Sittin’ in on Lap Steel @ Bend Roots Fest (Sunday 9/29)

An entire weekend of sitting in with friends as a side-man! What better way to kick myself back into gear? This afternoon was my third guest spot in as many days.

Friday night I was at Ninkasi in Eugene, perched on my Fender Twin wearing a strapless stratocaster for The Stagger & Sway.

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), at the Bend (Oregon) Roots Festival, my old friend Brad Tisdel spontaneously invited me to accompany him on lap steel. It was an hour of sweet, sublime, rainy-day folk music, on which I trod delicately. (Mostly swells, paddings and eerie, moody melodies.)

And this afternoon, third and final day of the festival, again I was on lap steel. Sean McGowan let me wade sonically through a diverse dozen-song-set of originals. (In case you’re asking what a few others have asked: No, this is not “Shane MacGowan” from The Pogues who used to give drunken interviews and was in the news for having his rotten teeth fixed.)

Sean McGowan, is a Eugene songster colleague. And like Brad, he is a longtime friend going all the way back to high school in the 80’s. He’s also the Radio Americana DJ at KLCC.

I did have solo slot of my own, after playing with Brad. It was one of my best, deeper and smoother than ever, thanks to a generous audience and a well-warmed-up space. I didn’t even have to make a set list. It felt like a house concert, where it’s easy to read the emotional trajectories of the room. (And that is the sweetest spot to be in.)

That said, what I’m really taking away from this weekend is that I’ve fallen in love with my lap steel all over again, and I will be looking for more opportunities to caress it. And… I dare say, I am re-thinking the bad attitude I have towards my beast-of-an-amplifier: Fender “The Twin,” 35 years old, road-ugly, weighing in at something like a thousand pounds. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve left it on the sidewalk hoping someone would steal it. But now, it’s sounding pretty frickin’ good!

Finding myself in the company of these two gentlemen, during my time of soul-searching, re-setting & recharging, is especially apt. Our connections go way back to our teen years, involving baseball, music, education… and what might be described as similar sensibilities, skeptical about growing up in a place now utterly unfamiliar to us.

Brad is the point man for The Sisters Folk Festival, Americana Project, and Song & Arts Academy. Because of him, I am blessed to have been involved teaching and mentoring Central Oregon kids. And Sean, likewise, is steeped in the many dimensions of Brad’s influence, bringing some of its magic to Eugene as host of our Caldera Song Circle. (The latter, a monthly workshop, literally saved me from my worst dry-spell.)

I can’t finish this blog without mentioning Mark Ransom, the guy who appears to put on the Bend Roots Festival all by himself. Yeah, I know he gets help, but it sure looks like he’s doing everything from administration, to stage-building, to trouble-shooting, to booking, to scheduling, to performing, to handling the local politics, to chasing down the stage when torrential high desert storms blow it away. (Yes, that happened.)

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