Saturday, 28 May 2011

Retroactive Farewell(ish) Tour?

Well, well, well, Gig 30, we meet at last. My dad and I were invited to play at a fundraiser in Marlboro, VT, at the Marlboro Meeting House back in early April. I was actually a little bit trepidatious (if that's the word I want; Webster's says it is) about this gig, because I confess I didn't actually know what the fundraiser was for. I had nightmarish visions of having to decline to play in support of a political candidate I didn't like, or in support of Annual Kick a Pug Day, that sort of thing . . . but it turns out my worries were in vain. It was the annual "Mudfling" to contribute to the Marlboro County Fair's rainy day fund. Whew.

Gig 31: Co-bill with T. Fredric Jones and Sierra & Andrew at the Black Moon Music Lounge in Belchertown, MA--the T. Fredric Jones set was stellar, but it would have been better if more people showed up. It is just plain hard to get people to drive to an out-of-the-way show on a Sunday night, and I feel pretty bad that I didn't promote it better. Therapists should really specialize in "musician's guilt." (I am not even joking about this.)

Gig 32: Sam's Pizzeria in Northampton, MA--always a fun venue, and I managed to sell some merch (OK, a CD, I sold one CD) to someone out of what I'd normally call my primary merch-purchasing demographic. (And no, I shan't say what the demographic is, first because my perception could be far from the reality, and second because if you're reading this and fall into that category you might never buy a CD again, just to spite me.)

*Interlude* I am not counting this as a gig, but I want to give a shout-out to my sister Lillian--for anyone who's bought my EP, she's on track two ("This Begins"). She just graduated from college, and invited me to sing vocals for a couple of songs at her senior music recital. So proud! *End Interlude*

Gig 33: Lillian and I played at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, MA, this past week, co-billing with a fun, up-and-coming band The Feel (I believe they're Iron Horsing it soon, definitely worth checking out). The club was actually fairly jumpin' jumpin' during our set, and I was hoping to make it through without losing my voice from a cold I've been battling for some time now. It was not fun wondering when it would go (I tried to think of an analogy for what it would sound like if my voice cracked mid-song, but all I could come up with were animal sounds, and I didn't want to come off weird following my earlier punted pug comment.)

So, if you're curious about this post's title . . . I'm moving out to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer! As any loyal readers will know, I'm originally and continuously a California girl, and in a carpe diem freakout I've decided to move back. What will this mean for Western Mass/lower Vermont? You silly heads--I'll be back all the time! My family lives out here, and I'll be keeping expenses as low as possible so that I can return frequently. (Heck, I'll already be coming back for a Vermont mini-tour in August/September, and ideally will grab a Western Mass gig or two while I'm at it.) And for those of you in California--get ready!!!!!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

About an Eight of the Way There—Part Two

Who's ready for Milwaukee!!!! Ok, but before we kicking off a rollicking two-show February mini-tour of Milwaukee (yes, it warrants a "mini-tour" classification because more than one show occurred, so there!), I should mention briefly Gig 27, at good ol' Burrito Rojo in Turners Falls, MA. Somehow there's a rule that the farther I have to drive for a gig, the more fiercely the obligatory ice storm rages. But I arrived there, and returned home, alive. So I could go to . . .

Gig 28: MILWAUKEE. My first-ever Milwaukee, Wisconsin, show was at Bremen Cafe in the Riverwest area. For all of you who are anticipating a dramatic Francie-almost-got-electrocuted story after the last post's cliffhanger, it's kind of up to you to decide whether I made false promises of excitement. I arrived at the venue nice and early, and was glad to find an actual stage, next to an actual bar, with actual local brewsand I was happy to meet my opener for the evening, the lovely and highly talented Lisa Ridgely (that's her in the photo that's not of me; wow, that sounded narcissistic somehow). What I was less pleased about, however, was the realization not only that there was no equipment set up (being on tour [okay, mini-tour], I had confirmed in advance that I could avail myself of a house PA) but also that no one there had any suggestions about how the system worked or should be set up.
And here's where the electrocution comes inwhen I say the equipment wasn't set up, I mean that whoever played there last just left everything in a dusty, haphazard pile. I have never had to shift through so many janky wires, while perching on a rickety stage, hauling equipment from an angle that I'm pretty sure all doctors would agree is the least good for my back. When I was plugging in equipment I was sure I was a goner (sometimes I closed my eyes when plugging stuff init seemed the impending electrical shock would be less painful if I couldn't actually see my bones through my skin [as everyone knows can happen, based on Saturday morning cartoons]). But we all survived. Lisa played a great set, and my set turned out OK, after I was informed that I had the bass up too high. (I'm sorry, it's hard to sound check yourself from the stage without a monitor, and frankly even if I could have found one in the pile of wires and dust I wasn't about to tempt fate by plugging in an extra piece of equipment.) Don't get me wrong, though, I had a lot of fun at this show, and it was a confidence booster to know that I can set up a random system from scratch in relatively little time, albeit with multiple technical difficulties. (By the way, all the photos here are courtesy of John O'Hara, who donated his time to making us feel like rock stars by taking photos at Bremen.)

Gig 29: Just when I thought my Wisconsin trip would be a one-gig stop, Lisa invited me to be a part of the exciting "Dark Show" at Linneman's, also in Milwaukee's Riverwest. This concept show, organized by Jason Fields, involved a rapid succession of songwriters, plus a display from local fine artists, all with no spotlights (hence the show's title; I actually didn't get why this was the "Dark Show" at the outset, but gradually caught on when I realized I could actually see the audience from the stage). I have to say, Milwaukee has a very cool arts scene, and I'm always impressed when a few people get together to make a showand a scenehappen (this includes the owner of the venue, who contributed stellar sound engineering skills). So that's my tour. What's next? I'll be in Western Massachusetts for a couple of months at least, but I hear my West Coast roots callingwill I return to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer? Will I mosey down to check out the Los Angeles scene (I spent a lot of my childhood in Southern California, it still feels just a tiny bit like home)? These are questions that time, and my ability to self-motivate, surely will answer.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

About an Eighth of the Way There--Part One

This has been an exciting time for me gig-wiseso exciting I didn't want to ruin the moment by defining it in writing. And then I thought, that's stupid, so . . .

Gig 25: Remember 2010? Back in December, my dad, my sister Lillian, and I played an Outlandish Landsharks gig at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, MA. We had a good turnout, AND the sound guy (I think I remember his name, but in case I’m wrong I’d rather not give specifics) taught me something cool about how pre-amps work. Namely, that my little guitar has a propensity for sounding like a tin can with rubber bands looped over the top when the PA is not handled properly. So I may have to splurge at some point on a really good little pre-amp. I love my guitar, but every so often someone hates on it so bad. Once someone said it sounded like one of those fold-up guitars for traveling. Now . . . I don’t deny that “backpacker” guitars can sound great, because they can. But that’s kind of like telling someone her Audi looks like a Hot Wheels. Or a chef that his oven really gives the EZ-Bake a run for its money. Haters.

OK, I played two radio spots in support of Gig 26 below . . . should these count toward the gig total? I don’t know. For now, I’ll label them . . .

Radio Spot 1: January, very early morningAlan Sax kindly invited me to play and be interviewed on Blue Monday on WMUA. Nothing says rock star like wandering in the bleary, early hours to do a radio spot.

Radio Spot 2: January, less early morningLee Larcheveque’s “Acoustic Café.” Somehow the conversation turned to pygmy hippos. I was OK with it.

Gig 26: THE IRON HORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (January 23, 2011, Northampton, MA). This was such a huge deal for me on so many levels, even going beyond the facts that (1) Shawn Mullins, my hero, played there once, and (2) it’s a famous venue in the grand East Coast music scene scheme. For one thing, this was the first time I had to sell consignment tickets in advance—that is, I was out peddling (or “hustling,” as it was referred to on numerous occasions). I was terrified, mostly because with tickets at $15 bucks a pop, I was thinking gosh, I wouldn’t buy tickets to my own show. But then lots of people bought tickets—I don’t think there was anyone who could physically be there who wasn’t there.

For another thing, there was a dressing room. A DRESSING ROOM. There were couches, there was a coffee dispenser, there was a band menu. . . . Did I secretly take cell phone pictures? Yes. Did I think I was Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line”? You bet. Was I caught doing a victory dance à la Hugh Grant in “Love Actually”? Surprisingly, no.

Finally, and perhaps most important, I had the opportunity to open for the extremely talented and hilarious Vance Gilbert. He gave me some good advice about how to pace myself during a set, probably the most useful pointer being just to take a breath and not freak out. And we laughed for an hour and a half in the green room before the show started. I will be ecstatic if we share a bill again in the future.

The only downside of playing the Iron Horse is, well . . . it’s a huge deal, but it’s not like I have a Grammy now or anything. Having seen even some of my very favorite artists lately have backslides (sometimes trying too hard for a hit, sometimes going too self-indulgent), I know that being a “musician” in the “music business” is a constant battle. I don’t mean this in a “suffer for art” way, just a “wow, even a big break is just a possibility, not a guarantee,” way.

See the video below--it's my Iron Horse finale (a performance of Anchor and Shield). In Part Two of this post, to follow in a few days . . . MILWAUKEE!! (Spoiler: I almost get electric shocked.)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rattling Off Some Gigs . . .

What follows is a whole slew of gigs that I didn't write anything about. For those who enjoy reading about my shows, I'm sorry, I will try to do better. For those who don't, (1) Why are you even reading this right now? (2) I guess you're glad I didn't report these shows, and (3) I'm sorry, I will try to do better. Seriously, does anyone have any suggestions about what would actually be worth reading in this blog that doesn't involve my badmouthing any of the venues who kindly make me feel like a somebody?

Also, a note about upcoming shows: we're playing a deconstructed Outlandish Landsharks show at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, MA, December 19, 2010, 8pm. It's a free show. No excuses. And also, I just booked a show for January that I am EXTREMELY excited about, but I'm not going to write it here in order to have something to blog about later. (Yes, the show is posted on my Web site, facebook, and myspace [which is so close to being dead, but whose music player is still the best], but still. . . .)

In August:
Gig 19: The Black Moon in Belchertown, MA (co-bill with my dad, T. Fredric Jones)
Gig 20: Pliny Park outdoor music series in Brattleboro, VT, with the Outlandish Landsharks
Gig 21: Guilford Fair in Vermont with the Outlandish Landsharks (I almost typed "Guilford Fail"--this would have been a Freudian slip, except we didn't fail, so it wasn't)

In September:
Gig 22: Sam's Pizzeria in Northampton, MA

In October:
Gig 23: The Starry Plough in Berkeley, CA (my hometown + some of my favorite people came to this show + a stranger told me he liked a song I thought no one liked = score!)

In November:
Gig 24: Burrito Rojo (I did a terrible job promoting this show, and people still turned up, including a very epic friend who sat through the whole two hours, with an avocado taco as a consolation prize [I should have paid for said taco as an investment in her attendance at future shows, but I'm a Scrooge])


Monday, 16 August 2010


Grumble! I don't want to go into it now, but I once played a horrible, horrible gig (in the room shown to the right). Despite the organizer's claim that the show would have musicians from lots of genres, it turns out it was a classical music concert in which, by some cruel joke, I was expected to perform. And because the program (What shows have programs? Classical shows. It should have been a tip-off.) listed my set, I couldn't cut it short or choose songs that would not appall the dressed up, overwhelmingly smug audience.

Having done a good job repressing this memory for almost a year, I had it dredged up again at gig #18 at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, MA. I was under the impression that I was opening for a group of very talented folk/roots musicians, who were going to play a technically accomplished, folk jam session. I found out only a few days before that they thought we were all just going to play round-robin style, myself included. I dropped hints that I'd thought I was the opening act, and that I certainly don't jam (I just don't; every time I play with a bunch of guys I feel railroaded [I say "guys" because I feel like jamming is more of a guy thing, maybe that's sexism]; and when people jam on my songs without practicing first, the songs get messed up.) Long story short, I sat with my hands folded on stage for 3/4 of the time while the other musicians played and jammed on their songs and I felt like a failure, and then for 1/4 of the time I played incongruous music that was completely out of keeping with the show's roots music theme.

People told me afterward that I didn't seem incompetent or look upset, but I wanted to throw up the whole time. Lesson learned--I'm going to communicate my needs before getting into shows from now on. I don't mind playing with other people, I just like to practice first. On a lighter note, I have a website now, It's homegrown, and definitely needs more work over time (it would help if I had something other than paint to edit my pictures). But seriously, thanks for sharing in this little rant with me. I feel a little better now. Sniffle.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Western Mass in July

Jet-lagged and irritable, I played an experimental show at Burrito Rojo on July 2nd, 2010, with Dave Dersham and Steve Nelson. As I remarked at the time, I felt like I was playing with the big kids . . . they're both v. accomplished songwriters, and I just wouldn’t refer to myself that way (maybe they wouldn’t either. Humility is a virtue).

Hmm, what next? Sam's Pizzeria, Northampton, on the 7th. Some people special to me turned out for that one, which was nice. Good to feel loved. And I got free pizza. Promoters, if you're listening, please don't take advantage of me come contract time. You know and I know that if you dangle free food before my eyes I will probably sign away everything. Sad but true.

July 11th. A private party (I awkwardly don't know how secret it was supposed to be. Probably not at all. But I'm still in the third-grade mind-set . . . if there's a party you NEVER talk about it, just in case the lame kid who didn't get invited is within earshot.) Yeah, this party was top secret. So, who's cool now? Take that Jenny! I don't need to go to your stupid Chuck E. Cheese party anyway.

Erm . . . July 17th, People's Pint in Greenfield. This was a wildcard show, to the extent that the Green River Music Festival was going on concurrently. There were actually a number of people there. So many that because my PA system doesn't have monitors the din made it surprisingly hard to hear ourselves (Lillian sang with me for a bunch of songs). And to think I called the Beatles wimps for whining about the noise at Shea Stadium. I mean, now I've been there. Also, someone actually requested my song “Pictureframe” at this show. Someone not in my immediate family or friend circle. I'm basically Lynyrd Skynyrd. (Speaking of which, if I had a dollar for every time someone requested Freebird . . . I'd have like $9 dollars.)

Those were gigs 13, 14, 15, and 16.

Oh, and 17: benefit for the Brick House at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls--( Good cause, lots of talented Valley-area musicians. And, selfishly, good promotion for my upcoming show on the 29th at the Rendezvous, opening for Peter Siegel and Friends. Feel free to contact me for details, or check out the full calendar at Oh, and who’s an awesome tween now: I hate Facebook—and for using it I hate myself.

[[Photos are from the Glasgow Art Bar, Scotland, June 2010]]

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Scotland Tour II Is History.

I'm back from Scotland! Wait, that was almost two weeks ago. Oh dear, no one is ever going to follow this blog if I don't actually see fit to update it regularly. This will have to be a partial update--no one likes a stupidly long post.

Gig 11: On Sunday, June 13, 2010, I was the featured performer at the Listening Room open mic in Edinburgh, at the Blue Blazer. The room where the open mic is kind of reminds me of Henry Higgins's study--a fireplace, books, stories of how you can look out the window into people's hotel rooms and how once a Listening Room performer got distracted by a nudist. . . . Wait, that last part had nothing to do with My Fair Lady. This is an unplugged open mic, which is great, except when you're competing with loud people who have just been watching the World Cup/are drowning their sorrows or celebrating. This is basically just what I get for planning a mini-tour to coincide with the World Cup (and by "planning" I mean "dear heavens, I had no idea"). Here's a video from the Listening Room--I actually like how the song sounds, but you'll see what I mean about competing with loud people:

Gig 12: On June 14th, 2010 I played at the Glasgow Art Bar. It was a quiet(ish) night, but the other acts were good and the sound system was stellar (thanks Crawford!). I would have more to say about this show except the thing that *really* stands out is the fact that I rented a car and drove on the left side of the road for the first time! I like to think that guitar playing has contributed to the ambidexterity that enabled me to operate gears with my left hand. It was great until I, um, almost drove down the steepest hill ever (OK, who knew that Glasgow had hills? Seriously. It was San Francisco steep.) and panicked, leading me to, erm, reverse up the hill and onto a side street. Let's just say it's a good thing there's not clutch-burn-o-meter because methinks Enterprise would have kept their deposit at that point. I hope they're not reading this.

More on my June shows in Western Mass to come . . . that's all for now, friends.