Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Song Circle

After much much thought, I killed the Song Circle. The one that I have been hosting for a few years now, in Hudson.

It was still floundering, and I have one more session left, but for all intents and purposes, it died.

I really didn't want to do it. I loved hosting at Rev. It was a coffee house, with an assortment of living room type furniture in several rooms set up in railroad car style. As I was fond of saying, it was like hosting a jam at home, but I didn't have to worry about cleaning or cooking or drunk folk or anything, just gather, smile, and provide an atmosphere conducive to music making. It was fun, rewarding, musical, friendly, welcoming..... I was real proud of what that that circle was, the role it had in the community, the musical collaborations born there, the friendships started.

Then ASCAP said NO. I looked frantically for a place that already paid ASCAP.

And, Red Dot said, Ok, you can come here.

I have had some great times there. Memorial moments. Having the whole bar singing old folk songs, harmonizing with the owner, playing on the patio, having a professional musician share his stuff with us. But lately, no one shows. Or we attract people whose music just doesn't easily fit together, and it feels more like work than fun. Seems like the magic left.


I LOVE playing with other people. I happen to think that music is a team sport.... and when people play together, there is something that happens in that space, and it can only happen at that moment in time with those folks present. That is where the healing is, the connection, the reason.

Now, I also love working on a song, solo or with a team (band) (folks) and taking a song and learning it and developing it and making it sound RIGHT. Love that too. I think maybe, now is the time for me to focus a little more on that....

But sitting with a group of people, playing a song you have never played before, trying out a harmony line or fill on the guitar, fitting a sound into a space that adds to the texture, and everyone 'on the same page', so to speak. Ah. That is close to heaven. It fills my need to be spontaneous, creative, and collaborative.... and I love hearing what other people bring to the tune-- new ideas for old songs.

That is what I loved about song circle.

I knew that I would get my dose of Jam every week. But not lately. And it was depressing to wait for the fun to return  :(

So, I killed it.

But now I look forward to what the next part of my musical journey will be. Developing my solo act? Getting a band together? Song circle in another format, another place? I don't know, but I am sure I will head somewhere..... and it will be an adventure, it will be fun, and it will be creative and musical and something to share out.....

This winter, I will search for my next path....

(In complete disclosure....We also met at Hudson Opera House, and we get a fair turnout there, but, due to administrative constraints, we can no longer have the space)

Victorian Sessions

Sunday, I stuffed my fears into a bottle, and left them on the shelf in the closet while I ventured into a group of musicians that I did not know.... yet.

Wow. Am I glad that I did THAT!!

 What a kind, welcoming, talented group of people I met .... i completely and thoroughly enjoyed making music, and listening to others make music, with these folks!!! 

Another thing to be thankful for.... I've added it to my bouquet of thanks.....

The day before, I hung around the house. Puttered here and there. And finally it was time to go to the gig. 

The gig was a private benefit, and I was asked to perform by a friend of mine who actually asks me to help out on a lot of musical projects, mostly benefits. For some reason, I am never at my best at the things he asks me to do. As a matter of fact, it seems that I just can't pull it off. I should be able to. I have been doing this a long time now. Yes, I still get nervous, fearful, stage frightened, but i just shrug it off. I don't pay attention. I don't let it own me. I know that I have to forget the ME and concentrate 100% on just letting the music come through me... the music is the main thing. That almost always works for me these days.

But not usually when i work for this certain man, and I can't tell you why. And this day was no different. I sang 'Wagon Wheel' and that was fine. Then I wanted to do 'I Got You Babe'. Couldn't find my start note. Couldn't find the melody!!! Wow, I sing this song all the time, what is wrong??? I stopped, made a joke and restarted, but it wasn't much better. 

Later, after the presentation, I sang some more off mic, which was ok, but I couldn't GET into it, if you understand me.  My friend complimented me (a rare occurrence!!! and much treasured......). Later, he even thanked me via email and implied he would call me the next time something comes along..... and my other friend gave me some other excuses i could use....

But there is no excuse. I don't know why that sometimes happens. It happens less these days, but it still happens, and so, when it does, it really really really gets me down.

So Sunday, the next day, I was invited to a jam. I had indicated I would come, and they were expecting me. I have known about this gathering for a while, wanted to go, but felt really shy about it. I have been invited to other musical gatherings where I knew no one..... sometimes, it seems more like I was invited so I could listen to others play, not so that I could participate.... and that is ok, but a dissappointment if I thought i was going to make music with some new folk! 

The last one had been this past summer, and most of my time there, I felt like a fish out of water... I didn't know anyone, and they all knew each other. There was a few people who play together quite a bit, who just kept playing and playing, and would throw the ball at me but take it right back, later making comments like, 'we don't want to be the only ones playing', while they just kept going, not giving much opportunity for others to give a song. No one was mean or impolite, and I was likely overly shy, but, still, the feeling of not belonging was very strong.....

So, it was with that background that I ventured nearly an hour south, by my self, to the Victorian Session. I had gotten directions, I got assurances that YES, they really wanted me, and I easily found the property. But there were several buildings. Some cars, but not a 'group of cars up by the house'. 

I tried texting, calling, facebook, but I didn't have a good enough connection. So I went up to the house. The man at the door said, I don't know if they are having it today!!! He also said, they usually don't start til 4 (the announced start time was 1!!). So I left and went to town and had a bite to eat....

Just as I was heading out of the driveway, the folks, who had been visiting at another place on the property, came out, and saw me drive away.

The host facebooked, Come back!, but I didn't have reception and didn't see it.....

So, I went to town. I ate. I seriously contemplated heading home.

But I went back. I was warmly greeted. One of the hosts, as soon as I had my guitar on, wisely asked me to play a song he had seen me play at an open mic (i did not know him at the time....). I did it, it felt good, and I was asked to play another, which I passed on, deferring to the other folks who wanted to lead a song. But he asked me to play another song, pretty soon. And another. And I was feeling very very welcomed and very very appreciative of the musicianship that existed in that room. And privileged to be a part of it. The music being made there was simply SO good and SO much fun..... the comradeship!! It fed my soul to be in that room, listening to and making music. 

I was so excited, that listening to the tapes, I was loud and obnoxious and talkative and laughing.... but if you know me, i guess you know all that too.... at one point, I think I was thinking about this being 'home' in some sense, making music with people I just met! ....But I know that most of my home-feeling-situations, involves making music.... and, again, that reminds me that music is a connection between people. Sometimes a profound connection, sometimes just comfortable..... but a connection. Always.

Another item in my bouquet of thanks.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Music on the Trail

Wow. Flying home now. Thinking of a lot of things. Thinking about good friends from far away and fun times. Let me talk a little bit about that here. I am going to try to NOT use names, for fear of leaving someone out.

I came into Seattle on Thursday. Thanks to several very wonderful people,  got to where I was going, watched a house concert at a great friends house and prepared to get ready to ride to Half Moon Bay.

Caravan starts on Friday night at the home of a Rusted Couple well known for their Rusted parties around the Sacred Rustie Campfire (only a few of these exist in the world. One was recently removed, from Saratoga Springs Hilltop, the traditional site of Rusted lore). Laughter, hugs, joyful greetings and introductions are heard throughout the evening. Some of the usual suspects are no where to be found, because Bob Dylan is playing in Seattle. But overall, a good group of folks who have a lot of love for music, for neil, for each other.

We make music that night. Guitars are passed around, songs are sung. Seems like that was a long time ago, and I am not sure, but I think that we did not just stick to Neil, but included all sorts of acoustic songs including originals. Maybe somone will correct me....

The food, Scott Youngs spaghetti recipe, is absolutely delicious. Slooooooowly we start to wander off in search of a place to lay down and catch some sleep. My spot is good for someone who doesn't need much sleep, but that is not me..... LOL. I am in the center of the house, and people coming and going out/to the bathroom/in the morning disturbs my sleep, but it is all good. I am leaving down the coast in the morning with one of my best all around buddies to see my best musical hero. And we will be making music all the way. Heaven.

Oh, I should have made this as I traveled. It is all so distant. I do know that, as per our usual, we ambled down the coast, making stops to fill growlers at select breweries for the party in the evening. We also have several favorite places to visit, like Hug Point and Oceanside. There is the spectacular Northwest coastline all the way down, visable when traveling the slower Route 1. The stop at Chesters, the best oysters on the coast, as merriweather says. The (nearly) daily stop at  Fred Myers to grab something we forgot to pack, a jug of water, a snack for the road.

And at night, a walk on the beach, hopefully while the sun sets in the west, while we all discuss our days and what we saw and what we did. Every night a different team makes a SPECTACULAR meal.

The weather this trip was spotty, but really did not much affect us. It was usually warm and hazy much of the time, with that drizzly Northwest style rain happening most days, if not all, so the raincoat was important. Except for one evening, the rain did not affect the party at all. It did, however, come down real heavy during one evening, disrupting the sleep of most caravaners!! But we soldiered on.

There are a few things I absolutely LOVE about caravan. First, the people. It takes a certain sort to want to drive down the coast, camping with a group of (the first time) strangers. You have to be tough, as it is a gruelling adventure. Little sleep, lots of driving and things to see, cooking and clean up every evening, interesting personalities (multi cultural to boot) that sometimes don't travel in the style you personally prefer (my first trip, we decorated our cars. Mine said, 'I need a crowd of people........', planning to add the 'but i can't face them day to day' when that applied, but it never did. :) lol).  But caravan is an adventure, and for the OPL/IRF/BSB part of the trip, you may frequently hear mini caravan reunions happening. There is a feeling that develops between people on the road that becomes a tie that binds, in wonderful ways! I love the people I caravan with. Love.

And then, I love to travel and I love to camp and I love to MOVE, and I get plenty of all of these traveling down the coast.  It is a vacation that suits me to a T. I get mountains and views and good food and ocean and BIG trees!!! I spend all my time in a car or in the a yurt sleeping or in the open air, but MOSTLY in the open air. Soooooo good for the soul to spend LOTS of time outside. I love it. Love.

And then, there is the music. Every night. Around the campfire. There are loud, rocking strummers; quiet, soulful players and lots of singing. We do a fair share of Neil songs, but also originals, folk songs, classic rock. It is our opportunity to make some of the best music that we will make, sitting there, under the stars (sometimes clouds), sitting around the fire with those wonderful folks we are traveling with. I hope someone made some videos of some of the sounds we put together those evenings. Those are special times, very intimate and beautiful. They feed my soul, my mind, my heart. I love making and listening to caravan music. Love. Love. Love.

And then, after getting pretty accustomed to these small group sessions, we head into OPL/IRF. People! Laughter! Greetings! Never being able to finish a conversation before i see yet another person i must speak to!!! Oh. My. It tends to be a bit overwhelming at first, but soon I am into the groove. After all, i like ACTIVITY!!! LOL.

This year, I share responsibility with two others for the OPL experience. One bringing and setting up needed equipment, but my best buddy and i have been working on strategies for keeping things moving so that all players are able to do what they had planned to do for a set. I am a bit nervous. I have a (day) job where I am constantly making decisions and telling others what to do, so it is not a difficult task for me. However, my rustie friends don't take kindly to direction and my group role has not been one of leading. But we knew what we had to do, and, to use some of Pegi Youngs words, braced for impact.

What a PLEASURE to work that night!!! We gave most acts a 30 min warning, reminding them to be at the stage for the last song of the act ahead of them, tuned, and it HAPPENED!!! Each act was given a time to end (ok, i missed a few) and a time piece, and without exception, cooperated, often with a smile!!! In the end, we started the electric set 10 minutes earlier than planned! People sounded great, the crowd sang along. If only we could package up the positive energy in that room that night!!! Thanks to ALL!!! It truly is amazing that people, without practice together, can pull this off time after time, with love. Amazing evening.

IRF was up next, on Friday night. The meal was great, the people wonderful as always, but the magic was not in the air. When we first started to do the International Rust Fest, 18 years ago, Saratoga Springs Campground in Saratoga, CA was a perfect venue. About 15miles away from where Neil and Pegi Young held their party for the BSB performers, we partied under the sky in 'Neil Country', with the redwoods above us smelling like heaven, the sacred rusted fire on Hilltop where we made burnt offerings of pumpkins carved with neil pics, electric music from rusted performers shaking the ground.

Now we party on astroturf, no amplified music allowed and the firepit is one of those moveable circles. But rusties are still together. We are still talking and laughing and making music. Perhaps we can find another place in Neil country?

Then we head into the third leg of the trip- BSB. Great shows. I think, besides Neil and Pearl Jam, my favorite part was Tom Jones! LOL. Guilty pleasure.

Music. Really, music is what brings this group of people together. The making of it. The listening to it. The love of it. Music. I think many, if not most, would refer to music as an integral part of their lives, their religious expression, perhaps. It certainly is a fine foundation for some amazing friendships I have made. I love these two weeks, with these people, on the West Coast, usa, making, listening to and discussing music. Love. Love. Love.


I just read a quote about Neil Young on Facebook. It has to do with looking and observing and attending to love as a guiding force. It doesn't surprise me that those who go to great lengths to hang around each other and/or follow his shows are also big on the LOVE thing.

Love. Look for it. Embrace it.

Six Lessons Learned from Neil Young about Making Music

I have watched Neil Young a LOT. 109 shows and counting, as well as innumerable videos- solo, with bands he works with and one offs, such as joining someone on stage at the Bridge School Benefits.

People often remark that when he enters a group, the energy level increases, the musicianship skyrockets and he takes it all up a few hundred levels or so. LOL. This year at BSB, I watched carefully. Smiling, he approaches the other musicians on stage and almost HANDS them some energy, with his playing and his dancing and his smile. The people playing with him start to respond. There is a palpable increase in everyones ability to put the music out there, in a way that touches the players and the audience. Lesson one.

When Neil plays a show, there is always a reason behind what he is doing, what songs and stories he uses, even the shirts he wears. The entire show is a piece of art. Lesson two.

I think that art is the expression of the human truth that we live, the common and utter truth of being a person. Everytime Neil is on stage, he tells the truth about life as he sees it, what is on his mind about the world and the way things are.  Telling the truth is Lesson three.

Neil sings the songs he believes in at the time, and for that reason we can believe them too. Lesson four.

I once heard a story from a man who played the warm up band for neil. He said that Neil told them to play for the people in the parking lot, make the sound big through how you use your energy that way. Lesson five.

Dont listen to the critics, don't listen to your friends, don't listen to other people about your art. Listen only to the muse, she is your artististic spirit guide. As Ryan Adams once said, Just Make Art. Lesson six. And I am sure there are more....                 

Bridge School Benefit and a little bit of healing

Every year, I take the same vacation. I travel from Seattle, WA to Half Moon Bay with 10 to 20 of my good friends, or good friends soon-to-be. Every year, I am a little afraid that what I look forward to all year will lose its magic.
I am happy to say that has not happened in 8 years. As a matter of fact, it keeps getting better.
There is an ultimate goal to the trip..... seeing the Bridge School Benefit, and Neil Young. This show is always a celebration, of the kids who attend the school and most definitely, of music. Those of us who tend to travel the globe to see Neil (and other rusties.....  I would not do all this travel if not for seeing my friends), also have been impressed year after year watching Neil and Pegi and the love, respect and appreciation they so obviously have between them.
But now, we are told they are divorcing. I feel like an adult child who has just been told my parents are separating. I sorta understand, because I think that their life together must have been difficult. Raising a severely disabled child, the work that brings one away more often than not, the idea that Neil is difficult, etc. But one can only hope that they remain friends, and that the BSB can continue.
The first day of the show, Pegi, looking happy, thanked the wisdom dancers who bless the stage prior to starting, and said a few words before announcing that she would be playing tonight and leaving her other duties to a woman (i didn't catch her function) and her son Ben. Ben introduced Neil through his communication box. Neil came from the left side of the stage (late.... said he was in the shower), but everyone else came from the right. Hmmm...... Two songs and left, and someone else introduced Pegi. We fans of the Benefit worried about what seemed fractured. However, our concern increased when the only person to join Neil at the end of the evening for the 'Grand Finale' was Eddie Vedder. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......
Continued the next day in much the same fashion. This time when Neil left the stage after his first mini set, he started to leave to the right, looked up, saw Pegi, turned on a dime and headed left. During his closing set he made numerous musical errors, such as starting a song without putting ANY harp in the holder, messing up chords, saying that he was distracted and laughing. He also laughed about having to 'dominate' and wanting his guitar to go louder. He never appeared to be anything but happy, though. And I noticed Pegi standing at the stage entrance (I got to see the show from row 4), and this time, when neil asked for help for the last song, Pegi and many others came out to join him, and all singing and smiling. The great little thing though, is that Neil and Pegi did their traditional ending of the evening, with Ben between them..... Neil says, 'Say goodnight Pegi', and Pegi says, 'Goodnight Pegi'. They laughed and hugged and walked off the stage.
Phew. I hope they can continue to be able to pull that off and Neil and Pegi can work together for that show, for the Bridge School, for their children.