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Author Topic: Sitting and thinking: festivals  (Read 14935 times)

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Offline crookedtune

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #60 on: June 09, 2005, 05:35:18 AM »
Well, the National EN just gave you away, MOTMOT.  Nice to be chatting with you again, although it's not the same as picking "Hesitation Blues" at Lex's summer place! 

Back to festivals, I did manage to hit the Charlie Poole festival (note the icon) in Eden, NC, a few weeks ago.  It was a small affair, but a great lineup of old-time, bluegrass and blues groups.  It was particularly sad to me that total attendence was only a few hundred over the two-day stretch.  Highlights included Tom, Brad & Alice, Hank Sapoznik and the Brooklyn Corndodgers, Debby McClatchy, and (drumroll, please) Norman & Nancy Blake.  There was also a very good Father-Son blues act from Philadelphia, whose name I've forgotten. 

My guess is that this festival, now ten years old, may not be around for too long. 

Charlie

Offline MotMot

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #61 on: June 09, 2005, 09:51:28 AM »
Charlie G!  Glad you found this place.  Sorry I haven't made it to Lex's summer place for those December sessions, but it's a long way from mountains to sea.  Maybe this time (if it happens again).

I second the positive thoughts on Adam Tanner's CD, and on the Carolina Jug Stompers: good stuff, especially for those trying to work that intersection of country blues and old time.
Tom
... but it's a slow consumption, killing me by degrees

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #62 on: March 31, 2009, 07:18:34 PM »
Hi all,
I"m not really adding anything new to this thread at this time but wanted to post to it to bring it to people's attention who may not have read it.  I just re-read it, and I think it is one of the most interesting threads ever at the Weenie site.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #63 on: March 31, 2009, 07:45:25 PM »
Thanks for reactivating this. As we head into the festival season I was thinking about starting this as a new topic.

The only thing I have to add is when going to a new festival it pays to know someone who has been going to the same fest for a while, plays your kind of music and knows where the action is. Personally I stay away from the main stage most of the time, waste of energy. The real action is in the camp grounds, but you need to cultivate your connections to make the most of it.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2009, 07:48:26 PM by Rivers »

Offline MotMot

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #64 on: March 31, 2009, 08:42:15 PM »
Boy howdy: lots of tunes played and songs sung and lessons learned since this thread started.  Thanks, Johnm, for reactivating it, and jerking me out of lurk status.

I haven't made it back to Clifftop, but I have made it back to Fiddlers' Grove and others, and have had a blast. And the intersection of OT and CB is still a murky and odd place.  In short, the issues we kicked around in this thread lo those nearly five years ago are still alive and well. (Maybe they always will be.) 

I second Rivers' addition: if you go to a festival (or even a party), it helps to know someone who has been going, plays your kind of music, and knows where the action is ... and cultivate connections to make the most of it.  This came home to me at a party last weekend, where a few of us got off in a separate spot away from fiddle tunes, and mixed fiddle tunes with songs from Charlie Poole and Cofer Brothers and Blind Blake and John Hurt and Pink
Anderson.

I hope to get to Fiddlers' Grove again this May, and perhaps even Clifftop.  Wonder what the season will teach?
... but it's a slow consumption, killing me by degrees

Offline frankie

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #65 on: April 03, 2009, 06:24:04 AM »
One thing that I think has increased my enjoyment of country blues as social music has been to expand to other instruments.  Ever been in a jam with just too damn many guitar players?  Only two solutions to that problem:

1) leave and find another jam
2) learn another instrument

You don't need to be a virtuoso on every instrument, but when you're conversant (more or less) on a couple of instruments - maybe one or another of the participants is, too - then you can switch off...  guitar on one, mandolin on another, harp on another...  this kind of multi-instrumentalism is pretty much de rigeur and understood in old-time circles, to the point that it's hardly noteworthy, except when pointing it out to people outside the community.

Why is it that CB enthusiasts seem to focus so squarely on solo guitar as the only expression of the music?  I don't often get to play with other guitarists, but when I do, I love to inflict a little mandolin or fiddle.  Does it sound like it's my #1 instrument?  Hell no.  Do I sound bad?  I guess I have my days, but the fun is in the playing, not in the criticizing.  I'll tell you one thing - if I continue to do it, I may never sound like Clark Kessinger, but I will have developed a very personal way of playing on those instruments.  That, friends, is all I really want.

A buddy of mine  - an excellent fiddler and singer - just started teaching himself piano and can really accompany himself well at this point - he's hardly an expert piano player, but can we have some fun with piano/guitar or piano/mandolin material?  Hell yes.

The really interesting thing is that since many CB nuts are already steeped in what you might call the musical "lingua franca" of the style, moving on to other instruments is just another way to express what you already know.  Even if you just focus on stringed instruments (and a lot of what you know on one stringed instrument will translate to another), you can really widen the type of enjoyment you can get out of social music situations.

Offline lindy

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #66 on: April 03, 2009, 09:40:49 AM »

This isn't in direct response to Frankie's comments, 'though there are connections.

I spend a lot of time on I-10 going back-and-forth between New Orleans and central Louisiana/Acadiana for various festivals and performances. When I go, I always try to sit in on at least one of about five weekly Cajun jam sessions that go on in the area. Often there's one or three accordion players, one or three fiddlers, and nine or fourteen guitar players doing boom-changka-changka boom-changka-changka boom-changka-changka boom. Strength and safety in numbers.

Difference is, the accordion players and fiddlers are usually at a much higher point in their musicianship, they've had to put a lot more time and effort into mastering the form. We guitar players are just banging out C-F-G, C-F-G, C-F-G.

A few months before Katrina I participated in the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week, a Cajun version of PTCBW. I noticed that the late night jam sessions were segregated into the young hot players from town who traded places in groups of 4 or 5 (and who were more likely to trade off on instruments), then all of us out-of-towners who gathered under the picnic area roof and created mass Cajun cacophony: 10 guitars, 15 fiddlers, and (I hope you're sitting down when you read this) anywhere between 10 and 20 accordions. Heaven? Hell? Ville Platte?

I'm just rambling here, if there's any point to be made it's this: in my experience, acoustic country blues is still very much a solo or duo form. At a certain level of mastery it seems to me that individual styles just clash too much, and when CB performers do come together on a festival stage in a forced jam setting it seems to me they quickly gravitate to something they understand and share: E shuffles. There's a reason acoustic blues guys do a lot of traveling on their own. But in old timey and Cajun communities, to go off and play by yourself just ain't done, it's social music. if you want to take a break there's a pot of gumbo in the kitchen, watch out for the kids and dogs underfoot.

Whatever you do, just make sure you pass a good time.

Lindy


Offline Rivers

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #67 on: April 03, 2009, 03:57:54 PM »
Quote
We guitar players are just banging out C-F-G, C-F-G, C-F-G.

Speak for yourself!  ;D

Quote
I may never sound like Clark Kessinger

Or Henry Kissinger, for that matter.

Offline frankie

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #68 on: April 03, 2009, 06:20:54 PM »
Hi Lindy - I'm in no way suggesting that multi-instrumentalism can happen without the requisite woodshedding and time in the saddle...  merely that the target need not be virtuosity - just the ability to noodle your way through a single tune might get you where you want to be.  If it increases the range and scope of your fun factor, I think it's a worthy effort.  When Kim decided to take up fiddle, she was often discouraged by how much experience the older musicians had, and by how much progress younger musicians could make (amazing what supple brain cells and huge amounts of discretionary time can accomplish) - I dunno if I helped, but I told her what I actually believe:  you can give in and stop playing if you want, or you can just continue to play in whatever way is fun and challenging for you, and by the time you're 60, you'll have about 25 years of experience with a fiddle in your hand.  The things that seem impossible now won't seem so later...  if you just keep playing.

I have to disagree about what constitutes acoustic country blues - lots of jug and string bands would probably disagree with you, too.  If the current vogue is the solo guitar player and occasional accompanist in the form of a bass, harmonica or washboard, I'd say that's more a "current" taste, and one that's been developing since the 60s or so.  The historical record is more varied than that, and...  there's no reason that what's to come should continue to reflect the solo guitarist model.  If those who currently play the music "own" it, then it's up to them to perpetuate it in the way they see fit.

There's certainly a healthy tradition of unaccompanied, solo repertoire for many different instruments in old-time music.  I'm less familiar overall with cajun music, but I'd be very surprised if there wasn't a highly developed repertoire of solo pieces there as well.  My point here being that a healthy tradition of solo performance within a particular style does not and ought not preclude more cooperative forms of musical expression.

There's no reason for CB collaborations to have a low common denominator - at least no reason that's inherent to the style or repertoire.

Offline Cleoma

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #69 on: April 03, 2009, 09:13:37 PM »
Very interesting thread, thank you John for reviving it.  I nearly always have a lot more fun in a smaller jam (not more than 5 people, and 3 is often perfect, sometimes even 2) because #1 you don't have to play loud to hear yourself, #2 you can hear and respond to the other musicians and #3 socially I do much better in a smaller group and I think this is true of lots of people.  With really, really good musicians it can even be fun with 10 people, but they have to really know how to listen and leave room for others and "ride the wave" -- by that I mean let the music itself rule, rather than trying to impose your own (or someone else trying to impose their own) groove upon it.  When this happens it is magical as I'm sure you all know.

With Cajun music I simply cannot play in a very large jam, it just is not fun for me.  In fact, my own band, the Aux Cajunals has been shrinking and shrinking and is now down to the classic trio (fiddle, accordion and guitar, or sometimes 2 fiddles and guitar or 2 fiddles and accordion) like on the old records from the late 20s and all 3 of us agree that it's the easiest, most fun, and musically the most satisfying, and the dancers dance like crazy and don't seem to miss the bass and drums at all.  Now, that said, I must add that my experience both in Louisiana and in other places has been that for most of the dancers, volume seems to equal fun, or at least they think that it does.  I can't even go to a zydeco dance, it's just too loud for me.  I think I OD'd on loud during the CCO years with 2 fiddles, accordion, electric guitar, electric bass, drums and washboard, and mostly with musicians who just wanted to be louder than the other musicians on stage, and you know where that leads...

For me the social part of playing music was the thing that got me interested in the first place and when I was younger, I enjoyed the big jams more -- that trancey thing that happens when you play the tune over and over and over again with a big group.  It can be great with old time music, I admit.

At a festival or party, even if you don't know other people who are interested in your kind of music, sometimes you can find people who will steer you towards those that do or introduce you.  This happened to me and Eric last weekend and we had the greatest session with Frankie and Kim, I just couldn't believe how much fun it was!
Suzy

Offline frankie

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #70 on: April 04, 2009, 04:06:13 AM »
Suzy, the musical well that you and Eric share is so deep and you're such talented people that any jam that includes you is starting with a leg up.  That was a great time...  Too Loose!  I only wish that the weekend had been less complicated for me and that I could have attended the concert on Friday and the workshop on Saturday - I know I would have got a lot out of your fiddle workshop (and I can use it, too).

I don't know what exactly has aligned over Hopewell, but the last couple of weeks and into the next couple have been and are shaping up to be really special - last week, we got to meet and play with Eric and Suzy...  I was still buzzing from that when we got a brief lunchtime visit from John Miller yesterday.  I have to admit, I totally took advantage of John's utterly superior guitar skills to wank away a little on fiddle and mandolin.  John is such a powerful musician.  He was passing through on his way to Stefan Grossman's house to make a few new videos that I'm sure are going to be excellent.

Next week, we're heading down to Virginia to visit Nate with the whole NJ crew (samjessin, too) and a likely complement from western Mass - as I understand it, we may see one or two North Carolinians while we're there too.  A certified Big Time is on the horizon.

Offline dave stott

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #71 on: April 04, 2009, 06:27:23 AM »
Hi gang,

I attended "guitar intensive's" in Maine last year as well as the Poduck Bluegrass festival in Hartford CT.

Guitar intensives daily classes were great in learning new tunes, styles, etc....(heck, 1-2 hours a day for 5 days with Ernie Hawkins has to do something to your playing..!!)

The evening jams were as good if not better... There were folks there that wanted to do country blues, bluegrass and 60-80's music.... Tastes for everyone...

The Podunk festival concerts were awesome... They reportedly also have tons of jams going on... The problem is that there are no maps or guides to tell you where they are... After wandering for almost an hour, I stumbled upon them in the middle of the RV parking lot. After getting there, the folks did not seem open to strangers joining in... they had their own clic's.... I went back to the concerts...

Dave


Offline Johnm

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #72 on: April 04, 2009, 07:30:07 PM »
Hi all,
Just to report on my brief session with Frank and Kim--from my own perspective, it was a complete treat.  It was so exciting to hear them play the material they have been working up, Sheiks material and the wonderful Joe Taggart song, "Been Listening All the Day".  It is great just to be around that kind of commitment to music, and to take part and join in was the icing on the cake.
One aspect of our brief session and my own participation in it that I think possibly pertains to this thread in the larger sense, is that playing with Frank and Kim reminded me of how, in jamming situations in Country Blues and Old-Time music, I would much rather play songs and tunes that the folks I'm playing with know, and that I do not know.  I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  It seems like a real luxury to be taught a tune by someone I'm playing with, while we are playing it (!), and to have my feel for the tune and understanding of it solidify and become more sure with each successive pass through the form.  I also like not having the sound of a recorded version of a tune rattling around in my head judging (not really, of course) the rendition that is being made in the moment.  The enthusiasm and excitement of the people teaching you the tune for that tune is infectious, too.  In addition, it's more fun for me to play something I don't already know how to play than something I know how to do already.
So, if a conclusion could be drawn from this, maybe it's that next time you're in a jamming situation, you might try deferring to the people you're playing with for the choice of tunes (especially if you know and respect their taste).  You may end up coming up with stuff that surprises you in a good way, and if nothing else, it's great for the musical reflexes.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #73 on: April 07, 2009, 09:11:21 AM »
I moved this topic over to the main forum as there is a lot of excellent discussion of country blues playing in it, not just old-time festivals.

Quote from: JohnM
it's more fun for me to play something I don't already know how to play than something I know how to do already.

 :D

Offline Slack

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Re: Sitting and thinking: festivals
« Reply #74 on: April 07, 2009, 09:33:43 AM »
Quote from: JohnM
it's more fun for me to play something I don't already know how to play than something I know how to do already.
:D

Yeah, easy for YOU to say!  ;D

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