Sunday, November 1, 2009

Where is the audience?

Here I am pictured with JW-Jones and Jesse Greene, winner of Ottawa's Blues
Challenge competition. We had just been jamming at a club called Irene's in
Ottawa where I landed to attent the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals
conference in Ottawa. The OCFF had five or six hundred earnest folkies
showcasing mostly to themselves and the odd festival director or booking
agent. I had not arranged any showcase for myself (I can't swallow the
pay-to-play thang, even though I know it can help with your "career
development.") I did participate in the jams, though, so I was at a couple
of campfires where there was a small circle of musicians in a very large
room (with no audience to speak of) then a late night jam in the hotel bar.
Trevor Mills was the host & bass player. Michelle played drums and Raven
played guitar. There were some guests floating in and out, Coco Love Alcorn
and a guy who's quite well known but damned if I can remember his name. And
some guy wheeled in a set of vibes and that was cool. Luke Doucet was there
too but he didn't play. I had a few words with him, relating how we had both
been taken into the extended Russell-Titcomb family. The music rocked but
there was hardly anybody in the room. But I guess there were lots of people
hanging in the lounge area off to the side because the next morning at
breakfast I had at least three people complimenting me on my playing...and
two of them were folks that might just be able to help with the "career

This week I went to several events and they were all under-attended. Amazing
music, and no one to hear it. Danny Brooks was having a CD release at the
Sky Restaurant & Lounge - I gave the Sky a little bumpf in the MapleBlues
but it wasn't much help for Danny's night - I'm sure he was disappointed
with the turn out. A 9-piece band with horns and the Levy sisters, Papa John
on guitar and Lance Anderson on organ. What a great show!

Alex Pangman was doing a "pre-launch" media event (which was mostly about
here successful recovery from a double lung transplant) and she had the
right idea: she made a podcast and you can see it at She
did a few tunes with Peter Hill and that fantastic fiddler Drew Jurecka.
Drew and I reminisced about playing together on a subway train (yes it was a
real gig, and a good paying one at that).

After that I headed over to the Gladstone for a piano extravaganza (they had
two grand pianos on the stage) which featured Julian Fauth, Kenny "Blues
Boss" Wayne and a couple of "old timers", Bobby Blackburn and Curly Bridges.
The old guys did the most predictable, generic tunes..."Caledonia", "Got Me
Running"...maybe even "Sweet Home Chicago." This was all destined for a CD
and I'm sure they got some great tracks. Chris Whiteley was leading the band
and Diana Braithwaite made a guest appearance - I had the pleasure of
handing Diana a newsletter, hot off the press, with her picture on the
cover. This issue had all the nominees for the Maple Blues Awards and pretty
well everyone on that stage was a nominee...and yet, you have to wonder if
they would have made any money on that show. Not with the cartage/rental of
two grand pianos! Anyway, they were recording an album so they had a budget
but when you look at all the promotion they did, plus the "marquee value"
they should have had twice as many people. Then a couple of nights later,
Margaret Stowe invites me to a last-minute gig at Free Times and there's
hardly anybody. Amazing music and no one to appreciate it. I sat in for a
few tunes and had a great time.

The Tuesday Campfire is not exactly packing them in either - sometimes we
have more players than audience. But there always ends up being a few tables
and I guess they must consider it worthwhile because we've been doing almost
4 months now and they haven't shut me down yet. But Every Tuesday I wonder
if this is going to be the last. Catch it while you can!