Posts tagged: Festival

Shipe @ Bend Roots Revival

Last Saturday, I had a slot on the main stage at the Bend Roots Revival. I was looking forward to bringing the songs from my upcoming CD to a big Central Oregon stage.

A roots fest in Bend is a good idea. A high-desert block away from the Sisters Folk Festival, Bend is cultural enclave, teeming with outstanding musicians who’ve broken away from anxious stream of wannabeing that contaminates the larger music Biz. To name a few: Dennis McGregor, who’d give Leon Redbone a run for his money, and the whole virtuosic lineup of Empty Space Orchestra.

Mark Ransom (The Mostest), who masterminds the Festival, has the right idea, recruiting from Great Northwest, filling in the gaps with locals. Three main stages, and three side stages where smaller acts play while the main stage acts load in. So there is music going everywhere all the time.

And that turned out to be a problem. The space was too small for several stages with large sound systems and full bands. While I was performing, friends of mine Blaze & Kelly were rocking out in full funky-folk-rock glory soaring out over the festival. I could hear every lyric and savor every note. I could have played along on my stage. I don’t know if this was just an exuberant sound tech who cranked it up, or if nobody anticipated this problem in the first place.

As a professional, I rolled up my sleeves and pushed my music out with all my might. It’s part my job to enjoy myself regardless of the circumstances. (What performer doesn’t have stories about lousy venues, inhospitable stages, bad sound systems, and cold audiences?) I plainly asked the audience, “Can you hear me?” And they said yes. So I kept going.

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Northwest Folklife

I just played my ½ hour set at Northwest Folklife in Seattle. An indoor stage called Folklife Café.

Now I’m drinking a Pepsi in the Performer Hospitality building. There must be a hundred folk musicians in here from around the country. I’m surrounded by the sound of banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and twangy Appalachian-style vocalizations, coming from all directions. I love this part of festivals like this. Between the stages, behind tents, behind the scenes. You get this at Oregon Country Fair, High Sierra Fest. Folks will jam all night on blue grass, old-timey, gypsy, etc. It’s enchanting.

I confess that I am musically envious. My own singer/songwriter art barely qualifies as “folk.” It has some rural leanings at times, with a modicum of storytelling, but there’s a lot of so-called “composition,” and elements of pop. (You know, the umpteenth generation of ubiquitous Beatles influence.)

I could jump into these jams and hang on for dear life. I know the music, I love the music, and, yes, I have a few chops to play it. But I prefer to sit by and let the people who live this stuff do it without my hack intrusion.

Someday, I’ll practice up, get my Django down, and then I’ll joyfully participate.

My own set went well, although I was worried at first. I went on after a nylon-plucking guitarist who had the place riveted with his expertise, specializing in Italian and flamenco flourishes. With only 5 minutes of set change, the room was still full of the virtuoso’s exotic and exhilarating vibe when I was introduced. What are you gonna do, but do what you do best? I kicked it off with the story of falling in love with my wife in Seattle and broke into “Hours Go By.” Call it sucking up to the Seattle-ites, but people seem to like that song.

I brought out a new song that I only just finished on the drive up. “Villain.” It used to be called “Leni Riefenstahl.” I would like to say that it’s the only song of its kind. That is, a song that name-drops women associated with Nazis. But David Lindley already has one. It’s called “He Would Have Loved You More than Eva Braun.” As much as I love David Lindley, I think that’s a dubious way to tell your sweetheart what you think of her. (“You’re so special, Hitler would have taken you as his mistress.”)

No, I think that if you’re gonna talk about Nazi women and romance in the same song, it’s unlikely to travel in the sweet-n-light direction. That’s why mine is called “Villain.” It’s about the frustration of good men who are eternally losing out to the bad guys.

The chorus:

Eve Braun, Leni Riefenstahl/You seen one, you seen them all./Beauty loves her beast, and she’s always willin’./Some girls can’t help it; they love the villain.

Yeah, the song is sort of funny. But like all my “sorta funny” songs, it’s not meant to make people laugh. It’s actually quite sad. The audience liked it, but I could tell they didn’t quite know what to make of it. (Maybe because they don’t know who Eva Braun and Leni Riefenstahl are… For the record, they are Hitler’s mistress and Nazi Germany’s main filmmaker.)

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