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Archive for May 14th, 2006

City Energy: New York, Part 4

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Thanks to those of you who have been waiting patiently for the final New York report. I’m working hard on a big website change for my patterns/kits/yarn/buttons, and even my weblog will change (finally I’ll have comments again, whenever I can get it all in order). So I’ve been focused on techie things when I’ve been at my desk, not the lovely memories/photographs of NYC. Thanks for waiting.

NYUkefestSunday was our big performance day. We got up as early as we could considering we had left the theater past 1am. We did not have to be there and dressed in stage clothes as we had on Friday and Saturday, because we were scheduled for the night concert instead. Very exciting, indeed.

On the way to the theater, we passed by a corner park near the hotel. A group of ukulele folks who were staying at the same place as us, were jamming in the park. Most or all of them were from England if I remember right.

For lunch, we met Brian’s sister, Jenny, and her sweetheart and a college friend of hers. The friend lives on Long Island (Jenny is in Washington DC and came in for the event). The friend knew about a Moroccan restaurant within walking distance of the theatre, so we met them at the restaurant. The food was very good and the place had a nice city energy about it. (It’s on 6th Street just east of 1st Avenue on the north side of the street, if anyone wants to go looking for it… I have no idea what it was called, unfortunately.)

After lunch, the three of them went for a walk and we did join them for a while. We found a very nice park.not far from the restaurant and walked through, taking in the scene. There were performers in the park and also joggers, bicylists, families, you name it.

NYUkefestWe then went back to the theater. I mostly watched our table of CDs and Brian jammed a bit with folks in the lobby areas. At one point we went out on the sidewalk in front of the theater and played to the passers-by. That was perhaps the most fun I had all weekend other than playing the Sunday night concert. We could not stay out there too long, though, because when buses went by it was quite loud. I could have lost my voice very easily trying to sing over that!

I must mention how great the other musicians were as colleagues. I had placed our CDs for sale near those of James Hill and Bliss Blood of the Moonlighters. When they were gone I took their payments and when I was gone they took mine, and we all got along so well helping each other when we could. Everybody is just as warm and approachable as you could possibly want. I just love that part of these festivals! Having peers that are so kind and welcoming, when we are definitely the new kids on the block so to speak, is really heartwarming.

Sunday night came and it was our turn to play. We were scheduled to be the hosts of the Open Mic in the next theatre, and they had scheduled a volunteer to handle that stage while we were performing on the main stage.

As it turned out, that volunteer was there all day but not at the opening of the evening shows, so he must have not realized he was scheduled. We asked our dear friend Fred Fallin of Chicago (who had played main stage during the earlier Sunday show) if he would step in and help. He agreed, and he did a wonderful job. In fact, he handled most of the open mic show, we got there toward the end of that timeframe. Big hugs to Fred for being such a good sport at last minute, with a smile on his face. Talent and a good heart… I love that guy.

NYUkefestMy mother came to say hi before we went backstage. She then ducked out to get some Thai food with her beau Fred and a family friend from my father’s graduate school days.

We changed into our stage costumes, put together a set list, and waited our turn. It went so fast! I made sure to introduce my mother to the crowd, since she paid for umpteen voice lessons starting when I was 14 years old.

It’s funny… last October, someone asked me before the Midwest Ukulele Festival, if I tend to get nervous. I didn’t think I did, and I watched myself during the concert to see. I honestly did not get nervous even though that was a very large and very full auditorium. You see, the crowd at a ukulele festival wants to love you. This is not the gong show, this is a concert of the mutual admiration society, so to speak.

But New York? I spent my whole childhood dreaming of singing in New York. There is so much emotional and sentimental content attached to this location. So it is perhaps not surprising that I had some flutters going on inside. I loved it, I ate it up, the crowd was wonderful, we had a blast singing songs we love to sing. But I must confess that I attach a lot of importance in particular to singing the song Tiptoe Through the Tulips (complete with full introduction, performed much as Annette Hanshaw sang it in 1929) in New York City. And I did choke up at the end of the last note of that song, I had to cut it just a tiny bit short.

But why not? Isn’t being an artist about embracing the emotion of life, at least in part? Being in the moment, feeling things as you experience them? I was fully in the moment, knowing that I was singing perhaps my favorite song. In New York, with my beloved Brian. I hope I never get too jaded to stop feeling these feelings. It makes me really happy to be in this place in my life.

Unfortunately, we did not get to hear very many of the other performers at either one of the Sunday shows. Fortunately, some of them we have heard before and some of them played more than one show so we had seen them that weekend on a different concert.

We finished up by going back to our assigned open mic. Brian went in to join Fred right away, I ran to our CD table to see if I was needed. A man was standing there reading Brian’s “Music Box Rag” CD cover. I asked if I could help him and he wanted “this guy’s” email address. I told him that the guy he wanted was on the open mic stage in that room over there.

It turns out the man in question (Brian has his name, but I’m typing this as Brian sleeps) is a musician from San Francisco who was apparently in NYC for a performance. He did not know anything about the Ukefest but was walking by, saw the Ukefest promo sign outside the theater door and wandered in. He saw Brian’s CD on the table just before I came by. Well… he also loves turn-of-the-century (two turns ago now) rags. He plays some of the same numbers Brian recorded. He learned them from the same recordings Brian learned them from.

So we talked him into coming in and he played open mic with a borrowed uke. And then he asked Brian to sit with him and play. It was wonderful! If any of us were not awake before that, we woke up in a hurry! It was great, one of my favorite memories of the festival.

After it all closed down (boo hoo) we were going to go out with our friends Jim & Pat from NJ… but it got so late they had to go home before we could go out. They did offer us a ride back to the hotel in their vehicle with all our stuff, and we did accept. That was a real gift that late at night, to not have to cart everything almost a mile on the city sidewalks. We did have rolling carts/suitcases but we just had so much stuff… including a Heftone bass. It was really great to have that lift.

Luckily we did not have to go to dinner alone. We ran into the folks from the band Shorty Long, and we joined them for a meal at the diner just a block from our hotel. Oh. My. Goodness. We don’t have diners like this at home!

In Lansing, the only things I can typically eat at a diner are oatmeal and salad without dressing. In NYC? They had three different kinds of fish they could grill for me without any marinade or flavorings. I tried something I’d not tried before, ever, and it was wonderful.

And the company? These folks I’m very pleased to call my friends. It was a great meal to wind down the weekend. We went back to our room and called it a night.

But Monday was still a day in New York. And there are still a few tales to tell, but not today…

Photos: 1) The British contingent (and friends?) jamming in park near hotel Sunday morning. 2&3) Park near Moroccan restaurant.