I was pleased to hear that I will be awarded  for  Distinguished Service NJ Governor’s Award by YANJ. “This award is dedicated to folks with a deep dedication to the work of teaching artistry, and you were an easy choice to receive the honor this year.”

I’ll be headed to the award ceremony in Trenton at the War Memorial Arena on Thursday, May 26th. Cool.

Since 1980, this ceremony has highlighted and recognized the outstanding arts achievements of student and educators in New Jersey.  Award recipients are selected on the basis of criteria established by various sponsoring organizations.

Governor’s arts represent the highest honor a state can confer in the arts. Across the country, governor’s arts awards programs share similar goals. Collectively, these programs acknowledge and showcase the best of arts and cultural communities. They highlight awardees’ statewide achievements—or, in some cases, national or even international successes—related to creativity and/or leadership. They recognize awardees’ visions as well as the talent and hard work they bring to bear in realizing.

Governor’s Awards website: https://www.njgaae.org/
I’ve had the chance to absorb this news and I’m feeling quite gratified, reflecting on the many early hours driving to schools in NJ for RockRoots gigs, songwriting residencies and solo assemblies across CT, NJ, PA and right here in the Lehigh Valley.

RockRoots

A partial list for RockRoots: Kevin Soffera, Nick Franclik, Wayne Smith, Don Mayer, Billy Wear, Craig Thatcher, Beau Jones, Rick Levy, Jeff Biro, Todd Schied, Neil Braunstein and others. I am also thankful for Donna Reckelhoff at Young Audiences of NJ who has really hustled our show to NJ schools since 1991.
YANJ has given me the financial ability to raise my family since 1991, a deep knowledge in the field of Teaching Artistry with college-level workshops, and provided me a rich laboratory to work on my craft as a TA. I have also benefited from being immersed in this community of creative teaching artists and inspired me to create Teaching Artists of the Lehigh Valley. I am blessed.

These Dave’s Night Outs were formed somewhat tongue-in-cheek back when I was gigging quite a bit. Well, not so much anymore as they are evenings when I actually get out of my apartment for some music with friends.

Tonight I got to play with Noah Gibney on his 15th birthday. Noah has been gigging with my good friend Kris Kehr in the Reading area, and is a wildly talented “old soul” kid who sings, plays and performs like someone twice his age (and unlike some folks I know, never get around to). Noah plays piano and guitar, writes some of his own material and, most importantly, listens before he plays.

Noah Gibney

Kris had told me that his instincts are off the chart and I could trust that he could pick up on songs on the spot. So, I had every confidence that I could throw stuff at him and he would respond. He did. Towards the end, I did Stan Rogers’ Giant at him, pretty much in a different tradition, and he added some great sound to the song. He was also open to improvisational techniques that I plopped in front of his ears. (Kris, of course, knows to expect that from me) He started off with a great (though long) version of Stormy Monday. Later on, we did several rondos where we passed leads among the three of us, just like old pros, unspoken on stage.

Kris Kehr

As usual, there were very few folks in the audience, but the conversations were quite interesting, talking about bridges in songs, and other musical esoterica.

It was Noah’s 15th Birthday. Amazing. I love these nights.

 

 

Alex Radus and Dave Fry

I’ve been lucky to present some of my friends who are quite talented songwriters, and Wednesday’s guest, Alex Radus, is no different. I’ve been an Alex fan-boy for several years now. His new album, recorded at Godfrey’s, is called Tributaries, and that was a good point to start from.

I took it as river-like tributaries that have shaped our music but he also mentioned that tribute is part of that equation. Spot on.

I started out with a Mississippi John Hurt as one of my early influences, especially with his two-finger picking. I did CC Rider, although rather sloppily. Alex picked up on that did some fine fingerpicking with one of his tunes. As we moved through the night, the mix of styles and songs was quite entertaining.

I ended up doing Barnyard Dance on my arch-top Martin, my Fountain Hill tune I Can Be… and Take Me To The River. We talked about how our instruments often shape what we play or write songs.

Again, a small audience that included my daughter Rosalie, so that’s pretty good. The conversation was stimulating and Alex’s songs were wonderful. He was a delight to have on stage with me.

This was the last, in-class session with the Big Plans residency. There’s been some attrition over the five weeks so we only had six kids and Rachel, the teacher today. I even had some difficulty keeping some of the kids focused, but that’s all to be expected.

Today I brought in my Peanut Butter CDs to give out and we briefly talked about that process, similar to what we did with Playground. And, unfortunately, the kids had little chance to actually listen to that CD. Pitiful.

I then broke out my purple Strat for today’s session. I got around to figuring out my small Roland amp, bought a new adapter and dialed in a great sound for our song. Chorus, a little flange and some echo. The kids liked it, as did I.

We worked a working arrangement of the song, introduced “the riff” that I coped from a Bruce Cockburn song, sang the pared-down chorus. These kids are not into ‘show-time’, very little volume singing the chorus, and all those wonderful elements that we’ve lost over the last two years. Lethargy. It’s sad but the new paradigm.

We finished of the last verse, with little input from the kids and tried it out. The song’s starting to sound like something and the kids did pick up on that. I then handed out a bag of maracas and some shell shakers. We figured out how to add them to the riff, break the sound into separate sections, with some good results (taking ownership of different parts). We ran the whole thing to 7 plus minutes, good information for me to work with.

We still have to figure out how to present this and video it sometime in the spring. That’s a whole ‘nother story, but I figured out that the next step is to record it, video it and give it back to the school. Hopefully, the kids in sessions will get to hear it as itself, and take some pride in it, and come back to record it with more familiarity.

I like the electric version a lot, a departure for me. The process isn’t over, by any means, and now has taken a different, in-house project for me. I look forward to it. It’s great to have creative work again.

 

Fountain Hill Elementary School

This is the fourth out of five sessions, with some kind of performance down the line to wrap it up. There is some fatigue setting in with the students, especially with the songwriting chores. But, we’re getting there.

I’ve been bringing in a new instrument each time and today I brought in my banjo. We had a great discussion about African drums/roots, and some talk about using a skin head. (ewwww…) But the teacher and I talked about native people harvesting all of an animal in order to survive. Interesting ideas for these kids.

Part of this residency is giving the kids some sense of what I do as a musician. Today, I brought in copies of my Playground CD to give the kids (even though I have no idea if they’ll be able to play it) and discuss how musicians get their music out. We talked about You Tube and other social media and I mentioned radio (again, how foreign that must be to these kids). We looked at the CD and I mentioned how I hired other creative people in the process: musicians, photographers, designer, producer and funders. It was a great exploration.

Before we got into continuing the verse writing, I figured it was time to create a chorus. We talked about how important it was to have something repetitious, give the audience something to do, and, as one girl said, “theme.” Bingo. It’s been running through my mind to have a slow-build chorus, something Tom Paxton has used.

Chorus: I …..    I can be …… I can be anything I want to be.

I figured out a simple melody and we tried it out. I attempted a back and forth call and response (  “I” echoed 3x), I can be (together), and all together on the last one, as well. I tried it out with the girls doing the I and the boys doing the echo. These kids have very little initiative or experience in singing out loud, and with some creative movement/theatrics/emotion. It really never gained steam. Too bad. It’s going to be difficult to get these kids to perform in front of others, and that’s a major part of the final reward for the kids – that they did it!

We finished up the You Tuber,

I use a camera, lights, and a green screen

I’m gonna take my friends to places they’ve never seen

I post vids on my high-tech computer

I’m gonna be a YouTuber.

We started on Music Teacher but things got distracted with the kids close to 5 pm. At least we got another verse, part of another one, and, importantly, got a chorus started.

I chatted with Rachel at the end and we have to figure out how to present the song and the kids, whether in a video, in front of a select audience (things are different these days in the second year of the pandemic), or what. We’ll figure out something.

Another great session with the Big Plans group, though we only came up with one new verse. We did get to go over the two we’ve written already, and I was able to get them to start thinking about performing/acting the words a little more, be physical in our presentation.

We worked on Taste Tester.

I work all day in a Ice Cream Lab

Coco, Cranberry, Bacon, and Crab

I’m not clowning ‘round, I’m no Jester

I’m going to be a Taste Tester -MMMmmm!

My initial exploration (let’s have fun at first, and create a space) was with my bag of strange instruments: rain stick, temple bells, tinker drum, bamboo sticks, and some other weird sonic objects. We played around with them, passed them around and then we created an orchestral piece called Wild Times, an attempt at controlled chaos. The fun part was introducing the concept of silence, counting in on four, playing and ending with silence. (We then changed instruments and did it again.) It was really hard for some of the kids to not play during the silence, but that’s what we are learning in the process. Some control. It was a lot of fun to create this musical chaos – with a sense of control. This was a brand new idea for me, and I can develop this session further. It was a riot! Rich soil.

I was lucky to have Alan Silvestre, a videographer, to document the session, not only to get some promo for Doug Roysdon’s TA projects, but for Alan (a musician, too) to have some artistic fun filming the session. He ended up having a great time. We are limited to presenting the kids in profile or from behind, due to school protocols (I’m not allowed to put material on social media – that’s fine with me…). Some really good stuff happened and the kids were loose. Should be pretty cool. Hate the masks.

As we got the call that we had ten minutes til dismissal (the clock failed on us last week…), I decided to go for the scarves, and create some images for the video. We did Jelly in the Dish from the first week, and the kids were ready and familiar with the process. That made for a much better video session, dancing, tossing and trading scarves, and a final circle (a good closing ritual…) with explosion of scarves. I had a great seat for it.

The kids hustled off to meet their parents at 5 pm. Alan had a great time, Rachel, the art teacher, is great support, felt good about the very quick hour and a half session. Being an artist, ya know. Time disappears. I could do this for a living.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a live gig, so I was a little concerned as to how I would make it through a two hour set. I haven’t been playing much at home, so I was worried about my lyric memory and my physical fitness – especially my hands.

I decided to use the house PA so all I had to bring was a mike, some chords and my guitar and mandolin. Smart move, especially with the incredible parking problems in Easton these days. I unloaded and drove around for about 15 minutes to find a spot half a block away. I was lucky, and, amazingly, I was able to start relatively on time a 6 pm.

My friend Steve Capwell showed up with his harps and that made me relax quite a bit more. As I started out, I could feel my strumming hand feeling some fatigue early on. I decided to mix strumming and fingerpicking and that seemed to help quite a bit. I invited Steve to come up, sit a little bit to my left and play unamplified. With the wooden floors and open space, his sound was pretty good for the situation.

It was a mixed crowd of families, date-nighters, etc. so I was able to mix in blues, folk-rock, country tunes, and the stew seemed to entertain folks. A little girl dancing to the music to my right, occasional applause but an overall good situation. Folks chipped in some nice tips into the mando case and offered nice compliments.

Having Steve on hand made the night for me. I was able to stretch the songs, also giving him a chance to improvise – a symbiotic situation – and the evening went well. Steve’s a real pal. I drove home in the incoming storm feeling good about the gig.

 

Back to Fountain Hill and my Big Plans songwriting residency. We had a good session last week and developed some good connections with the kids and the teacher. Still, it’s hard with these masks, though.

I started with something I picked up the day before at a TA session – setting up agreements with the kids. “We agree” statements – short, clear and vocalized/physical. I went with “tell the truth” and “respect each other” and “listen first”. The Respect one worked well with the crossed fingers (R in sign language) salute from the forehead. That one stuck and we used it throughout the session.

I brought the Thundertubes to do Giants, and it was a good opener. The kids passed around the tubes from each end of the circle and ended up with one girl playing both at the end. Nice. A good start.

I’ve promised to bring a new instrument each time, so I brought my mandolin and used it to re-introduce our rhyming skills with Down By the Bay. I passed the mandolin around as well.

I introduced We Gave Names to the Animals so we could use the format in our songwriting project. It worked well and then we shifted to the white board to try to start on our songwriting.  We’re concentrating  on “tools” used. We hope to be able to use the overhead projector next week to keep the words in front of the kids.

I got a microphone, a monitor, and a groovy band

Same backup dancers and loyal fans

My tunes are sick, a rap music Zinger

I’m gonna be a pop star singer

 

I have a salon filled with hair dyes and afros

I work on fades, extensions, weaves and updos

My clientele are all on the A-List

I’m gonna be a Stylist

 

I kept on looking at the clock and, somehow, it seemed to be staying on 4:26. Eventually, I asked the teacher what time it was, and, at the same time, she got a call from the office wondering where the kids were for dismissal. Seems the clock did stop. Sheesh. So, quickly, we packed up and headed out.

Still, a productive session.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Kids First Child Care Center in Vineland, NJ

This was going to be a challenge for RockRoots. First of all, Vineland is over two hours from the Lehigh Valley, with three vehicles with musicians at the wheel. Second, we had two shows for 120 three/four year-olds and then another for 80 four/five year-olds. These ages present some major situations for me and the band.

I left at 6:45 am for the 10 and 11 am shows. I know a fairly good (non-Philly) route and got there in plenty of time. I’ve played this school a couple of years ago with my solo folk show, so I felt at home. It’s a well-run and friendly group of teachers, with Miss Carole, the founder and principal of this private pre-school. Class rooms are spread throughout a campus of small buildings. We were in the main building, carpeted and filled with great art.

A wonderful and comfortable assembly space.

I set up the PA and waited for the band. Kevin called in to let me know when he’d get there and arrived w/ twenty minutes. Not a problem for us. Nick and Wayne arrived with 4 minutes to spare, and I said to Nick that a call would have been nice. (grrr…) Still, we were ready to go at 10 after, and the little kids and their teachers started coming in.

Three and four year-olds sat in awe of the band, some cupping their ears – only a couple, but understood. I don’t believe many had ever seen such a thing. That’s powerful stuff.

Kevin’s drums set and wall art. Nice!

I started by introducing the players and their instruments, a good and friendly way to ease our way into the show, and give them some things to concentrate on and some knowledge. Then, we did Rock and Roll Music as a band. The teachers were now at ease and ready to have fun.

We rolled through our simpled-down set: African rhythm, Irish mandolin tunes, Fishin’ Blues, Charlie Stone (the vocal trombone got their attention), Mojo and Battle of New Orleans. We’ve been putting in a kids’ song at this point and today we did We Gave Names. Again, simple song for the band (they get to have some fun while I’m dealing with the audience interaction and educational aspects.

I cut out a lot of the historical rap, a few medleys, cut to My Girl (with audience singing – mostly the teachers) and headed for the finale – today it was All Around the Kitchen. Get ’em up and dancing. It worked like a charm. Amazing, actually. The kids were all up and moving, teachers dancing. After a few examples (including the new Car Dealership dance), I bring selected kids (I ask for three and get six… and that’s okay) and have them demonstrate their moves, always surprising and delightful for the band and the teachers. I then do the last dance by selecting a teacher (I always have my eye on the most likely culprit), who, in turn, gets to pick two other teachers. That always amps up the energy immensely and the teachers (especially in this age group) always knock it out of the park. The first show featured the two male teachers, and I remarked that they were Chippendales. That got a chuckle out of the teachers.

We finished up the two shows, got some great thankyous from teachers and Miss Carole, who said she’d like us back next year.

Why does it work, even for such a novel audience?

  1. Let’s face it, a large part of the audience is the faculty and staff. They really appreciate the talent of the musicians, my dry commentary and asides, and the educational content and delivery of the material. We are the real deal.
  2. Even if the spoken material goes over the heads of the little kids, some things stick like city names, instruments, genres, etc. But, they get to see a live band. Life-changing.
  3. The band members are good people and enjoy each other’s company. No small thing.
  4. We show up and, for the most part, start on time, end on time. We are professionals and represent Young Audiences well. Our liaison Donna at YANJ headquarters also is extremely friendly, helps promote RockRoots and can negotiate any weather concerns, schedule snafus in a friendly manner. We are professionals in every way.

The long day and intensity of running two professional and entertaining show, five-plus hours of Jersey driving took its toll and I feel it, even a day later. Gettin’ old, but still gettin’ better at the job I love.

It’s been a couple of years since our last gig at Godfrey’s. We’ve managed a few rehearsals locally this fall, but none with Reid. That’s no big deal. Reid is a rock.

We got together earlier on Friday, checked in on our recent health escapades (old guys, ya know…) and went through the set I had prepared. We were aiming for an hour and a half set, so I did my best to figure out how to balance each lad’s voice, diversify the rhythms, genres, etc. and add in old and new songs. It’s a long process preparing for rehearsals and the gig.

Anyway, it was a fairly good session, and several times we remarked to each other, “Hey, this is a good band!” We were in good shape for the show after three hours together. Amazing, actually. Some of the tunes sounded better in the afternoon, too.

We did an extra sound check with Jason, stepping up himself to cover our show. He had the whole board set up for him from the morning, so he as prepared as could be. Nothing like going into the studio with 12 tracks and a live band. (It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get a good tape of the show. Jason was a bit overwhelmed to think about the recording.)

Choo Choo Cha Boogie, and we are away in style. Don’t Call Me Early, Got What It Takes, Payday Blues, How Can I Miss You and Bloodshot Eyes, all relatively familiar tunes that got us comfortable. Still, often a crap shoot as to who’s lead it is. That’s when we miss the tightness we used to have, or could rehearse several times ahead. Again, old guys with old brains.

Kris did Waits’ Til The Money Runs Out, staking out his corner in this band. Water of Love was a new one for the band, good but not great. The new stuff usually gets the lads’ creativity up. Tornado, Giant and Delilah followed. We were getting louder…

Hub’s spotlight was You Don’t Know Me with Reid and the others chipping in atmosphere. Twenty-four Robbers got me on mandolin for the first time tonight. Jeff followed by stepping out from the drums (catch that?) and fronting the band for Old Cowhand, Ooh, Baby Baby and Too Old To Die Young, last two new songs for the band.

We headed for the final stretch, back on our regular instruments and I did Heart of Saturday Night, another Waits’ tune and a new one for the band. It was solid but their was some fatigue on our parts, and, frankly, the audience. Sluggish applause.

We tried Good Hearted Woman, and, per usual (I get one mulligan), I screwed up the key and we started over again. (Last time it was Angel from Montgomery as a waltz. We actually pulled it off.) I did Santa Assassin, Reid did Shorty (loud) and Lessons from Pete. That came out really nice with lots of controlled spaces for leads and dynamics. We quickly begged for an encore and did a spritely Texas Swing. Good night, all.

Immediately after steppin’ off stage (again!!), a friend and long-time supporter said, “You were too loud.” Yes, we were. We’re old guys who get together every year and crank it up. But she was right, too. Too Loud!

By most standards, we put on a good show and played well. We all could have played better individually, and could have shaped our sound better. It would have been nice to have a better and more complete recording (we’ve got a very small archive of tapes).

The important thing is that we could celebrate our friendships. We are all good, good friends, still able to gather to make fine music, put on a show, and share our scars from the last two years. Deep love, actually.

 

 

This one was on the books for six months or so when Craig asked me to join Dick Boak, Cliff Starkey and him for a concert benefitting the Nazareth Library. It was held in a large hall at a local Catholic parish, complete with a bar (small, small glasses of wine, apparently) and tickets were steep ($35) for some folks. But, it was sold out and the audience was appreciative and listening. I had fun with them.

Dick started out with a short set of his originals on autoharp while Craig backed him up on guitar. Dick was pretty nervous, but, as usual, he pulled it off in fine style. I was up next.

Craig asked for a 20 minute set so I lined up 4 songs: Don’t Call Be Early, Giants, Branching Out and Lessons from Pete.

Don’t Call Me Early is a great opener because it’s strong on guitar, has a chorus and sounds traditional. It also gives me a clue as to how the audience is going to sing along, or, at least, open up my expectations for them to sing.

Giants gives them no choice but to participate. Since there were six sections of seating, I experimented with having each section contribute their spooky sounds and it was a good way for the audience to hear what the rest of the crowd was doing. A little competition never hurts. It went well.

I threw in John Gorka’s Branching Out next. It’s got a sing-along part that’s easy (call and response) as well as some of John’s sly and clever songwriting. It’s a gentle and warm song, and philosophically true for me.

I invited Craig up to finish with Lessons From Pete, and, with a tip of the hat to Pete Seeger, Craig and I pulled it off nicely, with Craig nailing the final lead which got some applause. It was one of the better times we’ve done it. It’s a pleasure to have him compliment me on this song.

Craig and Cliff followed with their set and I got a good chance to hear them as a duo. Cliff’s got great chops on piano and vocals. And then all four of us finished out the night with three songs. Surprisingly, my choice of We Are Welcomed turned out to be the finale. Craig’s familiar with it, not so much Cliff and Dick due to its modal sound, so I laid it out with my guitar and vocals. It was a good way to end the evening, and we got a standing O. Sometimes, I don’t take a second to take these moments in; I’m always a little embarrassed.

I sold some CDs afterward and got to chat with the folks, many of whom talked about their kids listening to my music some 30 years ago. I gave away some of my Peanut Butter CD’s to them to give these kids a Christmas present.

It was a long gig, with set up at 4:30 and breakdown until 10:15. I was beat. Craig’s the one who really stepped up though, due to his recovering from some serious chest surgery in the last month. He is a wonderful friend and a great player. It was nice to play for his supportive audience again.

 

I had booked this gig a long time ago, and, at one point during the pandemic, I was going to do this online. But, in the spring, the events coordinator Jeff Cupo decided to try it live in the library and also broadcast it online to the library’s audience.

I got there in the nick of time, walked in with my guitar and mandolin and was escorted to a large room on the 4th floor. Confident that there wasn’t going to be a big audience, I’m glad I didn’t haul my sound system in with me.

Again, it was a strange gig. I set up on a stage in the room facing chairs socially distanced about 6 feet apart. So much for a nice, cozy fire-side music session. As it turned out, there were only five folks who showed up, along with Jeff and library guard in this cavernous room. A small lap top was set up to my right that broadcast my session.

I was asked to do a general folk music show, so off I went, mixing up my material, chatting about the songs, folk music in general and my strange life as a traveling musician. Any attempt to sing along was futile, especially with masks and the spaces in between folks. I thanked folks for coming out and said that it was especially hard for them in this situation, but I appreciated their presence. I did about 50 minutes, finished with We Are Welcomed.

One gent came up and said that he remembered me from a RockRoots that we did there years ago (I had no recollection of the gig), recognized my name and made a point to come out to see me. That was particularly interesting. And, as I exited the building, two of the ladies thanked me for the show and that they really enjoyed it. Again, that made it all worth the three hours of travel to Elizabeth and back. Jeff would like to have me back for the children’s library, too.

This old classic building was built a century ago by funds from Andrew Carnegie. Apparently, this captain of industry funded many libraries during the early part of last century, part of his vast philanthropic endeavors. Good for him.

 

The Easton Public Market is an interesting place. It’s a large old building with old wooden floors, tall ceiling and vendors wrapping around a central row of more vendors. Lots of interesting stalls, food vendors, etc. with tables and chairs for folks to hang out and eat. It’s quite a novel arena.  I only get to do gig only this a couple times a year. The last time was on the back landing overlooking some tables, due to the Covid protocols, and this time it was inside the market.

I was set up near the rear entrance facing one pizza vendor with a dining area off to my left. It was a weird set up with little connection with the “audience”. I was booked from 6 – 8 pm. There was a good influx of folks ordering food, drinking beer, etc. and enjoying a Friday night out on the town.

I finally had a chance to try out my new SC13E Martin through my small sound system and it was a rocking start. As I found out, the tuner installed in the guitar, when switched on, deadens the output to the sound system. So, as I was setting up, I though that my guitar chord was screwed up. I eventually figure it our, but not before doing some last minute sweating. I also had some adjusting to the volume and tone knobs inside the sound hole, adjust the amp. Anyway, I got started and worked on my sound on the fly.

There were a few folks who came to hear me, which was welcome and I got some applause after each song, though from off in the distance. I played well, though I was still trying to gauge the new guitar’s personality. It has koa wood sides and back, a spruce top, and it’s still pretty stiff, sound-wise, though fairly easy to play. It will be a work in progress.

Folks thinned out at after 7:30, which was good. I was getting fatigued dealing with the circumstances, packed up my stuff and about $45 in tips (not too shabby), and headed back to Bethlehem. It was a tough gig, but it paid well enough, and I learned a whole lot about my new guitar in the process.

Basic RGB

I was looking forward to getting back to my Dave’s Night Out series, especially since last month’s session was cancelled for Covid protocols. Rolly Brown is a world-class guitarist, excellent songwriter and we have developed a friendship over the last decades here in Eastern PA. I had tagged this session: Music Helps, Making Music in the Pandemic. Rolly had developed a wonderful series of live broadcasts online during the pandemic, and now hosts three shows a week, featuring three songs and an instrumental. We had a good chance to disect his philosophy on starting it out, and how it has blossomed into a nice community for his music.

I talked about my route through the last two years with the individual videos/songs that I did over 500 days in a row, and continue now by posting songs from my copious You Tube library. We had a good chance to get it all out and found, as always, a highly intellectual, informative and humour format.

Rolly backed me up on several songs (Simple Gifts, Rodeo Rider, Branching Out, Shoo That Fly, while showcasing several of his original songs and instrumentals. He is a brilliant player and storyteller. We’ve both upped our game during the pandemic.

Of course, there was under 10 people in the audience, several of whom came up to see Rolly. I find it disappointing to not have an audience for my work, especially in my home town.

Pealing the plastic off the pick guard.

I did introduce my new Martin SC-13E, and play a full song on it for the first time (Branching Out). As we sat on stage before the show, Rolly noticed that I hadn’t taking the plastic off the pick guard yet, so we decided to throw that into the show. It was pretty funny and raised some attention on FB. Made in Mexico, it has koa wood back and sides, a nice spruce top and an unique shape to facilitate playing up past the 12th fret. It played really well, and I could feel it teaching me things that all new guitars do. This is going to be a good guitar.

It was a good night spent with a fine guitarist and friend, and I can’t think of a better was to spend my night out.

The RockRoots shows are far and few between these days. As Kevin pointed out on Tuesday, we used to do close to 20 shows a month, often 3 or 4 times a week. This was only the second one this fall. It was a good one, though.

This was a special needs school in nearby Warren County, NJ. There are usually few students and more teachers per student. Today there was roughly 20 kids (mostly boys) from ages 10 to 17, and they were an excellant audience. I was more comfortable with the show’s format now that I’ve done it a couple times since the pandemic, and it rolled well and the band played well.

At the end, I decided to open the floor up for questions, and we were able to talk about how each of us started out playing music at their age, how we play regularly with other bands, that we don’t necessarily rehearse with this band since we’ve been doing it so long. One kid asked if we started playing in order to get girls. That brought a big chuckle from everyone in the gym.

The show was a hit and several teachers and the custodian commented that it was the best assembly they had seen in years. That’s always nice to hear, and something we don’t always get to hear before we leave the school. A good day.

It’s a late Sunday in October and my last farmers’ market of the season. These events have really kept me in the ball game all summer with few festivals and school gig on the books. The Saucon Valley one is a regular one for me and I appreciate the work as do the other vendors. I even got some applause and appreciative waves from several of them.

It was in the low 50’s and mostly cloudy today, but I played well, and, as long as I didn’t stop for long, my fingers did fine. I was able to throw a couple of songs on the fire from my notes – a couple of Beatle tunes, a Bo Diddley song so that kept things fresh for me. It started to sprinkle close to the end, so I packed up a little early. A couple of vendors came over with some nice tips: a bag of mushrooms and a small jug of maple syrup. Yes, yes, yes.

These gigs give me 2 hours of uninterupted practice, working on my material, my vocals, my arrangements and a chance to play for some kids and adults. I’m going to miss these for the winter months.

It’s always an honor to play at Godfrey’s and I appreciate the challenge that it provides. I was looking forward to sharing the stage with good friend Kris Kehr and I decided to bring out the full rack of guitars for this one.

As always, a disappointing turn out here on my ‘home court’ with only about 9 folks in the house. Still, Kris and I put on a good show, lots of good chat and we played really well. I guess all the farmers’ markets and my 365 series had me in good shape.

It was fun to prepare each guitar for particular songs – open tunings, capo placements and use each for different styles of songs. It provided for a good variation in sound. I didn’t break any strings and really enjoyed the differences that the guitars provided.

Kris does his homework and had to prepare for several new songs (for him). We talked after the show about avoiding ‘clams’. He did fine and also afforded me a big comfort zone in presenting the songs.

As always, I’m disappointed that I can’t get an audience here at the club. I did one of the best shows I’ve done in years.

 

Guitars and mandolin: Martin 000-15M (’19), Martin M-36 (’80’s), Republic Tri-cone, Gibson mandolin (’20’s), Martin C-3 (30’s), Sigma 12-string (80’s), Martin 000-1R (’90’s).

I had a long day on Saturday, starting with my last Rose Garden Farmers’ Market of this season, a two-hour set from 9:30 to 11:30 am. It was another spectacular day on the planet and a pleasure to play outdoors. It was a slow day at the market, due to a downtown Bethlehem event, but it was relaxed and friendly, with several friends stopping by to chat. It is neighborhood, after all.

With the recent rash of FM gigs, I’ve been playing strong, working on songs and simply enjoying playing my repertoire, regardless if it’s perfect or not. The time goes very quickly. The tips are a bonus.

I had a birthday party to attend mid-afternoon for my grandson, Jayden close by. I took some time to readjust for a somewhat stressful visit to my former wife’s house for the party. I am not comfortable among them but felt it necessary to connect with my son, his wife and Jayden. I was hoping that other kids would be there so I could play some music, but not to be.

My next gig was a Camels Hump farm for an “Open Gate” event. When I got there, there wasn’t much action. Several snafus had curtailed the responce to the event, so I bided my time and finally played a set in the barnyard, without a PA. A few folks were there, including a young family with a precocious girl, so I mixed my set up with some good adult material and then concentrated on the young family.  As the sun set, I pulled it in, gave out a CD to the girl and headed home. I gave back most of the money to the woman in charge.

A long day.

I got a call from the Madison FM on Tuesday to see if I could fill in for a cancellation, and, of course, I said sure. Let’s drive for 3.5 hours up and back, play for 3 hours for $100. No problem.

I still had a good time since I played well and made some great connections with some adults and a bunch of kids in the process. The first two hours has me playing towards the vendors as the elite clientele goes walking by. About 45 minutes in, one woman tossed in a couple of bucks and I shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, I finally got a tip! Thank you, Madison!” It was taken in good spirit but it needed to be said.

As folks gather on the lawn behind me, I turn my chair around and face the large green. Families tend to set up a little scrum of blankets and chairs, order pizza from the vendor, let the kids loose and socialize. It’s really two gigs in one. The kids come up and dive into my bag of instruments, puppets and scarves and we have a great time.

I am giving out a bunch of CDs these days, especially to the kids and families that interact at close range. I play right to those folks, and it’s important to seal the deal with a CD. Worth it.

The drive home is not so bad, with a fresh stick of podcasts and some adrenalin from the gig. I’m nuts to do this but I love it, for some reason.