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Archive for March 26th, 2007

Kalamazoo is a Wonderful City!

Monday, March 26th, 2007

heftoneskalamazoovalleymuseumfretboardfestival12.jpgDelighted

Saturday we had the best of times in Kalamazoo, once more. The people there welcome us with open arms. And honestly, we had a few fans from Lansing who drove down to hear us, which was also a thrill.

Fans. Imagine that. I am grateful.

An Adventure

I’ll give you a little travelogue of Saturday, it was most eventful. We left around 10am for the museum and found fog and light rain on the trip there. We thought it would be a crummy weather day but it turned out to be very beautiful and even sunny in the mid-afternoon.

Friendly Welcome

We were greeted by Jay, who had been our contact person throughout. It was great to meet him. We unloaded our things and gave our CDs to the volunteers who watched the CD table all day (I love those folks, and I make sure to tell them how appreciated they are).

First we got oriented to the space, and we took a little time to look at some of the exhibits in the museum. What a class act this museum is!

Met Blog Friend Karla

As I was getting familiar with the space, I saw a woman wearing a spectacular sweater. In fact, it was a pyramid sweater, and it was being worn by nobody else than Karla (of the comments)! Her hubby, Darrell, is a bass player and was helping out with one of the workshops.

It was really great to spend some time with Karla off and on during the day. We got a photograph of the two of us, but it must be that Brian took it with his camera… I downloaded all of my photos and Karla isn’t in there. Pooh. I’ll show her off later, OK?

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The Museum

They had a gallery which showed the personal collections of Kalamazoo folks. One woman collected Saudi Arabian crafts (she lived there for a while), and there were peanut butter containers, bottle openers, one-sided toasters, keychains, and even an assortment of “dangerous toys,” at least two or three of which I remembered owning as a child (moon walkers, with springs under your feet, and a snurfer, a sort of pre-snowboard contraption with a rope handle to help you stay upright… which didn’t work too well if I remember right).

Festival Exhibits and Impromptu Tunes

Brian found some good vinyl LPs at a booth there, I think it was a club. There were many booths of instrument makers, including Kingslight Guitars… the luthier’s sister is a singer in Lansing, and he figured out that I knew her through Riverwalk Theatre when we were at Coopers Glen Festival last summer. It was good to touch base again.

kzoodowntown1.jpgWe jammed a few tunes sitting right near the CD tables by the front desk. We could not do it much, as the space was pretty loud and we did not dare push our voices before the concert. It was great fun, though, and we even ran into Leslie, a bass player who we met camping in the Musicians Campground at Coopers Glen last August.

Banjos, Banjos and More Banjos… and Joel Mabus

I stepped into the auditorium to get my bass which was being stored in the control room, and when I came out I took a minute to listen to Joel Mabus answering questions after his “History of the Banjo” lecture. Someone asked about alternative banjos (guitar-banjos, mandolin-banjos, banjo-ukes, etc.) and he asked me to show the crowd my bass.

That was pretty fun. We definitely get into Banjo Festivals because of my bass, it looks like a 6-foot-high banjo though it is fingered like any upright bass “fiddle” or guitar might be. It actually has strings designed for an electric bass.

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Our Musical Show

At that point there was just time to tune our instruments and get on stage. We got there early so that the sound guy could get us all situated. We were ready to sing a few minutes before our appointed time and I asked if we could just start. No sense waiting when the crowd was already waiting long enough, and we would rather sing than stand around.It was a wonderful crowd, people sitting on the floor on either side of us, and on every chair they had put out. By the time we were on our third song or so, the sun came out full force. We were standing in a window at the end of a hallway, and the sun really baked down on poor Brian in that tuxedo, but we were fairly distracted from the warmth of the sun, by the warmth of the crowd. It was a wonderful time. We played about 40 minutes.

Brian’s Uke Workshop

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After the show, Brian went to the workshop room to teach any comers about some basic ukulele chords and techniques. I ran to the CD table to sign CDs for anyone who wanted an autograph, and then I joined Brian in the workshop room.Brian does a great job at these workshops. He teaches one chord, then has them sing a one-chord song. He adds a second chord and then they sing a two-chord song. He continues in this manner until they know five chords (in less than an hour) and then they play “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” which is a great five-chord song. They love it. I never get tired of that magic, having a crowd playing that song together so quickly.

Chatting, Making New Friends

After the workshop we answered many questions, in my case mostly about my instrument. I had a great chat with the cello player from the Royal Garden Trio, whose name is Mike. I previously met Brian Delaney of that group a few years ago when he went to the Midwest Ukefest in Indianapolis with a mutual friend. It was good to get to know Mike as well.

heftonekalamazootuning.jpgOne woman who sat center front during our concert, had met us during the Coopers Glen Festival. She knew the words to many of our songs, even ones that many folks don’t know. Usually that is the sign of someone who owns our CD’s, a true fan, though it’s sometimes a fan of Tin Pan Alley music rather than The Fabulous Heftones.

We got talking again after the show. I just love talking to her, she is just a really positive person who asked me great questions about our music (including Annette Hanshaw, my favorite singer of the 1920s) and my bass.

I wish we had longer to chat, in a less busy environment. We could have talked much longer, I’m sure, if the museum were not closing and we were not trying to talk in a crowded hallway. She is visually impaired and someone thought to ask her if she might like to “see” my bass. She took her time touching the whole instrument from the top down, and I wondered why I had not thought to offer this to her before.

I’m sort of bummed now that we got home, I didn’t ask her name… we talked so long and I work hard at names, but we were so engaged chatting about music that I slipped in this case. It sure was fun chatting with her, and two folks I think were her friends (who happen to live in our neighborhood in Lansing, of all things).

saffrontable.jpgWrapping it Up at the Museum

Our workshop actually ended at 4pm and that was the official time that the festival ended, though the museum closed at 5. We were there until just before closing time.

I asked at the desk on our way out if there was perhaps a Japanese or Indian or African restaurant in town that might be good (and easy to find). The ladies at the desk were so helpful! We got directions to Saffron, an Indian restaurant I’d passed by last summer when I was on my way to Allegan for the Michigan Fiber Festival.

Great Indian Food at Saffron

Oh, My! That food was SO delicious. I love Indian food, we’ve eaten it in many states and even in Canada at Niagara Falls. I’ve had lots of Indian food in Chicago. This one was the best I’ve had, I think. We shared an eggplant/potato dish and a chickpea dinner, both with thick and flavorful sauces. Wow.

I want to go back, and soon. That was really a treat. For some reason I forgot to take photos of the food, which was presented beautifully… but before dinner I got a photo of the colorful tables with sea green and yellow plates, and blue cloth napkins. ColorJoy tables!

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Music in Charlotte, Michigan

Even after dinner, we were not done with our day. We had heard that some of our friends were performing Irish (and pseudo-Irish and folk) music at the Charlotte Public Library. It was not far out of the way to go there, and we had time. I’m glad we went.In the photo you can see Alisa on Viola at far left. Working left to right, you can barely see the back of Joseph’s shirt (with a stripe) behind her (on violin/fiddle). Then comes Bob on Bass (the only guy I think I might not have met before) and Wally on guitar and mandolin, then Steve on guitar and pennywhistle, and Ann on percussion. It was a fun time, and we knew several folks so we chatted a while after the show.

Home Again, Home Again…

By the time we got home, we were happily exhausted. I “hit the feathers” early that night.

I would do it again in a heartbeat. What a fun life I have sometimes!

Photos: Brian and I in the museum lobby (thanks to Brian Delaney for taking this excellent shot), Joel Mabus on stage with many interesting historical banjos, two photos of downtown Kalamazoo within blocks of the museum, Brian at the front of the workshop classroom, an artful shot of (me tuning) my bass and the walkway outside of the library, colorful table settings at Saffron, our friends performing at Charlotte Public Library.