I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
November 15, 2016 - 4:22 p.m.
I had coffee and breakfast and ripped a load of CDs before I give them to John Platt tonight so it's time to write, not right. It's a rite of passage for blogwrights to learn the difference. In case you missed it before I was corrected and edited it I made that mistake yesterday. Thank you, Jo for catching it. I always appreciate proofing my posts. The only way I can be as prolific as I am, is by accepting a bit careless in my preparation. It is an acknowledged tradeoff. If it weren't for Spellcheck things would be worse.
I'm going to see if I can finish writing about NERFA today. I'll write in less detail than I have in some years. Here's my plan, write about musical discoveries, and tell some stories about people. There will also be at least one picture of me, perhaps two.
The big official event on Thursday is the Suzi Wallenberg DJ showcase. The other official showcases are picked by committee; here each DJ picks one act and it's someone lesser known. That makes it more idiosyncratic. An artist that people either love or hate can get in to it and those are often the most interesting ones. I find it's the best place to discover new musicians. As a part of the NERFAverse for seven years now I am familiar with some of them before they play. This year that set was Vincent Cross, Judy Kass, Savannah King, and Dan Weber. Vincent was someone I just discovered this year and if I had a slot might have been the one I chose. I would pick new discoveries and people I did not meet at NERFA. Hey President Kornfeld, how about giving me a slot next year?
I met Savannah a few years ago at NERFA and we got friendly. I saw her perform in the City when she was in town but that's been a while so I was happy to see her in the lobby before dinner the first day. We ended up eating together and getting caught up. She's joined the ranks of itinerant musicians. She lives in her decked-out van. I should have gone out to look at it; I saw pictures. That would be a good panel next year, how to be permanently on tour. Panel committeeman Ethan, are you writing this down?
Christine Lavin delivered the keynote address on Friday. Obama did that at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and was the nominee in 2008. She won't be breaking the glass ceiling as the outgoing NERFA president was Cheryl Prashker, but I'm sure she won't let all the power and privilege go to her head. Mike Kornfeld is already building a palace and ordering NERFA 1 to be his personal plane.
The Friday Formal Showcase performers were:
Durham County PoetsThe only two hadn't seen before were Braunfeld and Tassan. So, what happened? I got very little sleep the night before and didn't take a nap, so I fell asleep at the end of Lara's set and woke up as Braunfeld was finishing his. The crowd was enthusiastic but that's all I have to judge him by. Intermission followed Uncle Bonsai. I was chilly and wanted to run back to my room to get my hoodie. I never made it there. First I was distracted by the Gaslight Tinkers and Choc'late Allen playing in the lobby. Then I ran into friends. Then I ran into more friends. Then I ran into more friends. Then I saw that the door had closed and the second set had started. I got back in time for half the last song by Tassan et LesImposteures. I did like that half song. It's difficult not having a brain.
I had seen Man About a Horse at the Caramoor Roots Festival. They were great and I discussed them then. Now I want to talk about their name. The name is a joke, you can say, "I'm going to see a Man About a Horse." That phrase means something different to me than to the other people I talked to about it. To them it means, take a piss. To me it's what you say when you say take your leave and don't want to discuss where you are going. Am I the only one that thinks that? How about the people in the band?
After the Formals come the Tricentrics. There's a choice of three artists and usually choose someone I don't know unless there's a special reason to see someone I know.
On Friday, I saw Cricket Blue, the Brothers Brothers, Suzie Vinnick, Carolann Solebello, and Ryanhood. I have seen the middle three before. The thing is that I saw people playing every Tricentric during the second and third slot so I chose the one I see the least often. I saw Carolann because she's a favorite, a good friend, and she's gone from being the artist I see the most often to one I rarely see and that's just wrong. In other words, I missed her. I was well rewarded in all my choices.
I had asked Becca who to look for at the conference and she said Ryanhood. At dinner Friday, I sat with strangers and the guy next to me was Ryan David Green, half of Ryanhood. The other half is Cameron Hood. See where the name comes from? Ryan was great to talk to which is always enough to get me to check somebody out and with Becca's recommendation it left no choice. Thing is that I missed the Doll Sisters who I love but have never seen outside of NERFA. It took something special to keep me from not seeing them. Ryanhood was. Good thing or I'd have a bone to pick with Becca.
On Saturday, there was only one act in the Formals I didn't know, Rosie & the Riveters; They were not my cup of tea. The lineup was:
Scott Wolfson and Other HeroesThis time I made it back from intermission just in the nick of time. I thought I didn't know Jacob Johnson but I did. I saw him do a Quadcentric last year and loved him. I didn't see him since then and he has a common name and we didn't connect on Facebook so I forgot it. I have corrected the connecting on Facebook. Most people love Irish but not me and took the time during her set to prepare my schedule for the guerillas.
During the Tricentrics I saw Heather Pierson Trio, Dave Gunning, Tish Hinojosa, Kipyn Martin, and the Boxcar Lilies. I know the first and last well but I knew everyone during their timeslots. Kipyn I had just seen do two songs at Falcon Ridge. This was my first time seeing the Boxcar Lilies with new member Susan Cattanneo. Did I spell that right? I could check, her solo CD is just out of reach and we are Facebook friends but I decided to live dangerously. The Lilies are my people so not seeing them with a new lineup would be a sin.
Every NERFA I have stalkers, people I see everywhere. This year's were Phil Knudsen, Wendy Sassafras Ramsay, and Sophie Buskin, who I met at the conference for the first time. She was in the DJ showcase. I know her father as might you, he's David Buskin. She made a "Jew's Don't Camp" joke during her set so I had to tell her my "Jews Don't Camp" story. We got to know each other and I started to call her out for stalking me. She then called me out for stalking her. To me that's the basis of a lasting friendship.
The one thing missing this year was jamming. I always go to the women's jam on Saturday night but everyone I know who was involved said, "I don't know what's going on this year." Finally, on Saturday night Katherine and I went in search of a jam and couldn't find one. We ended up at Spuyten Duyvil's showcase room. That's not the name. It was special to me because not only were good friends running it and not only did they have great musicians play the room but they served Black Market Kitchen's homemade pastrami. That's Mark's new business. I'm a sucker for pastrami and theirs is divine. Damn, I want some now. The showcases were over when Katherine and I arrived, we were still looking for a jam, but instead we just hung around with friends. There were plenty of them in the room. I often do that late night at NERFA, end up in a room and hang out with the people running it. A jam was starting in the lobby but Katherine and I eschewed it as it was already close to 5 AM and went back to our rooms. No jam but we had a great time anyway. Next year we need a peanut butter room so I can say, no jam but we had peanut butter.
Damn, I don't have time to write about my musical discoveries. There will be one more NERFA post. It might seem strange that when I write about conference whose purpose is discovering new music that I'm devoting only one third of my blogging to that but there's so much more to NERFA than that. Now I must get the CDs ready for John Platt, go shopping at Trader Joe's, see John Platt's On Your Radar, and have dinner with Rachael. Let's see if I can be extraordinary and write when I get home tonight. I know I can't but let's just pretend.
I the Jory and the New Jersey Duyvil - November 20, 2016
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