Once again, Eaglewood Folk Festival provided a place to engage with live music in many ways. In addition to 2+ days of concerts and workshop stages (Susie Vinnick, The 24th Street Wailers, The Strumbellas, The Bombadils, Danny Michel, and Steve Poltz just a few of the inspiring artists who performed) there was a songwriting tent and two open stages.
In the songwriting tent, I gleaned some good advice from Steve Poltz and Keith & Renee about the songwriting process. Knowing you are writing for, knowing yourself, discipline and banishing the spectre of writer’s block were just a few of the themes that performers and festival-goers explored.
The Saturday acoustic open stage was hosted by the oh-so-welcoming Shaman Ayerhart. It was such a popular event that there was only time for one song each and it still went half an hour over time. There were familiar faces from other years (including Shaman’s parents) as well as some lovely surprises. I wish I knew who the spoken word performer was – he only went by the handle “IF” – he blew our socks off with his poetry and presence. A second opportunity to play the little stage in the woods was offered on Sunday afternoon.
The icing on the cake for an already full and fulfilling Saturday was the late night campfire. Hours slipped by like minutes as we went around and around, sharing old favourites, originals, accompanied by the occasional train passing through (often at very fitting moments). It was hard to pull ourselves away from such great company and music, but the promise of one more day of music at Eaglewood was the incentive to get a few hours of sleep. As we wove our way back through the dark paths we heard strains of music playing, saw glimpses of other fires through the trees.
Thanks, Eaglewood, for weaving some musical magic.
Callisto with Shaman Ayerhart on the dobro
It’s great to look back on a year of music when you know there’s more to look forward to . Since last June I have visited 25 events in 12 towns. It seems the more places I visit the more I hear about – for every gathering spot that has ended (sorry to hear of Alliston’s Groundswell Café closing its doors) several new initiatives spring up (for example, the Open Mic & Jam at the Ivy Arms, Milton and the Two Rivers Song Gathering, Guelph).
I appreciate the emails people have sent me with their own recommendations of a jam or open mic to check out. It’s great to get leads for new adventures and inspiring to hear about how much these places mean to people in their musical and personal journeys. Over 2700 of you dropped into the Open Stage Adventure last month and I hope to hear from more of you!
The Hamilton Folk Club – For longevity
The longest running open stage I visited this year has been going since 1982 (edged out the Free Times Café by one year).
The Cornerstone Campfire Sessions – For group participation
This venue stands out for having the most audience participation – so much so, that there wasn’t really a distinction between performers and audience. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in the establishment who wasn’t raising their voice, shaking a shaker or strumming an instrument.
Monday Night Deliverance – For high calibre music
Although I’m not a regular, the times I happened in on this event I was treated to songs by both up-and-coming and seasoned performers. I hear that one of the hosts, Christen Zuch, has started an open stage on Wednesday nights at the Embassy in Waterloo. I haven’t been there yet but it is definitely on the list for the next OSA season.
News Café, Niagara Falls – For youth talent
I was impressed with the songwriting and performing of the young people I saw at this venue (and it wasn’t just because two of them cheered when I took out my ukulele).
What is the secret to longevity in an open stage? I thought a visit to the Hamilton Folk Club – in operation since 1982 – might shed some light of this. Every other Tuesday night, musicians bring their instruments and voices to the Pheasant Plucker, just off James Street South in Hamilton. Host (and founder) Al Lindsay makes everyone feel at home and keeps the evening moving smoothly.
Pete & I were slated to do the feature set following the open stage. The big advantage of this order of events is that we were able to hear a fine fiddle player who we then asked to join us on a few songs – thank you, Steve!
As we sang and I looked around the room I didn’t see anything extraordinary that explained how they celebrated their 30 year anniversary in February. I saw friendly people, good quality sound, a comfortable room, very much in keeping with many of the clubs we have visited. Then Pete sang his song “Tuesday Night at the Copper Kettle”, a tribute to the jam where we are now regulars. When he got to the chorus: “Come on down, there’s always room for more, just park the world outside the door. Friendship’s on the house and the music’s free” I saw faces light up. The words paint a place where people come to share music, make lasting friendships, encourage, support and inspire each other. The song is about another place, a different group of people, but I could see that the lyrics resonated with them, that they told a story of self-expression and community that was very familiar.
So – our thanks to Al and the Hamilton Folk Club organizing committee for creating and sustaining a place where people can gather to share music and so much more.
[Hamilton Folk Club, The Pheasant Plucker, 20 Augusta Street, Hamilton; every other Tuesday starting at 8 pm; $3 cover, performers free]
While some open stages welcome anyone who wants to play, there are some that are by invitation, often as a spin-off of an open stage venue. When Callisto was invited to a “Best of the Open Stage” night at the Free Times Café we were looking forward to returning to the great food and ambiance but also anticipating some great music and new music connections.
On arrival, we were somewhat deflated to find the two other acts for the evening had canceled. Having traveled an hour and a half to get there (and our food already ordered), we weren’t about to go home. We looked at the evening that stretched out ahead of us and decided it would be more fun with some company. Using the various electronic gizmos at our disposal, by the time we had finished eating we had arranged some fine company, indeed. Rachael Cardiello , James Burrow and Andy Cragg (aka Runaway Brides) decided to forego a band rehearsal and join us. They invited friends Kate (accordion) and Rich (clarinet) to add their sound and Victoria Dobbs rounded it out with her original (and cover) tunes on ukulele. Add a few friends and family who answered the last minute call and we went from deflated to delighted. Thanks to the spontaneity and support of everyone who came for a fantastic night! [Photos courtesy of Tricia Brubacher]