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 16, 2015 - 12:02 p.m.
I don't know where to start writing about NERFA. I could spend weeks writing about it even though it only lasted four days. I could do the blow by blow day by day thing which is what I usually do but I think I'm going to try it differently this year. There will be multiple entries and I won't give my list of NERFA discoveries till the last one so I have the maximum time to digest them. I was good and make an list in my program as I discovered them. I also have a bag of NERFA homework, contact info on people I have to add to address book and write and friend on Facebook. The facebooking has started already, I reached out to some people at the conference and others reached out to me.
I'm writing this for the people not at NERFA while the attendees will hopefully read it and go, "yes that's what NERFA is." So now I'm going to try to sum up something that is too big to sum up. All you will be doing it seeing it though the wrong end of a telescope.
Every year I go to NERFA and wonder if I belong there, I'm not much of a presenter, I do Budgiedome, a few nights of music a year. For the first time ever I listed Wise Madness as an affiliation. Blogger is perhaps my most legitimate claim to belonging. I arrive and at NERFA and my doubts about belonging fade away as everyone treats me like I belong. For whatever reasons I'm part of the collective us. One thing that defines NERFA is that sense of us.
What do I get out of NERFA? Two main things, reconnecting with people I know and discovering music that I don't know. One panel that I always love is On the Griddle. Artists submit songs on albums to be played and the panel of DJs, sometimes presenters, this time some A&R people from record companies hear just one minute of the songs and give their responses to it because that's how these people deal with the huge piles of music they hear, they have to have their interest piqued quickly. It's how radio people always think of things as their listeners have to have be sold on the song quickly or they will stage the station. And that's a diversion as I'm not going to write about the panel but just want to mention something that John Platt said that I am going to take as advice to me. "Sometimes being very specific is what makes something universal." I can tell you how wonderful NERFA is and wax poetic about the magic, cause let's face it, that's what I do. But for today I'm going to just tell a few stories, perhaps very short, that are little slices that reveal the whole.
Before the conference I went through the online list of attendees and saw Annie Donohue's name. I have not seen Annie for over three years, since she had a baby. Before that I saw her at Falcon Ridge. She was only there twice but she camped near us, took part in a very intimate Budgiedome song circle, and became part of our Falcon Ridge family. I never saw her out of Falcon Ridge but as soon as I saw her name I knew I had to make a point of seeing her at NERFA. I went to see her guerilla showcase and then took time out from racing from showcase to showcase to hear new music to just sit down and talk to her. We moved to quiet spot off the showcase floors where we could be alone. We then proceeded to have this remarkable intimate conversation like we'd never had before but both of us knew we were capable of having. I can't tell you what we said because the whole point it was things we have trouble talking about with most people.
But there is music at NERFA of course and I'll tell you about to musical experiences. I make it a rule to not see my friends perform, I'm there to hear new music. Sometimes I make exceptions to hear people from distant parts, usually Canada, that I don't get to hear elsewhere. But this year Beth asked me to come hear Spuyten Duyvil, Last year I think they were the band I saw the most. But they had some new songs and Beth wanted me to hear them. I find it hard to say no to Beth so I did. So I went to Carter's Common Ground Roadhouse Room to hear them. I sat there in a bed eating pulled pork and spilling coffee all over the bed. Spuyten Duyvil played the new songs and I could tell that Beth wrote them. Then on the last song they were joined by Joe Crookston on fiddle. Joe I don't see as often but I've known him longer. The first day Lisa tells me that Joe just told her that he loves me. I told her that I love Joe. These are my people and they collaborated beautifully. And when Sputyen Duyvil was done and Joe took the stage he invited another one of my friends, Matt Nakoa to join him. They had never met. It a few moments they figured out how to play with each other and made incredible music. You aren't going to get that at a regular concert.
Musically the ultimate NERFA moment happened Friday night. I was walking from my room over to the lobby. I heard some heavenly music, violin, guitar, and bass, wafting in from an unknown source. I followed the sound till I heard this trio alone in a conference room. It was Mari Black practicing with her band, Joe and Joseph for their quad. I had thought I knew who she was and didn't like her so she wasn't who I was planning on seeing. As the name implies four Quads go on at once. But I heard that and I knew I was mistaken. I would never for a second not like her music. So I asked if I could sit and listen and they said yes. I was a fly on the wall why the band made music for themselves. That's different than performing and it's special. They weren't playing for anyone else, not even me. This was not performing. It was the musicians and the music and I got to watch and hear them being intimate.
So that's my first thoughts on NERFA. It's people and it's music and it's very much like but Falcon Ridge but it's also different and not just because there's no mud. So now I have to get back to real life. I will not be up to all hours running from room to room and down to the lobby and basement in search of music. I won't suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I will still get to hear great music and see friends, I'm hearing Shawna Caspi and Jean Rohe tonight at Rockwood Music Hall. I'm having dinner with Shawna and Fred's going to come and listen to the music with me and it will be wonderful, a transition from NERFA to the real world.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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