Category Archives: Gigs

The TOUR Aspect, Part I: Getting the gigs

So, Jane and I are home from our tour… and there’s still so much more to say.  For example, we mostly haven’t written about our GIGS, but more about our adventures.  Friends have said, “so glad you had such a lovely vacation!”  — but it wasn’t a vacation, it was a tour, with a total of nine shows along the way:  1 in the Bay area, 2 between SanFran and L.A., 3 in L.A., 1 in New Mexico, and 2 in Missouri, on the tail end.

Jane and I started working on this tour back in January, planning our itinerary and timeframe , and earnestly calling venues beginning around March.  While both of us are known in our hometowns of St. Louis and Chicago, respectively, we are NOT known nationally, especially out West, where we’d decided to tour.  Just because one decides to go on a national tour does not make one a nationally-KNOWN touring artist — “known” being the key word here.

When we contacted standard venues, the first question was:  “what is your draw?” — i.e., can we fill their venue?  We’d explain that this was our first tour out West, so the draw would be light (a few friends at best), and not surprisingly, most venues weren’t interested in booking us.  It’s not personal; it doesn’t matter if we put on a good show or not:  If we perform an excellent show to a mostly empty room, this benefits neither us nor the venue.  So, we either heard back “no” or worse, nothing at all, from a majority of venues we’d contacted.

Jane and I were fortunate enough to have a few friends and venue contacts who were willing to give us a shot; and for the house concerts we performed, which will be discussed in Part 2 — there is NO way we could have undertaken this tour.

House concerts — literally, concerts held in people’s homes — are the saving grace of most musicians these days.  I’m not talking about such arena-filling musicians as Bruce Springsteen or Garth Brooks — but, I am talking about pretty much everyone else.  So, that’s coming next.  But here, I thought I’d post a few pics from some of our other gigs.  Each was fun, and instructive, in its own way.

Our first show, at Michael McNevin’s Mudpuddle Music shop, was a great way to start our tour:
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I wrote more about this in a previous post.  Thanks again, Michael!

On Sunday 9/14, we performed outdoors at the beautiful Sculpterra Wine Gallery:
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Unfortunately it was unseasonably hot:  106 degrees in the shade!  We were very thankful for the small but dedicated audience who toughed it out, and for the nice musicians we met as well.

I don’t have a picture from our San Luis Obispo gig, but a highlight was meeting a relative of one of my Chicago friends, who came specifically to see us… it’s SO wonderful to meet friends of friends, or relatives, along the way, makes you feel so much more welcome!  We really appreciated the attentive audience, too.

We performed at Genghis Cohen, in L.A., to a small but welcoming audience.  The size of the audience was reflected in our payment; but the attentiveness, friendliness, and encouragement of the audience reflected on our loving this gig regardless.  We were so pleased to share this night with the talented and sweet Courtney Leigh Heins:
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We performed two wonderful house concerts in L.A. as well, to be discussed in the next part.  Our next gig was in Silver City NM, and while we were paid, fed, and treated well, turns out the night we played was not normally a music night, so the audience was small.  The staff seemed to enjoy us though! 🙂

Our next show was in Lebanon, MO, where we opened up for Walenia — a truly lovely couple, Corey and Shelley, and their band — thanks to my friend Chris Darby who introduced us.   (Take a look at the tour schedule on Chris’s page, if you really want to be impressed… that’s a LOT of dates!)  This was a nice show, because we were made to feel so welcome, and we got to play for Walenia’s audience.  Fun night!

We opened for Walenia on 9/27 at Simplicity Coffee and Tea, Lebanon MO
We opened for Walenia on 9/27 at Simplicity Coffee and Tea, Lebanon MO

Our final Tour show was at 1900 Park in St. Louis, a lovely gallery/performance space.  Our audience was comprised mostly of friends and family of Jane, and our talented friend Bill Isles, who opened for us.  This was an audience pre-disposed to like us.  It was a wonderful way to end our tour!
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A Matter of Perspective

This entry won’t be about a specific adventure, but more a comment on what we’ve been finding on this tour.  No surprise, a lot has to do with attitude.  The same coffee mug can be looked at by a group of friends; and one might find it lovely, another useful, another artistic… and still another, deformed, too large, etc.  And yet:  same coffee mug!

When I go on an adventure, I never expect anything, but I do anticipate some things and know other things.   For example:  I knew that Jane and I would have a good time on this tour.  How could we not?  We both enjoy meeting new friends, having adventures, sharing music, and seeing unusual things.  So, I anticipated a good time, and — with only a few days left before this tour’s end — I haven’t been disappointed.  Beyond that, I had no expectations.
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Grandma Prisbey’s Bottle Village, which I wrote about earlier, was something I’d been wanting to see for DECADES.  I knew that time had taken its toll, and that things once whole would now be broken; but I also anticipated that the spirit of Grandma Prisbey would shine through no matter what.  Beyond that, I had no expectations.  The actual experience we had will stick with me now, forever and always!
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We will write a separate post about the friends and family who have showered us with kindness on this trip.  Certainly we had no expectations other than that we’d get to catch up with them; the excellent conversations and the care they’ve shown us have far exceeded anything we might have imagined, anyways.

With our gigs (which we haven’t written about yet!), it’s definitely best not to have expectations.  Truly, each gig is a “ya just never know” experience:  Who will be in the audience?  Will the sound equipment work?  Will they like what you bring them?  I always anticipate a good time, and in general that’s what happens.  Some shows are more “successful” than others, emotionally and/or financially — but each show gives you new information to work with, which comes in handy in the future.  That’s been my experience.

This tour included two very special house concerts, amongst other shows, and both were lovely, moving, heartening, etc., beyond even my anticipation (which was simply that both we, our hosts, and our audiences, would enjoy ourselves).

In particular, we had a special show hosted by the “other Sue Fink“:  she and I had been corresponding since approx. 2003, but had never met; she’s a singer, songwriter, vocal instructor, and chorale director.   We found we had similar senses of humor, and although we’d talked about having a “Sue Fink Squared” show sometime, it was just a pipe dream until we decided to tour  Los Angeles.  Sue and her partner, Jane, hosted Jane Godfrey and me, in their home, and it truly blew my mind:   it was beyond anything I could’ve imagined!

Sue Fink and Sue Fink!
Sue Fink and Sue Fink!

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Jane, Jane, Sue, and Sue!

So much more I want to say, but the hour is very late.  I knew our country was beautiful, but I didn’t realize how continuous this beauty is.  More than once, as we drove along, we broke out singing “America the Beautiful” in earnest.  The ocean, desert, rocky craggy mountains and tree-filled mountains… as we drove along, the landscape changed and changed again, filling us with wonder.

Trees in Alpine, AZ
Trees in Alpine, AZ

The tour’s not over yet — not until after this weekend!  So, I’ll anticipate more excellent adventures, but without expectations … and, ya just never know what’s coming next!

Niles/Fremont, Mudpuddle Music, and Michael McNevin…

They are all inter-related.  And somehow I’m related, too, by recent past, and now, by present, so is Jane.  Let’s see if I can explain:

I met Michael McNevin in the mid-90s when he toured Chicago.  I liked his music, and he invited me to attend a house concert — a concert in someone’s home, something I’d never heard of before — the next night.  I did this, and from that night I found a whole new discovery of folk music, the house concert scene, new friends… a whole new world.

Eventually I hosted Michael in a house concert myself.  And eventually I  started writing songs myself.  So, it was especially meaningful to me when Michael agreed to host Jane and me at his Mudpuddle Music Shop in Niles/Fremont CA — our first show of the “Ya Just Never Know” Tour!

As we drove from Reno to Niles, Michael gave us a “back road” way to get there.  Unfortunately, he forgot to say “left” or “right” at an important juncture, and Jane made the mistake of listening to my gut feel (I’m directionally dyslexic!)  But the drive — both the wrong way and eventually the right way — was beautiful, it was a hot sunny day and soon we rolled into downtown Niles:

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And soon we found the tiny, magical Mudpuddle shop:

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We went for drinks and dinner at the back patio of The Vine, on the next block:

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The top of these two photos is Michael hanging a poster for an upcoming show; the latter is Michael telling us about the history of Niles/Fremont.  There is some fascinating stuff, and I have to go over my notes before posting incorrectly.  But basically, Niles is a historic district of Fremont — it’s a separate unincorporated city.  Fremont is larger, and while the Mudpuddle shop has a Fremont address, it’s in Niles.   Again:  inter-related.  Michael told us about the silent movie industry, which used to be very big in Niles before moving to Hollywood, and other cool stuff too… which will have to be in a separate post because once again I’m talking too much. 🙂

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Michael grew up in Niles, and appears to know everyone in town.  It was fun watching all the activity going on around us, listening to Michael talk about the town, reminiscing about his time touring in Chicago, and talking about keeping up with old friends.  And then:  time for the show!

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It was fun, it was funky, it was warm and friendly… a GREAT way to begin our gigs!  Our friends Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan came to see us (as well as my friend Carol, who hosted us in SanFran, and Renee, a relation by my sister’s marriage, amongst others).    Here we are after the show:

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In addition to all this, a videographer friend of Michael’s, Ken Bushman, happened to be there, and he not only shot footage from our show, but enhanced it in really cool ways, for example, interspersing my Damsel in Distress video by Mary Lewis with my performance of the song:  

After our sets, which were “audibles” — a football term we learned from Michael, which pretty much means to do things “on the fly” — there was a song circle, where many talented folks performed.  The whole night was absolutely magical.  If you’re in the area, check out Michael’s website to see what other performances he’s hosting at Mudpuddle, and around Niles.

So much more to say, but I think they’re about to kick us out of the coffee shop! 🙂  Thanks again, Michael McNevin!!

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