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.

 

Young Audiences scored me a couple of summer gigs in Wilmington, DE. I was looking to get out of town anyway. It was another 90 degree day and I’m lucky to have a air-conditioned vehicle.

When I got there, I met up with the liaison for the recreation folks in town, working with the big theater outfit as part of their community outreach. Seems Sid knew of me from The Philly Folk Fest, having worked on the Archives Crew. We had quite a few common friends, and struck a great conversation about Fest as well as David Bromberg’s moving to town.

Father Tuck Park

Father Tuck Park is situated in the neighborhood Little Italy and I enjoyed catching up on the lay of the land. Big Catholic church up the hill from the park. We set up in a shady glade with Sid’s small generator purring away. I didn’t expect any kind of crowd and was willing to forgo the sound, but we went with it anyway. It turned out that having a presence in the neighborhood was important.

There were only a mom and young daughter and a daycare teacher with two girls and a young boy. It doesn’t matter since I work with what I got. Still, its hard for the kids to relax when it’s such a small group. The two girls eventually loosened up nicely and were dancing at the end. The mom was a former preschool teacher so she and her daughter were already primed.

It was a long day, with three hours of travel and an hour show, but worth it to soak in some of Little Italy on a hot day. I’ll return later in August to another Wilmington park.

 

I returned to a nice daycare center on the northside of Bethlehem for three sets: K and 1st, toddlers, and the older kids. Each set provides its own challenges. We were on the lawn on the side of the school, made in the shade on a hot day.

The first set with the K’s and 1st graders is always a gas.  The K’s are still adjusting socially, so they don’t really know how to sing along, but the 1st graders are ready to rock. The toddlers are there to observe, so I play to the teachers, and they get it. The older kids gave me something extra to work on today.

I always learn something from every gig, and I stumbled upon an interesting way to engage the tweeners at a kids’ assembly. The older kids don’t like to be played down to, while the younger kids are ready for anything. Today, I started out not playing guitar and talked about body sounds. I started out with my hands routine, different ways of snapping, rubbing, clapping. I expanded that to knee slaps, mouth music, and others. I then invited one of the older girls to come up and lead the “orchestra” and she launched right in with a great variety of claps, rhythms and more. She took charge and everyone followed along. I asked an older boy to come up, and sure enough, he responded with a great set of sounds and rhythms – mostly call-and-response – including the ole under the arm pit fart sound. Classic!

I took some time to point out what had just happened – the creativity, the spontaneity, the leadership involved. I gave up my role and became a participant. The teachers were surprised as well.

As always, at the end of each session, I asked what the kids liked (Tutti Tah, Peanut Butter, Giants) and then asked the teachers what they like best. Those responses are really enlightening for me and I think valuable for them as well.

 

Our last RockRoots of this resurrected Spring season was at a summer recreation program in central NJ in Union. We set up in a pavilion in a large park, and started on time at 11 am. The kids were seated on the concrete in front of us, fairly close, and, I also encouraged the counselors to come up and sit in with the campers. (For the most part, they did and helped with their participation.)

I still stumbled over some of the monologue, but it’s been definitely an upgrade from the beginning of the spring. We played well, though Wayno was a little loud for having the kids so close. The Peanut Butter do-wop, as always, breaks any remaining barriers between the old white guys playing strange music and the young urban kids in the audience. But since these are kids who elect to participate in a summer program, these kids are open and ready.

I decided to stretch the session with some questions from the kids and this always fascinating. “Are you famous?” “Did you ever play on a stage?” “Have you played around the world?” etc…. I particularly like that we treat these kids’ interactions like adults. Several kids came up afterwards with some nice personal reflections, proving that we made a difference with our presence.

We finished up with All Around the Kitchen, with the kids coming up with some old favorites (The Dab and The Floss) but came up with some really nice new ones with curious names as well. The final one brought up some of the counselors who sealed the deal with some very funny ones (The Ace and The Patricia). I’m glad we put in the extra time in this kind of situation. The counselors loved it as did the kids. We done good.

I hit a ton of traffic, ironically here in PA just 10 miles from home. I had to add on an extra half hour to my return from New Jersey right here in the LV. Creeping NJ, as I call it. It was a good way to finish the school year with RockRoots. I love these guys.

 

I was set to kick off the Summer Series of Educational programs at our local PBS TV station on Tuesday – two shows at 10 and 11 am for a decent amount of money. There were vax and mask mandates for the building but that was fine with me. I got to the studio in plenty of time and, with few families signed up, we decided to ditch the sound system and go acoustic. Cate, my good friend and educational liaison for the station greeted me warmly as ever. I set up and waited.

A few minutes after 10, Cate came in and said that the few families that showed up didn’t have vax papers and left. I was disappointed but quickly said, “Can we do it outside?” Cate said why not and quickly scrambled to tell the families walking away. With the help of the crew, we set up on a large patio out front of the station and gathered the few folks for the show.

My view of the Steel Stacks arena.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day and the setting was wonderful.  I introduced myself to the three moms and five kids. I opened up my bag of instruments and started in with I Like Peanut Butter. Away we go! The next 50 minutes were quite rich, and as I worked with these folks, Cate and other members of the staff were delighted that we were able to save the situation. They took lots of photos for later promo.

I gave away a bunch of CDs, autographed them and then waited for the folks to show for the second show. In the meantime, Cate and I had a great chat, talking about my TA skills and experiences, her time as a Catholic school teacher and my recent viewing of the Fred Rogers documentary “Would You Be My Neighbor?” Eventually, we realized that no one was going to show up for the show, so we wrapped up my equipment and I headed back to the car.

As I was writing up my set list for the day, I realized that I need to get some of my material back in shape from a two-year layoff. I Wanna Be a Dog wasn’t on the tip of my brain anymore, and I had to listen to my CD to remind myself about The Bear Hunt, both of which were “no brainers” just a few years ago. I’m getting older.

I felt good about the session, Cate’s support of my work with the station, and the beautiful day.

Cate also cut me a check for a much larger sum of money, since TV-39 wasn’t going to do the big series during Musikfest this year. She more than doubled my fee for today. I am blessed.

I got a last minute gig at the Easton Public Market on Friday, filling in for Dina Hall. My good friend Steve Capwell picked up on the information and told me that he’d be there. That was good news.

It was a particularly slow night for folks hanging out, chowing down and socializing at the market, but I set up and got started at 6 pm for my two hour set. Steve brought his portfolio of harps and we set right in. As always, Steve has a good set of ears on him and plays with taste, and, even better, not at all if the song calls for it. We played well and Steve’s presence surely helped the evening pass quickly, in spite of a small audience.

There were a few families there, and as the young daughters started to bop to the music, I engaged them and gave them CDs. One girl said that the family was on their way to Virginia in the morning and the mom said that the Peanut Butter CD would be welcome.

My friends Mary and Mike Ciocco showed up early – great supporters of local music – and I was surprised and glad to see them. They had some noodles and wings and then headed off to Godfrey’s for Jack Murray’s gig.

Not much of a gig, though the money was good and I had a chance to play music with a pal.

I was looking forward to spending some time on stage with my friend Joey Mutis, aka The Electric Farm. We have always shared a certain repartee with each other, our musical influences and many times listening to each other’s bands.  We are close to brothers.

Again, it was a small audience with several Joey fans in the house. Joey seemed a little more unsettled tonight, though he came through with several new (to me) songs. I started with Ground Hog, Rosie is a Friend of Mine, It’ll Be Me and closed with We Are Welcomed, with Joey filling some nice leads.

This particular audience had very little to say, and I admit somewhat put off by that. Usually there’s some interesting reflections that spur the artists’ conversation. Joey was a little scattered and I felt that made the audience a little skittery, too.

One interesting question came up at the end: What song would you play as your time ran out? Joey sang a little of “She’s Leaving Home” from the Beatles, among others and I chimed in with Here Comes The Sun, explaining its mystical beginnings for me, playing a really good Martin for the first time. Upon reflection, I also thought that I’d like to play it perfectly for the first time, at the end of my life.

Still, we got some thumbs up from the audience for the evening and the series, but I came away somewhat disappointed. So it goes.

A weekend of return visits to my old haunts – the Emmaus Library hired me to play two hours from 11:30 to 1:30 on the front lawn as part of their Summer Reading Program Kick-off. It was unseasonably windy and cool so I was glad I had my sweatshirt on. I set up under a pop-up tent, decided to eschew the sound system and just play for folks stopping by. There were food trucks, outdoor and indoor games, and a fairly good amount of families stopping by. I launched right in with one little girl and her mom, raring to go. (It seems she was really looking forward to seeing me, and, in fact, was right up front, tuned in for over an hour.)

I opened up the small bag of rhythm instruments, engaged kids, toddlers and parents from the get go, interacting with everyone. The library staff tending to other tables nearby all were picking up on the vibes. Over the course of the afternoon, I gave away lots of CDs just to get the music out. Things got quieter later on. Next time I should start earlier in the morning.

All in all, everyone had a great time, and, as expected, the library staff was tickled with the activities. I was glad I did it acoustically and had the opportunity to resurrect a few more tunes from my old repertoire. Skip To My Lou, Bear Hunt and other.

I was paid what I asked for and what I deserve for these kind of public gigs. Off to Pottstown for a family birthday picnic.

It’s been several years since I’ve last played for the Holy Infancy parish and I was pleased to return this year. I’ve been playing at the school for 14 years, many times in the old school down on 4th Street, a block from home. They’ve moved up the hill to a very nice facility and they asked me to play inside in the cafeteria. (There was lots of activity out in the lots around the school and church. I was fine with having a small footprint.

It was a hot day and I was fortunate to play in the air-conditioning. I had a 7:30 – 8:30 set, a little late for some families, but there were a few friendly faces from my assemblies at the old school, and they made me feel quite welcome. A few teenage girls were gathering so I invited them to move closer. They started asking me for Bear Hunt, Cat Came Back and others. I realized these teens were once in first and second grade; they actually knew the songs better than I did. Pretty cool.

There were a good number of young families with little kids, so I broke open my small bag of instruments to share and we had a good time dancing and running around the stage. I eventually got out a bag of scarves and away we went. Toddlers, teens and a few adults having some food and drink in the back. I wrapped things up after about 45 minutes.

The principal thanked me, gave me a check (a first for me) and we figured times were right for a return assembly in the fall. Good Neighbors.

It’s been a nice rebound of spring gigs for RockRoots and we finished our spring tour up at McGinn ES in Scotch Plains, NJ this morning. Luckily, it was an easy hour-plus drive from the Lehigh Valley across 78, and I set up early. We were booked for two assemblies at 9 and 10 am, with ~250 kids per show.

The first show was for the K – 2nd grades, some of whom had never been in an assembly before. It was fairly noisy, but the kids pulled it in eventually. They were fine. Lots of dancing at the end, and the teachers loved it.

The second show was for 3 and 4th grades. I was able to lift the educational level with these kids, and I think the PTA women and the principal appreciated it. We played well, and I think I finally got most of the monologue back in shape over the last three months.

There was a big traffic jam on 78 in PA on the return trip but I had some great Little Feat tunes to keep my mind satisfied. It’s good to be back on the road.

The good folks at Christ Lutheran in Hellertown have asked me to play for their first summer service for several years now, usually a salute to the graduating seniors in the congregation and for the kids. Only three kids today.

I picked out songs from three of my gospel buddies: Bruce Cockburn, Pete Seeger and John Gorka, adding on Simple Gifts at the end.

I had prepared Creation Dream as an instrumental prelude, but the pastor began with his notes, prayers, etc. When he introduced Turn, Turn, Turn and walked towards the side door, I called out that I hadn’t done the prelude, that I was going to do it, and I said flippantly, “Go ahead back to your office, I’ll do my song.” There were chuckles, and I kinda surprised myself. It was okay with Pastor Phil. I did a decent job on the song on my new SE Martin.

I then quickly went into Turn, Turn, Turn and played it strong and the congregation stepped up as well. For the Offertory, I brought out John’s Good Noise and delivered a solid gospelesque version of the song, getting the congregation to clap along on the last choruses. It sounded great, and served up some energy. I finished with Simple Gifts with the audience singing along, and then as an instrumental as folks headed out.

I hung around for a bit as some elder folks came up to say hello, share their remembrances of my past gigs, and some common friends. I headed down to the buffet in the basement, talked with Pastor Phil and some other parishioners. It was a very nice gig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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