10:30 am to wrap up the residency, which was just when I should be leaving for CT. I was able to switch things with Touchstone Theater to do my set with Names to the Animals at 10 am to start off the showcase (it was great) and then pack up and take off for Madison.

I got to town with a half hour to spare and set up under the big ole tree facing the pathway and started at 3 pm. Per usual, the first hour or so was playing to Madison’s gentry walking by with there artisanal veggies and sea food with nary a glance (or tip). Although my first tip was from a gentleman who through in a $2 bill. I laughed and lost my place in the song.

Eventually, some kids with moms, grandmoms and a few dads stopped by and we dug into the bag of instruments and connected. It seemed that there were fewer folks in town this time; perhaps vacations out of town. It was nice to strike up conversations with various folks, including a couple of women who were starting to play uke.

It was a long trip back through Friday evening traffic but I got home about 10 pm. I have Saturday morning off. Decent tips, and, surprisingly, I still enjoy getting out of Bethlehem for this monthly excursion. Perhaps that’s why I do it.

I was all warmed up for this one, having played a couple of gigs the day before, I set up in my usual spot with my small PA and up and running on time at 9:30. There were few folks out this Sunday, but the usual assortment of dog owners brought out the hounds for a little sniff or two. (There is a organic dog treat stand off to my right that gathers a regular crowd…)

I really like the opportunity to stretch my adult chops, pull out some tunes I’ve put up on FB recently (some Beatles stuff) and work on lyrics, tone, etc. just for kicks. Just play to the field.

Eventually a couple of kids, moms and dads stop by and we dig into the bag o’ instruments. The Clatterpillar is a new favorite. One young boy saw me across the field and zoned in on me, as I did him. A big ole grin hit his face. He was young enough to be pre-verbal but delighted in handing out shakers to others. Incredible connection.

A young mom brought her one-year old up in a carrier and plopped her right down in front. This little girl was amazing. She picked up a shaker and a small tamborine and started right in on the music, often using both hands (!!!) and occasionally vocalizing some joy. She was quite the audience to play to, and folks picked up on her fun.

Part of the success of this gig is not necessarily the tips (though appreciated) but how the older folk watch and enjoy the kids getting involved. I end up giving out several Peanut Butter CD’s to the parents, just to get the music in their ears.

It really is a three-ring circus, and I have the best seat. I played well, got paid and headed out for a music jam in Lancaster. Busy weekend.

It’s been a long time coming. I returned to one of my regular farmers’ markets and one that requires a somewhat foolish loyalty on my schedule. I used to live in this coastal town in Madison so it is an effort to remember my days raising a family in New England during the 2000’s, leaving the stability of my life in the Lehigh Valley and re-settling in a new environment. It’s not without some bittersweet memories, though.

It seems that no matter what time I leave for CT, I manage to pick up enough traffic on the way to always make it possible to arrive with ten minutes to spare. Yup, it happened today. Friday’s on I-95.

I like to set up in the flow of the market as shoppers walk by: picking up flowers, fish and fresh greens. Usually, the clientele walks right by and I get very little in tips – amazing considering the wealth of this demographic. Today was a bit friendlier though, as seems to be the case with the re-opening of our society.

As kids and families walked past, I engaged them with my bag of instruments and it works marvelously. I’ve changed my model a little in that I’ll give the folks one of my kids’ CDs gratis, mostly because I have a ton of them that will never sell, and also because I want to add the legacy of their family experience. Often, the folks are moved to throw some cash into the mando case, too.

As the afternoon moves on, I turn my chair around to face the beautiful open green and play to the families that have now begun to gather on blankets in the open, bringing out snacks, eating pizza from the market’s vendor. The folks often meet up with other young families, bring out grandparents and socialize. It’s an interesting two-part gig for me.

The kids gather in front of me, dive into the instruments, puppets and scarves and they give me a chance to work with the kids on an individual basis. I also get to see some of the kids grow over the several seasons that I’ve performed there. I still marvel that the parents send the kids up with a dollar for mando-case, and my snide inner self says silently, “Ah, yes. Teaching them the value of underpaying the artists in your community.” Even so, I felt glad that I pulled in more $5’s s this year and a general increase in tips.

I feel the appreciation of the vendors, as well. One kind woman from the vegetable stand threw in a tip and a thanks, and the cheese lady across the way gave me a chunk o’ cheese at the end of the day.

The day was made complete by a social visit to my friends Ron and Susan up in Northford for a little picking party later that evening. I haven’t seen these good friends in a long time, and my soul soaked up the love we share. I decided to head home afterwards, thinking the traffic would be smooth sailing, but not so. Lots of time for podcasts. Still, even though I’m whipped today, it was worth the trip.

 

This opportunity cropped up with only a few days notice, a return to my neighborhood farmers’ market a block from my place up on the Lehigh lower campus. I was glad to get the call from Deb. This farmers’ market is sponsored by Lehigh so there’s a nice check involved and I know some of the vendors from other sites.

It’s pretty sparse this year, with few students on campus and fewer vendors than before. The site is different and I was glad that Deb moved the musician’s tent down into the middle of the square, among the vendors and with nearby electricity. I set up my small system around 11 am and set out into a two hour set.

I appreciate the chance to exercise my rather expanded repertoire, so I was able to pull out some of the tunes I’ve done during my Kitchen Sessions, put them in play in public for the first time. It felt good.

As usual, the vendors and the market manager were really appreciative of the music, especially since there’s not a lot of traffic this year. It was interesting to see some of the students turn their ears to the music as they drifted by. They figured something’s going on here, still not quite sure what….