You are invited…

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week.

Of interest to songwriters (but open to all):

Burlington Songwriters meeting is Tuesday, August 27th at 7 PM at 20 Allen Street, Burlington, VT in the Community Room on the 2nd Floor. Open to all, this meeting is primarily for the purpose of sharing works for feedback.

Of general interest:

Denny Bean and Bob Devins on Wednesday August 28th at 6:30 PM at The Double E Performance Center 21 Essex Way in Essex Junction, VT

Jason Baker on Friday, August 30th at 5 PM at Gusto’s Bar, 28 Prospect Street in Barre, VT. I will play a two hour set. Come on by after work!

To Gig, or Not To Gig…

Are all gigs “good” gigs?

(TL/DR: SEND ME GIG IDEAS PLEASE!)

So, obviously, no… some gigs are in places that are hard to get to, difficult to load in, cramped to set up and/or lacking in walk-by traffic. Some places the staff isn’t nice or it’s just not a great experience for the performer for one reason or another.

Many times it’s the fact that it doesn’t pay. Other times, it might pay, but no one is listening, or worse, people are talking loudly over your playing and singing. These are the most common “problems” for a performing artist who is doing their own original material. So…

Is it better to be heard or paid?

Instead of saying this is an intractible debate, I will come down firmly on the side of being heard. Playing 2 or 3 songs at an open mic where there is an attentive audience seems far more personally rewarding than playing 2 hours and getting paid for it, but having no one listen or care at all.

That said, it sucks to play for no money, and tips are NOT typically enough to make it worth it (there are some venues that do more than others to help solicit tips for musicians, through on-table tip containers and reminders for example).

Since I feel that “people hearing the songs” is an important measure of success to me, I guess it makes sense that I feel getting heard matters most.

How does gigging meet your goals?

So, when you talk to a musician who earns their living on the road gigging, they will tell you they are playing well over 200 shows a year. They make a living that way, but they CAN’T reduce that schedule without doing something else to take it’s place: teaching music, etc.

I figure I am not likely to ever make enough money to make a living at this, even if I could get booked for 230 nights in the next year, as my costs are more than just supporting me: wife and two kids, mortgage and credit card debt. Not likely to make enough money as a touring musician at my age.

So, why am I bothering to perform at all? I guess it’s just about trying to communicate with people around me and make some kind of connection to a larger community. I am always hoping people will listen to the lyrics of the song and “get it”. When people do, and they like it, that is very important to me emotionally

Is gigging a worthy goal on it’s own?

Well, in the sense that playing music is good for you and fun, one could suppose that any gig, at least any gig that doesn’t have serious problems or red flags, is better than no gig. Getting practice on stage, even in front of a disinterested room, is still experience and helps make you a better musician.

If the hassle factor of the gig is causing more stress than is relieved by playing music (or getting paid), then it’s probably not worth doing again. If there is no pay and no audience, you may legitimately wonder what is up with the venue. They may just not be “happening” as a business, or it may be they are just developing their local scene, and you can help. Use some common sense: not much will fix a lousy location or no positive proximity to other businesses, institutions and amenities.

Reach that one ear

Many gigs will seem questionable or tiresome, but if you love playing music then you can focus on doing that and maybe, just maybe, if you do a good job and are well-prepared, you will reach one person with one song, even just catching their ear for a few seconds. It probably won’t change the world, or even their life, but then again, when it comes to how songs work, the truth is you never know.

Pay to play sucks

There are some legitimate times when sharing the cost of production makes sense, but for the most part, there are now a lot of “Pay-to-Play” scenarios out there that seem strictly predatory: pay for gauranteed review placement or getting included on a playlist is standard. Paying to play at anything other than an industry showcase is probably a rip-off.

I want gigs

I am open to all kinds of gigs, so send me what you got! Looking for New England, New York, Mid-Atlantic, and possibly Eastern Canada. Ideal: a listening room. Good: a bar or restaurant that pays. OK: a place that pays tips only. Also: I do originals and many songs have political content.

Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments! THANKS!

Gigs and open mics

Burlington Songwriters Open Mic 4/9/2019

Burlington Songwriters held the first open mic in our new home at 20 Allen Street in Burlington’s Old North End, also now called the Old North End Community Center. I set up the tiny house P.A. and started us off with “Old Time Breakdown” and then tried a new song I haven’t recorded yet called “Highway 9”. Other members also shared original songs and we also had ice cream sodas! 

Radio Bean 4/11/2019

Radio Bean shows are interesting, as the audience rotates in and out quite a bit during the 7 PM hour. The staff now do recognize me and remember my name (although I wasn’t listed on the inside chalkboard!) and are very gracious. All in all, people are appreciative and I made $18 in tips.

Moretown Open Mic 4/12/2019

I happened to see a “call for performers” in the classified ad section on the Vermont Arts Council page for an open mic in Moretown at the old Town Hall. This event would be the closing event of their 3rd season of Moretown Open Mic. I called the number to see if they still had space for performers, and got a return call later that day from Jay Saffran, who is one of the organizers. He asked me if I would play an extended set! I was kind of surprised, but certainly flattered, and said I would.

When I got there, I was immediately charmed by the building itself, which has a lovely wood-floored main space with a raised “stage” framed with arches. I was equally charmed by the lovely people of Moretown, who displayed their own considerable talents, including storytelling, songwriting, singing and playing guitar, ballet dancing, poetry and more. Jay graciously introduced me as a “featured guest” and I played about a half hour or so in the middle of things. I decided to forgo the amplification and stand as close as possible to the audience of about 20 people, in a really nice “listening room” kind of setting. The old Town Hall has wonderful natural reverb and it really was nice to hear the folks singing along in there! They take summer off, but the Moretown Open Mic will be back in September.

El Toro 4/13/2019

El Toro was even busier than the last time I played there, which I wasn’t sure was possible!

They had a steady crowd for dinner and drinks, and I had to work to be heard with no amplification, which was requested by El Toro so the waitstaff can hear customers and be heard. They do sell food after all… really, really good food. MMMMMM….

Lucky for me they fed me dinner, and it was awesome! After that I set up in the front corner and played most of “America Dreams” and then a good helping of new songs and other material I have never recorded. Tips for the night: $22.

 

Gig Report: Gusto’s Bar

An End to Acoustic Thursdays

Apparently this was the last time for this Thursday evening time slot for an acoustic act. Not sure why, but the good news is I just booked four more shows this year at Gusto’s Bar for mostly Friday evenings (one Saturday evening).  It is a paid gig ($130 for a 2 hour set, bring your own PA, no food provided) so I am glad to continue the relationship.

A popular place!

Gusto’s Bar is a popular place, and finding parking was a bit tricky. I did the load in, and got lucky: one person pulled out of the perfect spot. I zoomed into it, and went in to set up the PA!

It’s a bar

So, yeah, people are busy drinking and talking, BUT… I started to see some body movement by song #2, which is a good sign. One fellow was clearly dancing. Eventually these folks started to clap between numbers.

One person

Now whenever I am there, there is always one person, not the same person, but always at least one person, who I connect with in some way. One time it was the guy in the hat who did a little dance throughout the tunes, another time it was the guy who was with his wife and wanted to sing her a song, which he did, impromptu, and so on. Good times!

This time, about 20 minutes before the end of my set, a fellow who had been sitting at the bar and occasionally glancing over his shoulder to watch for a few seconds, got up and walked right up to the stage and started a conversation with “That’s a nice guitar!”. It is a nice looking guitar it’s true, and I love it, so it’s a good way to start a conversation with me. He went on to say he was impressed by the range of songs I was doing, and that I remembered them all (I didn’t set up a music stand so I sang strictly from memory). I was very happy he took notice and offered him a card with my website and other info. I did have to let him know I had a set to finish, and made sure to say goodbye and thank you on the way out.

It’s just nice to know you are connecting with somebody!

 

Gig Updates: El Toro and Radio Bean

El Toro Sat Feb 23 2019 7 PM

I played El Toro in Morrisville, Vermont for the first time in a while… they had stopped having live music for a short period of time.

I guess they have some new staff to go along with the renewed commitment to live music, as there were some changes:

  • The staff was welcoming, polite, informative and accommodating when I arrived to eat  early and set up. Not that anyone was impolite the last time, just not attentive in this way.
  • No amplification was desired this time: if you play here, be prepared to project your voice.
  • More tips than the first gig. This time I left with $18. Thanks to all the generous patrons!

Thanks to El Toro for having live, acoustic music again! I look forward to a return engagement on April 13th.

Radio Bean Thu Mar 7 2019 7 PM

I played what has become a regular gig for me: Radio Bean in Burlington, Vermont.

The crowd was a bit thin at the start, but came in from the cold in small bursts of cold air from the door (the stage is RIGHT next to the door). Mostly plowed through the album, skipping the slower numbers, and got some of the expected laughs at the lyrics, and applause at the end of each number.

By the end, I was feeling looser, had time, and took time to dedicate my song “Together” to the Progressive Party candidates who won election that week, and to the defeat of a ballot item to privatize a large part of downtown in that same vote. That caught some ears, I guess, and the F-bomb in the beginning of the song got a BIG laugh, and I am pretty sure this guy with dreads dropped a $10 bill in the donation bowl right then! Since I made $11 that night, it was greatly appreciated!

Radio Bean is my local neighborhood coffeehouse, and I am grateful to them for letting me play there every month. I will be playing the second Thursday of the month for the next three months! Next show: April 11th at 7 PM!

NEXT SHOW

This coming week I will be at Gusto’s Bar in Barre, Vermont again Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 5 PM – 7 PM!

 

Celebrating one year as a solo performing artist

The story of the snowstorm

If you haven’t read my blog recently please check out the story of the snow storm which I recounted back in November, then come back here!

No storm this time!

Radio Bean graciously scheduled me to play on the same date, February 7th, an earlier evening gig starting at 5:30.

More of a dinner/happy hour crowd at this point in the evening. Both the diners and the folks at the bar seemed entertained and did applaud. I used this opportunity to introduce a mini “ukulele set” towards the beginning of the show, and that seemed to go over well!

Got my two drinks and made $5 American and one Canadian loonie in tips. I took the Looney as a good sign for my upcoming trip to Montreal for the 2019 FAI Conference.

Thank you to Radio Bean for allowing you to play every month for one whole year.

Second Thursdays at 8:30 at Radio Bean

I now seem to have the second Thursday of the month at 8:30 as a regular gig at the Bean for April, May and June. Stop in for drinks, food,  and “socio-political Americana”!

Next gig there is March 7th!

See my show schedule here!

 

January 2019 Gig wrap-up

I had three gigs in January.

Radio Bean

This show made it a full year of shows once a month at Radio Bean. A fun gig with the folks at the bar showing their appreciation. Made a few dollars in tips only. (I am going to start sharing the reality of gigging in an open and frank way. Radio Bean gives 2 drinks and a discount on food, but does not pay most performers. They do provide a place to play and have music every day and night.)

See the story of how this year of shows started here.

Gusto’s

I have one more gig at Gusto’s in Barre, Vermont before they apparently are pulling the plug on the Acoustic Sets. It’s kind of a shame, as it is a paid gig ($130 for a 2 hour set, bring your own PA, no food provided), and I felt people did appreciate the music.

The Double E 

This gig was a double-bill with Kaomi Kingsley and it was cool to trade mini-sets with her for a couple of hours. I also debuted performing some songs on the ukulele! This performance was part of the Burlington Songwriters showcases at The Double E that are every other Wednesday. Nice 48 seat movie-theater style venue! If you are in the Essex, Vermont area on a Wednesday night, check in and see if it’s Songwriter night at The Double E, and have some food from The Mad Taco, who provide food for the venue. This is also a place that treats performing artists with some dignity: food and pay ($100 for the night, split by the acts).

Goodbye to Thayer’s Olde English Pub

I had gigs scheduled at Thayer’s Olde English Pub in Littleton, NH in the first three months here, but was contacted by the booking agent, who informed me the Pub was simply closing and all gigs were cancelled. Like Gusto’s, this was a decent-paying gig, AND came with dinner (food was very good), so another gig that payed $130 for a two-hour set is gone.

Anyone who knows where live, acoustic music is booked (especially original music), please contact me!

 

Oh yeah it’s 2019

Yes I forgot about my blog

So sue me. I am going to see if I can do at least a few posts over the next few days to catch things up. Perhaps after that, weekly wouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

Who plans that far ahead?

I am talking about seeing festival lineups for summer gigs already. Some of these you have to submit now for 2020!

Not all obviously, and I am throwing my hat in where I can: I just applied to play the Philadelphia Folk Festival for example, and I am excited!

Next is Kerrville and Falcon Ridge “Grassy Hill” showcases. Wish me luck!

I just wish it was easier to get gigs like those.

Gigs in Vermont

For now, I do have a pretty solid gig schedule through June, but am always looking to add more!

Goal #1 make list of goals

So, yeah I am late to formalizing my songwriting goals for the year, but I do know #1 will be to write as many songs as possible.

As a performing artist, I’d surely like to play new places, as I noted.

I am writing songs for a second album now so recording that is a goal.

I may revisit some songs from America Dreams in new arrangements or with alternate instruments and see if I want to release that as an album, or maybe in another way (video album?).

What else should be a songwriting or performance goal for 2019? What are your goals? Please let me know in the comments!

More to come…

As I stated, I will be catching up with events, look for a post a day for a few days to find out what I have been up to, see my latest video, and find out what’s new and what’s next.

Christmastime Blues live!

I recently played the Ripton Community Coffeehouse open mic and debuted this song I just “officially” released on my website for streaming, and thanks to the local community television station, have video of the performance to share. Full version with intro here. See my YouTube channel while you are there for a version without the talking, and other performance videos!

 

Gig report: Radio Bean November 14th 2018

It was a dark and snowy night.

No, seriously. Back in February, on the 7th, the was a big-ass snowstorm. I was in a duo who had a gig that evening, but the heavy snow meant the roads were too much for my duo partner.

Not wanting to ruin our reputation with the venue, I asked them if I could do the gig solo. They were happy to not have an empty stage.

I showed up, and no one from the venue said anything as I set up the P.A. and tested it. Got a complimentary beverage from the busy bartender and started promptly. An hour later, I finished up by thanking the people there, noting “This was fun! I haven’t done this in… whoa, 25 years!”.

It was then I realized I should give being a solo performing artist a shot.

The venue was Radio Bean.

10th show at Radio Bean 

I have played monthly at Radio Bean since, and it has been a good way to gain some performance experience.

On November 14th, I played an 8:30 set. I was delighted to have some esteemed musician friends play an earlier set: Dan & Faith, a harmony folk duo from New Hampshire. They are the couple playing and singing in the featured picture for this post.

Their music is heartfelt, honest and musically satisfying, and seeing a whole set was a treat.

Fun and friends

Two other friends of mine from a local songwriters group came as well, and with Dan and Faith there, plus the usual gang at the bar, it was fun! Faith had said Dan would jump in on harmonica if I wanted, so I asked if he could play cross-harp in E. He came right up and we did my song “Rising Devil” with extra turns around. Dan did a great job and it sounded awesome!