November 13, 2015

NERFA - Day One

First day at NERFA (my second) under my belt.

I got up here a bit late (3:30 pm) - was intending to hit the road by noon, but got out a little late, and stopped multiple times en route (lunch, gas, grocery, and coffee), and it was a grey and rainy day which slowed the drive (especially over the mountain). Still, I got here in daylight and the weather cleared a bit for unpacking the car and the yoga toys. 

A CT registered car followed me over the mountain, turned out to be my Falcon Ridge friends Paul and Barbara, who I greeted in the parking lot. First of a bunch of friends from the festival and the local folk world I found yesterday - Anne and Bub from Falcon Ridge, Nancy (one of our merch tent crew who I did not initially remember), Barbara from CT Folk, Ethan and Jake from Pesky J. Nixon, Falcon Ridge mainstay Brad Yoder (the only artist I've actually played with, by dint of Ben's Silly Songs written for the volunteer open mic), local fave Kate Callahan (back for her second year, after have a quad showcase last year), and Ira and Julia Levin (aka The Levins) who had a well deserved DJ Spotlight slot this year. It feels a little more like "family" this year which is nice.

I settled in to my hotel room (roomie arrives today, a Canadian singer songwriter named Bobby Dove whose internet footprint brings to mind a young KD Lang) and rearranged the deck chairs (the room had a clear "bed wedged in the corner" feel and I wanted to give my roomie space, a desk, etc. so I pushed shit all over). It's a step up from last year, but not a BIG step up....

Last year the DJ Favorite's showcase was a bit too crowded - they seemed to have more seating this year so I was able to sit and listen through most of it - missed a few artists for bathroom and beverage breaks.

Some notables (in no particular order):

Mt. Thelonius - Interesting jazz/folk fusion, novel way they used folk instruments. Not really my cup of tea but I appreciated something different.

Davey O - Kind of omni-present here at NERFA and in the folk world in general, first time I got to sit and listen. Enjoyable, sweet.

Kirsten Maxwell - Had a sort of early Dar Williams vibe (think "As Cool As I Am") - I really liked her energy, playing, singing.

The Levins - What's to say? Dear, sweet, talented people, dare I say friends. Their songs and harmonies make me want to cry and melt this crusty soul.

Evie Laden Band - Has she played Falcon Ridge? If so, how have I missed her. Just amazing claw-hammer banjo with a couple of sidemen. She turned an old folk standard"Your Face" on it's head and charmed with her prelude about having Peggy Seeger listen to it. LOVED her lots.....

Caroline Cotter - My NERFA yoga teacher and a sweet woman (with a bump upon her head, she ought to cover Suzanne Vega's song Gypsy this weekend) - and pretty damn poised to come out with an a capella sing-along. She had the goods to carry it off.

Meghan Cary - A FRFF Emerging Artist, glad to hear her outside of the fest. A ton of energy and a strong performer. I picked up her latest CD after fest so it will get a fresh listen.

Fendrick & Peck - Unplugged duo using a single mic; they were funny as hell (vibing Burns & Allen) and talented too - definitely want to hear / see more of them. My only complaint, they were a little far from the mic so there was a slight feedback bubble forming throughout their performance.

Annika Bennett - the NYU freshman who wowed Falcon Ridgeas an Emerging Artist, and has continued that here at NERFA.

Rik Barron - Extra credit for going last. A journeyman who was charming and solid - I was not really expecting much but he won me over. He played two quick ones and said goodbye, when the moderator told him he had more time he came back with a solid song. Well played, getting an encore in the DJ set :)

I did not do much in the way of guerilla's (as evidenced by my sitting in the lobby blogging this morning) but I snuck up to Cup of Joe #2 (Joe Virga) for a few songs by my friend Kate Callahan (she and Joe did a kind of song swap) and a nlovely surprised, David Massengill followed up. David was so sweet (no surprise there) and despite speaking about arthritis that has impacted his dulcimer playing, looks to be in good health and spirits.

Interesting, two of the artists I covered back when I did Open Mics (and we're talking 20 years ago here) - David Massengill (#1 in America) and Kate McDonnell (Ordinary Man) are both at NERFA this year. I hope to chat a bit with them both before the weekend is out.

The quiet of the lobby is kind of refreshing - the energy of this conference is a bit overwhelming, with so many people looking to make contacts, be seen and heard, catch up with old friends. I'm giving myself some time for quiet, for stillness, in the middle of this music whirlwind.

November 10, 2015

NERFA and Me - Round II

I'm headed back to NERFA (North East Regional Folk Alliance) this week, an annual "industry conference" designed to connect folk and acoustic musicians with venues, DJs, promoters, managers, and service providers.

I go ostensibly as part of my "crew chief" role at Falcon Ridge (I get to meet and work with so many of these musicians each year) but mostly I go because I'm too damn busy during Falcon Ridge to actually site out front and listen to the music, so this is myself reward.

The conference itself is a bit overwhelming - rather than doing full concerts, musicians are showcased on two nights - with a large auditorium show (five+ acts) followed by the "quads", four simultaneous showcases in breakout rooms, with another five acts. So there are 50 musicians / bands in official showcases, plus a handful of other formal showcases.

In addition to that bountiful harvest, there are daytime workshops on music industry, targeted at performers, managers, venues, etc. (always something interesting), and a chance to mix and mingle with other folkies.

And then there are the informal, or guerrilla showcases. Many attendees choose to convert their hotel rooms into small concert venues late at night or during off peak hours, and musicians roam the halls, instruments in hand, to play 10 or 15 minutes to intimate audiences. Needless to say, a lot of magic goes down as musicians sit in with others, play unusual songs, etc. I confess to just tasting the guerrillas last year - we'll see how long I last this year. Even if the late night showcases don't work, there are song circles and jam sessions that sprout up throughout the weekend, in every available space and nook.

In addition to all this, it's a fine get-away weekend for me (who rarely / ever takes time off or a vacation) - there are ample and diverse meals included in the room & board price (an opportunity to eat well and reasonably healthy), there is morning yoga (courtesy of musician Caroline Cotter, and your truly, who is bringing along her stock of mats, blankets, and props), and there the usual resort hotel amenities (pool, exercise room, etc.) if I wish to partake of them.


Looking forward to my second year!