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
-Bertrand Russell

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 14, 2017 - 11:43 a.m.

You Need to Hear These People!

I still haven't downloaded my photos or started listening to the music I picked up at NERFA but I prepared for this entry; I went through my notes to compile my NERFA discoveries. As I didn't leave the house; not even to do the necessary grocery shopping I don't have much else to write about so let's get right to it. I'm expecting everyone to check out every artist I mention. All the venue and house concert operators should be booking at least two of these acts.

I am going to divide the discoveries into tiers. My fear is that instead of being happy I recommended them they will be unhappy they didn't make the higher tier; at the Olympics bronze medalists are happier than silver. Nobody should feel slighted; first time I saw her I put Jean Rohe in the second tier; she is now second to no one. I also thought her aloof; she's one of the warmest people I know. First impressions are often mistaken. The order within tier is based on chronology, alphabetical order, and vagaries of memory, not quality. In the interest of getting this done I'm not going to post my usual links You should be able to find everyone; they are worth the effort.

  • Tier 1: Changed My World

    • Mama's Broke – The Canadian duo of Amy Lou and Lisa Maria play traditional music from several Canadian traditions and the Appalachians. Amy plays and banjo, guitar, and mandolin and Lisa fiddle, mando, guitar, and feet. She does foot percussion, both standing and sitting. They were the recipient of the Bobtown lesson. First time I saw Bobtown they won me over the first showcase and I didn't see them again the rest of the conference. I regretted that as nobody I saw instead of them came close. I'm there to discover new people but if I find someone I love I'll keep seeing them. When I finally introduced myself, after their Semi-Formal, I said, "you probably noticed me stalking you all weekend." They hadn't. The highlight was not the Semi with a full sound system, or any of the guerilla showcases I saw. It was playing in a corner of the lobby to half a dozen people including two women, strangers to each other, who spontaneously started clogging. I introduced myself to one of them, Sage Snider. She was the first one from NERFA to send me a friend request. Mama's Broke singing reminds me of Anna & Elizabeth, beautiful harmonies from the past. Somebody needs to book them together. Everyone I know needs to book Mama's Broke including Falcon Ridge. I didn't ask, I told them they are playing Budgiedome if they are there.
    • Élage Diouf had a formal. He lives in Montreal but is originally from Senegal. I missed the beginning of his set, when I walked in I heard a complex percussion jam, that morphed into a rocking version of A Man of Constant Sorry. That was enough to win me over. His music is like nothing that I've heard, it's not rock but it has that high energy feel. In another reality it's the template of popular music. If I festival books him the crowd will go wild. This is what I want from NERFA, music that expands my horizons. I talked to him after his set and had a great discussion about language in Africa.

  • Tier 2: I'm Sold on Them

    • KC Groves – I met KC the first day before she performed. I spotted Stephanie Coleman who I did not expect to see at NERFA and made a beeline towards her. I see many people I love at NERFA but it's even more exciting when I don't expect to see them. She was accompanying KC who I had not heard of before. I should have, she was in Uncle Earl with Kristin Andreassen and others. They are high on my "how the hell did I never see them?" list. With that pedigree I was sure I'd love KC; I was right. She plays mandolin and guitar, Steph played fiddle. KC was in the DJ showcase; thank you Ken Batista from WYEP in Pittsburgh for bringing her. I don't know Ken. I'll look for him next year.
    • Joshua Garcia – Joshua is not quite a discovery. I saw him once before and raved over him here. This was a rediscovery. Kudos to Carter who asked, "Is this the guy you told me about?" That was months ago. Kudos to Carter is the name of my Common Ground Coffeehouse tribute band. Joshua's looks bely his music. Picture the class nerd in a TV show about high school. He is mid-twenties, looks younger, sings and writes older. He evokes Bob Dylan and John Prine. Do I need to say more? He impressed me more than any solo singer/songwriter at NERFA.
    • The Andrew Collins Trio – My notes say, "Great Bluegrass." Sometimes that's all you need; Andrew plays mandolin and the others in the trio guitar and bass. They are Canadian. They had me dancing in my seat.
    • The Early Mays – I missed their first three songs at the Formal as I didn't realize the intermission was over. They are a neo-trad trio that plays Appalachian music. Along with the expected banjo, guitar, and fiddle, they have a harmonium! There have great harmonies. I need to see more of them; so do you
    • Poor Man's Gambit – They are an Irish trio based in New York but playing more in the Philly area. I knew their fiddler, Genna Gillespie from her days as a founding member of Burning Bridget Cleary. There aren't many Celtic bands at NERFA, I wish there were more. This is right in my sweet spot; music that makes me feel good while keeping my brain engaged. I missed the band with the most buzz at the conference to see them; I'm glad I did. The Semi-Formal was their only showcase. I will be seeing them whenever I can.
    • The Black Feathers – They were the band I missed to see Poor Man's Gambit. Everyone loved them, so I made sure to see them at a guerilla showcase, I saw them at two. I'm sure for many others they were the top NERFA discovery. They aren't exactly in my wheelhouse but that doesn't mean they aren't great. They are a married harmony duo from England. If they don't play On Your Radar, I'll be shocked. They are dead center of John Platt's sweet spot. More importantly, if they are at Falcon Ridge I'll ask them to play the Budgiedome
    • NUA & ndash; I am pretty sure I've seen or heard them before. They are another rocking Irish band. Poor Man's Gambit was in the audience for them and fell in band love. I have to write the WFUV Irish hosts and ask if they are playing NUA or PMG. They should be playing both.
    • Beth Wood – She's another rediscovery. My note was "How did I forget how great she is?" By coincidence I saw her at On Your Radar exactly five years ago. I took a video of her toes dancing, not her feet, just her toes. The video is gone and if they were dancing at the Formal Showcase I missed them. She's also a delightful dinner companion. She's in Portland, I have to hook her up with Laura Dunn and her Broken Planetarium shows.
    • Millpond Moon – They are playing On Your Radar tonight. I went to see them just to take performance pictures to post on Instagram. I'd have discovered them anyway but this way I've had the pleasure of knowing them three extra days! They are a Norwegian duo that plays authentic Americana. Their singing is accent free though their speaking is not. They are also sweethearts. I loved talking to them.

  • Tier 3 – Need to See More.

    • Christine Sweeney
    • Annie & the Hedonists
    • Sparrow Blue
    • Mathew Byrne
    • Marion Halliday & Trickster Sister