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Archive for September 11th, 2006

Still More Wheatland

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Saturday night after we went back into the main festival area, we found dinner and I bought earrings from two different vendors… one ceramic/bead artist and one hot glass artist. My friend Margabeth wasn’t there again this year. When she does come I can sit in her booth and chat a while, and it is quite a pleasant break. Not this year, anyway… maybe next.

Fabulous Heftones, Lynn on Heftone BassOf course, if you play a Heftone bass, you spend a lot of time chatting with people about “what IS that instrument?” at a festival like this. During the daytime when people have had more coffee than beer, I enjoy chatting about it. After all, I really enjoy the instrument and I’m sold on its strengths (the best of which is that it is so small it fits in the back seat of my New Beetle).

The later in the day it gets, the less likely the inquirer will remember our conversation the next day, and thus the less likely I’ll go into detail. After dark, my answer most often is “It’s a bass.” This is an accurate answer but it lets me keep walking toward the next jam session without stopping. Fortunately, in the dark the instrument is not so obvious as I go by.

I spent time talking to a pleasant gentleman about the bass around noon on Saturday. He was quite interested. I could tell by his voice/dialect that he must be from Africa. I don’t know why I didn’t ask about where he was from, because I have a deep love for the African people I met when I was on my trip there and I’m always interested to hear about one more country I might not know much about yet. Africa is such a huge huge place, it’s hard to even comprehend it all.

Later in the evening I looked to the stage when I heard an African band and there was the same gentleman in the band playing what I think was a marimba. Drat. I really wish I’d chatted with him more. They played such a great show (the main musician was Mamadou Diabate of Mali, and the guy I talked to was Mamadou Diabate and bandone of his three backup musicians, the gentleman at far left in the photo here).

After the concerts of the day had concluded, we went back to our friends with the wonderful three-sided jamming tent. This time there was room for us. Their heater was going (as well as a heater in the middle of a field might be), and I snuggled myself in that tent at the spot which had the least chance of catching any wind.

Brian and I took turns singing requests for our friends (who don’t hear us very many times a year) and listening to them sing for us. This group is all about singing harmonies. I just love them. When they are playing, I can’t usually follow along with all the unexpected chords, but I don’t mind just sitting and lstening. I knit a whole baby hat on Saturday while listening to others play, and that suited me just fine.

We played music there until something like 2am, and then toddled back and wrapped up in every last bit of clothing/blankets we had. We slept as best we could, Brian did better than I did. I think I got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep when I finally got warm enough.

However, at some point it is just time to get vertical so I got out of the tent and started my Sunday. At least there was a tiny hint of sun just as I was getting going. That really helped my optimism level for a while, until I could get my first cup of tea (which Brian found and brought back to the tent for me… he is Jam Session, Wheatland Music Festivalso good to me).

We got food and then went back to see the jamming-tent singing friends. Many of them were already packed up and saying goodbye (they have longer drives than we do). However, one of their friends came down and asked us would we please come to her camp and sing a few numbers for her friends? Her friends are from the U.K. and they in turn had friends and family who played ukulele.

Now, in England, the most popular uke player of all was and still is George Formby Jr. who played a banjo uke and was a comic, playing novelty numbers on stage and in movies. He was brilliant, both as a performer and as a uke player. Many people from the UK do not know about the type of uke music that we play. These folks had family who owned both banjo ukes and the more standard wooden ukes such as the one Brian plays.

We do not play any George Formby tunes but Brian had enough novelty numbers to keep them quite happy, indeed. We played a sort of mini-concert and then a guy came by on guitar who we’ve played with over the years. He sang an original number about Miami, I don’t remember all about it but it was incredibly well-crafted and we very much enjoyed that piece.

And just as quickly as we started that session, it ended and we dispersed. This is the way it goes at festivals. Wheatland has more jamming than most of the other festivals we’ve attended but it is like a leaf blowing in the wind, it changes by the moment.

Before it all was over, we found our way tUke Jam at Wheatland Musicians' Areao the Musicians’ Campground where several of our friends were, and we played some tunes there. Banjo Jim from the Blue Water Ramblers (Grand Rapids area) was there, and as always that jam was delightful.

When Jim had to go, we moved to a different (less windy) corner and four of us jammed more. There was one banjo, one Heftone bass, and two soprano ukuleles (however each uke was tuned differently, for those uke players who follow this blog). Much, much fun!!!

But all things must come to an end. I went looking for a cup of tea to buy. Only one vendor still had hot water, and that was the fancy coffee vendor. Fine, I’m good with that… hot water and tea is a very important thing on a cold and breezy end-of-Wheatland Sunday. We stayed until the bands were all done. We looked one more time for folks to jam with. It was just plain all over. We headed home…

Fortunately, we found that there is one more festival left in Michigan this season. We will be heading to The Annual Earthwork Harvest Gathering next weekend. It’s on the Earthwork Farm, where Seth Bernard and a bunch of other cool young musicians and creative people live. Here’s the information:

Friday – Sunday, September 15 – 17th, 2006
4399 N. 7-mile Rd., Lake City, MI
Camping available
Food vendors on site
No dogs are allowed!!

We both have engagements on Saturday so we will just be going up there for Friday to jam as much as we possibly can. For non-musicians, there are many performers lined up… an amazing number/quality of musicians.

And if $25 (a good price for this sort of thing) won’t work for you, they say this on the website:

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS to help the gathering run smoothly. Donate 4-6 hours of your time in exchange for free festival admission.

People can volunteer at the gate!

So… we said goodbye to Wheatland for another year, but it is not yet goodbye to the outdoor music festivals of 2006. Yet. One more time, my friends…

Photos: 1)Me with Heftone Bass, playing with Brian at Middleground/Wheatland. Thanks to Lynne Sahlgren for taking the photo, 2) African band (Mamadou Diabate and friends), 3)Jam session late night in the cold, 4)Ukulele Jam in musicians’ campground.

Jamming at Wheatland

Monday, September 11th, 2006

The Uke BrosAfter dinnertime on Friday we found ourselves a corner in The Pines (a camping area behind the stage for tents only, where we always stay). There is a spot where two paths come together and there are benches. We played music there last year and had a great time, so we decided to do it again.

We were there over 3 hours, playing for whoever happened to be passing by. Our friend Bob M from Abbott Brothers (our other band, sort of a jug band) came by, as did Tim (who is a grown person now but who is the son of Dick, another member of Abbott Brothers) and who is a very fine guitarist. We had a few other musicians join us off and on.

Young Jug BandAnd a gentleman whose name I think is Sam, came by because he remembered us playing there last year and he wanted to hear us again this year. He stood there the whole three hours. (Infact, we played there again Saturday and a little on Sunday, and he was there every time.)

We played alone most of Friday night. We went to see some friends who have a large tent for jamming. It was threatening rain and a whole lot of really good Irish music afficionados had already started quite a lovely scene there. We could not get in the tent, and we don’t often play that sort of music anyway, sowe went off in search of other tunes. We jammed with Willie T., a former Abbott Brother musician (he moved, much to our dismay). We jammed wherever we could find a friend or two. This is what Wheatland is for, at least in our minds.

Larry and friends, Open MicSaturday was a big jamming day. We did start out by going to the Centennial Stage open mic to see our friends from Lansing, the Uke Bros (Hot Rod and Randy). We stayed long enough to hear a young and squeaky-clean-looking young jug band play. They were very good. No jug (maybe they weren’t of age enough toempty the jug of its whisky) but a washboard and a “gut bucket” bass and some good whisky-sounding vocals out of a not-that-whisky-looking young man.

We found some lunch and then looked to play some music. Often we set out for Middleground, a place geared toward the younger set. They always have crafts, drumming, juggling, hacky-sack, dancing (usually african dancing, I did not see that this year but that may have been my timing), tie dyeing of T-shirts, all sorts of fun and high-energy things to do.

TYoung comichey also have a small, very low key open mic. You walk up, ask if there’s room, and if there is you get on a list. Folks do from 1-4 numbers, many of them do only one. People waiting in line to make a T-shirt get something to keep their attention while they wait. It’s low key and very much our sort of thing. We did it a couple of years ago and we were able to do it again this year. Much fun.

While we waited, we saw our friend Larry Johnson (who is in the Scarlet Runner Stringband with Brian) and two of his friends, play a few numbers. The photo here shows Larry at center playing mandolin (he plays guitar in the Stringband).

We also watched several young folks perform songs they had written. One young lady sang a song about her goldfish. I’d never heard a song about goldfish before. It reminded me of the fish Rae just knit and felted (see Sept. 9) this weekend!

The Fabulous Heftones, Middleground at WheatlandA very young man (middle school?) did a comedy stand up routine. I know that most adults are afraid of standing up in front of a crowd just to say anything other than their name. I was impressed with this young man who did a good job of keeping with the stage patter as must be done in comedy.

Then it was our turn. We performed four numbers at the encouragement of the tech crew. Although you can not call the people in that space an actual “audience” (there are no seats at all, just people milling about and doing various crafts and juggling) we had a very enthusiastic response from the listeners at hand. Quite fun. (Thanks to Lynne Sahlgren for taking photos of us while we were busy singing.)

Happy Wheatland!

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Wheatland Music Festival: the big outdoor fest for us each year. It is always the weekend after Labor Day. Some years it is 100F degrees, Seth Bernard and Daisy Mayothers it’s in the 40s at night. One year we had a huge thunderstorm as people were trying to leave and the mud was so bad people got stuck for hours. It’s music heaven, no matter what the weather.

Everywhere you go, from the first greeter who takes your ticket to the last person saying goodbye, you hear the greeting “Happy Wheatland!” It can get tiring sometimes but it’s sort of sweet. This event has its own blessing for happiness. I think that is lovely.

We had all sorts of delays getting out of Lansing on Friday but we finally got to Remus (just over an hour northwest of Lansing, about 15 minutes west of Mount Pleasant) about 6pm. Brian got going right away finding us a camping spot and putting up camp. I went looking for information on open mic.

Dancers at Seth Bernard and Daisy May ConcertIt turned out that they had allowed email and telephone reservations for open mic and those people had filled all the slots. We were fourth alternates on Sunday morning even though we were fourth in line on Friday night for the sign up. We decided that just freed up our schedule a bit, to play music elsewhere, but it was a little disappointing at first. Honestly, we got so busy with other wonderful things that it worked out fine.

The most wonderful musical experience I had all weekend, happened Friday night at the Centennial (second) stage. It was a concert by the incredible young artists Seth Bernard and Daisy May. They were accompanied only by one other musician, our friend Drew Howard (formerly of the Weepers and the Saltines) on pedal steel and other assorted stringed instruments.

Seth Bernard and Daisy May concertThose two are just a power bigger than two people can be. Their voices, the heart, the spirit of it all never ceases to amaze me. This young lady is in her 20’s and already has a voice of power and soul, somewhere between Janis Joplin and Maria Muldaur. Yes, that comparison shows my age… but we are talking pure soul down to the cellular level, power behind the voice and heart behind that.

At one point Daisy May put down her instruments and used her voice alone, backed by Seth on guitar and Drew behind that. The crowd went absolutely crazy. If you could only harness that sort of electricity, the world would light up at all hours of day or night.

The late great Howard Armstrong (Louie Bluie) often said, “Soul has no color.” I could not help thinking those words when I heard this young lady belt it out, this tiny young thing with the voice of trumpets. Her voice alone literally brought me to tears. At that point I determined that I did not need any more music all weekend… that one concert was enough to fill three days.

Now, stop what you are doing. Go to the Earthwork Music website now. Listen to Daisy May singing “Shine On” for yourself. Then support these young people (who barely know me, I make nothing for this) by considering a purchase of their wonderful CD. Buy or not, but consider in any case. One place you can get it online is at Elderly Instruments. (Disclaimer… my Brian works at Elderly, but he gets no more or less if you buy this album or not.)
Photos: Daisy May, Seth Bernard and Drew Howard on stage with dancers below. More dancers! Dancers including a daddy holding an infant and mommy holding a toddler, at left.

Wheatland Sunset, Friday Night

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Here’s a photo of the sun as it began to set, Friday night over the Day Parking lot at Wheatland Music Festival. Pretty, huh?