Sausage Grinder: Los Angeles’ all-natural hillbilly and country blues band, combines the traditional sounds of fiddle and banjo breakdowns with the low-down sound of country blues, topped off with a touch of ragtime and hillbilly jazz. The versatile acoustic ensemble features fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, washboard, and a few odds and ends.
Saturday, March 22nd at 8pm
doors open at 7:30pm
Talking Stick Cafe
1411 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
General Admission: $18
FolkWorks members (Friend and above): $16
Online: Click here
FolkWorks PO Box 55051
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
Information 818-785-3839 concerts@FolkWorks.org
(Click on hyperlink for tickets)
Series at the Talking Stick Café
FolkWorks Benefit Concert April 26th
Swing Riots Quirktette, Sausage Grinder, Nevenka, Tunacious
emcee: Tracy Newman
Rose Garden of Peace Concert May 31st
With Yuval Ron Ensemble
MORE PETE APPRECIATIONS
Waist Deep In the Big Muddy:
How One Song Broke the Blacklist,
Ended the War and Changed America
Waist Deep In the Big Muddy is the Mona Lisa of protest songs, not because it is the greatest antiwar song ever written—though it surely is that—but because it occupies a historical place that will never be duplicated. It is the song Pete Seeger wrote and sang that fully restored his place in the American pantheon and public media after 17 years of being blacklisted from network television. In 1950 The Weavers—the folk quartet he, with Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert, founded in 1949 and shot to the top of the Hit Parade with Leadbelly’s theme song Goodnight Irene—were cited by the entertainment industry’s blacklist Red Channels—which in turn gave rise to a book that specifically targeted folk singers called Marxist Minstrels. The Weavers were effectively destroyed just as they were really getting started and saw two years of nightclub and concert bookings cancelled overnight.
Pete Seeger, the only one of them capable of pursuing a solo performing career, never appeared on a network television show until 1967 despite hit songs like Turn, Turn, Turn (the Byrds), If I Had a Hammer (Peter, Paul & Mary), Where Have All the Flowers Gone (The Kingston Trio), Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (Jimmie Rodgers), Guantanamera (The Sandpipers), Wimoweh (recorded under the title The Lion Sleeps Tonight by the Tokens), Tzena, Tzena, Tzena (the Weavers), Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You (the Weavers), Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene (the Weavers) and his own hit recording of Malvina Reynolds song Little Boxes. That’s a dozen hit songs—enough for a Greatest Hits album, which Pete eventually had on Columbia Records—the same label that recorded Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
The Book of Altman: A Review of The Book of Mormon
At the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood
February 5, 2104
An account written by the hand of Altman upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi;
Transcribed by RA in the annum MMXIV.
What can a folk singer say about a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that is still playing on the Great White Way and also in various touring productions around the country, one of which thankfully landed at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, where Jill and I and Paula saw it last night, thanks to my cultured friends Jan and Jerry, who gave us 3 tickets they didn’t need. I’ll tell you what I was expecting to see, based on its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s smash hit TV series South Park, with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez. A foul-mouthed satire of organized religion, belittling the faith of ordinary mortals and bringing to the fore the alternative views of such famous atheists as scientist Richard Dawkins, comedian Bill Maher and the late great critic Christopher Hitchens.
Bob Dylan’s Goal-line Stand for Detroit
Once again my purist friends are out there screaming that the definitive protest singer from the sixties has sold out by doing not one but two Super Bowl commercials—one for Chobani Yogurt by licensing his original recording of I Want You to rev up your taste buds for their tangy, creamy product, and two by appearing in person on behalf of Fiat’s newly purchased car company from Detroit—the one that Dylan’s old confrere Tom Paxton brilliantly satirized back in 1980 with I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler.
As the soundtrack to Dylan’s voice over narration indicates (with his Oscar-winning song from 2000 film, The Wonder Boys) Things Have Changed.
The Music We Danced To, Part 2
It turned out I picked a good time for an unemployed artist to look for work—Democrat Jimmy Carter had instituted a modern version of the WPA—the Works Progress Administration—which during the Great Depression put artists to work across this great land, writers, photographers, painters and musicians being called into service by FDR to use their art in service to their country. It was this program that employed photographer Dorothea Lange to take pictures of migrant workers in migrant camps in California—the place where she took her most famous photograph—Migrant Mother—which became one of the symbols of the Great Depression. Novelist John Dos Passos was hired to write travel guides for different regions of America—and they became indelible portraits of a nation caught—as the late Irish poet Seamus Heaney so eloquently put it—between hope and history. And eventually Woody Guthrie was hired for 28 days by the Department of the Interior to go up to Washington State and write songs for the Bonneville Power Dam Administration—which became his classic Columbia River songs and were finally rediscovered twenty-five years later and released on Rounder Records.
The Opening Act
If you perform, it’s pretty likely that someday you will be the opening act. This could be at a local club or a concert. There are very specific duties entailed in being an opening act, not all of them necessarily positive for the performer. But there are also some specific rewards.
First of all, you are not the headliner. You are not who people are coming to see. You will not have the nicest dressing room, if you get one at all. You will not get the veggie plate with ranch dressing, or the refrigerator with lots of beer and sodas. You will have to be flexible, which may mean playing for less time that you expected, or perhaps more time than you expected. Your sound check will be significantly shorter than the headliners, if you get one at all. You will be paid a pittance (if at all) compared to the headliner. You may have to sell tickets to the show in order to perform.
So why in the world would you want to be an opening act? There are a few good reasons. Most headliners started out as opening acts. Opening for “major” acts helps the resume. Most of us opening acts pad our resumes with the “shared the stage” line, though it is a bit misleading. I’ve “shared the stage” with BB King twice. In both instances it was a festival where the band I was in opened the day and BB played 3 or 4 hours later, after a number of other acts. But we did share the stage… At any rate, a nice long list of well known artists you have opened for can be impressive. And some of the prestige of the headliner may rub off on you. Maybe.
So you book an opening act at your local concert venue. The headliner is someone you admire and would pay to see perform. If not, you’re already made one bad compromise. Also, make sure that the type of music you play is complimentary to what the headliner plays. You need not be the same genre, but if you’re in a heavy metal industrial trio, you don’t want to open for a sensitive singer songwriter soloist. And be careful that you are not too similar to the headliner, either. No one wants to see the same type of show twice. You find out that you will have limited time to play, and that your corner for CD sales is 2.3 miles from the front door and the headliner’s boutique. And you have to give the venue 10% of your CD sale income. Oh well, 90% is better than 0%. Or perhaps this is the type of venue that hands you 100 tickets and requires that you sell them. You have to give the venue $15 for every face value $20 ticket you sell. If you’re lucky, you can sell the $20 ticket for $17.50, and make $2.50 for your performance for each ticket sold. Most of us are better musicians than sales people, but one has to wear many hats. If you do play at a ticket sale venue, make sure you keep track of your tickets and sales. When you show up to settle, have the largest bills you can find. Don’t keep the manager waiting while you count out rolled up $1 bills and change. You’ll make a friend if you show up with the least number of bills and the least amount of counting time. And don’t lose tickets: many venues expect you to pay for lost tickets, and this can be a real gig killer.
So you’ve got the gig, you’ve sold some tickets and you’re done, right? Not so right. Even though you are opening for someone you like/respect/know, do some homework. Listen to some recordings. Don’t play songs that the headliner might play! I saw an excellent blues guitarist/singer open for John Hammond, and the opener played three or four songs that Hammond plays. What a mistake! You are not going to out gun John Hammond on a Robert Johnson song, and you’ll look pretty second rate as well. You don’t have to go as far as one band leader I know who emailed his set list to the Grammy winning headliner’s staff. But he did get back a polite response that the choices afforded no conflict.
You will probably feel that it is important to engage the headliner in conversation at some point. Maybe the headliner is leaving the stage at the end of their sound check as you prepare for yours. Keep in mind that the headliner is most likely a touring musician who has a schedule that may not include chatting with you about how much you love their music. Use discretion. If the headliner is heading for the exit at high speed, it’s probably not the best time to talk. I’ve had some wonderful experiences talking with some of my idols, but I’ve also experienced less than polite behavior. It can be disconcerting to find out that your hero is an asshole or at least an asshole at the moment of your contact. But hey, all of us are assholes at some time or another, so hopefully you won’t be crushed. And be realistic: don’t ask the headliner to sit in with you or for you to sit in with them, or to autograph the 46 LPs you brought along.
So the big night is finally here, you show up for your sound check and the headliner and his band are on stage. It’s pretty cool to see the sound check… unless it drags on. And on. I recently sat while the headliner did an over an hour sound check that ran almost up to the time the doors opened for customers. So no sound check for us, which translated into some sound system issues that impacted the first three songs of our performance. When you only have eight songs, three is a big number. But you grit your teeth, smile and sing your heart out. The audience, remember, is not there to see you. You still get a pretty good response, and after your last song, there’s enough applause to consider it an encore. But watch out: many venues don’t allow an encore for the opening act. Make sure you know if that’s a rule at your spot.
Be prepared for about anything to happen. I was in a band that opened for a popular quirky pop band that was doing an acoustic tour. We did our sound check as the openers, and noted that most of the headlining band was in attendance, which is unusual. Following our check, I met with the young lady doing hospitality (here’s your dressing room, one comp per band member and do you want Miller’s or Bud for your six pack?) and she waited until the end of her spiel to tell me that since the headliner was on an acoustic tour, we couldn’t use drums. I pointed out that the headlining band was using drums. No reply. Needless to say, our drummer was angry, and half the band voted to walk out with him. I grabbed the stage manager and explained how this last minute dictum had arrived. He told me to wait for two minutes, and went upstairs to talk to the headliners. In two minutes we were informed we could use the drummer. Did the headliner decide we presented too much competition? Do they just not like drummers? Who knows?
But these experiences pale when compared to the positive. I had a major rock and roll producer bound into my dressing room post performance to gush accolades. I had a well known artist quote something I’d said during my opening act… and get the same laugh! My all time favorite thing is when an artist of stature takes the time to say that they liked our set, or maybe just stops by to talk music like peers.
So if the pros outweigh the cons, take the gig. And if you take the gig, enjoy it. Meanwhile, go out and support live music. Try new clubs, visit old venues you haven’t frequented in awhile. And enjoy yourself.
Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He’s released two solo CDs, and appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band and two CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News and Sing Out! His oddest folk resume entry would be the period of several months in 2002 when he danced onstage as part of both Little Richard’s and Paul Simon’s revues. He was actually asked to do the former and condoned by the latter. He apparently knows no shame.