I trekked up to New Hampshire on Sunday for a NEFA conference, in search of gigs in the Great Northeast. Matchbook.com is the site of various artists like me looking to expand into NE. Always a mixed bag.

I met some wonderful artists, including two folks I’ve appreciated from afar. Bill Shontz, from the legendary family music duo Rosenshotz, a fine clarinet (etc.) player, and founder of the Children’s Music Hall of Fame. It’s a new site for finding folk like myself, playing for kids and families. Check it out: www.childrensmusichalloffame.com My music will be up soon.

Another fellow I enjoyed connecting with was Jeff Warner, another member of a duo Warner and Davis. A tape drifted into my hands and ears while booking Godfrey’s. A wonderful folk performer for many years, and, as I found out, son of two folklorists who did alot of work in NC, and collaborated with the legendary Frank Profitt, old time banjo player and man who took it on himself to find and preserve his own family’s and region’s music. Frank was a banjo maker, as well, and Mike Cooney first introduced me to his fretless banjo.

Not many booking folks there, but it’s the first year of the conference. Meeting fellow artists tends to make the event memorable.

Back to Newark for a Pottery Barn Toddler concert – my banjo took a header, so I got some repairs to do. These kids are dangerous! ..but lovable, too. Some familiar faces, including a mom and son who can’t travel in the car without Peanut Butter in the CD player. Glad I can be there to get you through.

PASELA has come out with a video on the arts/education project I just wrapped up this year. Check it out. I wasn’t around for the live taping segments, but it captures the flavor of the experience. http://www.artliteracy.org/pasela-video.html

Off to CT for an Alzheimer’s gig in my old hometown, Madison. These folks like to sing and dance. Why not? Little Feat did a great song – “Old Folks Boogie” says it all. The beat goes on….

I car-surfed I-95 today onto Long Island for my umpteenth toddler tour – crack o’ dawn (pre-dawn, now that the clock’s turned) – and arrived at Roosevelt Fields mall. I’m actually finding the right parking tower – that’s spooky. A small and friendly crowd of moms and kids, and little kids, and babies, too.

I employed the hands-on route today – put the music in their hands early, and then put music on their lips later. God bless the plastic egg shakers! Very parent friendly…. And, as I moved along, I brought out the esoteric stuff. And, as I’ve found with my Alzheimer’s friends, the hand movements makes the music immediate and sensate.

I’ve wondered, while I’m in my “performance” mode, whether I’m reaching the really wee kids, but today I was taken by one girl, perhaps 10 months old, who was transfixed on me and the LIVE music. She set her eyes on me and wouldn’t let go. Makes me ponder the power of music….

Onto Delaware tomorrow, crack o’ dawn….

Election day 2007, and the schools are closed except for the Family Services folks here in North Branford. I got to play for the pre-K up to fourth graders, and it was a mile from my house! I’m used to hopping in the car and driving for hours, but not today!

Tomorrow, Long Island and then to Delaware on Thursday, so it was good to close to home while it lasted.

We traveled up to Succasuna, NJ to play four sets in the Middle School and Elementary School – a long day. Kevin played the first two, then he set off for his evening gig in Boston (a real long day for him) and Wayne drove out for the second two.

I tailed back to Bethlehem for First Night on the Southside at my occasional haunt, Tallarico’s Chocolate. It started slow, but then the chocoholics came in. Some of my wee folk fans showed up and entertained us all with singing and dancing. A good way to end up a day doing what I do best – playing music.

We were off to NJ again today for a doubleheader in Colonia and our yearly visit to Madison, NJ.

The Colonia school featured a 2nd grader dressed like Johnny Cash. As the show started up, I asked him up – he said he played guitar – and adjusted my guitar strap, cranked up the amp…. he started out on “Smoke on the Water”, the band kicked in, and… it… was… great! He knocked it out of the park! I love surprises.

We have played Sabatini school every Halloween forever, and it truly is the best costumed group of kids we run into. This year, in the audience, was John Lennon and both Elvis and KISS were up on stage with us. Elvis shook that thang, and KISS sang “I Like Peanut Butter”, in costume and shades, and the guy’s tongue really is that long! A good way to celebrate a RockRoots Halloween.

Another great New Jersey name! We played the ES and MS today, just off Rt 78 in middle NJ. Yup; it was fun.

Both Kevin and Donnie had gigs the night before and were tuckered out, but they came through like the troopers they are.

Crack o’ dawn tomorrow – yet another great Jersey name Succasunna!

This past weekend kicked off the frenzy of Halloween parties – and I love it. It’s the wonderful opportunity to shuck off our every-day personae, and take a spin in another character. Why not?!

Friday night , I played at a day care facility in Orange, CT, where I played for several spider men, princesses, football players and folks decked out as parents. We raised a ruckus, for sure.

Saturday gave me two opportunities to play, one at a birthday party for Nick in Old Lyme, and for a private party for adults in Madison. It was nice to have a weekend of “local” gigs for a change.

The birthday party in Old Lyme was in a magnificent old house on the main street in this classic Shoreline town. I got to play in the front hallway – great acoustics – for a really good group of kids. One dude appointed himself as roadie, and helped me set up my stuff. Green cake with a rubber chocolate skin – good, though.

The evening performance was a great change, playing for older folks (at least, older than me…) in small sitting room. Nice folks, good food, and every Halloween gadget one has ever seen: talking mummies, ravens, skeleton pirates, etc. I was struck by the fact that older folks like to sing along, whether its “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or my more personal favorites like “Branching Out” and “Giants”. Folk music has always been a social lubricant, and its nice to see it work its magic.

Next week, more Halloween fun and a big RockRoots tour in NJ.

A long drive to Annapolis, MD, but well worth it. Lots of toddlers and moms, one dad. I was particularly amazed by several infants who were totally bug-eyed with the live music, entranced by all the sound, kids and the live music. Amazing!

Just a couple blocks from the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday at Little Silver, NJ. Again, a great name for a town. Donnie picked on the principal, the custodian, as usual, making feel oh, so welcome. Kevin was in his Fidel Castro costume (was it a costume?), Nick in his Jack Bruce outfit, and I still can’t figure out what Donnie is. RockRoots rolls on!

Off to Annapolis – crack o’ dawn tomorrow.

This incredible weather continues. The Saucon Valley CC hayrides were in shirt-sleeve temperatures, and we sang along to Giants, The Cat Came Back, etc. The thing I like especially about this gig is that the families are together. Let’s see: three ninjas, five princesses, four Egyptians, two vampires, an assorted alien or two, Army guy, soccer dude. I love the Halloween season.

We had a good time at the Banana Factory for the families of the Red Door Center. Thanks to Karol and Kristen for putting the event together. One toddler, Brandon, had me autograph his blue guitar. Cool.

I played in the art gallery, and just behind me was a plywood box attached to the wall, oh, about as big as shoe box. The top was painted white. That was it. The price? $2000. I pointed out that my CD’s seem quite a bargain. But then again, if you only sell one at $2000, that’s not bad.

Hayride in Saucon Valley on Sunday!

Well, another summer day in October…. thunder showers and a very interesting sky. I was in Ironton, just off Mauch Chunk Road (one of my favorite-sounding PA names). I did an assembly in the afternoon and then a Book Fair Family concert in the pm. Again, a good time had by all.

The moment that stuck out in my mind was refreshing a connection with Matt, a new teacher at Ironton. Matt is the step-son of my very good friend, photographer of the stars, and band-mate Hub Willson. We both agreed that Hub’s sonic “spider” is the signature of his true artistry; listen to “Spider on the Floor” and you’ll understand.

Matt’s is a story unto itself, and I’ve told his story to some of my friends. Matt worked for a large pharmaceutical company, well-paid, but subject to some heavy philosophical dilemmas. He, and his young family, packed it in, and decided to become an elementary teacher. A mighty decision that really impresses me. Matt – you are a super star in my book. It is about community…

We had really good show in Morris Plains, NJ this morning. Interesting layout with 3th, 4th ,5th ,6th grades on the main floor and 7th and 8th in the balcony. It’s not often we play schools with that grade range in one school, but it worked for us.

Saturday was a picture-perfect fall day for this festival in CT, in my old home town of Madison. Folks were all over the place, at reptile and birds of prey demos, hay rides, food consumption, and, of course, music. It was nice to see familiar faces from my East Wharf summer concerts, and lots of toddlers playing rhythm instruments. Fresh apple cider! Tis the season.

“Let’s Swim Together” was a ball on Friday night; we raised a ruckus and money for Matt’s new bout with therapy. Matt’s dad came up afterwards, and said that Matt’s doing well, looking good and up for the new round of treatments.

I put Matt’s picture on my guitar’s head stock, and the whole thing was video-taped for Matt, since he’s off to the hospital. We had “Shark” bracelets (ala Lance Armstrong’s) and a big production of “Magic Penny” performed by all the kids for Matt’s sake.

It’s great to see a community come together to help out the Bell family, especially those who baked cookies, donated raffle items, hot dogs, etc. Thanks to Christine Haffling for putting it all together.

I returned to Topton School on Thursday – a day between gigs – and signed a bunch of CD’s for the kids that ordered them.

It reminded me of a very funny thing that happens when I was there last month. I’ve taken to asking kids what their stage name is. I’m finding out that more girls have this figured out ahead of time…. One boy, Zeke, said, “I’m Z -man.” That was good. But the next kid told me his real name, and I when I asked him for his stage name, he said, “Bob.” A palpable silence and then the whole place went nuts… You had to be there. The only “Bob” I know would be Dylan, so it’s not overused.

Off to Belvidere, NJ for a benefit concert for Matthew Bell, for whom good friends of the Bell family are sponsoring this event. Two sets this Friday at 7 pm: lots of shaking and dancing and singing. I’m really looking forward to an evening celebrating community with these folks.

What a great name for a Jersey town. I wonder if it ever made it into Dave Van Ronk’s New Jersey Blues tune? Anyway it was good to get the lads out on the road again for another busy assembly season. The 3rd, 4th and 5th grade assembly really rocked – lotsa dancin’ and carryin’ on (educationally speaking, of course).

I had the Tuesday blues on a Wednesday – Nick corrected me – seems Columbus Day threw me off. Easily done…

I dropped in on Shirlene, who lives outside of Hellertown, PA with here husband and fan Dave, many cats and her glorious garden of dahlia’s. Row and rows of knockout beautiful flowers, some ten inches across. Its a slice of heaven to see these wonderful flowers, and to witness the tremendous amount of work that goes into these tubers. She’s in the midst of making arrangements and selling them to make some money for her church. One of my most favorite places on earth.

Kevin, Nick, Donnie and myself did a quick 15 minute showcase for YANJ in Hamilton, NJ this morning, introducing ourselves to a passel of 4th graders and a mess of PTA moms. It went well and it was good to see the lads again. Donnie’s got his own band up and running – checkout the Don Mayer Band site: donmayerband.com/ and Kevin’s off to Boston for his band’s gigs this weekend.

I’m in Bethlehem for the weekend – I’m running a Vintage Open Mike at Godfrey’s – it happens only on a blue moon, or the 5th Sunday of a month. We hope to see all the old open mike vets dust off their “cue-sticks” and come on out.