Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stephen's Kindiefest Industry Showcase Performance at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Last week I attended Kindiefest and performed at the industry showcase.

All in all, it was a good experience. My industry showcase performance went very well: a good room with a great sound and a nice audience of music professionals, musicians and the like. The audience participation in my songs Give Me That Toy and Baseball, Baseball was great. I played Ride the Train on cigar box guitar, and later that night and on the next day I received many enthusiastic comments about it from conference attendees. There is something going on with that cigar box guitar! I am already planning my next album, which has a working title of 3 string Stephen plays cigar box guitar. Here are the Kindiefest tailored lyrics of Ride the Train:
photo by Julie Keefe in Portland 

It's a dusty old train rolling down the line, it's a dusty old train making good timeride, ride, ride the train
I'm so happy to be at Kindiefest singing my song, thank you so much for singing along     
ride, ride, ride the train
Hear that train coming, coming round the track, hear that train coming to Brooklyn and back    ride, ride, ride the train
through a many toned forest behind an old stone wall, hear the voices in the forest after the fall
ride, ride, ride the train
I came here all the way from Portland, Oregon
Portland is a place where it rains, rains, rains, rains, rains
I didn't take a car that would be much too far,  I didn't take a bus that would be too much fuss, I didn't take a truck, I'd be out of luck, I didn't ride a bike on the turnpike 
I took a plane, then a train, then the 3 train, then I took a walk, but enough talk
                                                      let's take a ride with the slide  (and the piece ends with a slide solo)

It was a pleasure and an honor to attend and a perform at a conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which is a really a world class facility. I've had many musical trips to Manhatten and Long Island, but I never really spent time in Brooklyn until this conference. It is definitely dense, diverse, busy, and full of human life. Walking the streets in Brooklyn I could imagine living there as opposed to living in Portland, and I could see it, I could see the creative possibilities, I feel could see the increased opportunities. But I also could feel the crowding, the noise, the constant striving that goes on in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Back in Portland, with flowering trees in our yard and mountains in the distance, I am appreciating our life here in this western oasis even more.

I enjoyed hearing the other performers at Kindiefest. Kindifest is part of the Kindie music movement, a  movement that values music that can be enjoyed by parents as well as their children. I made my album Here Comes the Band in 2006 as a concept album for adults and children. That album is what brought me to Kindiefest, where it was nice to see a whole community that shares the idea of music for all. Every band and performer that I heard had something good to offer. I was especially impressed with the quirky good musicianship of Verad and the Babes from Brooklyn, the hip hop creativity of the Alphabet Rockers from California, and the gentle showmanship, music and all around good feeling of David Wax Museum. And dance bands like Father Goose, Josh and the Jamtones, and the Dirty Sock Funtime Band, all with excellent musicians, created compelling dance music for both adults and children.
Keynote speaker Ella Jenkins played some wonderful harmonica, repeated 2 songs, the Cuckoo and London Bridges Falling Down over and over (a sign of age?), serenaded a baby on stage with those two songs, repeatedly forgot that she was there to give a keynote speach, but when asked by one of the festival hosts to give us some advice, she won us over by simply saying, "Love everyone".

I've been involved in the so called music business most of my life, yet I was able to find some new ideas, and some good discussions of old ideas at the conference panels. I am at a point where I am rethinking, retooling and replanning my musical future, and attending the conference helped me in this process. Most of the talk at the panels was about how to manage the business of being a musician, and that was a timely subject for me, as the financial challenges facing a creative person in this world are always daunting. Questions were posed, such as, "Is a full CD really necessary now?" "Are you better off as doing it yourself, or using an agent and publicist?" "Are record label still relevant in these times?" All good questions, and all matters, that I (having been signed by 4 different record companies over the years, as well as having released many self produced projects) am always thinking about.. 

I found that Tyler Bickford, an ethnomusicologist at Columbia University had a very interesting world view of the Kindie movement and music in general. I was moved by Laurie Berkner's talk on her life in family music.
She was a very real person who talked about the luck, hard choices and hard work involved in trying to pay the bills while creating music. And it was good to see and hear Jim Packard, as a panalist on the presenters panel. I have enjoyed performing at the venue he manages, the theater at Long Island Children's Museum, many times, and I was able to appreciate things from the presenters point of view when listening to him and other presenters talk.

The Kindiefest producers, Stephanie, Mona, Tor, and Bill deserve a lot of credit for hosting a wonderful conference while being super nice people as well.

Did any tangible, career changing things happen at Kindiefest for me? That remains to be seen, but I think some of the connections I made there can only lead to some good things down the road. I am already excited by the idea of some possible future collaborations with some of the musicians I met at Kindiefest.

There was a lot of talk on the panels on branding and finding out who you are. I came away from the conference realizing that I am not necessarily a folk artist, not necessarily a kindie artist, or whatever. I am a creative artist who creates music and art. I am project oriented, always thinking of the ongoing project and the next project, but keeping all the past projects alive as well. That is was led me to Kindiefest, and that is what will lead me to even newer adventures. I'll keep doing "grown-up" concerts with my current creative acoustic duo, the WALKING WILLOWS (which features me and Rich Hinrichen, a fantastic double bass player and pianist from Seattle). I'll continue to do family performances now and then, and residencies and workshops as well. Who knows what else the future will bring?

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