Saturday, September 23, 2017

Catskill Farmers Market gig

Last night, after work, I rushed over the bridge to Catskill to sing at the last Catskill Farmers Market for 2017. Ok... I did not RUSH because the line to cross the bridge was literally a mile long... and moving SLOOOOOOW....

But I get there, and there is like five farmers and a couple crafts people and maybe five customers. I guess I am getting spoiled.... there was a time in my playing life where that would be just fine. But as I am looking around, I am primarily thinking, 'Is it even worth me setting up?'. You know, I have a strong sense of commitment... if I said I would do it, here I am... and I set up. A gentleman passing by said, oh, we are going to get some music? I tried hard not to sound as annoyed as I felt when said yes, I think so....

I was going solo. Rick decided he had something else he needed to do, and I am thinking about how smart he was to cancel as I strap on my guitar. When I play with someone else, it doesn't bother me that the venue is empty. I don't know why. But when I am going solo, I feel silly and exposed and embarrassed. But I came here to sing, and I open my mouth....

By the second song, I had a few people sitting at picnic tables, some eating dinner, but all listening to me. Smiling. Singing along. Rocking to the beat. And staying past finishing their dinner. More came. Some were families and the kids ran around as people sat and listened. I am not going to tell you that I grew a crowd.... but I will tell you that I sang for 90 minutes and kept the people who were there, THERE.

It is a beautiful setting, Dutchmans Landing. A piece of land that juts into the Hudson River, which is a mile wide there, so the river is all around the park. And this was sunset. And one of those beautiful early fall days when summer is still trying to hold on. And I sang... My amp is sounding great on the vocal channel, but the guitar sounds a thin as a plastic guitar (ok, it is composite... but still....). After a few songs, I discover the error and correct it, and I don't know about my audience, but I welcomed the better sound. And I sang. They were paying as much attention to the originals as the songs they knew. Couples with dogs. Women with kids. A few single men sitting on top of picnic tables. All listening. I could not have asked for a better 'listening room'!!!

After a while, I was getting surprised that no one was leaving, and wondering when I could stop! LOL. Then, I remembered, like someone making a comment in my mind--, 'Always leave them wanting more'.

So, I announced my last song, said something about being back next year and congrats on the last day of the market and started to pick up. People came over to me to put money in the bucket and talk to me about their enjoyment of this evening. That, of course, is the butter on the bread. Yeah, I enjoyed it too!

Another lesson learned. Don't judge a book by its cover or a market by the sparseness of the venders.... lol!!!

Today, I sing with Mike and Brian for the Lighthouse Preservation Organization, out in the middle of the river. My favorite gig. Singing songs to a happy bunch of people standing on a rock in the middle of the Hudson River is just a wonderful way to spend a couple hours. I look forward to it.

Then on Sunday, I will head down to Rhinebeck, where I will participate in their 'Porchfest'. I know a lot of my fellow players, so even though I am solo, I should see a bunch of folks I know. The two gigs I had with Rick this weekend were both cancelled... the bedraces (look up YouTube videos to see what that is about) and a Blues Brunch (the restaurant has refrigeration problems), But we start playing together again at the Austerlitz Fall Festival on October 8.

I am surrounded by crows this morning as I write this on my screened porch. That is generally a sign that the muse is with me. I hope that is true today. I hope that music can use me and give people a good time (while I stay out of the way). That is what it is ALL about....

Monday, September 4, 2017

Playing a Private Party

What a fine day it was yesterday. Rick and I had two gigs... one at the Schenectady Farmers Market (RAIN!!) and one, a labor day party at someones residence.

My first house party for a total stranger. It never occurred to me to be worried about it until a friend said, will you please give me the phone number and address so if you don't reappear, we have something to tell the police.

Ok, well, in todays world, I guess that would be something to think about... but I would prefer not to think that way.

Nevertheless, I drove to the place a little earlier than I had to, to check it out. All the neighbors had long roads back into the woods, and I did get a little weirded out by that. But then, yes, here is the house, with tarps up in the back yard and lighting like a place that is planning to have a party in a little while. Whew!!! OK, they sure don't look like axe murderers!!!

We pull in, get our guitars and head to the back door. (At every new place I play, I always get my guitar out of the car and carry it with me to find where to set up. It acts like a calling card. I don't have to say, I am the musician. People take one look at you and point the way.....!) There is a gentleman there cooking and yep, he is the host. He directs us where to go and there is that absolutely, terribly, uncomfortable few minutes when all the guests are eyeing you while you set up. You try to be nice and answer questions, but you are really thinking about, Where did I put that cable now? Or... how did that A string get THAT far out of tune? Or...whatever.

Then, set up and ready to sing. We start our usual set list. We get a little interest in Folsom Prison, but, in short order, we have cleared the room.

Oh oh.... We made sure we were quiet, background music sort of thing, and of course, that is not the best for sound quality. People are filling plates of food and leaving the room... for where? I don't know. Finally, the hostess comes in and says, come outside with us, grab a plate and eat....we are having a blessing and a bagpipe player out back. So we do that. Everyone listens intently to the player and there is a moment of silence while Amazing Grace is played. Then he breaks the somberness with a joke song and everyone laughs and goes about having the party again.

We go into the living room and eat and chat with folks. Now people are warming up to us. A young lady comes over to ask us to back her up while she sings for everyone. Sure. We chat about that and get our plan and I hand her a mike. It is not too loud, and and we turn up, and she has a great voice and a good manner to her and she does a wonderful job on Me and Bobbie McGee. Yeah. We leave the volume up and continue to play for the next 90 minutes without a stop. Now, I can hear people saying, Oh, I love this song! There is often a smattering of clapping after songs. People stop what they are doing and grab someone for a little dance at the next one. Some smile and sing along. Lots of foot tapping. Even more smiles. What a good feeling!!!

As the party wound down, we are left with just the hosts and more time they have already paid for....So we played one last Neil Young song for the host, (who had given me permission to sing as many Neil songs as I wanted throughout the night), and packed up and went home, feeling really fine. Really fine.

Thinking about the evening, I realize that I love making music and making great sounds... but what i really LIVE for is the response I get from the audience. I can stay home and make beautiful sounds and feel real good. But what makes me rocket to the moon is ENTERTAINING an appreciative audience. Now, to do that well, I have to play songs that are meaningful to me so I can present them genuinely, so it is still true that my first responsibility is to play for ME-- what I like and feel good about. But then.... my next job is to make YOU feel good, and in doing that, *I* feel even better. Wow, what a perfect thing... and how grateful I am that I have the privilege to go into someone's home and make things a little more fun for them for a few hours. Wow.

Yes, this is something I really love to do. And I can't wait until the next time.....