June 30, 2017
This has been a pretty big month for me, but you wouldn't know it from the lack of any blog posts since May. Why? I've been consumed with learning new songs in preparation for public shows. After about a year of regular playing at the weekly Open Mic Night at Queen City Brewing, on the afternoon of Sunday, June 4, I did my very first full-fledged solo musical performance at Bedlam Brewing, a new business on the north side of Staunton, close to where we live. In my e-mail invitation to local area friends, I said it was going to be a "really BIG show," alluding of course to Ed Sullivan. I was very gratified that a good number of friends from the Augusta Bird Club and Emmanuel Episcopal Church came to watch me play, and they enjoyed it. The photo below is actually a screen grab from the video that Peter Van Acker recorded as I played Neil Young's "My My, Hey Hey." I greatly appreciated their show of support, and also John Huggins and Mike McCracken (owner of Bedlam) for fitting me into their busy musical schedule.
I arrived at Bedlam Brewing about 3:30, which gave me plenty of time to set up the sound equipment. I had used my Fender Passport amplifier system once before, at the Augusta Bird Club's 50th anniversary dinner last December, but this was the first time that I had my own speaker stands (to ensure that the sound carried well) and musical stand to hold the lyrics. I started playing at 4:00, did the 17 songs I had planned as the first half of my set, but that took until about 5:20, as I had underestimated how much time would be needed. After a short break, I played six more songs (nine less than the 15 I had planned), and finished about 6:00. I concentrated on classic rock tunes from the sixties and seventies, with a few country songs mixed in, as well as a few songs from more years. What follows is the actual set list:
In sum, it was great fun but also quite exhausting, and [afterwards I] plopped down to enjoy a beer with some of the folks who came to see me play. I look forward to my next performance there, which will be on July 23. Bedlam Brewing serves a wide variety of choice malt beverages, as well as great food. It's located where Ma & Pa's Pizza used to be, and opened just last February.
At the May 3 event at Queen City Brewing, I followed up my April 26 performance (see my May 2 post) with three more songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival. They all went pretty well, and the final song received the biggest applause:
After a rare hiatus from the weekly music routine, I returned to Queen City Brewing on May 17, which was the first time I had played outside since last summer. I forgot how quickly the springtime evenings cool down, and the short pants I wore proved quite inadequate. I played three more songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival for the first set. I should have done better on "Susie Q," which features a cool guitar riff played over and over. For the second set (the extra time reflected the paucity of musicians that night), I played three songs I know very well. On "Best of My Love," [I have started using a capo (key of C, played like an A)], which I think yields a sound closer to the Eagles' original song. I used to play that one in with open chords. The last two songs utilized the harmonica, and sounded good.
On May 31, I paid tribute to the recent passing of Gregg Allman by playing his song "Melissa." My rendition of "Fall of the Peacemakers" kind of fell flat, but I did much better on "Dust In the Wind," which is one of my old standards. I'll bet nobody had heard that one with a harmonica before! There was a big slate of musicians that night, so we only got to do the basic three songs.
The next week (June 7), I played four songs for the very first time, including the first Ozark Mountain Daredevils I had played since April 12. "If You Want to Get to Heaven" was that group's first big hit, but surprisingly, I never really learned to play it until just a few years ago. (Until I learned to play the harmonica, that song just didn't sound that impressive.) People really loved "Cat's In the Cradle." The last song (as the "encore") was a follow up to the Molly Hatchet song of the previous week, and likewise it kind of fell flat.
On June 14, I played four Eric Clapton songs, beginning with "Tears In Heaven," in honor of the late son of my friends Colin and Teresa Hester, Adam. That one sounded fine, but I had a harder time with the intricate guitar parts on the next three songs. Adequate but not spectacular. In the second set, I played a Pink Floyd song, for the very first time, "Hey You." It went OK, but a little on the weak side. I closed with an old Eagles song, "Bitter Creek," which I had played at my first-ever open mic event. This time it went much better!
On June 21 I played three more Pink Floyd songs, an indication of just how keenly focused I have been on them this month. I had just learned "Comfortably Numb" a week before, and I was pleased that it came through very well. I have played parts of "Wish You Were Here" but never got the whole thing down until recently. Jacqueline was there for the first time in a few weeks, and she recorded the latter two songs on her iPhone, and I uploaded the videos to Facebook.
At the June 28 open mic night, I played my brand-new original song (first heard on Star 94.3 [radio] last Saturday; see below) plus two more songs by Pink Floyd. I had practiced all of them extensively, and it was one of my best performances ever, using the harmonica on all three songs. A big crowd was there (about 30), including Jacqueline, but she had to leave before I played.
As you can see, I have greatly expanded my repertoire with several new songs each from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Pink Floyd. The above songs will soon be added to the Music page.
John Huggins, the guy who arranged my show at Bedlam Brewing, kindly invited me to do his weekly radio show featuring local Shenandoah Valley musical performers, and with some trepidation, I accepted. We recorded the show at the Star 94.3 studios in downtown Staunton on June 23 (Friday), and it was broadcast the next day. He wanted original material, but I don't have much of my own material, so I had to write a song, fast! The result was "Better Left Unsaid," which I have to say sounds pretty good. It was just a rough version that I did on the radio, whereas the version I played at Queen City a few days later had revised lyrics and used the harmonica. I also played an instrumental composition I call "Sky Blues" and I song I wrote in jest for an old friend many years ago, "The Ballad of Adlai."
On Saturday June 17, Jacqueline and I went to the 2017 Shenandoah Blue & Brews Festival at the Ironwood County Club in Staunton, and it was time well spent. It was a hot and sunny day, and we enjoyed the locally-brewed beer and cider on sale, as well as barbecue pork sandwiches prepared by my friends Matthew Poteat and Colin Hester. (Carolina Q is the name of their business.) I'd say there were about 300 people there, which was pretty good but perhaps not as many as had been hoped. We had been to that event a couple years ago, when it was held at the Frontier Culture Museum. John Huggins is the organizer of that event, and is behind many other local musical shows, as well as being the proprietor of Shenandoah Hops, [a craft beer store] in downtown Staunton. He is a very busy guy, and he does a lot for the Staunton community! For more information, see shenandoahconcerts.com. Here are the performers: