We All Have Our Work To Do 

Do you practice? How often? Everyday? A couple times a week? Do you have a routine? I'm so curious about this stuff. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read this and share a little about how you practice and perhaps respond to a couple of these questions. 

I have a ton of stuff that I'm working on but the skills I would like to work on most are listening and relaxing during gigs. It also turns out that those things are really hard to practice alone when you're not actively playing a gig. So that's a dilemma. 

Listening. I have to work hard to be an active listener when performing with others. It's just the way I am right now. So how to practice that? Well, I do a lot of work with a metronome. I practice tunes with the clicks on the front of the beat, on the back of the beat, or maybe only once in each bar. Here's a fun one: place the click on every third beat of a tune in a duple meter. So the click lands on 1, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1 again, and so on. That one is tricky. Anyway, I try these different exercises because, with the lack of any other players in the house, the metronome gives some information to which I have to respond. It's certainly not the same as listening to the other members of a six piece band or even listening to one other live player - but it's something. How do you practice listening and responding when no one else is around?

Relaxing, or releasing tension. I'm great at it. I can relax on my own - I can relax all day if I have the chance. But when I'm playing, it' s little more tricky and especially so in a gig situation. So again, I'm great at relaxing all the tension and playing with great technique (and I'm specifically thinking of the right hand here) when I'm working through stuff in the evening at home. That becomes more of a challenge when listeners are present. I do my best to be mindful of it, but it remains a challenge it seems no matter how often I play out or who I'm playing with. I'm not sure I'll ever entirely get on top of it but I'll keep being aware.

So what's your strategy? How do you practice listening? How do you keep tension at bay when you're playing? I'd love to hear your suggestions. Let's talk in the comments.

Have you been to the Front Yard? 

I love music. I have for a long time. I love making it and listening to it - and I love bringing people together over it. I hope you will come join me for a show in my Front Yard.

Carla and I bought our house in East Greenbush a little more than 2 years ago. When we arrived at the house to take the "real estate tour," we parked the car on the street in front. As we gazed down the yard that slopes gently toward the front door, we both immediately exclaimed simultaneously, "house concerts". The place was made for it. At the time we didn't know how, or when, but we knew it had to happen. 

About a year later, in September 2019, we decided to give it a try. We set our very first house concert inside. Although we really didn't know what to expect, it turned out great! The Mammals brought a 5 piece band to play in our living room. It was intimate and special and all that. 

Then the pandemic hit.

Everything shut down in March 2020. We were lonely. We were missing our favorite venues. We were getting a lot of conflicting and confusing information about what happened and how the pandemic might play out. It was not a happy time. We let most of the summer go by before we thought about hosting another show. As the scene looked a safer at the end of summer 2020, we gave it another shot but - this time - outside. It was magical. A sunset concert with mike+ruthy. Although our guests were socially distanced and had to remain cautious, we all agreed that show was just the thing we needed at the time.

I have a lot of confidence in this project now. Shows here are amazing. It's (as described by a recent performer) vibey. The sound is natural and crystal clear. The house provides a two story, brick wall backdrop that is a REVERB MACHINE. The gently sloping Front Yard provides the natural amphitheater that is perfect for setting up a blanket or some chairs, laying out the snacks, mixing the drinks, and listening to a really fine performance. 

When Carla and I set our sights on 2021 we set a goal of hosting three shows and we intend to hit that goal. Please learn more about the Front Yard and our outdoor "house" concerts. Leave a comment and let me know: have you been? What did you like? What could make the experience even better? I would love to hear from you.

Building community one jam at a time 

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to begin co-hosting a monthly jam at the Rustic Barn. You should come check it out - if you haven't already. Let me tell you what I like about it.

Bluegrass jams are great. They really are. It's a really cool thing to play and share songs with others. If you're playing a tune at a jam, it's probably a song that inspired you enough to take the time to learn the melody, the chords, and (hopefully, maybe) the words. And if you took the time to do all that, that song must mean something to you - at least enough to inspire you to learn it. At the jam, you get to share that little piece of yourself with everyone there - pickers and listeners alike. And that's pretty great.

The Rustic Barn is a fun place. It has pub food with real wood fired barbecue - and Jody makes all the desserts herself. The beers are varied and tasty - Jason curates the beer list with a passion for the job. There are always great bands playing there. Everyone in the place - staff and patrons - they all have a passion for music. That soul and that community make it a pleasure to hang out there.

It's a no brainer. A bluegrass jam at the Rustic Barn. I'm grateful every time I show up at 5:30 on the second Sunday of the month to find the people who chose to spend a few hours picking tunes in that special place. Every time someone shares a tune, it builds that sense of community. I'm really proud of that. My co-host is Zack Cohen. We talk a lot about how to make the jam fun for everyone. We want to encourage the brand new picker who might be unfamiliar with the etiquette of a jam to stand up there and give it a shot. We also want to create a space for advanced players to feel welcome and have fun. It's a tough needle to thread sometimes but we hope to find that sweet spot every month.

We want everyone in the Rustic Barn on a second Sunday evening to feel part of the community built around music, spontaneous creativity, camaraderie, and positivity. All are welcome. See you at 5:30, Sunday, at the Barn.  


Weekend gigs! 

I’m exited that I have a couple gigs this weekend. One that I hope you’ll come check out is with my good friend Jay Maloney at S&S Farm Brewery on Friday, June 11 at 6pm. If you haven’t been to S&S Farm Brewery yet, you need to change that. They brew fantastic beer and have a beautiful outdoor space surrounded by farm land (it’s an actual working farm) with sweeping views. But that’s not the point. 

The folks at S&S have worked hard to make great beer, sure. But that’s not the only reason they started this business. They also created a wonderful community that feels like home every time I’m there. Having performed there more than a handful of times I’ve experienced the generosity of that community first hand. The folks there - both patrons and staff members - are as excited about my performance as I am grateful for having the opportunity. The S&S staff members consistently make me feel comfortable and welcome. That approach and attitude go a long way. 

But beer isn’t all they do at S&S. The Sanford family has operated a working farm since the 1800s. Today, in addition to beer, the farm produces hay and grass fed beef cattle with a focus on sustainable agriculture and production practices. Honestly, this place has it all. 

See you Friday.

I'm trying something new 

Basically, that means I'm talking. I have varied musical interests and a couple projects. I'm going to talk about them. I'm going to post pictures of them. I'm going to hope that you have any interest in talking about them, too.