2014 Pete Seeger Tribute Concerts Photos
PHOTOS BY JUDY NAHMAN-STOUFFER
PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN MASSER
ANNUAL BENEFIT CONCERT
Saturday April 26 8pm
Reception at 7pm
Our annual benefit concert has always been a fun, ear-opening event and this year promises to be no exception.
SANTA MONICA Woman's Club
1210 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
(near Wilshire & 4th St.)
Tickets: $20 general admission,
$25 VIP reserved seating
Info: concerts@FolkWorks.org 818-785-3839
Emcee Tracy Newman
Always entertaining, Tracy may throw in some of her own songs.
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.
The popular Los Angeles-based women’s chorus that brings to life vocal folk/roots traditions from around the world. Their songs range from Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Bosnia to Rom and Sephardic songs - as well as recently added American and Irish music. Their spellbinding harmonies are at the core of their eclectic repertoire. Whether a simple American song or the complex harmonies of Bulgaria the voices of Nevenka’s women are sure to move you. While mostly singing a cappella, they are occasionally accompanied by percussion, mandolin, guitar, citern or panduri.
Swing Riots Quirktette
The Swing Riots are comprised of 6 core members who have played for decades in everything from Balkan dance bands to traditional Swing groups. They perform an irreverent gumbo of Gypsy & Creole Jazz, Klezmer & Romanian Horas, Parisian Musette & the occasional wild card thrown in for good measure.
Tunacious is a Celtic genre-bending band with songs and dance tunes with a blowout contra dance to wind up the evening.
(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
Remembering Leslie Perry
(May 28, 1936-March 5, 2014)
The last time I saw storyteller Leslie Perry was at a gathering he hosted in Pasadena in order to have his close friends surrounding him one more time; photographs were taken, memories shared and of course stories told.. His body was withering away from the devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but his smile was still incandescent as he held forth in typical Leslie fashion, all eyes upon him till the end. He had hosted many such gatherings in recent years, refusing to stop living in the face of his dire medical diagnosis. Indeed, it seemed to propel him into action, as he published two books, organized fundraisers for the Pasadena ALS (Amytropic Lateral Sclerosis) Society and became the center of gravity to his friends who were already missing him. And always this Michigan-born California transplant continued to practice his craft and tell his stories.
One of four African-American storytellers of my acquaintance (Michael McCarty, Barbara Clark and Nick Smith are the others) from LAs Community Storytellers, he devoted as much energy to being the main organizer of storytelling events as he did to actually telling stories. He was a focal point for WOW—With Our Words—whose leader Karen Golden has now put some of Leslie’s best known tales from live performances at the Beverly Hills’ Public Library up on YouTube. But the thing I remember with most fondness about Leslie is not his own storytelling—it was the fact that if he wasn’t performing himself he would always be in the audience listening. He was the Supporter-in-Chief of the entire community and it didn’t diminish his pleasure one iota to be in the audience rather than up on stage. He taught me that the story listener is just as important as the story teller. Without fail with Leslie in the audience you could count on a great performance from the stage; his kinetic energy, his rapt attention, his joy in the entire relationship was profoundly contagious and enveloped the performer as well as the room of other audience members.
Beauty’s Currency: Janis Ian and Tom Paxton
Barbican, London 25.3.14
FolkWorks’ British correspondent Rosa Redoz reviews Ian and Paxton’s Together At Last Tour.
Beauty is a strange currency. Janis Ian’s ode to a youth impoverished by plainness is a lilting bossa nova gem. Had she thought herself endowed with familiar features the art would not have been created.
“That seat will go.” said my neighbour as I spread my coat on an adjacent spare seat in the sold out concert in the Barbican, London on Tuesday evening.
“Have you seen Janis Ian before?” she asked me. “I did a few years ago and she was fabulous.”
And they were; from the moment Tom Paxton and Janis Ian took to the stage with Robin Bullock on mandolin.
“Yes we all still sing songs of hope and peace,” said Paxton after a fine opening rendition of How Beautiful upon the Mountain - the harmonies were perfect; the mandolin fills were divine and I caught glimpses of the extraordinary guitar skill Ian was to reveal as the set continued.
Who Put the Jangle in Mr. Bojangles?
In Concert at McCabe’s March 16, 2014
There are guitarists, and then there are guitarists. And then there is David Bromberg, the guitarist who put the jangle in Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker’s hit song about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the legendary African-American tap dancer who was for black America what Fred Astaire was to white America—the standard against which all others would be judged. But before you even heard Jerry Jeff’s voice on his signature recording, you already were captured by its descending bass-line guitar intro hook—that made you see Mr. Bojangles descending a staircase—as he did in one of his famous dance routines. It was musical magic at its finest—and the guitarist who came up with it was David Bromberg.
To see him live at McCabe’s last night was pure acoustic artistry that comes along about as often as that great dancer—once in a generation—if you’re lucky.
We were lucky to hear him—solo (for the most part) acoustic—just Bromberg and his orchestral vintage Martin D-28 sitting on stage in front of McCabe’s legendary microphone—where so many great musicians have now stood—and none greater than David Bromberg; if you love folk music, Bromberg is as good as it gets. And it is truly a rare pleasure to get to hear him solo; on his current tour every one of his other bookings is with his band, or at larger venues his “Big Band.” I prefer the one-man band and he gave us a very generous two and a half hour concert with one intermission, two standing ovations and three—three!—encores.
New Celtic Pub Sessions In Los Angeles
2014 started well for Celtic music In the Los Angeles area, with two new regular pub sessions filling in a desert between the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach. A pub session – or seisiún for those who like their Irish spelling – is a great way either to play or hear (and usually both) live music outside a stiff formal setting and nice to have two weekly sessions back in our area. Any type of jam session can be ephemeral and initial excitement wanes rapidly, but these two may have legs and be around for a while:
The first one is every Sunday night, starting at 7:30pm, at O'Brien's Irish Pub, 2226 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. Easy parking and little traffic. The inside setup is ok because it becomes more of an aisle than a circle. But fits about a dozen players within that (misshaped) circle. No center table and limited space for your beer if you are in the musician’s circle in case that matters to you. As happened last night, consider spilled Guinness as a natural stain.
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.