• FolkWorks Benefit Concert - This Saturday - See below ...


    The Resurrection of Paul Robeson:

    “Paul Robeson” At The
    Nate Holden Performing Arts Center

    Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    Keith David - Paul RobesonFor an artist of Paul Robeson’s stature—except that there is no artist of Paul Robeson’s stature—to have become a stranger in his own land is one of the more improbable stories of a so-called free society. At one time the most famous performer in America—star of stage (Othello), screen (Show Boat), radio (Ballad for Americans), author (Here I Stand) and recording artist (for Columbia and Vanguard Records), Robeson strode across the American landscape like a colossus. No one would have been surprised to learn that he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar at Rutgers, a two-time All-American football player and the toast of British Aristocracy after making his debut singing Ol’ Man River in Show Boat in London’s West End in 1927. He was declared “the Voice of the Century” long before the 20th Century was over—sharing that title with Marian Anderson.


    All Alone with Paul Robeson:

    The Tallest Tree in the Forest

    The Mark Taper Forum - April 19, 2014

    By Ross Altman

    Tallest Tree in the Forest - Daniel BeatyWho is the real Paul Robeson? The Tallest Tree in the Forest or the biggest windbag in Los Angeles? It wasn’t clear to this reviewer last night at the opening of the new one-man play about Robeson by actor Daniel Beaty at The Mark Taper Forum at The Music Center—until half way through the performance—when he sang Zog Nit Keynmol—Never Say—the Warsaw Ghetto anthem penned by Hirsh Glick, the 22-year old Vilna poet who wrote the song upon hearing news of the Jewish resistance to the Nazi attempt to liquidate the ghetto on April 19, 1943, as a birthday present for Adolph Hitler, who was born on April 20—today, as I write this review on Easter Sunday, Hitler’s birthday.


  • FolkWorksLogo-COLOR web


    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.

    Tracy-Newman-benefit 2014 for web

    at the
    SANTA MONICA Woman's Club

    1210 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
    (near Wilshire & 4th St.)

    Tickets: $20 general admission,
    $25 VIP reserved seating

    Click here to buy your tickets now!

    Info: concerts@FolkWorks.org       818-785-3839

    Emcee Tracy Newman

    Always entertaining, Tracy may throw  in some of her own songs.


    Sausage Grinder

    SAUSAGE GRINDER photo for benefit for web

    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.


    Nevenka 2014 for web

    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

    SWING RIOTS color NEW LINEUP for web

    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 for webContradanceTunacious is a Celtic genre-bending band with songs and dance tunes with a blowout contra dance to wind up the evening.


    Upcoming Concerts

    (Click on hyperlink for tickets)

    Series at the Talking Stick Café

    FISHTANK ENSEMBLE     May 24th         ANTONIO SACRE, MICHAEL McCARTY and others     June 28th
           Gypsy                                                                 Storytelling

    NEVENKA     September 27th                        SYNCOPATHS     October 25th
           East European Women's Choir                            Upbeat Celtic


    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


    January-February 2014

    For the Love of Wade

    By David Bragger

    wade ward 2I love Wade Ward! When I started immersing myself in old time music, I first heard Wade Ward on an out of print compilation of Lomax recordings. Soon after, I picked up the Smithsonian Folkways recording Uncle Wade - A Memorial To Wade Ward: Old Time Virginia Banjo Picker, 1892-1971 and was blown away at the sophisticated simplicity of his playing on both fiddle and banjo. Something about his bold, archaic style just sent lightning bolts right through my body when I first heard him.

    Read more: For the Love of Wade


July-August 2011

The Opening Act

By Dennis Roger Reed

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.


All Columns by Dennis Roger Reed

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