Jean Mann was the featured artist for this concert, so that's how the report was titled. However, we are very pleased she invited violin-player Geli Wuerzner to join her! I vaguely seem to recall that Backyard House Concerts might even be how the two of them met. We'd certainly like to take the credit, even if we're not entitled to it, because they play very very well together!
Jean started out singing her songs while playing her tenor guitar. There might be other people with guitars like that out there, but we don't know any. Even if there are, though, we're confident that Jean has a sound all her own, and it's a sound we love to hear. She's got a sweet, back-porch kind of style that fits in so nicely in our series. Don't let the down-home sound fool you, though - she's got serious talent, and writes beautiful songs.
Along with that tenor guitar, she also plays a more-standard six-string, and recently, she's become very fond of ukes. Which brings me to a confession: I really don't like ukes. There's something about their sound that, generally speaking, just grates on me. There aren't many people who can play a ukelele in a way that keeps me from fleeing the room. But Jean is definitely one of them.
It was a nice night, and we stayed out as long as we could. But after a bit of a break, we moved inside to get a little warmer, avoid the mosquitoes, and, perhaps most importantly, give Eric a chance to accompany on piano. It's always a treat when Eric is able to make it out, because it seems he can play along with anything, and make it sound even better than it already was. This night was no exception. Its moments like these that make us really want to invest in recording equipment, so we can capture some of the magic that happens in our living room.
But wait, there's more: Jaspar Lepak came out to the show, to check out Backyard House Concerts, and to share a song or two. We enjoyed the first song, about a waitress, but were especially taken by her second, about paleomagnetism. (It's admittedly a geek crowd, after all.) We liked her, she liked us, and now she's on the calendar for 3/21/13.
Thanks to everyone who came out, both to share their music, and to enjoy the music shared! If you want to see bigger versions of the pictures (and a bonus picture of Sunny!), please visit the gallery.
I am so late writing this post. Late enough that it would be tempting to let it slide. Except that it was such a fun concert that to do that would hardly be doing Carolyn justice. See, it's not her fault I'm writing it late - things have just been a little crazy lately. But you don't really want to know about that; you want to know about the concert!
Carolyn Cruso is one of the more instrumentalists we've ever had at Backyard House Concerts - and she didn't even show off her full talents. She opened the night with her hammer dulcimer, entrancing the audience from the get-go. Watching the hammers play over the strings, she makes it look so fluid and easy. For her, maybe it is. Playing is certainly something she enjoys, and that joy shines through and adds to the spell being woven by the music.
Carolyn took time out from playing at one point to tell us about the dulcimer. She shared a bit of the instrument's history, and how it works. She demonstrated the effects using different types of hammers, and different coverings on the hammer. She also told us how long it takes to string and tune one - that's not a job I envy!
But Carolyn didn't stay on just the dulcimer. She also pulled out her guitar, and showed us her singer-songwriter side.. These were generally classic folk in style, but most were original compositions. The songs usually told their own story, but she shared how came to write those stories, too.
During the second part of the night, a student of Carolyn's set up a second dulcimer, and we were treated to a dulcimer duet. Then there were more songs, now accompanied by Clint on drum.
As magical as the night was, I happen to know that Carolyn didn't quite pull all her tricks out of her hat: we didn't hear from her flute. So I guess we'll just have to have her back sometime!
For more pictures, please visit the gallery - and thanks to Mike, who took all the good shots! Thanks to everyone who came, and a special thanks to Carolyn, for sharing her music with us!
I picked Fae up at her place at about 11. We loaded up her stuff, and headed back to the house, stopping for baklava on the way (chocolate baklava isn't, strictly speaking, traditional, but it looked tasty, so we got some of that, too). I set Fae up in the kitchen, and she got started preparing the feast. I was supposed to be helping her, but I had something come up such that I wasn't really much use to her, I'm afraid. But she did a beautiful job, regardless, and when it was done, there was quite the spread, with more different kinds of dishes more elegantly presented than anything BHC has ever seen!
Of course the food was just the starting point, and, as wonderful as it was, it wasn't even the centerpiece of the night. Fae opened the night with a few tales from her trip to Ireland, and talk of her upcoming trip to Istanbul. She shared her music, offering up a mix of originals and traditional Celtic songs. For most, she accompanied herself on guitar, but she also played the Irish drum and threw in a little a capella. The audience loved it all.
I thought we might move indoors for the second set, but it was a beautiful night, and the mosquitoes weren't too bad, so folks elected to stay outside. Jim joined Fae on a number or two, and offered up some of his own music. Bill joined in on djembe. He had brought his autoharp, but just for show, this time around. Towards the end of the night, Fae encouraged Kathryn to offer up a song. Kathryn tried to object, saying she needed a music stand and more light. Fae promptly took up the roll as stand, and I shined my cell phone light so Kathryn could see the lyrics. It's wonderful, what we can accomplish together! ;-)
If you'd like to see more pictures (including close-ups of the delicious food!), please visit the gallery.
In my last post, I noted that one of the things I love about hosting these concerts is that I get to make friends with cool people, some of which happen to be talented musicans. Another thing I love is bringing those cool people together, and that really good things sometimes come out of those new connections. Yesterday, I was thrilled to get this text from Geli: "Magic apparently happens in your living room. Dan K wants me down in So Cal in a few weeks to record on his album. Rome wouldn't have been a great nation without its roads, and you are the great paver of roads for musicians. ;-)" Now, I don't know that I can really take that much credit for the magic that happens. But offering up the space for it to happen means that I get to be there when it does, and that's a truly wonderful thing. Of course, I suppose that's kinda starting the story with the punchline, but, I just couldn't help it. :-)
Anyway, as you might already know, our artist last week was Dan Krikorian, from Costa Mesa, California. Dan brought along his friend Mike Teague, who acompanied Dan on guitar and sang backup vocals. Fortunately, this time, I don't have to try to tell you just how good these guys were, because Geli shot and posted some video from the concert. Check it out for yourself (and then kick yourself for missing the rest of the show, if you weren't there!):
While Dan and Mike were in town, they were also going to be playing a gig with Jean Mann, so she came out, and contributed her own harmonies on a few songs. Jean, of course, is one of those cool people who happens to be a very talented musician that we'd already made friends with. She came out the first time when Kevin Oaks played, and has been back several times since, including once as a featured artist. We always love it when Jean comes out to play, and will be featuring her again on September 13.
At the end of the night, after everyone else had gone home, Dan, Mike, Jean, and Geli gathered in the living room to play some more music. As you might have guessed from the opening to this post, Dan and Mike were so taken with Geli's playing that they decided that Geli really needed to be on Dan's next CD. I have to say, I can't wait to get a copy of that CD when it comes out!
Of course, I really am just the facilitator, here. This only works because of the folks who come out to support it. The musicians who share their art, and the people who come to appreciate it. Thanks to you all, and here's to the magic continuing for a long time to come!
One of the cool things about the way this series has developed is that, as things progress, it often feels less like I'm putting on a concert, and more like I'm just setting things up to hang out with friends, some of which happen to be very good musicians, while the rest appreciate really good music. This week with Jack Brown definitely had that feel.
I spent the day Wednesday getting the house cleand up and set up for the next day's concert. This part feels like work, I guess, but it's work that would have to be done anyway, and putting on a concert is one of the better reasons I can think of to do it. Jack was coming in on the train from Portland that evening. Around 7, I got a text from Jack, saying the train was stuck on the bridge over the Columbia, the AC wasn't working and he was ready to jump into the river. Perhaps not the best train ride he's ever had, but at least I was there to pick him up when it finally got in!
The next morning, I took Jack to meet the folks at SoulFood and see the venue there, and of course get some coffee while we were at it. Then we did the grocery shopping for the stuff we'd need that night. I'd decided on gazpacho, and Jack had picked the two recipes we went with. I made the Tropical Gazpacho, while he made the chilled Moroccan tomato soup. A little later, Jack was practicing his songs on the back deck while I did a little weeding. Then Jack took some chill time in his room while Dan and I finished setup for the evening.
Folks started to arrive around the usual time. Jack's friend Laurin brought brownies, Julieanna brought one of her amazing garden salads (with blueberries this time!), and Brian brought some bread. I put out some cherries, and a bowl with the extra cherry tomatoes (which were amazing). The gazpacho went over really well, to the point where there was hardly any left at the end of the night, despite having double batches of both kinds.
Then, of course, came the real highlight, the music. Jack played us songs off of all three of his CDs, along with a couple new ones he'd finished on his most recent road trip. We were outside on the deck, but Jack had opted to go full acoustic anyway. It was an intimate group and a quiet evening, so it worked beautifully. Jack told us the stories behind the songs, so that we could better connect with them. Of course, his songs are pretty engaging on their own, but it's always nice to get that little bit more.
After Jack's set, it was getting cooler, and the mosquitoes were starting to come out, so we decided to move inside. It was a tad warm inside, still, but the windows were open to let in the evening air, and folks didn't seem to mind. After some socializing and a bit more food, Jack started off the interactive part of the night with a request that musicians in particular tend to find amusing, "All my songs are in A Minor." Dan and Eric played a song together, and Laurin played a couple of her songs as well. This night was casual enough that it was more of a jam with different leads than it was a song circle, but that just added to the feel of it being a gathering of friends. A wonderful night, indeed.
The night winding down wasn't even the end of it, because I got to hang out with Jack the next day, as well. We started out at SoulFood for coffee. Then we swung by Microsoft to pick something up from Dirk (no, the building numbers on campus aren't elements of a number puzzle, but it'd be cool if they were!). On to Bill Lippe's place, where Jack would be staying for the night (aside from the fact that Bill's a major music supporter, he's also a cyclist, and lives close to the STP start line). Those arrangements made, Jack and I headed downtown to wander the Market, have a seafood lunch and finish things off with a little sorbet.
Having friends visit (especially ones that happen to be talented musicians) is a lot of fun! :-)
I had decided on salads for this event, so I got my cooking done early. It was just about 5, and I was just finishing my arrangements when my phone rang. It was Rupert, having a little finding the place, because his GPS wasn't cooperating. I figured out where he was, and gave him directions to the house. He arrived shortly. We greeted each other, and loaded his stuff in. The weather was fairly nice, but the evening was likely to be cool, and there was a hint of rain to come. Rupert made the call to go ahead and set up indoors.
Although we can generally get away with full acoustic indoors, Rupert chose to go with his PA, because it adds a bit of color to his sound. It was a nice little setup, nothing too overwhelming, and it worked nicely in the space. Listening to him sound check, I got the feeling we were in for a good night.
In addition to the kale salad and black-eyed pea salad I had made, Julianna brought a garden salad (picked at 4!) and homemade strawberry muffins (I really need to remember to take pictures of these masterpieces she brings). Brian brought bread and butter, which sounds simple enough, but it clearly filled a void, because it disappeared rather quickly.
After everyone had the chance to meet each other and get some food, Rupert started playing. Originally from London, he'd lived in Seattle for a while, so he was familiar with rain, and shared with us his "rain trilogy." Despite lack of sleep and what felt to him like an oncoming cold, his voice sounded very good. His guitar work was excellent, shown off to best effect in an instrumental he shared. Most the songs he played for us, the The Skies of South Dakota, were stories, inspired by true events.
We had a bit of a break after Rupert's set, with time for more food and some socializing, and some of the folks who had to get up in the morning took the opportunity to say goodbye. That seemed to be the last of the music for the night, but then someone requested that Dan play a song. He obliged, offering up Nova Scotia, which started a small acoustic song circle with Dan, Robin and Rupert. It was a nice ending to a very good night!
When Nathen arrived around 4, Dan already had the PA set up for him. Nathen completed the setup by hooking up his Pod and his NS Stick. I was somewhat familiar with a Pod - Dan's got one of those. But the NS Stick is something unusual. I'd seen Nathen play it at FAR-West, but that was a brief thing, surrounded by the chaos that embodies that conference. I think this was a different instrument than I'd seen him play then, anyway. This one had an ash body and a bamboo neck. It's got eight strings, and can make both bass and guitar sounds. That's about all I really know about it - except that Nathen plays it rather well.
The show itself actually got started when someone asked Nathen a question as to how the instrument worked. That was, after all, a perfect segue into demonstrating the NS Stick in action. Although the instrument can be strummed, Nathen plays it with a damper, by tapping strings. He described it as actually being fairly equivalent to a piano. The Pod gave him different tones and effects, so there was a lot of versatility to his sound. Add to that a great voice, and you have an audience treated to a fantastic performance with a very unique feel.
Nathen played a few familiar songs, including a reggae medley and Love is All You Need, but most of his songs were either from the CD he brought with him, little by little, or his upcoming EP, which will itself will be a sampler of songs from two full CDs he has in the works. Judging from the reception the new songs got among this crowd, his new CDs should do very well.
This week's crowd was made up of mostly music appreciaters, rather than active musicians, so Nathen played a second set after the break. A notable exception to that statement was Eric, who accompanied Nathen on piano for a couple songs. They had never met before, but you wouldn't know it to hear them play together. I particularly wish I had a recording of the second song they did, which left the audience completely entranced.
At the end of the night, I heard Dirk tell Nathen, "Thank you so much. That was exactly what I needed tonight." And if that's not the hallmark of a successful concert, I don't know what is.
Gabrielle Louise's itinerary said she was coming into Seattle at 1:40. Dan offered to pick her up, so I let him go while I continued to work on setup. After they had a bit of an adventure that included hanging out playing songs while waiting for the van to cool down from overheating, I met up with them at SoulFood around 4 or so. Clint was in, so I got to make a full set of introductions while we were all getting drinks. Then Gabrielle and I headed back to the house, while Dan went on some errands.
The weather was sunny, but a bit on the chilly side, so Gabrielle opted for an indoor concert. Besides, that would allow her to play without a PA, which she was looking forward to. She practiced a song she needed to learn for a friend's wedding, while I finished making the soup. I have to say that I'm very fond of having an outstanding live performer playing in my kitchen while I cook. If I could make that happen more often, I'd probably cook more!
As is fairly typical, I really had very little idea how many people were coming, and who they might be. But all I can really do is let it happen, and hope it works out well. In this case, it worked out very well. We had a few new faces, like Sarah, Sean and Dave, as well as a number of old friends. We wound up with about 15 people total, which, for the space, is just about perfect. We'd certainly like more, for the artist's sake, and we could definltey make room. But 15 is a nice number.
After a bit of food and socializing, Gabrielle settled in to play the first set. She shared songs like Pirates of Mental Space and I'll Turn Myself in on Monday. Sometimes her sound was fairly solidly folk, but there were flavors of a lot of other influences in there, as well. She told stories around her songs about various adventures, including her time in Argentina and an interesting experience with needing a tire replaced. The result was an engaging performance that the whole audience thoroughly enjoyed.
After a break for a bit more food and socializing, we reconvened for another amazing collaborative song circle. Gabrielle's friend Sean opened things up. We also had Dan, Eric, Jean, Geli, and a couple more songs from Gabrielle. Bill provided accompaniment on djembe. Dave let the circle go by the first time, but contributed a song the second time around. I know these circles are a lot of fun for listeners like me, but it's always really cool when the musicians get into hearing new sound and ideas around their songs. Something tells me I really ought to be recording these things...
At the end of the night, a few folks wandered down to check out the new space Dan's created, and to hear a bit about the project he's working on. But if you want more information on that (or if you want to experience one of these song circles!), you'll just have to come out and join us! :-)
For more pictures, please visit the gallery.
I have to admit, I'm a little out of practice on these, so I didn't take as many pictures as I probably should have (I didn't get any pictures of the food, for example). But I did get a few, and you'll just have to imagine the rest!
The menu for this concert featured tamales, which are fairly time-consuming to make, so I started early. I had the dough ready and the filling almost done when the doorbell rang somewhere around 2 pm. I was both surprised and thrilled to see it was our featured artist, James Hurley. He had come from his previous DinnerAndSong location in Allyn, WA. Not having made that particular trip before, he'd wanted to make it early. Of course, he then learned the dangers of showing up early, because I put him to work helping me assemble the tamales! He didn't seem to mind, though, and it made the task a lot more fun for me. It was still early when we finished, so James got settled in, and I took care of some of my own things. A bit later, Dan and James came up together, and I was thrilled to be treated to a little pre-show jam.
We had last run into James at FAR-West, where he had given Dirk a hard time about bringing a guitar to the conference and then not playing it. To make up for that, James had said that Dirk would have to open the show. Dirk tried to get off the hook, but no one would let him, so he opened with his rendition of Take the Skinheads Bowling. Then Dirk quickly ceeded the floor, and the real show began.
You never really know what to expect from a James Hurley show, because he plays without a set list, just sort of thinking aloud on his guitar until it leads him to a song. Although you never know where that might lead him, it's a pretty safe bet it'll be somewhere good. That was certainly the case on this night, as James shared both his thoughts and his songs with a very music-oriented crowd. He opened with Cold-Hearted Woman, gave us favorites like The Vampire Song and Mushroom, and played some new songs, as well. The crowd particularly enjoyed James' presentation of You're An Asshole, joining in for a raucous chorus.
After a break for (more) food and a bit of socializing, the folks that could stay reassembled for a song circle, which was one of the best Backyard House Concerts has ever seen. We had songs from Casey, Jim, Dan, Jerod, Jean, Yohaan and Geli. James played along when invited, and I think some new collaborations may have been born.
After the night wound officially wound down, James and Dan got to talking about practice techniques, and wandered downstairs for an impromptu lesson. I fell asleep that night to the faint sounds of guitars filtering up from the garage studio. What an amazing night!
It's been a long time since I've written one of these things. But with summer coming, we have a number of artists on the books, and we really want to get this thing up and running again. So I just finished writing the latest edition of the newsletter, and it'll be going out today.