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I was asked to help kick off Touchstone’s Festival Unbound on Wednesday night with my loose bag music on the Greenway among various arts organizations showing their materials on tables, just trying to add a little atmosphere to the initial gathering before the “show”. I was then asked to play a song before introducing my friend John Gorka towards the end of the community event.

The local Dixieland trio strolled the Greenway and onto stage to get things started. The local Middle School sang some songs, followed by a group of elder Latina women dancing to music. Two fellows from out of town did an arts exercise about “Home”, and then it was time for my set and John’s introduction.

I was introduced as a “local legend” which turned into “local legume” and played Chuck Pyle’s Step By Step, as requested by Mary Wright – an excellent choice, considering the theme of community.

“Step by step, side by side. Hand in hand, this old world’s a better ride. Step by step, side by side. Take a little step with your neighbor, side by side.” I had hoped to have it memorized by show time but decided to take the words up with me, just in case. Good move. People caught on the chorus nicely and it came off well.

I introduced John and he did a couple of songs, finishing with Good Noise with the school choir up on stage to sing the chorus with him. Nice.

It was great to see the community come together on this outside venue with several good friends and local arts supporters in the house. One young man came up and thanked me, saying it reminded him of his grandfather singing and playing in his house. He sang a few bars of a folk tune (I didn’t recognize) but I thanked him for sharing that moment with me.

Another couple thanked me, and I said it was only a song. They said, “No. It was a performance.” That was particularly sweet.

I headed back home, pretty much whipped from the two assemblies in the morning and this fine event at night.

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.

 

This YANJ has been on the calendar for months and I’ve had lingering concerns about it, since it was booked as a virtual “Zoom” concert for about 500 kids and teachers. I have had very, very few of these over the last two years and my confidence was somewhat lacking. I also distrust the technology platforms, and the school wanted a new one for this one: Google Meet.

I did several stabs at learning the platform this weekend, and it seemed similar to Zoom, et al, so I plunged ahead, set things up in my kitchen on Tuesday with camera, computer, lighting, banjo, mandolin and guitar. The sound check was set for 9 am today with the principal and it went well. We decided that I would use a vocal mike to help the situation and that was a good move.

We had told the teachers to expect the kids to get up and dance across the separate classrooms. This is a big school so there were about 400 K – 4th graders going to be in the “audience”.

A 9:30 show-time rolled around, the individual classes started showing up, and the teachers were encouraged to show the classrooms on the grid. That turned out to be a great feature for me, and I had some visual feedback on how the kids were reacting. They were all responding and gave me a boost.

I rolled through I Like Peanut Butter, The New Cat Came Back (with acknowledgement of racist beginnings), Down By The Bay (mandolin), A Place In The Choir (banjo, with “All The World’s Critters” thrown in), and Giant, We Gave Names to the Animals and All Around The Kitchen as a dance fest at the end. It was a crisp 45 minute set.

The principal said that it was the best assembly they’ve had and hoped that the school will bring me in for a live assembly next year.

It was a taxing effort on my part, and I pulled it off well, with no errors (surprise, surprise, with such a lay-off), and I used all of my virtual performance skills in engaging the kids, acknowledging them, encouraging them, hamming it up, all through that little white light in the camera. It’s not easy.

I find myself exhausted, even eight hours later, but feeling good that I nailed this opportunity to reach hundreds of kids and teachers without having to put in three hours of driving to and from NJ. It should be a healthy paycheck as well. A good day on the planet.

I had replace my car battery later though, and my hands show the wear and tear of physical labor.

My task was to warm the kids up, and had fun with Tutti Tah, even though the oldest 5th grade girl, new to the class, wondered what was going on. Anyway, the kids were great.

We hoped to revisit our vocabulary list, which Bill did, but, as we figured out later, perhaps, because of lack of information and the reticence of answering questions in class, we didn’t get much out of the kids.

Windy Brezz

I did an exercise with rhythm instruments after dividing the class in two. Amazing that some of the kids had a problem with counting off in twos. (occasional “three”). What worked – we were able to break up the little click of 5th grade girls and spread the kids out. After getting each side to play a beat, and, importantly, our “big endings” (so much fun…), I had each side take one part of each line, with Bill leading the other side.

I’m made of carbon / So are you.

Carbon is in the air / It’s CO2.

Makes a monster hurricane / makes a monster drought.

Makes a monster wild fire / That’s what I thought.

I added: Who dat? Who dat? / Who dat? Who dat? I’m going to follow up with this later.

Mini Brezz

We pulled out wild fire, pollution, hurricane and drought and voted for wild fire and pollution. Since one young girl had already worked up the Wind Power Family, we went with that. Bill then divided up the groups into Wild Power, Wild Fire and Pollution, and introduced the idea of how that group could make costumes for themselves, and gave the kids paper and markers to ideate what that would look like.

As the session came to a close, we shared the pictures with the larger group. Time’s up.

Aliey Brezz

As Katie, Bill and I put our heads together, we figured that the kids should start painting a small model of their project, water-color on cardboard, next week, in preparation for creating a full size, production model. I still have to figure out how to get verses for the three WP, WF and P models. We figured I could frontload the three verses with the first two lines and have the kids finish them.

One boy really relished “scientist”, so we figured that he could read the lyrics as a mad scientist while I play the chords, incorporating the “who dat? into the song. We only have three more sessions so the pressure’s on.

This is hard work.

It’s great to be back in the classroom. I’ll be doing four Wednesday’s after school at Fountain Hill ES working with ten 3rd and 4th graders working on a project called Big Plans. We’ll be focusing on developing a world-view for these kids, to imagine what they can be in the future. We had a good start. I started by saying that this is my job. I play music. I introduced the tools I need for this job and talked about my guitar.

I started with the idea I Am and I Can. I want the kids to posit their name loud and proud, and then posit what they can do well. I led with the example “I am Dave Fry” and “I can make the best grilled cheese sandwich!” It surprised the kids. And then I asked, “What kind of cheese sandwich?” and the kids responded with cheese, sausage, etc. The point of the exercise is to think quickly and creatively. It worked. We went around the circle and did I Am and I Can, with interesting responses but emphasizing volume and quickness, something I’m going to hammer into these kids. Be creative and don’t think about it.

I played I Like Peanut Butter to get the kids to sing and move, again, to break them out of their shells. I followed with Down By the Bay to work on rhyming skills and creative writing. They did well, and I got the glimmer that these kids will do well as we go through the weeks.

At the end, I broke out the scarves and did Jelly In The Dish, to get them up and dancing, moving and experience the colors and movement and the dance. It was a great way to bring the session to a close.

Just before we dismissed for the day, I always ask for reflections and they all loved the scarves.

I’m lucky to have Mrs. Rachel Lynn as my teacher/liaison. She’s the art teacher (and we’re in the art classroom) so she’s already primed to create on the spot and is eager to add to the community discussions.  Another good sign for the success of this program.

For next week, I hope to expand on the I Am I Can, introduce some clap response to the I Am part with vocal support from the class to help with my learning the names and creating a support system for the individual kids. Something new for me.

I’m always learning through experimentation, and the reason I love doing these sessions.

I headed up 4th Street to Donegan School for the first of four Thursday sessions with the kids in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. It was pretty hot so I appreciated the AC in the school. I was greated warmly at the front desk and given a mask since that’s the protocol for interaction with students. I found that it was hard to understand some of the kids – a new wrinkle for me.

I had my guitar and my bag of rhythm instruments with me and I was glad I didn’t dump the bag out with all the instruments. I simply brought out the rain stick and then just maracas. It was good to use the bag judiciously. I makes for more surprises iover the next few weeks.

I had three sessions today, starting with the 5th grade. There were about 10 kids in each room. The 5th graders were a good mix of intelligent kids, some curious and a few somewhat embarrassed to interact with this old white guy. But, I never let that slow me down. I worked out a set that I used for the two other sessions. It was fun to have adult conversations with the kids (and teachers), and brought that up with some of the teachers – how important it is not to talk down to the students.

Introduction of the Guitar, I Like Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, I Wanna Be a Dog, introduction to the Rain Stick, introduction to maracas and rhythm patterns, We Gave Names to the Animals and PB&J (if I had time to kill).

Fifth grade was a little retiscent, fourth graders were all in, and third had scattered attention spans. Still, we got some heavy lifting done, I assigned the kids to check out an animal to write about for next time (We Gave Names) and also said that students will lead Tutti Tah next week (leadership). We also did some mental exercises with TT by reverse-engineering the order of the moves. The kids were fully engaged.

We did reflections at the end of each session and I also asked the teachers what they learned. In the fourth grade class, there were a couple of social workers whom I leaned on to take part in the session: Community, you know. Towards the end of one of the sessions, I told one woman to put her cell phone down, to her surprise. It was a curious situation but, hopefully, a learning experience for her. I’m so bad. (I did explain myself afterwards and she said no problem.) The teachers were totally engaged and appreciative.

The three hours went quickly and I felt that I had laid down some solid ground work for next week’s sessions. And I’m confident that I have plenty of room to expand on what I’ve done so far. I will get paid well for this residency, which is somewhat unsettling considering the lack of work over the last 18 months. I won’t know what to do with the money – oh, yeah. Car insurance. So it goes.

I received a wonderful email on Sunday from an old fan/former kid that knocked me out.

“Dear Dave,
     When I was about 7, you came to my elementary school in Lebanon New Jersey. Everyone set up beach towels in the auditorium and you sang and played and did your thing, brought down the house as far as this seven year old was concerned. My mom bought me your cassette tape AW SHUCKS and you signed it for me. Played that thing for years like it was going out of style!
     Time warp…
     It never did go out of style. In March, I turned 37. My mom gave me back that old cassette because she never throws anything away. Lol. I popped it in my tape deck in my 2004 CRV (the only working tape deck I have, of course) Now, 30 years later I’m still jamming out in my car to your cassette tape with my 6 year old son, Bennett. He knows all the words and my wife and I are getting a kick out of it. – Jesse Loubet. “
This really brings home the power of that initial recording, as well has my school performances over the years. I reflect on Wendi and Lauren’s great vocals, Hub Willson’s playful keyboards on Spider on the Floor and his great photo on the front, and the many other musicians who added their whimsey to the project and the Bear Swamp boy genius Clark Ferguson. In its reincarnation as part of the I Like Peanut Butter CD, it remains a creative romper room for both kids and adults, and that’s no small thing.
I posted it on my FB page this morning and has, of this afternoon, gathered 310 likes. I’m going to share some of the comments, just to have them in one place. Indulge me.
I also really like the fact that many of the professional, touring musicians I truly respect from across the country have chimed in, perhaps never knowing what music I’ve made under the radar all these years. That’s a big bow on this event, friends.
Here we go:
That’s FOLK music, by gum. Folk’s music. Scott Alarik
Love this story! I’m certain there are several dozen just like it! As you are well aware of, Dave Fry, you have entertained my family for years. And now you continue to entertain my granddaughter! We “took you along with us” from PA to Washington State and back twice, and many trips to Nebraska over the years. I’m privileged that I have joined you in concert all these years. Looking forward to getting together to play in the future. John Christie
Same here! You came to my daughter’s elementary school. Years later I’m sharing those same songs with my grandchildren!! Thanks for so many great memories!??? Pat Brennan
Awww shucks! What a legacy. What a legend. And you keep on keeping on. Talk about making a difference in the world. Love you my friend! Mary Wright
My 4 year old granddaughters love your CDs, But they refuse to believe it’s you on the radio ? Sandra Peters 
We are on our third generation of Dave Fry fans ?? Diana Walls 
This was my favorite as a kid ??? Avalon Christine 
I wonder how your wax Victrola albums are doing…  Gail-Elaine Tinker
You harness the power of music to do good in this world — and you get priceless returns on your investment. Patricia Moore Brown
I had given a copy of this to my nieces & nephews. Their CHILDREN now know all the words, too! Wendi Bourne
That was the tape you sent me to come play the Circlewood! Still have it. How cool is that? Tom Kingston
Thanks for sharing this, Dave! Just never know how much you can make a difference in someone’s life through one performance … one cassette tape ! {I’m impressed that he still has a cassette player in his vehicle !} Gail Simon-Bierenbaum
Your life’s work has been a profound influence and you’ve brought joy to so many, Dave  – and you continue to do that…. That’s a life well lived, well served – and still going strong! ❤️?❤️ Nina Romnenko 
That’s gotta bring a tear. What a wonderful tribute. ???❤️ Dave Hulshouse ( it did for me ? Fred Gilmartin) 
I’ll never forget the day my daughter came home from school after you were there and sang “The Library Song”. It had many verses. She knew THE ENTIRE SONG BY HEART and sang it to us over and over ? you made QUITE the impression!! Cheryl Baker
You’re a significant piece of his life. You can’t hope for more ! Mike Stengel
?❤️?Yup…our kids and grandkids listen to this cassette & others of yours! Barb Shafer
Many more short but sweet comments. I feel blessed.

I signed up for this one back in late winter, so it finally rolled around in the new covid era. The Easton Public Market has a large public market inside but has adapted to the new outdoor dining limitations, so I was set up on Church Street behind the Market, picnic tables with food from the vendors brought out to the public. It was an extremely rare warm night, so it was perfect weather for me.

The Market folks set up a tent facing the rear parking lot with a sound system (though I used my own trusty little speaker) and I started out at 5 pm to only a few tables of folks. I found a comfortable volume right away. A young family showed up with a precocious young lad and his toddler sister and we struck up off the bat, with his sister starting to dance and the boy warming up from her cue. I got out a few maracas from my bag in the car and off we went, with the other adults enjoying the interaction. (He got a big kick when I said, “underwear”, and we all laughed at that.

Eventually, during the two hours, folks came and went. Other families with young girls came by with their new dogs, played tambourines, and a few other adults took time to take in a meal and some music. The whole situation was comfortable and I played well.

The Market folks live-streamed most of the evening so I spent some of the time playing to the camera for who knows who. Anyway, it gave the evening an interesting twist.

I played well, got paid well and got cheap gas in Phillipsburg on the way home. It was a very good gig.

I had my second gig in the barnyard at Camel’s Hump Farm in North Bethlehem on Sunday in the late afternoon. It’s a good space for me to emerge from lock-down and an opportunity to get used to playing with and for a live audience. Per usual, there were only a few folks there, but bolstered by some friends coming for the open mike after me with Bill Medei. Regardless, I enjoyed the challenge.

There were no kids in sight, so I was able to concentrate on my adult stuff. Early on, I did repeat a verse on July, took a note and moved on. From then on, I had a pretty good grasp of my material and I chalk that up to the amount of playing I’m doing with my daily Kitchen Sessions. That’s proof that the discipline that I’m sticking with (including my exercise and diet work) is working out.

One of the open mikers, Ian Cunningham, showed up early with a saxophone so I invited him, unheard, to find some spots to jump in. It turned out to be a great part of my set. Ian had ears and the good sense to find those spots and, together, we created a wonderful dialogue that added tremendously to the performance value. Sound-wise, his separation from my amp/mike/guitar provided a three-dimensional aspect to this small acoustic space. It made for some magic I could call on through out the hour.

I started with St. James Infirmary for no particular reason but be came a good vehicle with the dynamics I use. Ian was putting his sax together and, at the end, came around to do a nice solo. A nice tension … will he make it?  is he good? All answered.

Ian did a great improv during Giant, Stan Roger’s “Celtic” tune, and showed his ability to play outside of a jazz genre. He, of course, nailed Chuck Berry’s Nadine.

I finished up with Pay Bo Diddley, and, seeing how the bag of maracas was still intact (no kids) I figured to break them  out for this little Bo Diddley excursion. Ian stepped up with a nice sax solo. I’ve been adding a subtle descending harmonics riff as a solo, something I picked up from guitarist Richard Leo Johnson, but it provided a space for everyone to maraca away. Again, the court yard sounded great.

I hope I can do it again next month.

It’s still a little weird to have such a small audience, only increased by the open mikers showing up for the open mike after my show. I try to rationalize it as setting a bar for them and I do get the feeling that some of them really appreciate my set, and not just waiting me out. At least, that’s story and I’m sticking to it.

 

Amy Forsyth, artist

Amy Forsyth, artist

That’s saying something, though there have been plenty boring ones, especially recently.

I was played, to a certain extent, buy my sister Janet and friend Ramona behind the scenes and it didn’t really sink in until about 2:30 am a day and a half later. I was quite amazed by videos folks had been sending me and I was quite touched by each one. And, with so much time alone these days, I had the opportunity to savor each one.

It was all a scam. Janet and Ramona were planning a big 70th party, at the IceHouse perhaps, but COVID-19 got in the way. I had no idea. So, instead, they reached out to folks to get in touch, and beyond daughter Rosalie, son Jaimie and sister Janet, I expected their calls, and planned on staying away from FB. Frankly, I am not familiar with a lot of the folks who post birthday messages. In the past, I kind of enjoyed it, but when it gets above 400, no thanks.

But I was taken by videos this year, some with some sophisticated music involved. Saxophone, bunch of fine guitarists, two accordians!, Harp-guitar, mandolin and a flash mob on Zoom. There were a bunch of a Capella versions of the old tune, as well. And I was blown away by the heart-felt messages that they shared with me. I was literally serenaded from across the country and here in town. Powerful stuff.

I know I would have been uncomfortable in a large social setting, so this turned out to be a perfect way to celebrate my birthday among my friends.

I am a rich man.

The performing arts world has collapsed and we all have to find our way in this new land. Godfrey’s has closed up, other restaurants, music venues, concerts have all shuttered for the foreseeable future and it seems people are making quantum jumps into online streaming services, trying to find some way to continue to make money making music. I feel I’m already behind.

It looks like Troubadour Two will be closed down in April and that was the one creative outlet I had on my calendar. Very few school gigs the spring and few other paying gigs as well. I’m not taking a hit like many of my hand-to-mouth fellow performers since I have low maintenance fees and a monthly SS check. So I’d like to use the TT concert to raise some money (from thems that can afford it) to pay my fellow players at that gig. I was hoping to do some small sessions at Godfrey’s but that has run into some in-house politics and I many not be able to use this very stage that I built. Damn.

It seems that online concerts have risen from the mire and they are laudable. As of yet, I don’t have a camera and only my computer to work with. I don’t have a solid audience to build on yet and don’t feel quite adequate in performing to a screen.

I have several ideas that have popped up, and it’s good to see a creative community spark going on. I’ll have some things up and running soon, though.

I’m glad I have my radio shows to work on, Godfrey’s sound archives to process and the Godfrey’s book challenge ever on my mind. These are very strange times for us all, especially my fellow artists. Collaboration in a vacuum is a very hard thing.

I’m glad to be able to process this, here on this blog.

It’s been a long week with my car in the shop for some serious ($$) engine work. I was able to pick up my Honda just as they rolled it out of the garage about 4 pm. Nick o’ time.  6 pm to 8 pm.

I haven’t play this market before so I got in with about a half hour to go, found the site and checked in with the market manager. They had a sound system available but it took some time to figure out things like the power strip, guitar input, etc. but I was ready to go on time.

There’s a nice cafe area that folks get food and drinks from the vendors and settle in. The place was jumpin’ on a Friday night and I spied my friend Steve Capwell in the back. A few other friendly faces dropped by as well. As I got comfortable, I asked Steve to get out his harps out to jam along with me from where he sat. Nice use of the space.

A young family was up front and, naturally I started talking with the young son as he was working on his mac and cheese. Yet, his two year old sister really picked up on the music, pointing at me, bopping in her highchair, and simply connecting with me. It was great and her parents and my friends in the space picked up on it, too.

It’s been a while since I’ve played out so I was glad to get back in saddle. I did pretty well with the material with a few lyric bumps. One family had two boys who were on a dance jag and did some kind of chicken move, so I played Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But a Bird while they went nuts. The mom started to tell them to calm down but I said that it was fine and I was trying to tire them out. We let it roll. Good energy in the house.

As things cleared out, I invited Steve to come up front so we could do some closeup jamming, and we pulled off some nice blues together. He made things comfortable for me.

I finished up, and, with the help of my friends, packed things into my car with my “pizza-to-go” for later. It was a good gig: the venue was friendly and folks listened for the most part, a parking place for the musician and a sound system on hand. I’ll be back in October for the next one.

The pizza was horrible.

The ole gang gets together annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the last 5 or 6 years. This year we had a Musikfest gig in August so we actually have quite a bit of material worked up. Kris Kehr has settled in on bass and the other band members have accepted his dedication and work on the material. Thanks to our regular gigs, Hub is playing piano more, Jeff working on drums and Chris getting back to his steel guitar work. We don’t show as much rust as we once did. Reid remains off in New England but is playing all the time so I have little worry about his performance chops. Peggy is singing regularly, too. Still, the band is not tight like it used to be. And that’s okay, I guess.

We had several practices for this and came up with new material to perform, trying to still explore our collective creativity as a band, as well as simply enjoy each other’s company. Our rehearsals are actually filled with wise cracks and friendly jibes. We enjoy our long friendships.

Reid came into town early so we gathered at 1 pm on Friday and ran through the two sets. Peggy and I got our signals crossed and she came after we packed it up around 4 pm. We got together to straighten out the sound check at 7 for the 8 pm show. We could have used the time earlier.

The first set went well but I was working up a sweat. I was feeling a little winded after the long rehearsal in the afternoon. I wasn’t 100% and I don’t think the band was either. I was disappointed in having half a house as well and didn’t feel the energy of the audience as before. We didn’t remember our arrangements/leads as much. I also think too much.

Set 1.

  1. Choo Choo Cha Boogie (F) – Hub
  2. Lose My Blues (G) – Dave
  3. Your Mind’s on Vacation (E) -Reid
  4. Walkin’ Stick (Am) – Dave
  5. Panhandle Rag (E) – Chris
  6. Good Hearted Woman (E/F) – Hub
  7. Till the Money Runs Out (E) – Kris
  8. Mr. Bojangles (D) – Dave
  9. Chuck E’s in Love (A) – Peggy
  10. Rosie’s a Friend of Mine (A) – Dave
  11. Angel from Montgomery (D) -Peggy
  12. Lessons from Pete (Am) – Dave
  13. Got What It Takes (A) – Reid

I totally blew Peggy’s Angel tune by starting it off as a waltz. Troopers that she and the band are, we managed to finish the song while not totally owning it. It was novel and I challenged the audience to figure out what we did wrong. As usual, we cover our asses with style but I know there is no pride in screwing it up for ourselves. Chuck E’s in Love also suffered from not rehearsing it full band in the afternoon. I feel badly for Peggy’s sake. I even screwed up Lessons from Pete and should have kept Bojangles tighter, nothing noticeable but to me and the band. It was exhausting.

We regrouped for the second set.

Set 2.

  1. Bloodshot Eyes (A) Jeff
  2. O’Reilly Drinking at the Bar (G) Dave
  3. Don’t Call Me Early (D) Dave
  4. Yulesville  – Dave
  5. Till There Was You – Hub
  6. No Milk Today (C) – Reid
  7. 24 Robbers (G) Reid
  8. Jigs (D) Dave
  9. I’m an Old Cowhand (F) Jeff
  10. Don’t Take My Picture (C) Jeff
  11. Rodeo Rider (D) Dave
  12. Texas Swing (C) Hub
  13. encore: Soul Shake (Reid and Peggy)

There was less anxiety for me in the second set. There were fewer powerhouse songs and I think we were more comfortable with the house and the situation. Hub took a chance with his solo Beatles’ song and did fine (though never to his satisfaction). We were able to hit the critical ending to Don’t Call Me Early (yay!) and 24 Robbers was pretty good. I was disappointed with the set of mandolin Jigs, in that the band wasn’t quite familiar with the subtle chord changes to really bring it home, but I played it well and Jeff drove the tune on drums. It didn’t rise to the power of the old days. Rodeo Rider reestablished some credibility and Jeff’s set as front man is always welcome. The encore Soul Shake was a straight ahead rocker and both Peggy and Reid really delivered on a song we had briefly run through before the show. Folks loved the show.

I had a chance to talk with Hub’s wife Donna at the counter as we packed up and said our goodbyes for another year. It was good to hear from her and the audience’s point of view. She said that the crowd picks up on different aspects (outside of our myopic view) that make for a good show. The humor and side-talk is still pretty funny. We play well and have a powerful array of instruments, arrangements, talents and a very diverse repertoire. We obviously enjoy each other’s company and the joy of playing together. Donna enforced that last point: people come to see us play together. It is, after all, play.

I found myself wasted after the show and into the next day. I invest heavily in pulling off a Steppin’ Out! show since I am the nominal leader. It’s hard for me to perform without the confidence that I maintain when it’s just a solo, duo or trio – too many moving parts, leads, endings, etc. in a large band like this, especially with the few gigs and rehearsals that we do. But, I remain tremendously proud of this group of friends and professional musicians. We are still a great band.

 

Father and son. Precious.

I was elated to hear from my son Jaimie about the birth of his son (and my first grandson) Jaysen Mikail Fry on Wednesday, Oct. 2nd at 5:06 pm, tipping the scales at 6 lbs 7 oz, 20 inches. (Tale of the Tape for you sports fans). I was surprised by the deep happiness that washed over me when I got the message. (It’s FB message these days, not phone calls, but that’s okay. I’m not near my phone a lot these days.) I had some nice memories of his birth in June of 1993, and the fond moments with Kim and a young Rosalie during those very early days, but not without some current pain, though, I must confess. Still…..

Chelsy and Jaimie are a young couple, trying to figure this life out, but I look forward to seeing them sort this out. I’m sure that Jaimie is up to the task, just as he has found his mark as a young businessman. Being an artist, I applaud his efforts to become successful in the business world. He has become a fine, respectful, thoughtful and moral human and I am proud of his growth as a man, a husband, now as a father. I couldn’t ask for more.

Jaysen Mikail Fry on his birthday, Oct. 2nd, 2019.

Folks have come up to me to congratulate me, and it’s somewhat uncomfortable, though I appreciate the sentiments (hard for me to do, but getting better at it). Many folks have passed this grandparent way before and they know more that I do, but, still, there are other friends who pine for this to happen to them. It seems there’s a lot of emotion going on with these personal congratulations. But, they make my life richer to take it all in. I hope Jaime does the same in these precious days. I told him to enjoy the magic. I will, too.

So, “Pops” sound good to you? My grandfather Roy became “Pop Pop”. I am comfortable to whatever Jaysen comes up with. I look forward to getting to know you.

RockRoots hasn’t had a lot of gigs recently, partly because we haven’t done showcases for YANJ in years, mostly because some members of the band have insisted on getting paid for the gig. I simply can’t afford to do that, so I’ve turned down showcases up til this year. Seems the lads realized that our drought is connected to this lack of initiative. So, we were part of this showcase day in Scotch Plains, NJ with about ten other acts from the YANJ roster.

I rarely get to see the other roster artists in action and I particularly like to see other professionals do their 15 minutes. Some great movement/dancers, jugglers, storytellers, etc. are part of this organization.

Since it’s been months since we’ve done the show, and, coupled with dealing with a 12 -15 minute set restriction, I was worried about the gig. I lost some sleep the night before, trying to figure things out and ended up getting up around 5 am to collect my recollections on the show. I do suffer from some senior moments these days.

I got a call from Kevin around 8:30 this morning. Nick, our bass player, had broken down with car problems so we had to perform as a trio. Rock and roll without a bass player is not an easy thing. But, it’s what we had to do. Kevin, Wayne and I gathered our wits before the set, figured out what sections to keep and what ones to jettison, keep Wayne’s guitar simple, plow through the set with what we’ve got and hope I remember the glue to make it whole. No easy thing.

As the school ushered in a group of 2nd and 3rd graders for our three-act partition, we quickly set up our equipment off to the rear. We followed an energetic movement/dance troupe and quickly set up our two amps and drums. We were introduced as a quartet, which was immediately amusing with the three of us standing behind the emcee. And we launched.

The sound was severely lacking without the bass but with my standard ability to talk my way through the show, we managed to convey the elements we wanted to get across: African rhythms, country/R&B rhythms, 50’s snippets and Elvis, followed My Girl and disco music segments. We got the kids up and dancing, engaged the teachers and PTA reps in the audience and finished fairly strongly. I still wish that we could have presented “the sound” of a band, which is one of the strong points of what we do.

It was a lot of work and I appreciate the professionalism of Kevin and Wayne to pull this off.  I actually was impressed with my ability to recall and deliver the show. I wasn’t sure I could do it, especially under these conditions. Phew. Exhausting.

I’m back at Marvine ES for another afterschool residency this fall, with weekly visits with 2nd and 3rd graders this time. I’ve had mixed success with the K’s and 1st’s and I hope this will be better. I have five kids signed up with four girls and one boy. Already, the boy Ezequiel is a little rambunctious and has a hard time focusing. He’ll be a challenge. The girls Mary Alice, Gabriella, Melina and Leeanne are pretty good kids and are attentive and engaging, so I’m pleased with this beginning session.

Eventually, we’ll get around to the theme of “What I’m Going to Be When I Grow Up” but this was more of an introduction to singing together (I Like Peanut Butter), some basic rhyming (Down By the Bay), and movement (Jelly in the Dish). We worked on some tambourine techniques and I was able to work for most of the full hour with the kids (as Ezeq started to fade).

Part of this blog effort is give me a record of our activities so I can check in for the next session.

Jaguar playing air guitar with Michael Myers

Snake bake a fake cake.

Cat with a red and white hat

Cheetah eat a ham and cheese pita (with tune and tomato)

Goldfish swish in a dish.

We’ll do some good work together, and we barely dug into the bag.

 

Yes, folks call me crazy but I was looking forward to some time tooling to CT for a three-hour set on the Madison Green. I was glad that the weather has broken I could play in cloudy 70 degree weather for a change. The traffic wasn’t bad for a Friday afternoon and, unlike past years, I’ve gotten to the site with time to spare. I used that time to change my Philly Folk Festival sweated-out strings for today’s gig. Big difference.

I settled in while the Elite stacked up at the fish vendor before the market opened. I started by playing I Heard It Through the Fish Line which gathered absolutely no tips. The Elite blow in and out and only a few folks note what I’m doing and how I’m doing it as they cruise through the market. Some of the vendors do appreciate what I contribute to the atmosphere.

Three kids came up right away, familiar faces from past gigs and the older girl said she missed me (it’s been three months since my last gig in late May), and that was cool. Several other families stopped by and hung out. Now that I have a new shipment of I Like Peanut Butter in, I gave out several to families who take time to interact with their children. A passel of girls spent some good time playing with scarves, dancing under the big ole tree. It’s these small moments that make the gig meaningful for me and make the time flow quickly.

I had the chance to try some new tunes that I need work on, and that’s part of why I enjoy farmers’ markets.

It was a relatively smooth trip back and got to absorb the music of a few folks that blew me away at Philly, only a week ago. What a difference a week makes! Playing the Philly Folk Fest and then playing under an old tree on Madison Green a week later. That’s okay by me.

I was up for two sets at Philly today, with a nice Pete Seeger workshop on the Craft Stage at 11 am and a Family show in Dulcimer Grove at 2 pm. It was to be a study in contrasts.

I woke up at 3 am thinking about doing a Pete standard, as opposed to the more obscure tunes I know, and I was thinking about my banjo, signed by the man himself. I got it out of the case and it was in tune! Amazing. I looked up Where Have All the Flowers Gone and figured I could work this one up. The history of the song is pretty cool but I had to figure out how to deliver the song on banjo. It wasn’t quite claw-hammer but I found a way to make it work.

I made it to the site with some time to spare, ran over the songs in the empty hospitality tent and then headed over to the Craft Stage, met Matt the Electrician and reintroduced myself to Christine Lavin. I offered to lead the workshop and we started off a 11 am to a fairly small crowd on the hillside. It’s hard to roust folks from a late night in the campgrounds. I was a little disappointed in the turn out, considering the full hillside at the Pete workshop in 2014 (that one featured Janis Ian).

I started out with Where Have All the Flowers Gone and it was a little rough, but I figured folks would be singing alone. Still, there wasn’t a critical mass of folks to help. I could have done better. So much for last minute ideas. Matt followed with If I Had a Hammer and Christine told some funny Pete stories from some of her gigs with him. I followed with False From True and did it well. Matt did one of his originals that had little to do with Pete, as did Christine and her next song. Both quite humorous and entertaining.

We were running low on time so I did Lessons from Pete which was appreciated and Christine finished with a killer Wemoweh version, updated for Trump. “In the White House, the whinny White, the Liar tweets tonight.” It was a riot and perfect for the end of the workshop. Still, I wish that I had time to salute Pete’s kids’ material and that Matt and Christine had focused more on Pete’s material.  As a friend commented on FB, each workshop has it’s own life so I’ll live with what happened today.

It was brutally hot today and I was soaked to the skin after this one. Time to kill until the kids show in Dulcimer Grove. I hung out and caught up with my friends under the main stage in the Grotto where they record all the main stage shows. I’m finding that I’m welcomed in the nooks and crannies of the festival stemming from my emceeing duties ten and fifteen years ago and I get to roam the festival freely.

I was tickled to get a message from my friend Craig, asking me to do a couple of songs during his Liederplatz set with Nyke on Monday night. It’s a great stage, with wonderful sound, and I get to play a couple of songs with two friends and creative musicians. That’s a two-fer in my book. Actually, a squared.

Craig asked me to play some stuff from Troubadour, and this was the first opportunity to play these tunes and connect the album with his many Lehigh Valley fans. Tonight was the night.

Nyke and Craig simply tear it up when they play. It is acoustic rock and roll. Now Craig has developed some nice folk sensitivities with his show. Nice personable patter, superb acoustic guitar sound and intelligent playing. That’s a blueprint for contemporary folk performance. I’m so glad to see my friends “get it”, if I may be so presumptuous.

Craig called me up about 25 minutes into his set, with a very nice introduction. I immediately dismissed him from the stage. (That actually gave him a break….. no small thing for a front man) I lined up Nyke for Stan Roger’s Giant, a chance to break the intensity, introduce a new modality (open tuning on guitar), a create a sense of exploration. I wrassled my guitar into the new tuning, talked about Stan and launched into the tune, with great trust in Nyke to figure it out. It was a fine journey. Nyke Knows.

I liked how it broke up the intensity and volume of C/N, introduced a different, yet palpable improvisation style to the show. I sang it well, though I repeated a verse, but figured out how to make it work, on the fly. Set up the improve chords, when to bring it back, when to bring it home. It really worked tonight, thanks to working with real pros.

I opted for Lessons from Pete for the second song. It was right for this crowd. I got my guitar back in tune and Craig picked up on my tuning and talked about Martin Guitars. Having put on a new string between gigs, Craig knows what to do on stage. I had the chance to talk about my GD Martin and the Utah story about Eleanor Roosevelt. I had some space to chat with the audience. And I talked about Pete Seeger to this relatively new folk audience and my gigs at Philly FF. Important. d

I laid down the chords to Lessons and Craig and Nyke were there. I was hoping to channel their energy later in the song, and that became understood in the moment. (This is actually the point where the communication gets thick and the trust sets in.)  I laid out the verses and bridge up front, gave Craig and Nyke some early leads. I headed towards the later verses and bridge (we were in sync by now) and brought it down to nothing for the improvisation part. Here’s where we soar.

Having produced this part of the Troubadour CD, I knew that Craig and Nyke would know how to build, but I let Nyke know what to expect, in the moment. It actually developed quite organically, as expected. We built and brought it back for the final denouement. It landed quite satisfyingly, for me, Craig and Nyke and the audience. I wish I could bottle the reaction of the audience. But, such is the life of an artist…..

This was a special moment for me.

 

 

This was the third of four sessions at Marvine and Fountain Hill and it was interesting to gauge the progress of the kids (and teachers) now deeper into this process. I had a game plan to do:

1. Cat Came Back for a second week

2. New circle dance and sing along Little Sally Walker

3. More lyric work on Down by the Bay

4. Further work on Peanut Butter and Jelly with student leaders

5. Movement and scarves with Jimalong Josie

I led off with Cat Came Back at both schools and both the teachers and myself were pleasantly shocked to hear the kids recall and sing 90% of the chorus right off the bat. That was solid proof of the efficacy of this summer work. Remarkable.

I decided to get them up dancing next with a circle dance Little Sally Walker, a social dance/singalong that went over well, with the teachers dancing along. The ‘sing-along’ part wasn’t spectacular, but improved with repetition. We’ll see about that part next week. I took time to ask what they liked about the dance and one boy said, “every single person” got to play alone. That comment resonated with the teachers and me, to say the least. They liked the hip-shaking, too.

We did some more lyric and rhyming work with Down By the Bay. New verses: Cheetah needa spicy burrito and Fly licking a blueberry pie. I shared the verses from the other schools as well, and I hope to feature these for the family finale on the last Friday.

My work on leadership and retention continues with Peanut Butter and Jelly. I ask two boys and two girls to come up and lead their respective mates on the response, and then I reversed the roles. I did some time to work on getting them to learn the five ‘verses’ and movements, and that took some effort on their part, seeing how comfortable they were in the response. We’ll see next week how this goes.

I wanted to do some scarf and movement work so I got out Jimalong Josie from Playground and it was a good vehicle for dancing with scarves and coming up with new movements as well as the current cultural dances. The result was a wonderful display of color and joy. It was a visual delight.

Again, I asked the teachers what struck them today and they enjoyed the kids’ opportunity to be creative, the practice of things they’ve learned and the movement. And we all marveled at their retention from last week.

I’m also trying to figure out how to connect my recorded music with the kids and teachers since CD’s are a lost cause now. The thumb drive didn’t seem to work, but one teacher suggested a Google Doc with a gateway to the material. At least, that way my music can get to their computers for classroom play. I’m learning right along with everyone during this residency, and that’s the way it should be.