The festivities of the 60th Anniversary of the Liberty Bell Museum were moved inside the beautiful Zion Reformed UCC Church in Allentown on Sunday, and, frankly, it was a gorgeous place to perform. It was 10 years ago I got to premier my song The Ballad of the Jubilee Bell in this space, and I was delighted to have a chance to reprise the song again.

Zion’s sanctuary.

There were lots of speakers, a high school band and a wonderful singer on hand to celebrate the occasion. I was asked to perform the song along with two others during the session. I set up on the side of the nave without sound, but that was no big thing. I enjoy opening up and playing to this marvelous space.

Rev. Josh introduced me by referring to my playing for his elementary school years ago. I played The Ballad of the Jubilee Bell full throat, and was glad I had spent some time rehearsing it as well as running by some friends the day before. I was able to enunciate all the big words, and guide myself through the phrasing. I did well.

I was asked to do a sing-along mid-ceremony and, a few days ago, stumbled over an obvious choice If I Had a Hammer, a song I have never had the chance to learn and perform before, in spite of it’s deep history as a folk standard. I had worked it up over the last few days into a rollicking sing-along, though folks didn’t really sing along. I had assumed that folks would know it, but perhaps it has drifted into the foggy folkie past. It went well, though.

Zion Reformed UCC in Allentown.

I was tasked to play a recessional, and, being no stranger to having folks leave while I was playing, I finished with We Are Welcomed. My job was done here.

The Liberty Bell (formerly known at the Jubilee Bell) was hidden under the floor planks of this church during the Revolution when it was learned that the British were going to take all the bells in Philly and melt them down for cannons and cannon balls. Ironically, it had to remain a secret due to a large Tory presence in Northampton Towne (pre-Allentown).

Here’s the You Tube version from two years ago. https://youtu.be/5AwBWmOJSZ0

It was a pleasure and an honor to be part of this celebration, and I was reminded that I had written a very good and moving song, one I don’t get to perform very often. I guess I am a songwriter.

We played a religious school this early this morning – Bryn Athyn Church School north of Philly – and we had a strange stipulation: we had to be set up by 8:00 am for an 8:30 show, with a half hour church service in between.

I left 4th Street at 5:45 and traveled the NE Extension down to the Huntington Valley area, a bearable 75 minutes. I made it with my usual hour to make contact, scope out the venue, lug the sound system in and tune up.

Bryn Athyn Church School

Amazingly, the band also got there with time to spare (pros that they are…), set up on stage and the curtain closed in front of us. There were hymns, prayers, invocations, a sermonette on “Walking and The First Commandment”, more prayers and hymns, and then we were introduced, the curtains parted and we launched into the show.

We did a good show and the kids were really responsive. I’m feeling better about this revival of the show, post-Covid, and the band is tight, and my monologue is becoming smoother. I’m still working on remembering some of the expositions, but I’m not as worried about leaving whole sections out earlier in the year. That’s good. I’m getting really good with the pacing of my introductions. Always learning how to do it better.

Somehow, I related Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues” to the preacher/teacher’s homily. Phew…

As with our Catholic school assemblies, the audience (about 240 kids and 25 teachers) runs from K through 8th grade; the show has something for everyone, even if some of the historical observations are at a pretty advanced level. Still, the little ones get to see a live band in a social situation, the older kids get some sophisticated education, and the teachers are engaged to the point of dancing with the kids. The biggest takeaway is it’s great to see the whole community have a great time together. It’s still a pretty powerful presentation, in spite of its somewhat dated material. (We end up at Disco these days. We’ve, thankfully, eliminated the Rap.) Still, it’s a well-oiled and effective Teaching Experience.

I was back home by 11 am. How rock n’ roll is that?

The hill side.

I was pleased to be asked to add a short set to the festivities at the rejuvenated Berks Fiddle Fest, post-Covid. It’s been moved from Topton’s community park to the old Doe Mountain ski slopes, now a resort, Bear Creek Mountain. I think the festival has lost some of its charm, as nice as the new digs are.

I was asked to do a thirty minute set in between the various fiddle contests. I followed the 13 – 18 age category. The slope area formed a nice amphitheater, and there was a nice crowd out in front of me, though the sun was pretty brutal today. I set up my guitar and did a quick sound check and launched into Don’t Call Me Early. During the song, I asked for a choral response and got absolutely nothing. That kind of gave me the information I needed for this challenge.

I followed with Blue Mule, and during my introduction I asked for the people’s favorite tall tale, and, again, I got nothing back. I rolled into the song. glad to do a bluegrassy type of tune. I then did Branching Out, again asking for a call and response during the refrain. Nada. I gave up and just sang my own response.

Next was Giants, and finally got the audience to give me back “They’re Big, They’re Bad” and the spooky noises. I got a little vindication on this one. I got the “one more song” nudge from behind the stage and finished with Lessons From Pete, mentioning that getting kids to sing along, dance along was the whole point of what I try to do with kids (and these adults), trying to create a deeper community connection.

The stage.

I played well (only one repeated verse) and thought I did a good job. It was pretty hot and felt drained after just a half hour.

As nice as the new venue is, the festival has lost the communal nature, and I experienced that with my inability to get folks to chip in. In some messaging later on from some of my friends who go to this festival to hang out and jam, the feeling was mutual. No trees to play under, escape the sun. One friend said he played under a ski lift, not exactly the idyllic setting one would hope for, for a fiddle festival.

Still, it was nice that the three fiddle sessions on stage brought out folks who were willing to get up in front of people and try their best: some excellent players, some beginners but all willing to take a chance in front of strangers. Good for them; too bad for the audience, though. So it goes.

The original Burnside House.

I’ve played Burnside Plantation for many, many years, going back to my friend Gertie Fox’s introduction of this special place before there was nothing a beat-up old house down a dirt road. There were a couple of years when I wasn’t invited to play here, but this year I got to play the Blueberry Festival in the summer and this relatively new Apple Days in the fall. Not a high-paying gig, but I’m not picky. I’d rather work.

Since they have prohibited vehicles on site, I hiked in from a near-by parking lot with my guitar and a box of CDs. I played at the Brewery Stage further up the hill, and I had a 11:45 set following my friend Nick Franclik to an empty tent (save for the five or six volunteers). Over the course of the next hour and a half, I played to some young families, a few older folks (including a couple with links to my Lehigh days over 50 years ago!), and assorted others.

Burnside Plantation

I made a point of striking up conversations about peanut butter, dogs, etc. and succeeded in drawing the audience in and drawing out the set to fit the time given to me. I played well with little cramping up in my left hand, I did well with the lyrics, for the most part (I did repeat a couple verses), and was able to engage the crowd with a mix of kids and adult material. Of course, the couple of toddler girls that approached the stage and danced worked wonders in giving the audience something to look at other than the old guy on stage.

It was another perfect weather day, and though it wasn’t particularly crowded, I thought I did a really good job entertaining the folks. I opened the envelop with the check and it had my old Madison, CT address on it, going back 16 years. Sheesh.

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

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

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

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

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

We had our first RockRoots of the fall season today at a Catholic school in Morrisville, PA, just across the river from Trenton. We had a 10:30 hit so it wasn’t too early. I left 4th Street at 8 am and got to the school with time to spare. I set up and waited for the lads to pull in. There were about 240 K – 8th graders in a basement bingo/cafeteria/all-purpose room with a small stage for us.

I had some qualms about remembering the show, but, as the band reminded me, the audience would have no idea and that they would refrain from pointing at me and chuckling if I did behind my back. I love these guys. The summertime gigs helped a bunch.

It was a pretty chatty, noisy audience, probably because of the new semester, post-covid social norms and general lack of teacher control. Early on, I tried to pull things in, but as we progressed, I tossed out my efforts and focused on driving the show home, regardless of the inattention. We did a good show, had the kids up and dancing at the end with no obvious snags in the presentation. It went well. Catholic schools are generally wonderful audiences.

I’m still feeling some fatigue these days, and after a long drive home, picking up some fall plants and some Chinese food, I took in a long nap. I’m good.

My friend Jim Fiorentino asked me to donate a set for our House Rep Susan Wild’s campaign, which I was more that glad to do. Susan’s the real deal, a progressive Democrat – we are lucky to have her in the House.

Jim sponsors a bi-weekly jam session in his backyard in a fairly high end community in North Bethlehem. The sessions are quite successful, run by another friend Bill Medei, who sets up a sound system and channels quite a few regular players to these jams. Somehow, I figured this would be a little different with a slightly different audience, so I was looking forward to playing for these folks. I hoped to do some tunes with Dana Gaynor, a friend featured on this jam.

As it turned out, the usual group of players showed up (a good thing) and as I pulled up around 5 pm, I was greeted by Bill and Dana Gaynor. Bill said that he would put me on shortly, so I grabbed my folding chair and my gig bag, and headed for the back yard. There was nice audience of leftists, musicians and fine young Black kid, Kelal Shuford, playing piano. A very nice scene to walk into.

I had enough time to settle in, survey the situation, find my friend/bassist Steve Foreman and then it was time to take the stage. I set up my chair, plugged in, said a few words to Dana and Steve, encouraging them to let me set up the tune, shooed away a couple of drummers and started out with We Are Welcomed. Remarkably I hit it strong but found myself slightly out 0f breath with having just arrived and then on stage so quickly. Luckily we settled in, toyed with the song with Dana and Steve doing solos. Good, solid ending and we had arrived. We made a good impression. Phew.

I was still settling in and decided to keep it simple for all of us, but still rock out a little. We followed with Pay Bo Diddley, perhaps too simple for Dana’s considerable chops, but a good jam tune anyway. Steve and Dana are pros and I was confident we could build on this tune. It worked well.

I then pulled out Mama Wants to Barrelhouse from my Cockburn kit and sprung this fairly sophisticated blues on Dana and Steve. Steve, by now, was kneeling down to my right, trying to catch the chord changes, so I adjusted a bit so I could telegraph the changes. Still, it was a leap for both players and I was shaking off some finger rust myself. We acquitted ourselves nicely. Another phew….

Bill motioned that I should do one more, so I pulled out Lessons From Pete. I tacked on  drummer Bret Talbert, whom I had never played with before, thinking that he’d be fine on this one. Turned out to be true. The band picked up on the progression quickly, Dana played a nice initial lead and I delivered the lyrics well. The second lead gets creative with a low-volume bass lead by Steve, a louder, driving electric lead by Dana, and solid last verse to bring us in. It was good. I was soaked with sweat and somewhat beat from the set.

I packed up and moved off stage as Dana, Bill and a few others did a nice jam tune. I noticed Kelal off by the pool area, walked over, set up my chair and thanked him for his set. We started up a great conversation and I found out quickly that he works with children. Bam! Teaching Artist!

As it turns out, I knew Kelal from his days with the Charter Arts School, his several visits to Godfrey’s for some of their events. This kid is the real deal, and now he’s out in the real world. I laid a lot about what I do with kids, the joy of working with other TA’s, the challenges and rewards of playing with kids, and more. He made my day.

These social jams have some stress for me. On one hand, I feel a little uncomfortable commanding stage time from the crowd of players that are here to play. I cruise in and get a set at my convenience. I hope that they accept my position and don’t harbor some ill will. Another strange situation is the presence of the former husband of my former wife, someone who has put me through the emotional wringer over the past 20 years. I really don’t like him/her, in spite of being former good friends over the past 45 years, and I am very uncomfortable around him/her. I should be over this, but I’m not. Pisses me off.

Susan Wild came up and did a nice campaign chat, giving us all forewarnings about what this election means to our society. Sheesh. That’s why I tried to add my talents to the cause today.

The jam started up again, and, unfortunately, some of the same old hackneyed regulars came up and rehashed so of the same old pop covers that has made me somewhat reluctant to become a regular myself. As Popeye says, “I can’t takes no more!” and I packed up my guitar and chair and headed for my car.

I was glad to add some quality music to this crowd, for this candidate in these tough times. I was especially glad to connect with a young and talented Black Teaching Artist. A good way to spend a Labor Day Sunday afternoon.

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

Jayne Toohey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friends at the Bethlehem Food Coop asked me to play for a block party on the North Side at Friendship Park, a small city park. I was signed up for a two hour set from 4 to 6 pm, and I was glad that it wasn’t terribly hot. I set up on the macadam under a pop-up tent with jump ropes and hula hoops spread out in front of me, with various community vendors spread out (Food Coop, Bicycle advocacy, etc.) and the mayor was on hand as well as various public servants.

I started out playing tunes with my handy dandy amp, mike and guitar. Gradually, folks drifted by and kids started to pick up instruments, and join in. Grandmothers, dads, moms, etc. joined in, played with the hula hoops and generally mixed it up with me. Doing my thang….

In these small, one-on-one situations, I’ve been breaking down a song and giving the kids a break on their rhythm instrument, and it’s been working out nicely. The kids sense that this is their time to shine and have been nailing the improvisations. A nice way to share the stage and create some magic with the kids (and the pride of the on-looking grandparent, too). It also stretches my material during the long set.

Folks appreciate having a sound track for the event, and watching kids and families having some fun making music. Adults I know in the community stop by and say hello. I even got to give a hug to my friend Gail who’s been estranged due to a political kerfuffle with her wife. I felt good that we were able to share that moment together. And that’s what a community block party is all about.

I’m always grateful for summer gigs but some are harder than they should be. Young Audiences got this one for a discount, and, of course, it turned out to be a difficult audience.

I traveled about an hour and twenty minutes to a Jewish day camp in East Brunswick, NJ for an afternoon set for about 25 kids and counselors and I was glad that I could do it without sound equipment. I got there with time to spare and set up in the large social room. I had a good chat with Milton, the liaison for the camp.

As the campers drifted in, with some of the older campers coming in late, I was primed and ready. I started with I Like Peanut Butter and there was no center to the response, little singing along or physical movements. Nothing from the counselors. I knew this was going to be a problem. Some of the older boys were socializing amongst themselves. I had to spell out to the counselors that we were trying to establish a community situation and that it was important to join in.

As I did Tutti Tah, We Gave Names, etc., using my bag of instruments, scarves and all my tools, I never had the control and attention that I needed to do my best, and, eventually, finished out the set with kids and instruments scattered across the space, counselors drifting off and out of sight. It was a mess. Milt had the kids thank me and I said to him that I felt I hadn’t done my best. We talked about it being the end of the camp season, that the counselors had lack of respect for me and no responsibility to support my effort, but that, ultimately, the kids had fun.

The one counselor who chipped in turned out not to be a counselor but the life guard.

I really hate to think this, but this often happens with Jewish children’s groups: there is a strong sense of entitlement and independence. I came away thinking that I lacked the ability to entertain these kids and that my concept of a “show” was not what it should be. And, here I am, at 3 AM trying to figure it out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This was a scorcher today at Musikfest. I signed up for a half hour freebee set at this tented stage with beer on one end and MF merchandise on the other, with a few tables of folks escaping from the sun on a Monday afternoon. I’m not sure why I sign up for this gig, but I came away with a CD sale and six sets of Martin strings.

I did a good set of my songs: Don’t Call Me Early, Here Comes the Sun, Giants, Giant, Legends, Lessons from Pete, We Are Welcomed, and a couple more. The nice thing about this gig were to two extra Martins on stage that I got to bang on: the new SE-13 model and a D-28, a big body Martin that I rarely get to play. I still prefer my good ole 000-15 Mahogany though.

My left hand stood up under the conditions so I’m pretty glad that worked out today. Still, I was wrung out in the heat and humidity.

Tomorrow I play for pay at Stadtplatz with Kris Kehr.

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

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

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

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

These society gigs are always quite curious. I knew that this was going to be quite the posh setting when Matt sent me a photo of his back yard overlooking a North Cove in Old Saybrook. I had picked this one up from one of my farmers’ market gigs in Madison so I figured that this would be fancy date.

Still, I low-balled my pay scale in spite of the long commute from PA, but I need the work and I’m always curious as to what these gigs entail. Still, it was a well-paid gig for me.

Matt signed me up for the first three hours (2 – 5 pm) of a six hour party, with another musician coming in after me. I made the trip on a Saturday morning in good time and got there to set up before the party got started. Lots of prep going on, valet parking, food servers, etc. I had a pop-up tent for me, looking out over the cove, a fan and some shade. I settled in for a three-hour set. I made small talk with a fellow from Nashville who was a friend of Matt’s and a player himself. I felt at home.

My view from the pop-up tent.

It was in the 90’s but I didn’t really suffer too much. Lots of older women were checking up to see if I had enough water to drink, and though I didn’t get “applause” through out the gig, I could tell folks enjoyed the music, several of whom thanked me for my set.

The food was pretty amazing: clams, oysters, mussels, etc. and, apparently I missed the lobster late on. Lots of folks hanging out, swimming in the pool, chatting, socializing. I simply provided a sound track and I’m fine with that.

I played pretty much through the three hours, and my voice was a little gruff towards the end. But, my repertoire made it through, mixing my bag of folk, oldies, country, etc. My Nashville friend complimented my songs, singing and guitar work – that was appreciated.

I packed up my stuff as the next fellow came in, chatted with some folks, got my car back from the valets and headed back to PA with my fee (and a nice tip). It was a twelve hour gig, all in all, and, as always, worth the trip to CT and back.

Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market in the morning – only a ten minute commute for this one.

This was the second Wilmington Park gig of the summer for me so I had some peace of mind as to what to expect. Heading out with time to spare, I was surprised when, on the Blue Route south, my GPS’s estimate of arrival time jumped 45 minutes to exactly 11:00 am, my start time. Sure enough, as I got to about 22 miles away, things began to crawl. I called ahead to Sid, my trusted liaison, to let him know I’d be there “nick ‘o time”. Sure enough, I pulled up to the park exactly at 11 am.

Mack Park

Sid had things ready for me to plug in, under a nice tree, while a group of kids and counsellors were gathering not far away. As I was ready to begin, that group got up and walked away towards a different part of the park, leaving me with a dad and his two kids. (They were at the last gig, too. Cool.)

So, I set in with the four of us. Eventually, another group moved into the park and I invited them over but only five or so girls came over from that group. (Apparently, the rest of the group was being disciplined. Sheesh).

It was a scattered beginning to the gig for me, so I opened up the bag, invited the girls to grab and instrument and play. Eventually, I jettisoned the mike and amp and simple worked with the kids in front of me. One particular girl was all in, and was a delight to work with. As I did Jelly in the Dish, she picked up on the idea, and started making it about being on the beach. It was a pretty creative avenue, so we took off on that, making a day on the beach sounds. I could use this down the line.

Things were scattered on my part, and as we neared the end of the hour, a few kids headed off to the water spray part of the park, and I wrapped things up early, not with a bang but a whimper. Sid and I packed our stuff up, as Sid smoked the joint I found next to my amp.

The travel home was quick and direct, but I felt that I hadn’t done my best on this one. I’ll feel better when the pay drops in my bank account mid-month.

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

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

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

 

Father Folk Stage

It was a miracle that I even got to play a set at this delightful private folk festival, nestled in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, near Mohnton, Pa. I’ve done sets here over many summers, and it always is a highlight of my summer. It’s a festival put on by friends, with camping, a great stage and sound system and folk gathering in a glade down a dirt road and behind some cornfields. It’s by word of mouth, and that presented me with a large problem in finding it this year. More on this later. 

From 2021

I got there nick ‘o time at 6 pm, made it to the sound tent where they said there was no problem and I would go on in about 15 minutes for a 45 minute set. Phew.

I was certainly warmed up from the four hours of gigs already today, but this audience was the one I really wanted to play for: intelligent folkies ready for music. I plugged in and launched with Don’t Call Me Early, July, encouraging the glade to sing along, which, after some hesitation, they did. It was important for this space to hear itself sing, especially with the philosophy behind the festival itself.

The rope swing in the glen.

My strings were starting to thud, but being plugged in gave me the juice to play hard and clean. I really nailed the set with Pay BoDiddley, Giants, Giant, Rosie, Lessons from Pete and got some nice comments from folks as I headed back up the hill.

I tried desperately to find the GPS of the site, combing through old emails and the web site, but that information is strictly held, so I departed Allentown thinking I would be able to remember some of land marks and exits along the way. I set my device on Knauer, PA. I made to the area with about 45 minutes to spare, but found nothing even remotely familiar. I even asked a young girl working at the local “Wawa” and she pointed off in one direction. I was driving off into oblivion around 6 pm and I pulled over to set my GPS to “Go Home”, writing off playing at this festival, disappointed in my not making the gig.

I pulled back on the road and not 200 yards down the road, I spied the turtle logo on a sign. Eureka! There it was, the familiar dirt road heading into the corn field! Amazing. I actually found the gig (or it found me…) Rather mystic.

Allentown’s Pocket Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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