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Archive for September 7th, 2009

Thumbfest, a Happy Whirlwind

Monday, September 7th, 2009

On Saturday, Brian and I got up very early, went to Lexington, Michigan for a long, full day at Thumbfest. It was such a packed day, we had little time to see other performer friends do their own shows, but we got to peek at one or two songs sometimes.


What a lovely event! The talent was entirely drawn from Michigan, and everything I heard was top notch. The volunteers were enthusiastic and great, and the weather could not have been more perfect.

We started at the Jam Tent. Moonsqualler (a good-time, old-time, old-fashioned, jug-band-influenced group) was paired with us, The Fabulous Heftones, to just take turns leading songs and having a great time. The audience sang along on several numbers, and it was just a good experience.



Not long after that, we played at the Smackwater block stage. I was happily surprised to see that the group ahead of us included Kitty Donahoe. I’ve been a fan of Kitty’s for a long, long time. She used to live in East Lansing, and I used to say that she was Lansing’s most beautiful voice. She still is on the top list of my favorite voices, even though she now lives in Ann Arbor.


Considering how jam-packed every performer’s schedule was that day, I was delighted to look up and see friend Jen Sygit at our show for a few songs. She told me later that she made sure her parents came to hear us, she knew they would enjoy our work (and they did). That makes me smile.

We had a little leeway after singing that set, so we strolled down the street to see other stages. You can not believe how many stages they had going at one time! I counted three down by the waterfront and at least six up in the downtown area. Whee!


We saw Jen Sygit and Sam Corbin play once, and at the Country Jam later in the day. We saw a few songs by Moonsqualler at their show, and Duality (friends Kathy and Terri are in that band). We caught a little bit of a songwriter workshop, before our Ukulele workshop (where we ended with a rousing set of blues numbers on uke, quite memorable).


After our workshop we had enough time to eat dinner. We sat inside the restaurant right behind the Smackwater stage, and Brian got a few photos from behind the performers, showing the view we had as we were singing.


The meal, by the way, was one of the most tasty I have had in just plain years. The restaurant looked fancy, the descriptions of the meals sounded really good, but there is always a chance that it’s all hype and it might not taste as good as it sounds. In this case, I had a salad they made specially for me and a tomato bisque soup. Incredible flavor, just great balance in all ways.

Brian had cajun-seasoned fish tacos with broccoli slaw. He said it was very flavorful and satisfying. I talked him into espresso creme brulee’ for dessert, which he had never had before. It’s truly dangerous stuff, I think it is very good that it’s a hassle to make or we would all die of too much dairy fat! It’s better than the best ice cream, and that’s saying something.

After we finished our meals, we walked down to the harbor area. Brian went out on the breakwater for a look, and I found a good park bench where I could knit for a little while. I made friends a number of times, with folks coming by asking about my unusual instrument (a Heftone Bass, which looks like a huge banjo). That was very fun, I’m always up for chatting with happy people and they all fit that description.


The final show for Thumbfest was at the big harborside stage. As the moon rose in the sky, first Mustard’s Retreat played and then the Yellow Room Gang (including David and Michael of Mustard’s Retreat). I love the song Kitty Donahoe played with the Gang. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Do what you love love what you do
And in the hard times the joy will see you through
And in the end it will all come back to you
If you do what you love what you do”

(Song is on a wonderful CD, This Road Tonight, you can download the album or one song if you click that link, you can preview the tune before buying as well.)


Finally we had the Hootenanny. All performers from the whole day were invited to get up on stage together. We took turns leading songs that most folks would know. As Brian put it, we had “folkie heaven” singing together, with as many harmony notes as any of the songs would allow.

The first song honored the friendship and life of Denise Marie Stein. She was a member of the Yellow Room Gang, and was an incredible harmony singer. She and Maggie Ferguson opened for Brian and I at our Halloween Live at the Living Room/Blue Note Cafe’ show last year. It was meaningful for many of us to sing a song in memory of her talent and friendship.


We were honored to be asked to lead a song very early in the show. David of Mustard’s Retreat is a dear friend of my brother Eric Oscar, and his wife Diana/Otterwise. We finally got to meet briefly, and he asked us to get up there and lead the packed audience (and packed stage) in a number.

We chose to lead “When the Red Red Robin Goes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along.” We whistle on that number in two places. We invited everyone to whistle with us. It was pretty incredible to hear not only people singing along with the verses, but whistling by the hundreds, all at one time. I loved it!!!

Thanks to Jack Ferguson for telling Shirley and the rest of the Thumbfest gang about us. We had just the best time, ever!

Update 9/7, 11pm Eastern: For those who were involved with the event and who would like to see a full set of photos, you can go to my Flickr account (user name colorjoy) and choose the Thumbfest 2009 photoset, or just click the link in this paragraph.

Photos: 1) Moonsqualler; 2&3) Country Jam at Jam Tent; 4) Eire America (Kitty Donohoe and David Mosher); 5) Sam Corbin and Jen Sygit; 6) Duality; 7) View from behind Smackwater stage, taken from restaurant; 8 ) Harbor View (there is a good beach here); 9) Yellow Room Gang (Jim Bizer, David Tamulevich, Kitty Donohoe, David Barrett, Annie Capps, Jan Krist, Michael Hough, Matt Watroba, not in that order on stage); Hootenanny with The Fabulous Heftones (Me and Brian) leading Red Red Robin.