Just a short update to let you know I survived the epic Winter of 2013-14 up here in America’s snow capital, Erie, Pennsylvania. A few life events worthy of note.
• The FolkTube experiment at the Folk Alliance International conference (subject of my previous post) was a big success. About 25 artists and bands made videos during the three days I ran my pop-up video studio in room 1346 of the Westin Crown Center. I also shot a piano showcase in one of the main rooms with Kiki Ebsen, Marci Geller and the great Radoslav Lorkovic. I put together a YouTube playlist of the videos we did, and you can find it here.
• St. Patrick’s Day weekend I attended Mark Dignam‘s annual Calm Before the Storm show (the best club show of the year in Pittsburgh, as far as I’m concerned). The show featured great performances by Callan, Casey and Dan Deely, Nathan Zoob, Morgan Erina and the fantastic uileann piper and singer Bruce Forbes. And of course Mark himself. More on Mark and his new record later.
I also recorded an interview and performance with the one and only Slim Forsythe.
Slim normally does old school country & western material, but this was his Irish show, with the able assistance of Dennis Childers and Steve Sciullo. First time I had met up with those guys since their band, Carsickness, and my band, the Dogs, played a show together at MJ’s in Erie way back in the early ’80s. Slim’s show was pretty crazy, with a guest appearance by Punxsutawney Phil (yes, the groundhog) and his Inner Circle (the guys in the formal wear and top hats). Slim wrote a song about Phil, and the town has more or less adopted him.
• One week later I was in Washington, DC, for a workshop conducted by one of my filmmaking heroes, John Putch, director of “Mojave Phone Booth” and the “Route 30” trilogy of movies. John is not a big name, but he’s a true pioneer, making films with a mix of Hollywood actors and local folks in the Gettysburg, PA, area where he grew up. “Make a movie in your own home town, and don’t spend too much money” is John’s mantra, and I’m a believer…
• Then it was back to Erie for a three-camera recording of my friend Rick Boler’s great new play, “The Bad Haircut.” Rick is trying to promote the script for other live stage productions, and thought that he needed a good video of an actual performance in front of an audience. I think the script would hold up equally well as a full-blown movie, and we’re discussing whether to go that route eventually.
• Off to Los Angeles in early April for Peter Case’s 60th birthday, which he celebrated with a concert at McCabe’s Guitar Shop (video forthcoming) and a dinner for family and friends at Warszawa restaurant in Santa Monica. I met some truly interesting people, including folk/protest singer Phranc, jug-band pioneer Geoff Muldaur, and visual artist/songwriter/ex Dylan sidekick Bobby Neuwirth.
• Also in L.A., I met and recorded an interview with Jimmer Podrasky, singer-songwriter and sometimes front man of the Rave-Ups (whom you might remember from the movie “Pretty In Pink”).
Jimmer has an excellent new CD after almost 25 years out of the music business, and is starting to play a lot of shows and get some attention. Jimmer’s story is a cautionary tale for young bands from the hinterlands who try to make it in the big city, but I find him inspiring.
• Back home, I’ve been working on editing the live concert by Mark Dignam that we recorded back in December 2012. Mark is a fantastic Irish singer-songwriter who has lived in Pittsburgh for about the past 10 years. He recorded his forthcoming CD, “Re-Build,” in a live session before an invited audience at Treelady Studios in Pittsburgh. I was there with my former student Doug Helmick on second camera. We’re talking about packaging the resulting videos as a companion DVD.
• As soon as I post this, I’m heading out to New Haven, Connecticut, where the Split Squad are doing a show Saturday night (April 26). The Split Squad is the creation of Harrisburg pal Michael Giblin and includes Clem Burke of Blondie on drums, Keith Streng of the Fleshtones on guitar and vocals, Eddie Muñoz of the Plimsouls and Magic Christian on guitar, and Red Sox ballpark organist Josh Kantor on keyboards. Gibby writes most of the songs and plays the role of ringmaster.
• On tap for May, a recording of Ray Flynt’s one-man show as Benjamin Franklin, and the world premiere of The Selfish Giant, an opera for children by the Erie Opera Theater. In June I’ll be driving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for Sweetwater Sound’s “Gear Fest” — I am hoping to get permission to shoot video there. And, I’ll be heading down to the Great Smoky Mountains to shoot some extensive video with Jon Hogan and Maria Moss. I met Hogan & Moss at Folk Alliance. They are true troubadours, have no fixed address and just travel all the time, playing amped-up versions of traditional mountain tunes.
• I’m always looking for video work. I’ll be spending most of the summer on a rough cut of my new documentary, “Don’t Give Up Your Day Job,” which is about the experience of making a living as a musician. I’ve been branching out into other performing arts, but what I know the best and love the most is music. Get in touch with me if you think we can work together on a project, short or long. Be seeing you!