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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.

 

This was my first return in two weeks to the two schools with summer slide programs. I wanted to see what material lasted over the two weeks, and to check to see if the teachers had done their homework. Questionable results, but, then again, it’s the summer. (I do have use this blog to take notes for myself when I prepare for the next session.)

Marvine: They remembered Peanut  Butter and Jelly so I got a couple boys and girls to come up with me and take the lead in the song, a good way take the process a little deeper. I did the Cat Came Back for the first time, and it was a good way to simply play (cat paws, meows and other explorations). Down By The Bay came up with “Wolf taking  belly flop in the gulf”, ‘megadon shark chomping on bark’, ‘lion flying and crying’. We worked on All Around the Kitchen and did swell jump, orange justice, ballet, and, of course, the floss.

Fountain Hill had the same agenda. Down By the Bay: ‘horse chewing squishy s’mores’, ‘bull dog doing back flips with a tree frog’. All Around the Kitchen: floss, orange justice, the shrike, tuck jump, spin… Again, at the end I questioned the teachers about what they liked: motor skills, descriptive language, fun.

What I found out at this session is that the teachers don’t know how to use my music in my absence. CDs can’t be used, and, even though I gave our thumb drives of some of my music, their new computers don’t have thumb drive capabilities. This is a pretty radical change in any musician’s ability to get the music out to a young audience. Incredible. We are working on finding some way for this to happen, some kind of player in the classroom. I’m glad I brought it up to the attention of the summer program’s coordinators. It’s important.

I’ll be going back next Tuesday so I expect that there will be more retention.

 

 

I headed up to New Tripoli for my second gig at Hackett Winery. It’s nice to see what a month of rain has done to the vines and look forward to the monthly progression of the growing season. Unfortunately, there was no growth in my audience. I played for about eight people during my three hours and the food truck that was supposed to be here had major engine problems and couldn’t make it.

The weather was cloudy and there was a slight chance of sprinkles. I started with one couple but was tickled when old friends Pat and Cher Ashcroft showed up early on. Pat and Cher performed in Godfrey’s early days and were quit professional – Cher’s great voice and Pat’s deft guitar picking. So I was glad that they were there and gave me the challenge to play for them. Pat no longer performs in public but plays in their basement every day and continues lessons with some fine jazz guitarists in the Valley.

I asked Pat to come up and play some tunes. He really nailed Killing Me Softly, a Spanish piece and a Beatles instrumental. As I was listening with Cher, she said she’s the only one who hears him and cherishes those moments. It was also cool to hear someone else play my guitar and appreciate its sound from afar.

As things wound down, I chatted with the woman who was left running the evening and connected with her about taking wedding vows with Elvis in Las Vegas, something she wants to do on her 5th anniversary. I got paid and slunk back to Bethlehem, once again questioning my ability to attract an audience in the Lehigh Valley. Still, I got to hammer on my repertoire for close to three hours and that’s a good thing.

This annual backyard musical event is one of my favorite local efforts at celebrating our local folk music scene, with all the elements of an informal jam, some stage time for old-time and bluegrass bands and food. Did I mention food? Cliff Cole’s a long-time friend and hammered dulcimer player extraordinaire who puts up a tent, provides a PA and sends out invitations to a pretty wide assortment of players and folk music aficionados.

We were blessed with great weather and folks traveled from miles around to attend. It’s rare these days for me to spend an afternoon under the trees, listening and playing music among friends, so I try to make room on my calendar every year. This year, Cliff asked me to be the featured performer, and I consider it an honor.

I like the open jam that opens the festivities; I get to noodle on the songs and tunes that folks offer up – a be a fly on the wall. Later in the afternoon, Cliff opens up the mikes and various groups, husband/wife duos and soloists get to do short, three or four song sets, so the music moves along nicely, and, importantly, everyone gets to shine. It was nice to see my friend Rolly Brown do two sweet tunes.

As the session settled into the early evening, I stepped up to do my solo set. Cliff had asked if I could invite Rolly up for a couple of tunes, and, upon scant reflection, I asked Rolly to just come up for the whole set. Why not? I’m sure Rolly would rather play than sit, as I would, and Rolly said sure.

As we started, I mentioned that this pickin’ picnic is what folk music is all about; folks getting together share music in a social situation.

We had a great time. Rolly’s great at listening first and letting me set up the song and that’s what I do well. We Are Welcomed, Barrelhouse, Giants and Giant, Don’t Call Me Early, Lessons from Pete and we did an encore with Nadine. Rolly jumped in with some great leads on a very diverse set of tunes and he enjoyed the set as much as I did. The mutual respect was palpable to each of us and to the folks listening. Magic happens. I came away high on the occasion.

It was a full afternoon of tunes among friends. Thanks to Cliff Cole and to my friend Rolly Brown for making it special.

 

Baby Shark from 2018

I returned to Hopewell School for an end-of-the-year assembly for about 350 first, second and third graders and their teachers. I’ve known several of the teachers going back to Lower Lehigh ES that was “consolidated” a couple of years back. They’re the ones who put together my visit last year. I set up in the gym and started off with a few shenanigans – Finger in the Air, Tutti Tah, The Cat Came Back, etc. and the kids and teachers were a real treat, everyone laughing, singing and dancing.  And, of course, we did Baby Shark.

I felt comfortable enough to expand on something I’ve been doing at the workshop level. Cognizant of the power and necessity of reflection instilled in my Teaching Artist training, I decided to ask one side of teachers what they thought was fun about the assembly. The responses were strikingly refreshing so I decided to go around the whole gym gathering observations from the teachers: the dancing, the smiles, rhyming exercises, kids having fun, seeing the other teachers enjoying themselves and on and on and on.

I had the chance to process this process with my friend Mark later on in the afternoon. Several things became apparent. The teachers and I had some nice conversations as I replied to some of their comments. I got to agree with them and say what I liked, as well. And the students got to witness their teachers talk about the show with me, and they got to hear adults converse about what had happened. Often, when I ask the kids the same thing, they are not familiar with this reflective process and, simply, are not used to having to think or respond like this. Today, we got to model intelligent and meaningful conversations. I’m not sure if these kids ever have the chance to listen in like this.

After this interaction, I wrapped it up with All Around the Kitchen with a full gym of teachers and kids showing off their favorite dances and just letting the good times roll. It was a perfect way to bring the whole show to an end. I somehow can put together a rewarding educational and fun hour for a whole school community. I’m getting good at this. I wish I could do it more often.

 

As I parked my car a block from home, I was drawn to the sounds of Holy Infancy’s playground, a sound I’m quite familiar with and actually kicks off my Playground CD of several years ago. I walked down the alley and said hello to a couple of the teachers minding their kids. I asked how many days were left for them, now that the old school was about to be abandoned for a smaller, more manageable facility several blocks away. This site was the original Bethlehem Catholic High School, but, with dwindling enrollment, a huge building to maintain.

On the Greenway last spring.

I have enjoyed my relationship with this neighborhood school, having done songwriting residencies, Christmas shows, afterschool programs and outdoor concerts for the kids and faculty over the last nine years. I never found it necessary to get paid – it’s neighborhood, you know.

The second grade teacher, Paula Gabriel, and I reminisced about our history and she said this was the last full day of school for her class. It popped into my mind, and I said would it be okay to come play for her class this afternoon? She was delighted and said to come back at 1:30.

So, I gathered my guitar and came on back, went down the steps to the classroom in the basement. And away we went. We sang songs, played with rhymes, danced and I took questions from the kids. “How old are you? Are you divorced?” and other curiosities. Mrs. Gabriel joined in the festivities and there was a lot of love going on. It seemed to be the exact right thing to do, spur-of-the-moment.

As I prepared to go, I figured that we should sing the Holy Infancy song that we had written three years ago. I wasn’t sure if I remembered the chords, melody and hand motions, but, amazingly, it all came back within a couple of minutes, with some prompts from the teacher and the kids. A simple song that the kids still remember.

Holy Infancy –  is where I want to be, 

A community –  that believes in me. Holy Infancy, Holy Infancy….

We signed the words in the school’s mission statement: Love, Justice, Peace. And I wrapped up the session with this small slice of time with these kids, their teacher and myself. It was a pretty powerful hour that happened on a whim on a Friday afternoon. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.

 

I had my first set at the PA Music and Arts Celebration at an small outdoor tent sponsored by Rocking The Valley, an online organization that has been promoting the local music scene at various venues in town. This particular event was to focus on local youth talent and I applaud their effort.

It was weird though. My pop-up tent was filled with amps, piano, synth drum set and sound gear and it directed faced the sound board and camera. The audience was off to the side at tables so I felt I was playing to the sound crew ten feet in front of me. Strange. The audience was an afterthought.

Seeing how I was asked to open up the youth stage, I decided to play tunes that were co-written by students from my residencies – Cat Came Back, We Gave Names to the Animals – and that seemed to be appropriate. My friend Hub Willson was taking some photos so I asked him if he wanted to play the piano off to my left. He jumped in on Charlie Stone. I asked one of the RTV staff to come up and play thunder-tube on Giants and she also enthusiastically joined in.

Unfortunately, the attendance at the festival was sparse early on a Memorial Day Sunday, and this particular site was particularly strange that it was a struggle to perform for the half hour set. Perhaps the second “adult” set later on would be better.

I headed over to Hellertown for my first SVFM of the season at a new site near the public library. This is one of the nicest markets that I play at, with a great staff and a wide variety of good vendors. I got set up under a pop-up tent in the middle, and, as usual, played unplugged. I had spent some time the day before preparing a list of all my current songs so I could have something in front of me so I could call on songs that needed work. These sessions are a great way to stay in shape, both repertoire and chop-wise.

It was a sunny day for a change and I plowed right in. Having played at a farmers’ market in CT, it was a delightful change to have folks toss in a buck right away. What a difference! I ended up with a CD sale to a woman who took guitar lessons from me decades ago who made a difficult walk to hear me play, and I gave away a CD to a girl in a pink tutu celebrating her birthday. One boy hung out for two hours playing every instrument I had with me. The quality of the interactions was spectacular and the time flew by.

Now, it’s off to two sets at Ag Hall in Allentown for the PA Music and Arts Celebration. This was a good way to start my day.

I took my time heading up to the New Tripoli winery from Spring Gulch. Not enough time to head home and and then head out on the road again for the evening gig. As I got close to the gig, I stopped by a small church and old graveyard, nestled in the rolling hills northwest of Allentown. There was a nice tree to escape the sun, and I took some time to meditate in this incredibly picturesque PA nook. It settled me in for the evening’s work.

This was the second visit to this winery, the last being inside the unheated building on a cold, damp fall evening. At that gig, I did my best to play to a small gathering, and it paid off with monthly gigs this summer outside the venue. I look forward to expanding my public gigs in settings that are not so bar-like. I welcomed this new venue for me. And. like the farmers’ markets, a chance to sit down for three hours and pump up my repertoire, old and new.

It was a simply gorgeous evening, with low humidity, a great sky over the vines stretched out in front of me. It doesn’t get any better than this.

There were only a few tables of couples and friends when I started, and immediately got the question, “What do you do?” I really don’t know how to respond without disappointing folks. “No, no CSNY, no Bruce, no James Taylor.” I only hope that I play well, engage folks as best I can and take it from there. This happens all the time, even at a winery.

I was glad to see my friend and college roommate Carl Zvanut show up. Seems he and his wife live next door (small world!), and they invited a group of neighbors down for some wine, food-truck food and community. They provided the core for the rest of the evening, responsive, intelligent and friendly. This gig could work out….

I was fighting tuning all night, with my mandolin and guitar. There comes a point when you just have to change your strings. It was tonight. I was never quite able to get my mandolin comfortable and the guitar was constantly in need of tweaking. But, I had three hours to deal with it.

As the local community group coalesced, I was able to chat more, introduce songs with a personal slant and try to bridge the gap. Surprises always happen, and when I finished Sailin’ Shoes,  for me a filler tune, the folks burst out in applause. As I found out, one couple had met at a Little Feat concert at Brown University. Bam! These folks were invested in what I wanted to do. They gave me space to create.

.Another special moment happened when a young couple with a dog showed up. I played I Wanna Be a Dog and they loved it. The young woman came up to toss a five spot in my mando case and said that she remembered me from assemblies at Bridgeton and Tinicum schools in rural Bucks County. I said that I really loved those relationships I had with these two schools, especially Bridgeton which is now closed down. (I’ve played more closed schools than bars, at this point.) I gave her my Peanut Butter CD, and she and her husband were thrilled. They stayed for the whole evening. This is great stuff.

 

As the evening came to a close, this vista was simply wonderful. Friends chatting with other friends, couples taking time out for a glass of wine in the countryside, and a working musician finishing a long day on the road.

Bob, the vineyard manager, and the “waitress” (I was sure to give her part of my tips) said it went well, though not as folks as usual (thanks, Carl….) I consider it a good beginning for a new gig. Tips, sold a Troubadour CD, gave away a PB CD, got some good rehearsal on stuff I’m rusty on. Packed up the car and drove home after eleven hours on the road.

Now, tomorrow brings a Irish pub and a local farm. The tour rolls on.

 

It’s nice that snowed-out gigs get rescheduled with Young Audiences. We picked up one at a small school near Morristown on Thursday at 2 pm, after the rest of the school has gone home. Originally booked for a parent/teacher day, it was an odd “afterschool” gig for the afterschool kids, a mere 70 kids and 4 teachers. It has its own performance peculiarities that were evident today.

There’s a disconnect with the kids and the teachers, both just putting in time at the end of a long day at school. Kids would rather be outside playing or hanging out with little time for more education. I often wish I could do my “solo” material with the band and just have fun, get the kids up dancing and shuck the lessons.

Anyway, the kids got into it, especially during Peanut Butter when four kids come up to sing with us. One male teacher also got up to jig with a young boy in the Irish session, showing that he was willing to take a chance with the kid. Nice.

Towards the end, I gave the ‘roll’ sign to the band to wrap it up quickly. We did and headed back to PA in the late afternoon.

This was a long time coming, with Mike Duck putting together a nice slate of performers for the evening including Bev Conklin, Alyssa Allen, John Huie, Mike, myself and Bakithi Kumalo, the real deal. Bakithi is Paul Simon’s bass player but I’ve known him as Robbi Kumalo’s husband. Robbi is on my Playground CD and was a pleasure to get to know. She and her two daughters moved here from Long Island while Bakithi was on a two and a half month tour with Simon. He eventually moved to the

Lehigh Valley to be with his family. His history is quite amazing, from growing up in South African Apartheid to performing on the world’s biggest stages and then settling in our humble Lehigh Valley. He is a humble and genuine human being.

Bakithi is a true professional and I was excited to have the opportunity to play with him. It turned out great and there was a full house on hand, as well.

The group had a chance to rehearse some of the tunes ahead of the show and Bakithi was a real sport. Mike wanted to do Call Me Al. It was obvious that Bakithi didn’t want to do it and was really uncomfortable with our amateur rhythm on the song. I’m afraid Mike didn’t read the signs. When you play major stages like Bakithi does, you have to respect his experience.

Alyssa Allen

There’s was an appreciative crowd on hand as we did a round-robin among us. Bakithi did a great opening tune, having every one repeat a South African call and response and then encouraged everyone to do some full-throated singing behind his kalimba. He won the audience on the first song. Mike, Bev and John followed with their songs and it came around to me. I did We Are Welcomed in the spirit of the evening and Alyssa added some great harmonies and it came off wonderfully. Alyssa followed with an Anais Mitchell song that blew folks away. She was the real sleeper of the evening, later doing a kick-ass Respect that shattered everyone. Bev did Spooky and a great version of Motherless Child, like the pro she is. Mike played strong rhythm guitar and held down the emceeing for the evening. I got to do some noodling on mandolin as well and had some good moments. And I played cowbell!

I started the second set with Bruce Cockburn’s What About the Bond, a new one for me, with a reggae feel. Bakithi picked up on it right away and we connected nicely on it, with Bakithi doing a bass lead in the middle. There were nice dynamics and I didn’t screw up the words, especially since they applied to theme of the evening. I think it was a surprising departure for the audience, expecting a folkier selection from me. When it came around  again, I served up I Can See Clearly Now and the audience was singing along from the get go. Nice to have a crowd like this.

We did a great version of Bob Marley’s One Love and it would have made the perfect finish. I had my fingers crossed. But Mike really wanted to do Call Me Al, and once he announced it, the crowd cheered and there was no turning back. We were able to do a reasonable version of it and the audience ate it up. I felt bad for Bakithi but he is a pro and played for the audience. I’m glad we didn’t do This Land is Your Land that Mike had in mind. It wasn’t necessary. Solid ending and a standing ovation.

Mike worked his tail off in promoting and producing the whole concert for months and months and I was proud that he pulled off a great show and got a full house for us. I was tickled to share the stage for the first time with Bev Conklin and Alyssa proved her chops in front of her Touchstone colleagues and a new Godfrey’s audience. I played well and enjoyed not not having to front the show for a change.

Strange ephemeral image in the sound room.

A good night at Godfrey’s.

This was a tripleheader that was postponed from an earlier foul weather date in February. It was at The Bancroft School, a year-old special needs school in the middle of an industrial park in central Jersey. This is a particularly well-organized and friendly facility. We set up in the pleasant room with a vast window behind us. Lots of room to move.

The first set was for the elementary kids, all with various learning differences, all accompanied individually by an aide. Since we were asked to cut down on the speechifying and concentrate on the music, I had to work hard on working on the segways between the music. The band knew what to do and we did a good 40 minute set, with kids and teachers moving to the music, pretty much seated where they were. I worked up a sweat on this one. It worked well, and the director was pleased with the volume, the kids’ reactions and the show in general.

The second set was for the high school aged set and the set flowed even better, with Kevin, Wayne and Nick picking up on the format we had done for the first set. I kept my banter down to, “We’re leaving the swing in New Orleans and headed to Chicago for some blues.” That maintained a thread for us and the teachers to stay connected. The third set consisted of the transition kids, late teen and early twenties, the kids who now are headed into the real world. A big step for them. These kids got up and danced as we ran a rather tight show the third time around. Kevin said at the end, and I agreed, that there are few, if any, musical groups who could pull off playing for this type of group.

A professional photographer for the school snapped some nice band pix as well as some nice shots of the kids.

The school coordinator wrote to YANJ:

“Young Audiences Arts for Learning Assembly Today: A huge Thank You to Dave, Kevin, Nick, and Wayne of RockRoots for three awesome shows today that represents our American history! These four gentlemen shared so much energy, excitement, enthusiasm, and talent with our students at the Bancroft School!Dancing, singing, and smiles filled the room! Great job! Thank you so much!”

It was a long day with 1.5 hour drive both ways, but these are the good gigs that feed our souls.

 

https://www.bancroft.org/mount-laurel/

It was Radio Day on my calendar on Sunday. I did Sunday Folk on WDIY (almost a perfect show, but….) and then headed directly for a 3 pm interview with Ron Olesko on his weekly three hour Traditions show on WFDU from Teaneck, NJ. He’s a well respected folk programmer on the circuit, helps run a local, struggling folk venue The Hurdy Gurdy and we have recently become friends and colleagues in the biz.

I put in a large effort to put together a “Cowboy” show for Sunday Folk, with TV western themes along with some favorite cowboy songs from my collection. It was a good one and raised some ears on Facebook.

I headed out for Teaneck, an hour and a half drive from Bethlehem and got there with about 20 minutes to spare for the 3 pm show. Ron herded me into the second floor studio and we settled in. I was fortunate that he is familiar with my various adventures by way of FB, and he particularly appreciates the Troubadour CD. Several times during the show, he said how it grabbed his attention as not just another folk album. I was glad that we had a good 45 minutes for our session so we could chat about a lot of things, including recording the CD. 

He started off with Ten Men by David Mallett and he said it made him think Tom Waits. That’s pretty cool, but I said that I had to channel my performance chops in recording it. I did Don’t Call Me Early live in the studio, and I had a couple of rough vocal spots, still somewhat in my NJ drive mode with no warm up. After that, things were okay.

I talked about being a Teaching Artist, doing kids music. I followed with a live version of Giants by Kent Aldrich and I decided to skip the Thunder Tubes and go directly to the strong lyrics and presentation of the song. We talked some more about performing other people’s music, seeing them perform at Godfrey’s, John Gorka, scrapple, and more. That led into John Gorka’s How Legends are Made. There’s a Rt. 22 here in Jersey as well, so I’m sure in connected with Ron’s audience. I played this one well.

We went on about the Troubadour CD and finished the session with Lessons from Pete from the album. It was a strong way to finish of the radio show. We talked about what we have in common, folk radio shows and folk clubs (Godfrey’s and The Hurdy Gurdy).

I was lucky to be able to do a fairly in-depth interview with Ron and I thanked him for the opportunity. I don’t really count myself among the touring pro, but Ron treated be with the same respect and that counts for a lot, in my book.

Ron is interested in pursuing a 24-hour online folk radio station and I said I’d give it some thought. The Live from Godfrey Daniels show would be great but runs into copyright problems. Dave’s Night Out might work well, too. We are in touch about trying to make something work.

I got back to Godfrey’s about 6 pm, fairly beat but glad to have spent some time on both sides of the folk radio microphone.

The local kids’ music folks gathered again to do a workshop, song swap and showcase/concert at the Springfield Free Library near Plymouth Meeting, PA. David Perry is our local CMN coordinator and he herds a bunch of us kids musicians for this annual meetup.

Tammy Keorkunian, a regional kids/parents facilitator did the morning workshop on her sessions with young kids along with their parents, a great way to reinforce the power of music for the young (and the family). She talked about the 3 C’s (Connection, Caring & Consistency). I think I freaked her out when she asked everyone to say what we wanted out of the session. I said that I wanted to steal all of her ideas, market them and become a rich and famous children’s star. Her eyes really lit up (she didn’t know me from Adam) and I quickly added that I was there for “the Sparks of Creativity”, which was closer to the truth. The other folks, thankfully, knew me and chuckled. It was a good workshop and we all pulled in some good ideas. Tammy finished with a nice, handy meditation that was good. She also works with scarves, too. Simpatico.

The song swap went well, where everyone gets to do one song, and it’s a good way for all of us get to see each other’s educational style and personality, but I always take in their performance chops. I can’t help it.

The showcase/concert started at 2:30 as families filled up the library’s open room. David put me in the middle of the list, saying that I could re-energize the show at that point. That was a nice nod from a fellow professional. We all got two songs (8 minutes?) and it was interesting to see my fellow artists work in front of a live family audience. I have great respect for those of us who do it for a living.

I did my power set of Tutti Tah and Giants.

 

Tutti Tah always sets a great tone, especially by getting everyone (including dads) up and physical. I find moments in the routine to point out the dad who isn’t taking ownership of it. Today, I pointed to one dad, and addressed him, “Sir. You’re not doing it.” He smiled and I caught him and his wife/young mother exchanging a chuckle. These are the payoff moments in mid-stream.

I did Giants sans Thunder Tubes today, thinking that I should be quick and nimble with the time restraints. It worked well and I was off stage in time.

I stuck around for everyone’s set, joined in when asked and had a chance to connect with my friends. I got to thank them for there set, and find ways to compliment them on their work. The feedback that I got that I appreciated was that I don’t play down the kids and that I treat them like people, not just kids. Bang. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do and I’m glad that they get to see it in action.

I really do go about this from a performance point of view.

I sold a set of my CD’s to one of the performers, but none to the full house of families. There ya go.

I was quite honored to have my friend, Craig Thatcher on stage with me for this concert. First of all, it was amazing that he had the date open. He also is part of the authority and confidence that is displayed on the Troubadour CD and, as I listen to it, I’m am still transported by his leads (on four guitars  laid down in two hours in the studio). It was important to feature him in this set. I’m no fool.

Dan, Kris, Wendi, DF, Kevin, Craig, Nyke and Moe

We started of with Mama Wants to Barrelhouse, a Bruce Cockburn blues that I’ve played for years (on Pearls CD), and one that is hardly a three-chord wonder. Great changes and curious poetry. I can lay down a strong beginning and set up the song well on guitar. The band found the groove immediately and we laid into it with gusto. Craig and Dan did leads and we all had our ears and brains on fire listening to each of them. Wendi did some fine vocals, Kevin and Kris put down the groove. We aint’ a country band now!

Nyke and Craig

I had promised Craig and Nyke a two-song set. That was a no-brainer. They lit up the house as they so often do – just acoustic guitar and violin. They know each other musically as do few others in the Lehigh Valley. They finished with a Celtic tune that was phenomenal. As I came back on, I said that they had used up all the notes. Actually I was grateful to have a break, check in with the backstage band and reboot for the big finish.

The last song in this set was False from True, a Pete Seeger tune I learned from Guy Davis. It’s one of the last tunes on the CD  that pairs Craig and Mike Dugan, as well as Wendi and Annie Patterson’s great vocals at the end. It was set up to feature a ‘conversation’ between the two electric guitars.

Craig

I really looked forward to re-creating the same effect tonight, this time passing the lead around with Craig, Nyke, Kris and Dan. Craig brought out his very nice dobro for this one and the effect was striking.  I called it The Rondo, though I’m not sure if technically that’s what it’s called. We went around three times and took our time bringing it home. The house was riveted, as was the band. Lots of respect for each other. A great landing and the audience loved it. This was one of the payoffs from some ideas I had two years ago. It worked on the CD and was even better on stage.

Dan and Kris

My friend Hub gave me a nice compliment this week about the night, “Great show, well paced and everyone got to show their stuff.” These are Hub’s photographs, by the way.

It was a pleasure to feature my friends.

Time for the Big Finish.