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 18, 2015 - 2:06 p.m.

And The Winners Are ...

Last night I said I did my NERFA homework. By that I meant I went through all the cards people gave me and or added them on Facebook. But we know I'm not really finished with my NERFA homework, I haven't finished blogging about it. I stayed home yesterday so that I'd have nothing to write about. Yes I actually did that so I would be free to write about NERFA. I'm going to try and get it all in one entry. This might be long. I'm going to do it in sections.

Explaining NERFA

I realize that not all of My Gentle Readers go to NERFA. Many of you have not even heard of it so a quick explanation of what it is and some terms I'll be using. NERFA is the NorthEast Regional Folk Alliance. Yes Folk Alliance is the least fearsome alliance on the planet. It's a conference for folk professionals, musicians, presenters, DJs, promoters, etc. It is not a concert, it's not for fans. I list myself as a presenter because of the Budgiedome and a blogger. It's always hard to define my place in the community. I'm really the folk Gordon. There are a few other people of similar ilk there. The official functions are workshops and four kinds of showcases; DJ which is the first night where each DJ presents one artist, Formals which have nothing else going on at the time and which most people attend, Quads, four simultaneous showcases, and guerillas. The Formals and Quads are official, the artists are chosen by a panel of judges. Anyone can register to run a guerilla showcase. They are held in regular hotel rooms and the people that run it decide who is going to play in their room. I have always wanted to do that but would need both help and to have my anxiety more under control. Otherwise it is very much like scheduling Budgiedome. The guerillas start around 11:45 PM. That's why we are up all night. After they are over people can be found jamming till dawn.

Idiot Stories

An odd place to start but if I didn't I'd forget about them; you know why? I'm an idiot. The idiocy started right away. I was very good and packed the night before I never do that. I woke up nice and early so I'd have time to make breakfast and clean up afterward. I double-checked to make sure I didn't forget anything. I had it all under control. I checked the subway schedules and had it all down. I got on the . I sat down and as the trained pulled out went to unbuckle my backpack … I didn't have my backpack. ARRRGGGGHHH!. I got off the first stop and took the first train back home. I raced to my room grabbed the pack, did not now forget my suitcase, and headed out again. I used the voice texting to tell my ride I'd be late.

The second idiot story took place on Friday. I got up for breakfast and intelligently remembered to take my key so I could get back in the room. I got back from breakfast and found that I had grabbed my house keys and my room key was still in the room. Have I mentioned that I'm an idiot? I went to the lobby and told them what I did. They were fine with it and asked what room, I said "5111." The clerk said, "You mean 5110?" You're rooming with John right? Yes she was right. Good thing I joked with her when I checked in so she remembered me.

Third idiot story: Yes this was a three idiot story weekend. Actually I'm pretty sure it was more but I'm an idiot so I can't remember the others. I really should have kept notes. Saturday night I had a tight guerilla showcase schedule. I had to make an 11:45 showcase promptly as I couldn't stay for the whole thing. How do I know that? I spend a lot of time making my guerilla schedule. That involves going through every showcase and looking for everyone I want to see and entering them on a retro-spreadsheet, that's a sheet of paper from the pads they give us. Each line is 10 minutes. I had a list of artists I wanted to check out and when I found one on the listings I'd put him or her in. It's a time consuming process. I then put the sheet in my NERFA badge holder.

I have a pre-guerilla preparation different than most people's. I go back to my room and change into my sleeping clothes, sweatpants, t-shirt, hoodie, and slipper socks. That's my key to being able to stay up all night and stay fresh. But that takes time. As my room was at the far side of the hotel from the Quads I was at, the Quad Rooms are both sides of the hotel, I decided to forgo the fifth round of quads and get to my room to change so I wouldn't miss my 11:45 showcase. I was good. My timing was great. I reached into my badge holder to get my schedule so I'd know which room to go to; it wasn't there. I looked through my bag, it wasn't there. I looked through the garbage, I had just thrown papers out; it wasn't there. I realized I must have left it at the last Quad showcase I went to on the far side of the hotel. ARRRGGGHHH. I got there and found it under my seat. I then raced back to the tower where the guerillas are and up to the room. I got there at 11:52 and had to leave at midnight. Now it's proper NERFA etiquette to leave in the middle of a showcase, people have to run all the time but I was sitting right up front so I left a note saying why I had to leave. I'll go more into that later.

My Formal Showcase:

Yes I had a formal showcase on the big stage. Sure it was listed as Christine Lavin and Don White but it was really mine. In the lobby I went over to talk to two of my favorite people, Christine Lavin and Carla Ulbrich. There are a lot of my favorite people at NERFA. I guess I will have to refrain from saying that about every time or this will be War and Peace. Chris asked us to join her on stage for her something on her last song. When Chris needs a volunteer from the audience and I'm around it's usually me. And by volunteer I mean that Chris volunteers me. Not that I wouldn't anyway. Not that I wouldn't be hurt if she didn't volunteer me. So what did I do? I won't tell you I'll show you. It was caught on video. I come on at about 3:30. This is Chris and Don so it's funny, watch the whole thing. I'm wearing a bright green t-shirt. You'll spot me easily.

I'll let Bette Davis Introduce This Section :

The Hudson Valley Resort is shall we say past its prime. There are often problems. On Friday morning I get in the shower and go to adjust the showerhead and the entire head and pipe leading to the head came off in my hand. It wasn't unscrewed, it broke. I went to the desk to report it, yes I remembered to get dressed first, then went down to the spa to shower. To the hotel's credit when I got back to the room they were working on it and it was fixed that day.

Sylvia Platypus

Yes you read that right; it is the best band name ever. I'm proud of myself for getting them to NERFA. I saw their name on the Philly Folk Fest schedule and of course had to investigate. They had the best blurb I had ever seen. It made me want to hear the band.
If Edith Piaf partied with the Yardbirds on a windswept moor, the result might sound something like Sylvia Platypus. Sylvia Platypus is Philadelphia's (and possibly the world's) only psycho-celtic glam-blues band. …
I wrote the band and told them and Janet, the leader wrote me back and we became Facebook friends. I told her they had to go to NERFA and they did! Not only that I got her hooked up with a mentoring session with Alan Rowoth. And that's why I belong at NERFA. I'm not really a presenter or a journalist but I'm a networker; I connect A with B. Sylvia Platypus is the band that I raced to see on Saturday night. I'm not sure but I think I also was an influence in getting Evie Ladin there. I know I enthusiastically told her she had to go and let her know as soon as submissions for the showcases started. She got a Quad and I tried to make sure that all my friends saw her.

The Social Ramble

A huge part of NERFA is socializing and jamming which is of course a kind of socializing. It starts as soon as you get there. Actually this year I set a record for longest time before I ran into someone I knew. This year I had to wait till I actually got into the hotel. Then I ran into everyone. I got so many hugs. I did something I don't usually do, I often ate with friends not strangers. There were just people I had to catch up with and by tradition I eat one breakfast with Mark and Carolann. And I did eat with some strangers and made new friends. I have 22 new friends on Facebook.

The Magic Show

I got to see magic tricks from the appropriately named Jim Trick. He's a musician that Kathy has been raving about and she told me that I have to get him to show me magic. I love magic and he does the real thing; not store bought tricks but sleight of hand. I know how these things work but still couldn't see him do it. The ring really passes through his fingers, at least that's how it looks. I can watch that stuff for hours. I wish I could do it better.


When The Young Novelists took the stage at the Formals I was all, "That's my friend!" I can say I knew them when. Now they are superstars and won the Canadian Folk Awards Best New/Emerging Artist. I hope they don't forget me.

Bad Reviews

A nice thing about NERFA is that I see so many people that I can say some of the negative quips that come to my head and nobody knows who I am talking about. I wrote them down during the conference to remind myself why I don't like the artist. So here are some of the thoughts that go through my head.
New Main Street Singers (from A Mighty Wind)
Voice no content
Sounds Pretty no content
Lost Interest
Corny Dad Jokes
Cover Bar Band
Politically correct

Ermine Violins

These led to the observation that pretty sound does not equal good music. Some artists have beautiful voices and some groups make gorgeous harmonies, but if that is all there is I lose interest fast. In the Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles Mr. Spock says he doesn't understand the attraction tribbles have for people. Uhura says "they are soft and make a pleasing sound." Spock retorts, so would an ermine violin but I see no reason to make one." So for now on these acts are ermine violins.


There is a space for notes at the back of the program and this year I made it simple. When I saw someone I want to see again I put them there and labeled this list "winners." Some I only heard one or two songs by and I'm not even sure what they do but if they are on this list you should check them out. This is in order of discovery. For bookkeeping purposes Canadians get an * after their name. The type of Showcase I saw them in follows the name
  • Mount Thelonius – DJ - Terry recommended them to me and she was right on. My note on them was just "Darlingside." They aren't like Darlingside, they are not a harmony group though they do have some harmonies. It's their songwriting that reminded me of Darlingside. As so many of my favorite do, they push the boundaries of folk.
  • The Doll Sisters* – DJ - My note for them was "Good Nields Celtic Fiddle Rock." Hey I take concise notes. Like the Nields there are sisters with unusual harmonies. What makes them "Good Nields" is that I like their result better. Remember I totally respect the Nields I just don't like the sound. These guys I do and their musicianship.
  • Mari Black – DJ - I told about meeting them in my NERFA Preview. I also saw them in the DJ showcase. They play chamber folk reminiscent of Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, and Jordan Tice. It's music that feeds both your mind and soul.
  • Rare Spirits – Guerilla – I was walking through the halls on my way to a guerilla when I heard music I had to investigate, Rare Spirits. They are from Brooklyn and play Old Time music. I hope I got their CD. I have no other info on them.
  • The Bombadils* - Guerilla – I saw them because of their name. Tom Bombadil is one of my favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings. I also thought they toured with Darlingside but that was Bombadil not The Bombadils. Now they are a duo, they used to be bigger. Are they the Canadian version of Old Time? Not sure what you call it other than great. They had a flautist sit in the first time I saw them and a flautist/bass clarinetist and a cello the second time. I saw them that second time because Brooklyn's own Alex Spiegelman was the flautist/bass clarinetist.
  • Les Poules à Colin* - Formal – They are an amazing Quebecois neo-trad band. Yes that's my sweet spot. I hope they come down to New York. I need to see more of them. My note for them was one word, "great."
  • Rant Maggie Rant*
  • - Quad – I met Glen who plays lead vocals, recorder, and percussion, at Jayne Toohey's display. We bonded looking at pictures of naked folk musicians. My rule is that if someone is interesting to talk to his music has a better chance of being good. Their music is great. It's Celtic, not Irish, not Scottish, representing all 7 Celtic Nations. You'll have to research yourself to find what they are.
  • David Myles* - Quad – Yes another damn Canadian. His music doesn't sound Canadian. He tall and thin with glasses and looks like a stretched Buddy Holly. His music is rock/pop/jazz, … He does it all and does it all well as does his band. He's funny with a great stage manner.
  • Shun Ng (the last name is pronounced ing) – Formal - I could not decide how much I like him so he almost wasn't on this list. But he is exactly what I want to see at NERFA. He's unlike everyone else. He has so much energy, he breaks genre boundaries. I can see him ending up as one of my favorite of favorites or he might end up as someone brilliant but not my cup of tea. So you should see him and judge for yourself
  • Dougmore – Guerilla – This is Doug Goldstein of Cricket Tells the Weather's side project. I knew Doug but not Dougmore. This is a band designed for me. He studied Greek and Roman history and literature in college. So he did what anyone would do, wrote a concept album based on Ovid's Metamorphosis. The part I heard sounded like a 70s art rock concept album performed on bluegrass instruments, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and cello. He says that's not what it's all like. There's more Hearing what I heard and the idea of the album reminds me of when I heard Anaïs the first time an she did Why Do We Build the Wall and explained Hadestown. This is something special.
  • Cozy Sheridan = Formal = I was disappointed with the Formals this year, too many established artists that I wasn't crazy about. I thought Cozy fit in that category. I was wrong. I had never seen her and wasn't sure if it was a him or her. Then her introduction turned me off to her as it said, "She's funny but always with strength and … "I to myself, "ugh, overly earnest." Nope she wasn't funny but she was plain out unapologetically funny. She was silly. She had serious songs too. The mix reminded me of Cheryl Wheeler. I sat with Chris, Sharon, and Fred for her. They clearly all knew her, I think from Summersongs. I didn't get a chance to ask then forgot to ask later.
    Jacob Johnson – Quad – He's an easy sell, a virtuoso guitarist with a sense of humor. He makes serious music and entertains. That' a hard combo to beat. He might appeal to th widest audience of any of them.

Just missed the cut but might very well belong Lynne Hanson* and Ian Foster*. You might have noticed that they are all bands other than Cozy. It seems that's where my head is now of course I still love many individual performers but the bar is set higher on them. It might just be where the talent is now. Joe Crookston still blew me away.

OK I still have more to write but that will have to wait. Now I have to eat.

No, first I have to tally the scorecard. I am recommending eleven acts, five are Canadian. Canada is much smaller than the US. That means Canada won NERFA. The breakdown by type of showcase is. DJ – 3, Guerilla -3, Quad – 2, Formal -3.

And now for the Winners of Winners, the top tier, it's Mari Black and Dougmore.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile November 18, 2015
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