Well, here we are in 2017, and not a moment too soon. But don’t get too comfortable: there’s a lot of picking to be done! First of all, the first-Sunday jam at Cleophus Quealy Beer Co. has been pushed back to the second Sunday (the 8th) just this once. So you can still get in on that if you were too, um, foggy on New Year’s day. I mostly use this jam as an excuse to get my growler refilled with some of Quealy’s delicious hoppy ale.
Some people who subscribe to Hipster Hoedown via their Google calendar are reporting that events are showing up with spam links in the body. No idea how this is happening; bear with us while we try to figure it out.
We’re back with our moveable bluegrass festival! This Sunday we’ll be picking on Valencia St. outside the legendary bluegrass mecca Amnesia Music Hall from about noon until about 3:30. You can RSVP or just show up! It’s the standard bluegrass jam model: take your turn to lead a song if you feel like it, and play along with others when it’s their turn. You mostly try to pick a song from the good old bluegrass repertoire, so you can be sure at least some people will know it. It’s all about the bluegrass, but if we’re lucky, an occasional friend will sit in on cajon or blues harp or something.
Sunday Streets is that thing where the city blocks off a stretch of a big street so people can hang out all over the pavement without having to dodge cars. All kinds of activities and entertainments come out of the woodwork and everybody has a great time. The California Bluegrass Association has been participating for a few years now. We’ve met all sorts of new friends, fans and pickers out there on the street. Kids, in particular, will sit and stare for a long time. We think some of them may go home afterwards and ask their parents for a banjo.
Hey! May Day in San Francisco! You can play all day, and then there’s more! This coming Sunday, May 1st, 2016, the monthly Sunday Streets bluegrass jam starts at noon (this month it’s in in the Bayview), followed by the weekly bluegrass jam from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at the Lucky Horseshoe Bar in Bernal Heights. Then, the Lucky Horseshoe Bar hosts the monthly Shoe Jam, from 8:00am to 10:00pm. It’s a party all day long!
Where do you spend Friday morning? If you’re like most of the people I know, you’re at your desk, thinking about what you need to get done before the beginning of the weekend. I got lucky last Friday morning; I took off from work, and joined seven other like-minded bluegrass pickers in the southwestern corner of San Francisco for the second Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center bluegrass jam.
We spent ninety minutes of unadulterated pleasure, playing and singing for the folks at the center, students and staff alike.
The program was first organized by Ted Kuster, our San Francisco CBA representative, in collaboration with Julie Gallaudet, a Pomeroy Center staff member.
Julie discovered Ted with a group of bluegrass musicians jamming at the final 2015 Sunday Streets jam (also organized by Ted Kuster). She knew immediately that bluegrass music would make a major difference for the Pomeroy Center people, so she persuaded Ted to put it all together…and that made for the most fun I’ve had all week!
Jammers were Uncle Jim Letchworth on banjo and mandolin, Ted Kuster on banjo, Patti Garber on bass, Ron Esparza on fiddle and mandolin,
Virgil Stanford on dobro, Deirdre Donovan, Karen Gemmill, and Matt Lauer on guitar,
and Ellie DiBerardino on mandolin.
We’ll be doing it again soon…and you can play, too, if you want! Contact Ted Kuster to get on the list for one of the next Pomeroy jams.
Last Friday, a cool, foggy evening in the outer Richmond, a marvelous, local San Francisco talent showcase opened on Balboa Street, near 38th Avenue, in the back room of the La Promenade Café.
Chuck Poling, mandolin player and good time MC regular at California Bluegrass Association shows, and, not incidentally the promoter of the event, said: “We’re very grateful to have our Free Range Friday favorites for this premiere. They are awesome songwriters, instrumentalists, and singers, and most wonderfully, they are all are good friends. Each brings something unique and special to the table, and if you leave feeling like you haven’t been thoroughly entertained, well, you just weren’t paying attention.” Well, Chuck was right.
Chuck on mandolin and wife and lead singer Jeannie Poling, with bass player extraordinaire Pat Campbell, opened the show.
Chuck and Jeannie were followed by Doug Blumer and Nancy Irish of Bohemian Highway, kickin’ it with gorgeous,raunchy, sensitive tunes, written by this talented husband and wife team, and harmonized to great effect by their tight, clear harmonies.
Misisipi Mike Wolf played next, making it beautiful at Free Range Friday, with one of his original tunes, ‘Couples,’ soulful and sweet song telling love like it is in honor of folks that go the distance, including his parents. The reviews say that Misisipi Mike’s been compared to Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings…and I know why.
Then, Pam sang my absolute favorite Steve Earle song, ‘I’m Still In Love With You,’ and truly rocked the house.
And, what would a Friday night in San Francisco be without The Shut-Ins…and special guest, Diana Greenberg? It wouldn’t be uniquely hilarious!!
Finally, Jeannie and Chuck closed the show. Before they sang, Chuck told a story about his teenage infatuation with Linda Ronstadt. Jeannie had the most interesting expression on her face during the story, but Chuck made a really good save when he turned and told the incredulous Jeannie that she had a decided advantage over Linda – Jeannie’s right here (not in some teenage boy’s fantasy) Then they launched into a tune that shows off Jeannie’s rich vocal chops (watch out, Linda!) to fabulous advantage. What soul! What a great evening! Man, Free Range Friday’s are back with a roar!
Watch this space for an announcement when the next Free Range Friday is scheduled…
Okay, it’s Thursday, time to pack up all the instruments, and head for Walker Creek Music Camp. I’ve heard it’s a whole lotta fun, and I’m excited about an extra long and well-deserved weekend, playing music, hanging out with 300+ other musicians, and generally taking a well-deserved break from the old nine to five.
An hour and a half into the wilds of west Marin, I’m looking for the entrance to the Walker Creek Ranch…and trying hard to avoid the deer roaming the roads. They’re not even scared of the cars going by, maybe mildly interested at best.
When I get to the Ranch, checked in, and suitcase dumped in my dorm, I find I’m rooming with six other adult women in a room designed for 30 children), and very satisfied with my accommodation selection.
Then, off and running to the 2:00pm jams, 3:00pm electives, 4:00pm teacher concerts, a short tour of the Walker Creek Ranch campus, and dinner with a big room full of happy people and good food. After supper, it’s teacher introductions, more jamming (slow and fast), dancing in the Barn, a visit to the camp store, where I find the perfect tiny tuner I’ve been looking for, and general merriment. So many choices, so little time to sleep!
Looking forward to bluegrass mandolin class tomorrow with John Reischman!
Sunday, I’d had enough of listening to other people play…yeah, I loved HSB, and I was ready to pick! I headed over to the Lucky Horseshoe Bar on Cortland Avenue, the other side of the hill from Bernal Heights. Frank Holmes, the amiable Lucky Horseshoe Sunday Jam host, as well as talented singer, grinned when I walked in the door, and said, “Hey, glad you’re here! Where’s your bass?” Frank, Liam, and Lou on guitar, Mike on banjo (geez, I hope I got his name right), Steve on dobro, Ron on fiddle and mandolin, another fellow playing guitar and sometimes Ron’s mando, and I jammed until 7:30, when we vacated the stage for the monthly Shoe Jam. Good times, good harmonies, and some very fine musical moments: can’t ask for much more than that…but wait, there’s more.
Ron and I used to play together in a band called H.O.SS. – stood for Handful Of StringS – long ago, and not so far away, so I invited him to come with me to Jack Murphy’s Hardly Strictly After Jam. A pal of mine, Jack Murphy, who hosts the monthly Aqus Café bluegrass jam in Petaluma, has a tradition of getting a place in the city with his wife every year, and spending the Hardly Strictly weekend soakin’ in all the music he can listen to in three days. Dedicated guy, too, he gets up at 4:00am to get his place in the sun at the Banjo Stage.
Ron and I, Alec, another former band mate, along with Jack, and David, who’d come in from Virginia just for HSB, played until the wee hours…at least they’re wee when you have as much white hair as I do. It was great to catch up with old friends, try out old and new harmonies and breaks, and find out that the years have been kind to us. Despite the reality that our last jams (in various combinations) had been three and four and five years ago, we definitely found the joy. I recommend the Hardly Strictly After Jam tradition to all my bluegrass pals!