The concert lineup Saturday night was great. First they inducted George Formby into the Ukulele Hall of Fame. He was a very famous comic musician in England who was almost always found singing with banjo ukulele. There is a George Formby Society in England and two folks from that group (Nigel and Sylvia, whose photos are in yesterday’s post) came over the “big pond” to be part of the festivities. They played a tune for us at the concert, and then Ralph Shaw from Canada (he is originally from England) also entertained us with several lively Formby numbers. It was just one guy and a uke, and he was totally engaging and entertaining. It’s just grand to see how this can work. There is no need for smoke machines, laser lights or a drum set. Just a guy and a uke. Wonderful.
I didn’t take notes on all the performers, and there was no program printed for the event. I did take photographs of all the people on stage. Unfortunately, the light was so poor none of the photos turned out. (I actually had this problem all weekend, either there was backlight which was too much, or there was such low lighting that the photos captured nothing or nearly nothing. You’ll notice that many of today’s photos have very little color in them, because I had to play serious tricks in PhotoShop to make you be able to see the people in them at all.)
I sure hope I don’t miss anyone… everyone was wonderful. Because my method of documenting my evening has failed, I will tell about performers I heard, but not in order.
Our friend from Wisconsin, Lil’ Rev, played. I always love seeing him… he, too, can grab an audience entirely, sitting in a chair on a stage with his uke (plus kazoo and/or harmonica sometimes). We heard from Shorty Long (Pops Bayless and Mysterious John, plus a few local musicians to back them up). They are thoroughly entertaining, and we enjoyed seeing them again. James Hill, virtuoso ukulele player (Gen X no less, he’s a young thing) blew us away with solo uke (no voice) including Summertime, Theme from Super Mario Brothers, and the Flight of the Bumblebee, among others.
There was a duo, brothers, from Minnesota. They played Hawaiian music and sang wonderful harmonies. I don’t know their names. I really wish there had been a printed program, for both nights. We missed Friday’s show, where I know we missed Paul Moore from Israel and Rick Russo from Rhode Island. I don’t know who else we missed on Friday, because there was no documentation. Maybe someone else who went will also chronicle it, no doubt more accurately than me, and I will be able to see what I missed, after the fact.
Anyway, I must confess that the big deal to me, was to hear The Moonlighters. I’ve been a fan for a while, since I’ve been listening to Uke Jackson’s Flaming Ukulele Radio Hour. And to hear them in person, was just wonderful.
What an act! This is two women, Bliss and Carla (on guitar and ukulele), singing their hearts out in the most amazing harmonies I’ve heard in a long while… backed up by two gentlemen playing bass and dobro. Most of their material is original (primarily written by Bliss), and all of their harmony is as good as it gets. They are together but relaxed, and it’s just a wonder to listen to them. I got to talk to three of them after the show, especially Carla. We traded CDs, so I’ve been listening to Moonlighters a lot while working at home since I got back.
After the concert came my favorite part of the whole weekend. We jammed until 3am, with the performers and a few other friends. It was probably the most wonderful jam session I’ve ever participated in. We first stood in the hallway with Fred Fallin from Chicago, and James Hill, and Lil’ Rev, and we played a lot of the Tin Pan Alley music we typically play. Fred is a literal dictionary of this sort of music, and he just fires off one tune after the other with no break in between. Fabulous!
Then we moved onstage to a larger group, perhaps 25 people on that stage all playing at once. I can’t remember everyone’s name so maybe I shouldn’t try, but the pictures should speak for themselves.
You know, the Ukulele crowd is so welcoming and warm, it just makes my heart smile. Here we were, from new uke players (the man next to me had his chord chart on his lap while he played) to big names in the uke business. Incredible musicians, most of them, and yet everyone had a great time and took turns like grownups. I do laugh, because playing music with a bunch of performers is a lot like hanging out with a room full of first-borns (I’m a first-born, so I am not pointing fingers except perhaps at myself). We’re most of us big personalities and we all definitely want our turn at the limelight, we want a solo now and then. Yet in this group, all those who want a turn seem to get one, if they just start a song during the lull between tunes.
At one point, Carla of the Moonlighters noticed that it was 3am, and a lot of the performers had to teach workshops the next morning. So we sort of started to roll it all up for the night, and I got my own turn at a solo. I sang “Three O’Clock in the Morning” from our Moon June Spoon album, which went over well. It’s a different sort of tune, because it’s a little earlier than the stuff we had played most of the night, and a little more operatic or something. But it’s a lovely tune and it sort of wrapped up the session nicely.
On the way back to our room we ran into four folks in the main lobby, two women dancing the hula and two musicians including Rick Russo. The ATM machine was beeping with an error message the whole time but they were able to ignore it and dance away. It was a lovely, sweet way to end the evening.
Sunday morning we got up and found a cup o’tea, and got talking to a bunch of the vendors. I had a nice talk with Liz and Jim Beloff, and got talking with Michael DaSilva who builds gorgeous ukuleles in Oakland, California.
I really liked talking with Michael. We talked for a good long while. I’m going to send him some sheets of Polymer Clay and he’s going to see if they might work for a decorative inlay in wood. I know it isn’t durable enough for a fretboard, where it would be most beautiful, but I theorize it might go on a part of an instrument that would not be exposed to a lot of wear.
He’d like to have me come and teach in his new studio/shop in Oakland, is there anyone out there who knows a group of knitters in that neck of the woods who might like to study with me if I come out? I’d teach one day of Polymer buttons and beads, and then I could do any number of knitting classes, including ColorJoy Stoles (which includes how to choose yarns to go together when they don’t match), afterthought heel socks, perhaps work through a sock pattern I’ve written, or a class I haven’t thought of yet that you want to learn. Let me know!!!
We were able to sign up for Open Mic a second time, and that was a wonderful thing once more. The talent is amazing, in every way.
After Open Mic we wrapped things up, changed back into street clothes (I bought a Uke Expo T-shirt, something I don’t always do at events like this but it was tie-dyed), and worked our way out. I was very honored when Greg Hawkes (the guy from The Cars) found his way to me at Jim and Liz’s booth to say he enjoyed our act. That was very kind of him, to take that time and make my day.
I sure took a good look at a turquoise Fluke (a ukulele made for affordability, and often made in fun colors, by Jim/Liz Beloff’s company The Magic Fluke Company). Sigh, it was lovely in all ways, it played well, it looked beautiful. And this week I didn’t have the funds even for an affordable uke so I passed it by. But it sure made me smile when I played it!!!
On the way home, we had more trouble with traffic. The highway 209, which is what we had to take to get to US 80, was backed up and we couldn’t tell why. At one point I could see a McDonalds a block or so away, so I got out of the car, walked to the McDonald’s, waited in line, bought some drinks, and walked to the car. That’s how slow the traffic was going.
At least the slow traffic allowed me to take photos of a fieldstone/chrome diner (the 209 Diner) whose neon sign in the front window read “Our appearance is not the Taj Mahal, but our food is great.” I also got a great shot of the hand-painted sign for Adventure Golf (you can’t see it but the original text had faded so they glued new words over the old sign, without bothering to hide the old text underneath. I love the handpainted shark, it’s too fun! And I did get a shot from a too-far distance, of the sign for Muller’s Diner, which was approximately across the road from the 209 Diner. Muller’s had a better sign, but their building was not very interesting, just brick (maybe updated in the 80s?).
Also during the traffic jam, we got stopped on a bridge, so I shot this photo of a Pocanos Mountain stream, a few days after the torrential downpour of Ivan. Pretty, isn’t it?
We got home at 4am. At least the drive, once we got to US80, was very good. There was no rain, the traffic was light, and there were no accidents or construction sites. We listened to ukulele music most of the way home, and when we got more tired, we turned that off and made sure to talk back and forth so that we would stay engaged in the present. It was actually a wonderful talk. We didn’t have to solve the problems of running a household, so I got to ask Brian about things I hadn’t learned about him from before we met. It was wonderful.
I was sure glad to sleep in my own bed! I get to stay home for almost 5 weeks now, and I am very much looking forward to that. Meanwhile, we have some music to play here in town, this Saturday. We’re rehearsing each night for that, and there is nothing that makes me feel more married than working on music together. Aaah, this is the life!
Photos: Five shots of the jam session on the stage (can you see the curtains?). A goodbye shot… Brian, Me, Dave Pasant from East Lansing who we met there, Liz Beloff, Fred Fallin, uke maker Dave Talsma (also from Michigan). Rick Russo’s Ford Falcon (cool, huh?). The 209 Diner, sign for Adventure Golf, sign for Muller’s Diner, Pocanos stream. (Thanks to Davis Sweet for assistance in identifying a few faces for me.)