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 17, 2016 - 4:03 p.m.
NERFA Discoveries 2016
My sleep pattern has not had a chance to get back to normal since NERFA. Last night it was two separate digestive problems; one kept me from falling asleep and the other awoke me too early. I woke up my usual time, 8:30, and got out of bed to help get me back on schedule an hour later took a nap. Now I'm awake but a bit sleepy. The plan is to stay awake today till 12:30 and hit the hay then. I don't think I have plans for tonight. I did but I am not going to make an expedition to Brooklyn.
I'm going to finally write up my NERFA discoveries. The problem is that I don't have them organized anywhere. I'll do my best and I apologize to anyone I leave off.
This was an unusual year; my top discoveries were not in the Formal or Tricentric showcases. One was in the DJ showcase and the other just had guerillas. I had heard nothing about either beforehand so they took me by surprise which makes it even better. You'll probably hear about the people with buzz in short order even if you don't attend but for these you'd have to wait for the buzz to build. I'm part of the buzz. That is appropriate as the intro to my profile on Facebook says in part; "I'm not a social butterfly; I'm a social bee pollinating the garden of music." Buzzing is part of the job description of a bee.
First up is Amy "I can never remember her last name" Kucharik. I saw her the first night at the DJ showcase and told everyone I knew to try and catch her. Each time I'd say, Amy, um so Slovak name, Kolchak, not that's the old TV show um let me look it up in my program. That took a long time but I felt it important that everyone discover her. I saw her twice with her full band, the Friends with Benefits. Her usual bass player wasn't there and Craig Akin filled in. That means that Amy and Craig are friends with benefits. I never got around to it but I wanted to text Abbie, Craig's wife and tell on him. I'll tag her and consider my duty done.
I should have checked her out multiple time as she performs with the band, as a duo with Khrysti "no that is not a typo" Smyth "rhymes with blithe not myth," and solo. I just saw her with the band but I did make sure to see her twice. They were the very last act I saw at the guerillas on Saturday night. I wanted to see a longer set than at the DJ showcase. What does she do? With the band the instruments give some hint, she plays the uke and there's a washboard, harmonica, and bass. There is something of an old timey feel but it's not old timey or any other genre. There are great lyrics to rhythmic folk melodies. The two acts she evoked to me were Anaïs Mitchell and Bumper Jacksons. Listen for yourself.
I can't play anything by my next artist as she hasn't recorded anything yet. You are getting in on the ground floor here. Her name is Choc'late Allen. She's a young woman from Trinidad that sings Calypso. Her band was the Gaslight Tinkers. I love the Gaslight Tinkers. If you didn't catch them at Falcon Ridge or NERFA make sure to see them. The Tinkers play some Caribbean music and rock backing her. If things work out right The Tinkers will be back at Falcon Ridge and they will bring Choc'late. If that happens she is playing the The Budgiedome. I did not give her a choice in the matter. She's a bundle of energy, talent, and joy. She gets the audience up and dancing. I led a conga line. She dances. Everyone who was in the room when she performed became a fan. You'll remember the name and if you see that she is playing anywhere near you, go.
Now for the rest. I hate making the distinction but I think it's important to single out the ones that most affected me. The downside is that at my first NERFA I put Jean Rohe in "the rest," and there's no one I love more now than Jean. I'm making my decisions on a limited exposure and more importantly these artists are still growing. Some could also be having bad days. Late one night when walking through the halls I heard someone singing painfully off key. The people behind me said, "Will someone stop squeezing that cat." I walked back later and peaked in and found it was someone I'm not fond of but I know can sing on key. Many of my friends think she's great. It's just that at 2 AM when you've been singing and playing all day you might be off your game. Let's make it clear, I love all the acts I'm going to list. I'm going to see each of them when possible. It's just that I might love them even more.
I briefly met Kaitlyn last year when she played cello with the Bombadils. They were one of my discoveries last year. I did not become her Facebook friend but started following her on Instagram. I suspect that started when she took pictures of my friends that I liked. I checked her profile and saw that I loved her photography and started following her. I had no idea who she was. Her IG username is Kraitz, which I figured was the name, not a compressed K. Raitz. At some point, I figured out she was a cellist and that I saw her with the Bombadils, but I wasn't sure. Only in the last month or so did I sent her a FB friend request telling her how much I loved her photography. Now she is doing a duo act with fiddler Ben Plotnik. I checked them out and loved it! She either recognized my me from Facebook or saw my nametag and said "hi, so glad to meet you in person." I wanted to stay and talk but I had to run to check someone else out. Then she got sick and I never saw her again. Since NERFA we've talked via Facebook and she's delightful. Musically, they play one of my favorite types of music, chamber folk. I don't know, but my guess is that they are conservatory trained and play traditional music, or at least music that sounds traditional. Some pieces are instrumentals, and others have vocals.
It's just an accident that I haven't seen Cole before. I met him at NERFA last year playing with Dougmore and he's part of that crowd along with Cricket Tell the Weather. I've seen him at other people's shows a few times but could never make one of theirs. My life's been in a bit of disarray if you hadn't noticed. This year I made sure to catch a showcase of theirs and was not disappointed. I had high expectations and they exceeded them. Yes, they are another Brooklyn string band, there are many of them. But they are a great one. It struck me that Cole looks like Pete Townshend. He said I was the second one that told him that this year. It's always good to know it's not just in your head.
I wrote about my social adventures with them in my first NERFA entry. I'm so happy I love their music as I want to hang out with them again and it would be awkward to say, "sorry I didn't go to your show; want to talk for an hour in a hallway now?" I'm trying to listen to each act as I write about them, just to make sure I'm remembering who belongs to what music. So far I'm doing great. Belle Hollows is a good name for them as you can call their music Belle Canto. It's beautiful and melodic. Gentle keeps coming to my mind but I hesitate to use that as people might think I mean wimpy. It's not, any more than Pat Wictor is. He also always strikes me as gentle. Perhaps the Stray Birds is a good comparison. I was afraid I might have been prejudiced because I liked them so much as people but listening to the album I like them even more.
Technically they are not a NERFA discovery as they did a few songs at the Budgiedome open mic but Wendy felt the need to introduce herself with, "You probably don't remember me … " So I'm counting them. They are the duo of Wendy Sassafras Ramsay and Jeffrey Pepper Rogers. Unfortunately, they have not recorded anything yet. I could listen to Jeffrey's solo album but it's not the same thing. They roomed on the same floor as me and I kept running into Wendy. What I remembered from the Budgiedome was that she had an insect song and I loved it. It was Fruit Flies. The first time I saw them in a guerilla they changed the set list to include it. Having a bad memory has it's uses. I got to fall in love with it again. Jeffrey had a weird geeky song too and of course I can't remember it. The next guerilla I saw them out Wendy said, "Gordon is here; we have to change the set again to make it weirder." We haven't known each other long but she knows me well. I love booking people like them at the Budgiedome. They aren't well known but they are delightful; the kind of music that you can love at 2 AM.
They were on my list of people to check out but I didn't remember why. I think I might have heard of them last NERFA and missed them. I wanted to make sure to see them this time. Then by pure chance when I went to sit with strangers it was Michael and Laurel. I went to see them and they fit in with many of the other acts I've talked about. They are a traditional duo, two voices, two guitars, playing roots music, traditional or trad sounding. There's social protest, an anti-fracking song. Oh, I hear a banjo too. I'm running out of superlatives. I can tell you that based on what I just listened to a bill of the Belle Hollows followed by Red Tail Ring would sound great. They have just the right mix of similarity and difference to go well together.
They were recommended by Becca. She's on the short list of people whose taste I trust the must. They are the duo of Ryan David Green and Cameron Hood; you see where the name comes from. They are an acoustic duo but not traditional sounding. Is there such a thing as acoustic folk rock? They have a sound that's too rare in the folk scene. Pair them with ilyAIMY? Maybe, they are not at all similar except in stretching the boundaries of folk.
That's it. I just noticed that I didn't include a solo singer/songwriter. I'm not sure if this is my taste or where the folk world is moving now. There are certainly far more string bands than their used to be. Maybe this is a good time to be a solo artist, you'll stand out. There were many there that I loved but already knew. Oh, wait. There are two more acts that I want to write about. I knew them before NERFA but one is very new and so unfamiliar to most of you and the other has been away from the scene for a long time.
They are the Brooklyn based duo of Adam and David Moss. I knew them as a fiddler and guitarist, accompanying my friends. They must be tired of me saying this but I didn't know they were two separate people; they are identical twins. I knew the last name was boss but was never sure of the first name. Now I know why. As a duo, they get to show off not just their impressive instrumental chops but their singing. Identical twin harmonies are even more special than familiar harmonies. When they sing in unison it's unique. You throw in great songs and you have it all. Some are trad sounding and others in the Simon and Garfunkel mode. Either way they are going places. See them now when you can.
The website isn't working now; don't be surprised if you click on the link and don't reach it. When I started listening to WFUV Tish was in heavy rotation. She sings Tex/Mex music, much of which is in Spanish. She's great but I never got a chance to see her. Then she moved to Germany for 10 years. Now she's back and as great as ever. I just saw her 15 minute Tricentric but that is all it took for me to become a believer. Since then I've listened to two of her albums. She was out of the most recent, I can't wait to hear that. If you are a presenter, book her. If you are a DJ, play her. She is not just rehashing past glories. She's a vibrant artist.
Wow it took me four hours to write this and that's without including embedding songs by most of the artists. It's now too late for me to pick up my mail from my PO Box. I'll have to do that tomorrow. I'll still go into town to go to Trader Joe's. I'm not sure what tomorrow brings. I could check my plans but I'm not. I want to get this posted. Check out as many of these artists as you can. They are all special. I don't promote the people I simply like.