2003: From Nashville to Frisco to Duvall
|11/14/03||Seattle, WA||Puget’s Sound|
|8/30/03||Richland, WA||Tumbleweed Music Festival|
|8/26/03||Portland, OR||St. Francis Park|
|7/31/03||Denver, CO||Swallow Hill Cafe|
|7/25/03||Vancouver, WA||Washington State University- |
|5/30/03||Seattle, WA||Meadowbrook Community Center|
|5/26/03||Seattle, WA||Northwest Folklife Festival|
|5/17/03||Mountain View, CA||Red Rock Cafe|
|5/15/03||San Francisco, CA||Papa Toby’s Revolution Café|
|4/25/03||Duvall, WA||P & G Speakeasy Cafe|
|4/22/03||Vancouver, WA||Washington State University- |
|2/13/03||Kirkland, WA||Intermission Pub & Parlour|
|2/7-8/03||Nashville, TN||Folk Alliance |
Seattle Sounds Showcase
|2/1/03||Bainbridge Island, WA||Pegasus Coffee House|
I have had several different requests over time to return to posting journal
entries—as I did during the Project in Spring, 2001—so I have
decided to offer ramblings about each performance, starting...now.
Fri., November 14, 2003
Seattle, WA: Puget’s Sound
One reason that my performance schedule has relaxed some in the latter half of this year is that I’ve used the time to focus on getting my new concert series off the ground. I’ve always been a big fan of local, community music events/gatherings—concerts where people go because they want to ask the artist a question or hope to run into old friends in addition to just wanting to watch the performance; places where folk can get there, park, bring whomever (kids!), and then afford to continue through the door. This idea that live music need not entail a hundred-plus dollar-investment and an epic drive to the oft-not-local mega-arena, coupled with my desire to see the many talented musicians of the area have a stage where they can share their crafts with folk who want the same, has driven me to organize this Puget’s Sound series...and, now in its third month, I have accepted an invitation from my featured act to share the bill.
In some ways the doubled production and performance duties prove oddly soothing. After the first two Puget’s Sound shows, I have discovered that I have a dreadfully hard time sitting still once the show actually begins: I’m used to ‘my time’ being the performance itself, not the prep! Carol Crowell (who also teaches flute lessons at Meadowbrook, the host community center) opens the evening with a nice selection of Irish, popular, and show-tune music for solo flute, and then I’m on. My parents, sister, and second-cousin-ish once-removed are here, and it’s nice for me (and for them, I think) to see me on a stage I’ve created. My indispensable sound/light man, Chris Glanister, dials in his usual solid sonics, and his brilliant, Ernst plumbing hardware-supported lights keep me from really seeing who’s out there. I play a shorter-than-usual set—helped through by a two-quart pitcher full of water (there’re really no decent-sized drinking glasses at Meadowbrook!)—deciding to leave more time for MJ Bishop and her great band (whom I join for four songs on mandolin). Nice crowd, nice night, nice progress for what I hope will become a solid and accessible series for performers and audience alike!
Sat., August 30, 2003
Richland, WA: Tumbleweed Music Festival
There’s a core-group of folk who tend to do all the local festivals, and for a few months we reconvene periodically in places like Yakima and the Tri-Cities to catch up. Tumbleweed is sort of the end-of-season blowout, the last great local-focused festival of the summer, and the folk who put this thing on do fantastic work: feeding us; keeping us cool; and giving us great audiences. I do love this festival!
My set is a short one on the River Stage, and I always enjoy playing to the Columbia in addition to the beaming faces in front of me (I also sit-in with Jon Pfaff and serve on a Northwest Historical panel workshop that plays futilely to a handful of people during the dinner hour!). Lots of ‘how-ya-beens’ and ‘sometime we oughtas’ throughout the day, with the added (sometimes heckling) bonus of my folks, who’ve made the 2½-hour drive down from Pullman. As always, the first day ends with the evening concert sending pleasant sounds into the cooling air, and the second day offers more of the same great, relaxing event. ¡Adiós al verano!
Tues., August 26, 2003
Portland, OR: Saint Francis Park
I’m splitting tonight’s show with Jon Pfaff (“the notable exception”), a self-proclaimed refugee from Seattle 1960s folk scene and a long-time coffee buddy. We’ve talked for months about playing some together, and tonight we’ll finally get to. Jon is one of those delightful enigmas who I probably would not find so engaging if I knew all of the answers to the various questions that readily raise themselves in his company. Today ought to be a hoot!
We start our trip down circa 7:30 AM: Jon has several errands to run in Portland, and apparently the G.I. Joe’s in Seattle simply won’t suffice. We bounce from CompUSA to Circuit City to Car Toys (we’ve got those up here!—though we do have to pay sales tax...) before really entering Portland proper, where we proceed to price (and sometimes purchase) books, vitamins, wine, microphones, sandwiches, potential performance venues, and more. In the midst of our conspicuous consumption, we meet with the fabulous folk at St. Francis who run a remarkable outreach program, serving daily meals from their facilities—a great, maze-like churchhouse and the adjacent, charming little park in which Jon and I will soon perform.
Goods procured, we find a lawn to put in a quick rehearsal, the Hanes that Jon uses to soften the sound of his little nineteenth-century banjo flapping in the steady breeze (hey, it quit drizzling!). From there it’s back to the park, where the parish sound system sputters and fails, leaving me to piece something together from my good Portland-friend Leb’s borrowed Marshall guitar amplifier (which I had planned to use for monitors..). It works, somehow, and we’re off and running, trading barbs and tunes to a nice-sized and nicely enthusiastic gathering of folk. We close with Mary Garvey’s poignant “Astoria Bar,” basking in the sounds of the crowd singing in the closing darkness. We’re back to Seattle before 1:00 AM...
Thurs., July 31, 2003
Denver, CO: Swallow Hill Cafe
Odd experience it is to have an airport layover in the city I’ll end up in by evening, but my travel plans have my flying to Colorado Springs to drive to Denver. The wait for the rental car is so long that I receive an “upgrade,” so now I’ll use twice as much gas in my mammoth Isuzu XL-7 on the drive up. (The odometer in this car displays “HELLO” when I turn the power on and “SEE YOU” when I turn it off, which creeps me out—I’m terrified that when I really need to get somewhere, like the gig, it’ll merely read “I’M SORRY WES, I CAN’T DO THAT...”) I take only one wrong turn—and I think I was instructed to do so—before finding the Cafe and meeting an old friend for a pre-show drink.
Seattle songwriters meet monthly (or, at least, they used to...) to discuss how the community might develop a venue like the Swallow Hill Cafe: what a treat! (Interestingly, Ed, the pleasant fellow who booked me, tells me that the organization has trouble getting people out to take advantage of the very resource that some of us feel Seattle sorely needs...) Denver’s acoustic music society, the Swallow Hill Music Association, which offers classes in addition to producing a notably-large number of shows, has at its disposal a wonderful, intimate cafe setting to showcase acoustic music nightly in addition to its large concert/class space upstairs, and I’m stoked to share this evening’s bill with the Coal Creek Bluegrass Band. I’m on first, and I quickly learn that even a Denver audience can appreciate a good Walla Walla song. Five tunes in, I realize that I’ve played only songs in the key of E—a serious set-list foul—but I come clean and the crowd seems forgiving. I close with a tune in A and another in B-flat and retreat to the back to enjoy some fine bluegrass picking by three tall gentlemen named Dave, a extraordinary sixteen-year-old fiddler, and bass player who croons randy Appalachian numbers with a hint of British accent. Another very nice evening—I’ll have to make my way back!
Fri., July 25, 2003
Vancouver, WA: Washington State University-Vancouver
Apparently satisfied with my ‘guest-lecture’ performance in April, the delightful folk in WSU-V’s History Department have asked me back, this time as the dinner program for their Engaging the American Past summer institute for secondary-level history teachers. A catered barbeque at the Fort Vancouver Reserve is an awful nice place to set up and play some tunes (or daydream about leaving early with the rented sound system, as this those in charge hand me my check early and then leave me alone on site—such wonderfully trusting folk!), though most of the audience elects to sit inside the picnic shelter instead of on the grass, as we’d expected: the result is a pleasant performance...with more of my audience to my back than in front! Nice evening.
Fri., July 18, 2003
Bellevue, WA: Crossroads
Ah, Crossroads: one of the last remaining havens for local, acoustic music in the area—and a great food court to boot! This evening I am the Featured Songwriter for the Victory Music open-mic, a title that nets me an hour-long set perched in the midst of a couple dozen two-song performances. The quality of musicianship at Victory open-mics is notoriously high (not to mention the confidence of the organizers—one ought never to hand a musician his check before his performance!), and tonight’s performers uphold this standard easily; they’re friendly, too, which is always nice. The real challenge comes from trying to win over the fleeting dinner crowds, though the setup is designed to place determined listeners close.
I have, I realize two songs in, left my large, carefully-filled water glass well out of reach, and for some strange reason I elect to stay fastened to my stool and ride it out. All continues to go well enough, however, until my last song, a quiet number that I frequently use to close, when loud yelling from the bar area off to my right steals everyone’s attention (including my own); in my limited view of the television I can tell only that Ichiro Suzuki has homered for my beloved Mariners (who, last I checked, had been trailing the upstart Kansas City Royals), so I can’t stay steamed for long. (I am reminded of a performance I gave last fall at the Fiddler’s Inn in Seattle on the same night as Game 2 of the World Series—I needed only to absorb the vociferous, awed commotion that interrupted another quiet song to know that Barry Bonds had homered...convincingly.)
Turns out Ichiro had hit a grand slam to win it. Good for him. The rest of the evening passes in relaxing fashion listening to the other open-mic participants and ad-hoc combinations thereof. Glad we have Crossroads.
Fri., May 30, 2003
Seattle, WA: Meadowbrook Community Center
In an exciting development, I have recruited North Seattle’s Meadowbrook Community Center to sponsor a once-monthly local artist showcase on the second Friday of each month beginning in September ’03. I have booked this show in order to ‘feel-out’ the hall and offer another low-key Wes-stage with time and space for storytelling . . .‘Test’ remains a good word for the evening, though I wish for a simultaneous opportunity to test the center’s distinctly-shaped and prominently-windowed Multi-Purpose Room with a greater density of audience...Guess that’ll teach me to play in town twice in the same week! Fun, unusual set, though, and many belly-laughs to go around.
Memorial Day: Mon., May 26, 2003
Seattle, WA: Northwest Folklife Festival
Good ol’ Folklife: family, houseguests, chance encounters, and hopefully a set or two somewhere in the mix... My set this year arrives on Monday, so most of the over-stimulating craziness brought by sixteen-person Dim Sum breakfasts and rendezvous plans for seven festival wanderers is fading by the time I amble up to the stage in the Liquid Lounge, the bar housed in Paul Allen’s grand Experience Music Project and serving as my venue this year. Funny: for a popular hangout in a museum dedicated to music, the Lounge doesn’t seem to have been built with comfortable concert attendance in mind...though it does offer one a candid view of the unique construction of the building (the inside appears to be the largest papier-mâché-covered chicken wire structure I have ever seen!).
Folklife sets are always an adventure—more often than not wild attempts to establish a groove in twenty-five minutes—but I find much help from the growing crowd of good friends and supportive faces. Seems like most everyone who has vowed to catch a show ‘one of these days’ has picked this one! I am, of course, feeling nicely warmed-up and ready to really settle in when the jovial soundman’s voice announces through the monitors that I have four minutes remaining, so I close with a plug for the upcoming Meadowbrook series and an upbeat tune, pleased with the responses both receive. New and old friends linger for handshakes and more information (just the way I like), and I felly pretty durn good about this one, fleeting as it may have been.
Folklife seems back on its feet some this year after last year’s post-festival fallout in parts of area music communities. Also helps to have the grounds back!—the noticeable lack of construction at Seattle Center this year provides some comfort and elbow-room that, all agree, has been missing the last few years! So much great music and spirit—good ol’ Folklife!!
Sat., May 17, 2003
Mountain View, CA: Red Rock Cafe
Ah, the self-promoter’s grand dilemma: employ the literary airbrush in order to present an image of success always, or level with the audience that values your honesty? My fortune cookie from the pre-show Mongolian barbecue tells me to “☺Be direct, usually one can accomplish more that way ,” so here goes:
This one proves to be a real bummer, amplified by the lengths to which my staggeringly-gracious hostess, Colleen, has gone to smooth the wrinkles that had already appeared in my transportation plans (as if maintaining a hostel in her apartment while her beau and my old hometown buddy, Spencer, flies to Vegas for his brother’s bachelor party isn’t enough!). Colleen’s slick, borrowed Jetta gets me to the South Bay with no problem, and I stumble into the midst of Mountain View’s A la Carte and Art street-fair. After checking in with the venue, I wander through the blocks of merchants and artists, finding gifts for those who deserve ’em (Colleen appears first on that list) and enjoying some sunny northern-Californian niceness. After dinner (and a fortune), I return to the venue to find two messages waiting for me: a thoughtful ‘sorry I can’t make it but wanted to check in’ note from the son of good family friends; and news of an inopportune decision by the cafe’s owner to close early due to the street closure. Mountain View is a long way to go to be told, forty-five minutes before you plan to go on, that “We’ll close in an hour or so, so you might as well start playing.”
Often when a gig turns slightly sour—which can happen from time to time, for any number of reasons—I adopt the attitude that I can’t undo the travel, etc., and though I’m entitled to grumpiness I might as well play since I enjoy it and it just might distract me from whatever frustrating circumstances have emerged. (If there’re any ruthless promoters lurking in my website traffic, forget that you read that Wes plays in any weather!) But tonight I don’t even really have the option of playing, though I hammer out a few tunes for a handful of coffee drinkers, meaning to quit before Jessica (who flew down Friday) and her friend Lizzy arrive, learn what has happened, and force me to sing to angry-yet-sympathetic pouts. (Jess and Liz do catch a number or two after all.) The three of us grab a drink down the street afterward, where I find some consolation in a Centipede video game machine that is giving away free plays, while the sidewalks bustle with people who probably would have loved to duck into a coffee shop for a little music—though by now I’m past resentment. Turns out it’s prom night (such events, which no one thinks to mention while booking me!, frequently distract from attendance—homecoming in Centralia, the great Thayer Barn auction/fundraiser in Duvall—but this one may have been lucky had it had the chance). Well, shoot...at least I’m staying right on the wharf!
Thurs., May 15, 2003
San Francisco, CA: Papa Toby’s Revolution Café
I should learn not to make such grandiose and stoic statements as ‘whatever happens with the gigs down here, staying with friends on Hyde Street two blocks up from Fisherman’s Wharf will make anything seem pleasant in hindsight.’ Perhaps I’m too prophetic: hanging those thoughts in the ether seems as good a way as any for one to find himself full of hard luck and song ideas (see Day 1 of the Project Journal for a perfect example). I arrive at Papa Toby’s Revolution Café (and ArtBar) in the Mission District only to learn that the police have recently cited the establishment for failure to procure an entertainment license. (Scoping the place out yesterday, I arrived in time to catch an especially heated conversation between a passerby and a staff member; perhaps I won’t stop by tomorrow.) This development, I learn, means that the shop cannot furnish my small guarantee. Seems unfair...
The show itself is one of those nice, unamplified, mostly intimate gatherings that I really like, though I wonder during “Carpe Diem, Carpie” what must be running through the heads of the few people who have just walked in to a Revolution Café and ArtBar to witness a young man singing a song about an elderly fish while seated below an enormous print of playful, topless women. The ethereal, trance-like vibe of the evening continues as we all break and head outside shortly into the second set to watch the breathtaking lunar eclipse, framed in splendid summer-in-the-city fashion by one of San Francisco’s mighty hills on the right and a glaring adult-entertainment sign urging one to call 647-BUTT on the left. Great to play for some old friends and an appreciative clerk. New tunes sounding better with more work (and getting good responses). Nice show, long story.