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Make it lonesome now, 'cause I'm a hobo myself sometime - Bukka White, Special Streamline

Author Topic: Weenie Performers  (Read 1448 times)

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Offline obrigadotony

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Weenie Performers
« on: June 28, 2015, 06:42:23 PM »
Hi All,

I'm interested to hear from any of you who perform country blues for people on a regular basis.  For those who prefer to keep it private, that's totally cool.  From my perspective, one of the reasons I got into this style was the ability to perform (sing and play) to an audience without having to be part of a band.

I have a regular gig where I play at an outdoor farmers market in Toronto - I've scheduled myself every other Sunday.  I play for 60-75 minutes - start with 3-4 John Hurt song, move to Lightin/RJ/Charlie Patton, then to slide tunes.  My last gig I finished of with some ukelele after having purchased a few Fred Sokolow lessons from SGGW (including the Blues lesson, which is great and very accessible for guitarists).  I volunteer my playing but keep the tips that I get and use them to buy groceries.

I love the reception I get at these gigs.  Most of the compliments and attention come from children and their parents, and adults (40+).   The market gets pretty busy and it is great to play in front of a group of people who dig it.  There are few players out there who do this style, so it is interesting to see people react positively.

My previous performance experience was at a cafe where there were seldom more than one or two people in there.   Anyone could play a set if you agreed to play for free.  I would often play just for the two owners, but it was a great experience for me to play regularly and build a long set list.  The Cafe closed in March.  I can say that I probably didn't have anything to do with it since the only people I played for were the owners and my friends when they would come.

Again, I'm very interested to hear what the rest of you out there are doing in terms of performing.

Offline harry

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2015, 02:23:03 PM »
I was in a blues band and played the electric guitar. Sadly it was disbanded due to various reasons and I returned to acoustic fingerpicking guitar and piano again. I don't play in front of people. Although I would really like to. If it was just for letting the crowd know that there is more than FM radio.

Pre-war acoustic blues is not exactly mainstream music. I think it's very difficult for players in this genre to get started anywhere. I have tremendous admiration and respect for your courage to just go out and play.

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2015, 04:22:03 PM »

 I play full-time here in the San Francisco area
I play Swing and Tin Pan Alley on Guitar, Uke and Harmonica in Retirement Homes and Alzheimer care facilities.

I play Bass (Upright Acoustic and Electric Bass Guitar) and Harmonica (in the rack) in several different Blues and Country bands

I play Guitar, Dobro and Harmonica, with my Son playing Upright Bass, at several Farmers Markets, weekly (we do 4-6 Farmers Markets a week). Our repertoire is a mix of Country Blues, Old-Time Hillbilly and Jug Band

I do one, weekly, Farmers Market where I play solo. Just Harmonica and Bones (So nice to go to the gig with all your equipment in your jacket pocket  ;D )   

Offline RobBob

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2015, 08:40:21 AM »
I play at least once a week.  Often more than that.  I play old time and blues in different band configurations and both when I play music with my wife.  We play restaurants, farmer's markets, concerts, dances and anywhere else they'll have us.  I am currently assembling a semi-electric blues band, the first one since the 60's.  The prospect is a pretty exciting one.

Offline obrigadotony

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2015, 04:00:33 PM »
Thanks for all your responses.  Very interesting.  I think the key with pre-war blues is to just get out and play for 'anyone who will have us" as RobBob said.  Most people I play for really dig it....I'm especially surprised (pleasantly) at the good reactions the Patton tunes I perform get.

Offline StoogeKebab

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2015, 04:58:14 AM »
I have work in my local mall, which is half decent if you can get the Thursday night session, which has a proper amphitheatre setup and a spectacular, relaxed atmosphere. They run markets during that time so there's always a wonderful turnout. That's a regular gig, but I also do cafe stuff, been invited to a couple of bars, one in particular but age makes that, well illegal.

In my experience, people like to come see me because they like to hear my voice come out of me, contrasting the way I look to the way I sound, it amuses people. I don't care, I still get a clap and if I whip out a good gospel song people genuinely appear to get into it.
When I perform for 'real' (that is to say, adapting to what an audience wants) it seems to go somewhat like this:

To me it appears that people who like current indie and acoustic music are really into John Hurt.

A lot of the classic rock fans are keen for electric blues, Chicago style stuff, but I've never been able to deliver, lacking a band due to the very distinct lack of people who can play it anywhere near my age or location, however I hope someday someone will come into my music studio and be perfect, but I fear that is a distant dream.

I also get a positive response from Piedmont blues like Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller or Pink Anderson. I just hope for my sake they don't go out discover how much better the originals are compared to me :P

And generally I find myself with a relatively captive audience, and they sit and politely clap when I belt out some Son House, Charlie Patton or Willie Brown. I have no idea if anyone at all likes it but they sit and clap and occasionally whoop so I still do it.

But I think the real indicator of the appreciation of my music is the whopping FOUR whole copies of my album I have sold since May  ::)

What is refreshing to see is that the music is well and truly alive through so many of you, and it's always nice to know that the appreciation is there, personally I'm always happy when someone I know who hears me mentions an artist that they like or song that they like without me directly encouraging them to go out and find it. I walked into the school library once to do some photocopying and hear Son House coming from someone else's computer a week after I'd done a set there and it really made me smile.
Confident that I'm probably almost definitely the youngest record label owner in my street

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Offline joe paul

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2015, 07:57:55 AM »
I play out as often as I can, which isn't often enough to my tastes. Paying gigs in local bars every couple of months and some open mic nights, one of which I organise myself on a monthly basis. Often I don't have a set list in advance, I play songs that have been on my mind and I've been working on, but it's mainly Piedmont style I guess, John Jackson, Blind Blake, Reverend Davis and other favourites. From having heard and seen so many people play, never mind the style, I think that when you play with conviction, people generally appreciate it.

As far as country blues goes, giving people something to go on helps, just the date the song was recorded, something biographical or a clue to the lyrics. Maybe just the reason why I like the song so much. I don't do that enough, I know.

It's a great feeling, playing in public, especially when people listening are enjoying it. Last time I played out in town, sat outside a bar playing to the good folks sitting outside with their drinks in the sunshine, while I was playing some kind of approximation of Cincinnati Flow Rag, a guy in a wheelchair came down the road, was cheering me on, very appreciative, didn't look where he was going and knocked over a bunch of potted plants that belonged to the bar. I kept on playing, and laughing. Nice memories.   

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2015, 11:30:00 AM »
I would perform if it makes you happy to do so, but with absolutely no expectation of any kind of acknowledgement. There is no longer a large enough mass of people who know what this music is for one to be able even to count on some basic recognition of what you're playing. Its not unlike the reaction you'd get playing Turkish, or Chinese music.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline harry

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2015, 02:39:30 PM »
I would perform if it makes you happy to do so, but with absolutely no expectation of any kind of acknowledgement. There is no longer a large enough mass of people who know what this music is for one to be able even to count on some basic recognition of what you're playing. Its not unlike the reaction you'd get playing Turkish, or Chinese music.

I hear you Mr. OMuck but I wouldn't go that far. Clapton's "unplugged" sold over 10 million copies in the States alone. And he was playing Broonzy, Fuller. Leadbelly etc.

Below a video of Alvin Youngblood Hart playing Patton for what appears to be a young appreciative audience.






Offline King Neptune

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2015, 03:51:01 PM »
Hey obrigadotony
I play a lot of wineries. They're perfect for our kind of music. An older, sophisticated crowd that knows and appreciates acoustic blues. The money is good, too. And the wineries look for acoustic music in general. Put together a decent promo kit; electronic ones are best, just send them via email.

Kingneptuneblues.com

https://www.facebook.com/kingneptuneband

By the way, It's Blind Boy Fuller's birthday today.

Offline StoogeKebab

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2015, 02:59:33 AM »
Its not unlike the reaction you'd get playing Turkish, or Chinese music.

I did vocals for a brief Turkish set (5 or 6 songs) at a party at my local Hellenic club when I was 11 or 12. Now THAT I tell you, could have gone down a hell of a lot worse than it did, bad blood between the two countries and all, especially among the old people.
Confident that I'm probably almost definitely the youngest record label owner in my street

Live Acoustic Wollongong - LAW Records

https://www.facebook.com/law.nkjc/

https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/james-r-cooper/id992309035

Offline obrigadotony

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2015, 05:21:59 PM »
Great thread thus far.  Mr O.Muck, I hear where you are coming from, but one of the reasons I do get out to peform is to get that connection with an audience (no matter how small).  I enjoy an smattering of applause but enjoy more when I see people tapping their feet or bobbing their heads.

In regards to reaction I get, I actually find the the John Hurt songs go over the least...maybe something to do with being outside but something more uptempo or obviously bluesy gets a better reaction.

King Neptune - thanks for the winery tip.  Getting paid (even a little) always feels good.  The press kit/website is my next project as I look to get an indoor gig for the winter.

Offline Big River

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2015, 11:51:53 AM »
Several people have mentioned that there is little appreciation for pre-war acoustic blues but I have found that not to be the case. It is not the material you are playing but how well you are playing and singing the material. Yes, I mentioned singing which is often the weak link with many performers. Hey, you gotta sing as that is what most people are focusing on whether you like it or not. Looking sharp, dressing and acting professional is important, too. We have all seen the slob in a tattered t-shirt that can barely play and seems to be in a world all of his own up there on stage and he probably thinks to himself "Why can't they appreciate what I am doing?" Audiences are hungry for some organic acoustic music as they hear awful piped in dance music or modern pop in malls, restaurants, etc all day long  so if you can lay down a set of solid music you will get a good response more often than not.
For years I played and sang in electric Chicago blues bands but always loved country blues and practiced and jammed to it at home. One day I got fed up dealing with the personalities of bands (and the low pay being split up 3 or 4 ways) and decided I am going solo acoustic! It took me several years of never turning down any gig and woodshedding to get to a local following and learning the ropes to play solo. There is no safety net when you are up there all by yourself.
Another common complaint on blues forums is that young people are not into blues. I have not found that to be the case really. I get a really good response from people in their  twenties as most of them have an open mind and are looking for some new things to get into. I played a gig last night at a brew pub and most of the night it was all young people in the audience and they really liked what I was doing and they want to know about the origins of the music. Some of these young folks are hipper that you think and listen to a lot of vintage music.
I play about 150 gigs a year and some of them are kind of funky but if you love the music you just have to deal with it. Sometimes gigs that you have low expectations for turn out to be really great. Every night is different. One thing I have found is that playing a song people recognize now and then will keep the audience attention span up. You can throw in a Woody Guthrie tune or something along those lines as playing all obscure blues tunes can get a bit tedious for anyone. If you could play like Blind Blake (who can?) you might get away with that, but for us mortals a little variety in your material is a good thing and actually makes the blues tunes stand out even better in a positive way.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 04:28:18 PM by Big River »

Offline big joe weems

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2015, 03:02:48 PM »
Great comments Big River!  I agree completely.  Do you have any videos online?

Joe
« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 03:08:13 PM by big joe weems »

Offline Big River

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Re: Weenie Performers
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2015, 04:24:38 PM »
Great comments Big River!  I agree completely.  Do you have any videos online?

Joe
Hi Joe, Yes, I have some videos on You Tube. Just search James Clem. Also, in the Back Porch section of the Forum I just posted an audio track from my new CD where I do a duet with my friend Mary Flower titled "You Had Too Much". Check out my website that has some sample tracks at www.jamesclem.com Cheers, JC

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