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Archive for May 7th, 2007

New York, Friday: Work Day but Fun!

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Friday was our work day for the NY Ukefest, though there was time between the work to have non-work fun as well. Brian was to teach a workshop in the morning on fingerpicking and rags on banjo ukulele (and other ukuleles). Brian has a CD called Music Box Rag by what he calls “The Heftone Banjo Orchestra” which is himself overdubbed many times on different types of banjos. The CD consists of rags and marches, and that I think is what prompted the workshop request.

nycworkshopbrian.jpgWe started at 11am, which is early for me on a regular day and even earlier when we’d been pounding our feet in NYC the day before followed by a late concert. The concert was so wonderful we didn’t want to miss any performers but it made for a short night. Nevertheless, we were excited to do what we were there to do. I sat in on the workshop, playing bass when it was needed to understand the beats of the fingerpicking exercises a little better.

The workshop was well attended considering that Friday is a work day for a lot of folks. We had a great group including our two new Swedish friends (wearing yellow T-shirts in the photo below left), and our friends Pat and Jim who we only see when we go east for Ukulele festivals.

nycworkshopstudents.jpgDuring the middle of the day, the theatre building was open. Most of the time I spent at the performer tables selling CDs and getting to know Evy Meyer (Ukelady), who is from New York and is prolific at recording. She loves to sing and just put out a CD of rounds, which interested me a lot. Singing is my passion, too.

Other performers came and went as well, and we all took turns watching one another’s merchandise while we had to be other places like workshops or buying lunch.

I got my favorite Egyptian food, from the wonderful tiny hole in the wall place on St. Marks avenue, the first shop to open on St. Marks on the north side just east of 1st Avenue. It’s soooo good I have been looking forward to it all year. This food is even better than most of the food I ate in Egypt, very tasty. I love Fava Beans (called foul moudammas, pronounced “fool,” unfortunately, so Americans don’t like how it’s spelled *or* pronounced, but the beans are meaty and flavorful). They had a very garlic version which I really savored. The hummous and other goodies were also great and I enjoyed every bite.

nycviewfromroom.jpgI also walked to the yarn shop on 14th on the north side just west of 2nd Avenue. Diana had written to me about this one, and actually I’d bought a few balls of yarn there last year when we chanced on it by accident. Those balls of yarn turned into really fun legwarmers. This year I bought some dark turquoise fuzzy brushed yarn that looked like mohair but was even softer, and which is a little shiny inside like it’s rayon or something. Really pretty. I got 4 balls thinking I can probably make some sort of wrap with it.

Ami Worthen of Mad Tea Party (this band is incredible, click that link to go to their MySpace page and listen to a handful of their songs) came in sometime late afternoon. We talked a while about stage costumes (we both love brightly colored tights, she favors red striped ones).

Ami knew of a sock/hosiery shop on St. Marks a number of blocks from the theatre and told me where to find it. I saved that adventure for Saturday but was eager to check it out. I remember the first time I ever discovered a shop that was just for socks and hose… it was in Toronto in the mid-1970s and I knew then that I wasn’t alone, it was just my town that didn’t understand. I wasn’t the only person who just loved socks as an artform. Yeah!

We really enjoyed the pace of our day between the workshop and dinner break. I sat at our table to sell CDs and met a lot of great people. Other musicians also sat at the table, all taking turns to get away for food or whatever, so my company changed as the day progressed. It was lovely.

Photos:  Brian explaining fingerpicking technique to the workshop attendees, second shot of a few more attendees (I didn’t get everyone in these two shots, sorry especially to friends Jim and Pat for that oversight), and the view from our hotel room. Look top right for a peek of the Empire State Building.

New York Thursday Night: First Show

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Thursday night was the first concert of the NYUkefest. We were excited to hear a number of acts we had not heard before. The lineup was:

J Walter Hawkes Trio

Lloyd United

Kelli Rae Powell

Craig Chesler

Tim Sweeney

Yoon Sun Choi and the E-String Band, with Khabu on ukulele

It was a fine evening. Everyone was great, everyone had their own style. Folks did not perform in the order listed above (which is from the website) but I’ll list them here in that order since I do not remember exactly who went when…
J. Walter Hawkes had a traditional Jazz feel… and I really wanted to take that shiny upright bass home with me! Here’s a photo:


Lloyd United is a high-energy band which sometimes has a 60’s British feel but a modern take on lyrics. I had no trouble staying awake during their show! Here’s a photo:


Kelli Rae Powell is a powerhouse, all there alone on that stage. What a presence. She writes songs you want to listen to, sometimes straight and sometimes with a sense of humor. Loved her… and her dress. Here’s a photo:


Craig Chesler provided a good variety of musical styles. He had a few friends join him for various numbers and followed Kelli Rae with some more polka dots. Stylin! Here’s a photo of him with a musician who had a lovely voice but whose name I did not retain:


Tim Sweeny has a crooner feel even when he’s singing original material. He’s also a really good person to chat with. He comes from Boston, where we hope to go sometime with our musical act. I took a lot of photos of Tim, but he moves a lot when he performs and all the shots were blurry. Sigh.

Yoon Sun Choi was the surprise of the festival, to me. She does very freeform improv jazz which I often can not understand well. Her performance, however, mesmerized me.

Her pieces were clearly divided into three parts: a beginning where you could get a sense of the melody and words something close to straight-on (she did the Beatles Drive My Car as her opening number which helped me understand her presentation); then a middle where the group of musicians would improvise very clearly in touch with one another. I particularly had fun watching the percussionist during this part, though my ears had a hard time processing the sounds at times (after all, I focus on 1920’s love songs… my ears just do not listen to modern jazz or anything freeform, ever); then a final piece where they sort of brought it all back together into a form similar to how it was presented at the beginning.

This band is from NYC. The ukulele player, Khabu, used to live in Boulder, CO and he knew a friend of ours in Lansing. Our friend lived in Boulder and was a musician there at the same time. Isn’t the world small?

I was delighted at how accessible this music was for me, even though it was so intensely different than my comfort zone. Here is a photo of the ensemble: