This tour, while short, has been a good sampling of different types of shows that an independent solo songwriter might play. As Sara and I made the very short trip to Annapolis on Day 7, I geared up for the gig that evening: an event called 12 Voices.
David Glaser, an Annapolis-based songwriter, hosts this monthly concert series at 49 West, a great coffee shop and restaurant in downtown Annapolis. Every month David brings in a featured artist to share his or her tunes. He’s hosted songwriters from all over North America. Every show also includes a “cameo” artist, which in this case was me. David plays a few tunes to kick off, then introduces the cameo, then the featured artist plays. We take a break, then reconvene to perform an in-the-round set where we’re all on stage together, accompanying each other, impromptu style.
The beauty of a gig like this is in its empathetic nature. It’s a show for songwriters, hosted by a songwriter. David uses his extensive knowledge of the touring life to cater to the needs of his fellow performers. He, unlike many hosts, knows exactly what we’re looking for in a show. This is not a knock on other venues, but more of a praise for folks like David. He does all that he can to create an intimate, comfortable environment that’s conducive to a human connection.
David’s favorite part of the evening is the in-the-round set, when all three performers sit on stage together and share stories and songs. Spontaneous song circles like this happen all the time at conferences and festivals like Folk Alliance and the Kerrville Folk Festival. After being a part of many of them, David wanted to bring some of their improvised magic to a concert setting. I’m not sure if the results are more fun for the performers or the audience, but it seemed Monday night like both parties were enjoying the moment.
These times wake up the guitar nerd in me. David is a very good guitarist and mandolin player as well, so it was great fun to play off each other. When you go on tour you end up playing the same 10-15 tunes every night, so it’s refreshing to be thrown into a situation where you’re playing along with a song you’ve probably never heard before. It’s almost as if you upped the stakes a bit. Living a little more dangerously. And when everything works out, it’s that much more exciting when you strum the final chord.
I want to thank David for facilitating a great event in his hometown. Check out his music here. Also, please check out the featured artist from this show. Her name is Ellis, and she’s originally from Texas, now living in Minnesota. Her songs, even the sad ones, are some of the most uplifting you can find. I dare you to see her live and not smile. It’s impossible.
Thanks for following,
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Susie Markland runs a concert series out of her house in Gambrills, MD. Wait, she does what? Yes, she really does this. Her basement has been converted into a mini concert hall, complete with five or six rows of chairs, lighting, and a P.A. system. When she hosts a concert, she begins by serving food to the guests upstairs while the artists check sound below. When it’s show time, she herds the concert goers down her red carpeted stairs to the listening area. They find a seat, she introduces the first artist, and off they go.
I first began experimenting with house concerts in 2006 when I hit the road as a full-time musician. I quickly fell in love with the format, because it offers what so few other venues offer an audience and it’s performer: a chance to interact.
At many venues across our country owners seem to think it is enough to set up a musician in a corner, turn up the volume, and go back to whatever they were doing before the guy with a guitar showed up. Thousands of coffee shops, bars, restaurants, book stores, and other businesses seem open to the idea of “having” live music, but very few want to actually facilitate a human connection.
This is what happens so easily at many house concerts. The performer is often in a small space only feet away from the audience, who are usually crammed in close in these “just-so” seating arrangements. Everyone is up in everyone’s business. This can be uncomfortable at first, but after a few jokes and some good songs everyone relaxes and opens up. It’s this unique level of vulnerability that makes house concerts so rewarding for both audience and performer. As a listener, you can hear every lyric, every guitar part, every nuance of the performance. As a performer, you are able to have confidence that those quiet, subtle nuances won’t fall on deaf ears. A songwriter has the freedom to perform, and a fan has the freedom to listen.
My pal ellen cherry performed a set Sunday afternoon as well. Please check out her music here. If you sign up for her mailing list, she’ll send you an MP3 of her song “Maryanne.” It’s chilling. She totally killed it today.
Until you’ve experienced a good house concert you can’t fully understand the power of this kind of intimate performance. If you’d like more information on house concerts in your area, or if you’d like to try hosting one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t even have to host me! I’d just like to tell you more about them. They’ve been a saving grace for many an independent songwriter.
Thanks for following.
Fall leaves in Charlottesville. This was the afternoon before The Garage show.
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The drive to NY was pretty long - about 7 hours from Charlottesville with traffic. In that time we drove through DC, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. I tried to get Dylan to go see the Appomattox Court house, but he would not drive there. We stopped at this wonderful gas station called Sheetz just before we left Virginia. Touch screen ordering kiosks, an entire rack devoted to jerky, handspun milkshakes, and the shweetz section made this place something I have never seen before.
Sheetz Gas Stations
They have chilled cream to put in your coffee!
Drinks with flavour shots! Vanilla, Lemon, Cherry, and a few others that I don’t remember.
Jeff and Allison Rogers (friends from college) - Lara, Allison’s sister, in the background
Chocolate pie Lara made - yes.
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Below you’ll see the photos from the show at The Garage in Charlottesville, VA. It was a blast and we ate at Little John’s afterward - which Dylan has said many times on the road is his favorite sandwich shop. It’s sort of a Freebirds style sandwich shop. The second night in Charlottesville, we stayed with a friend of Dylan’s, Denise. She was so hospitable, and even sewed my button back on my coat. Thanks Denise.
the venue is actually a garage - everyone brought their blankets
Chris Campinelli(please correct my spelling) - a local talent - opened the show - fantastic!
Sam Bush - booking agent for The Garage
The show was fun and it’s neat to see these types of shows going on in places that are so far from Dallas. It’s encouraging that people want to hear good music, and support independent artists.
I love seeing this part of the country.
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Sara and I decided to make Day 2 a driving day so that we could take our time heading to Charlottesville. This allowed us to occasionally pull over if something interesting caught Sara’s eye.
The Driving Day is actually a recent development in my touring regimen. I used to feel so compelled to fill my schedule with shows that I would take anything the venues would give me just to color in another square on my calendar. It became clear after a few years of this that sometimes driving 7 or 8 hours just to arrive a day early to the next destination is worth more than playing a show in an empty bar with bad sound and TVs on all around me. The Driving Day can be a stress reliever, a recharger, and a chance to catch up on This American Life episodes. This is an un-quantifiable value. The Driving Day has taught me to not fear empty space—in my schedule, in my thoughts, even in my performances.
Sara and I pulled into Charlottesville late last night and met our hosts Sam and Matt. After a delicious PB&J and a cold Shiner we enjoyed getting to know them a bit before finally retiring to our beds. Or in my case, a fold-out sofa.
More adventures to come. Thanks for following.
And now some thoughts from Sara.
“What I have Eaten”
by: Sara Kerens
16 vanilla cream cookies
3 large cokes from Sonic with lime wedges
1 bag of cheetos
2 turkey sandwiches on focaccia bread
1 turkey sandwich on french bread
1 bowl of broccoli parmesan soup
1 bowl of tuscan tomato and kael soup
1 order of onion rings from Sonic
Half of a cheeseburger
1 Oreo blast from Sonic
1 mug of tea…and I’m about to eat a bagel
by: Sara Kerens
a. Do not eat 16 vanilla cream cookies in one day ever again.
b. Re-wear 1 outfit as many times as possible - so far - I have worn the same outfit two days in a row, and I think today will be three.
c. Gain 3 pounds
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Ramon “Boot” Arreola, owner of Frets & Necks SC Guitar Repair and Luthery in Hartsville, SC, loves his job. If you ask to peek behind the curtain that separates the storefront from the workshop area, he’ll gladly give you the grand tour and even show you what he’s working on.
Sara and I were lucky and happened to visit Boot while he was working on his latest guitar, a cherry and sitka spruce beauty dubbed “The Old Western.” You can view more of his work here: www.bafergusonguitars.com
Day one and two of the Music Seen tour will actually not involve much music. At least not much performing. But in my experience this is typical of a tour in the days leading up to “go time.” As much as I plan and prepare with booking, sending press releases, and updating Facebook, the last few days leading up to a tour always seem to be a flurry of activity. Neglected necessary phone calls, oil changes, and those pesky blog entries :)
Yesterday began with a 4-hour round trip to the airport in Charlotte to pick up Sara. Upon returning to Hartsville, I gave her a quick tour of several of my favorite spots/people in town: The Midnight Rooster, Frets & Necks, Gardner’s Feed Store, and Flossie Mae’s to name a few. Then came vacuuming the car, printing a thank you note, double-checking on lodging arrangements, and finally a last minute rehearsal in my bedroom. Packing waited until this morning, as per usual. I suppose I’d be pretty bored if all I had to do was practice singing and playing guitar.
Day one was also a reminder to me of the home I’ve found in Hartsville. Sara remarked this morning, “You’re a small town guy.” I haven’t thought of myself this way too much, but the community I’ve found in this tiny town halfway across the country from my birthplace clearly has had a profound effect on me. This was evident as I showed Sara this town, my town, I thought in my head. I’m proud of this place, proud of my friends. Humbled, thankful, and grateful as well. So while touring is still a love of mine, it also means leaving this place, these people that I love. I find these days that I look as forward to trip home as I do to the trip far away.
Above are a few photos from Day one. To see Sara’s favorites go here.
Thanks for following. Now on to Charlottesville.