Monday, June 03, 2013

i like to say i "played kerrville," and it was true; i took my fiddle down there, a concert was arranged for me and my long-time partner, who knows the place well, and we played in front of an audience. it was well-received, but actually that's not saying much. folk music is always well-received, but that's just another way of saying, keep your day job. it was a wonderful place, wonderful people, and even the weather cooperated.

kerrville has preserved a kind of rainbow culture that started right around the time they did, in 1972, when i graduated from high school. people say, "welcome home" especially when they find out it's your first one. people are genuinely nice and share everything. musically it's a songwriter's heaven, full of other songwriters, four shows every evening, lots of playing in the campsites, venues where you can play for people. i heard lots of up-and-coming songwriters, some of whom i might mention quickly: betty soo, jim sabarino, dave morrison, mickey marlin white, a guy named wes whose family name i've misplaced. onstage i heard steel wheels, trout fishing in america, max gomez, antje whose family name i've also lost. all were quite excellent. i mention them in the same sentence and let you assume that if they'd made it to the main stage they had at least passed through a lot of hoops to get there; this is true, but sometimes music can be very good that you just hear in some out-of-the-way place, and there was a lot of that too. the whole place had a different clock than i do, so it was difficult to adjust to the fact that the best music was often at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am. 4 in the afternoon, i wanted to play, but the sun was beating down, and people were just waking up.

the first night at a campfire on the hill my partner played a song about her father which she had written; an accordion player then did a kind of parody of the song, on the spot, a classic version, in which some people laughed so hard they cried. my partner, if she was hurt, she didn't show it, that's partly because the song he did was excellent too.

people brought quite the collection of old school buses, campers and motor homes, and squared off little areas that were essentially campsites where people would play and various things would be served. this is where the music was, 12-6 am. food could be bought at virtually any hour, so something was always happening; around 6 am, the littlest kids would start waking up and the cycle would start again. i only saw about a cycle and a half, but much of it was in that in-between time. i was a distinguished visitor. my singing partner had been going there for many years; everyone knew her, and she was glad to prove she wasn't always a solo artist. we played together at many venues. at the arranged one, a huge tree had fallen earlier in the year, leaving a sun-bleached courtyard that made most of our audience back off into the shade; they felt a little removed from us. i'm not sure if we sold any cd's from the experience. it was a pleasure, of course, to play with her; it always is. it was like our group was back together again.

one duo, trout fishing in america, i actually heard three times, because they did two kids' shows, both directly beneath the illinois tent where i hung around a lot. i got the idea to go into kids' music, to be another raffi. it could be done. as it was, i played every opportunity i got (i'm somewhat starved for opportunity here, but that's only because i don't know enough people yet). really, besides playing different campsites with her, my best opportunity came when the accordion player, who just happened to be on my level, was serenading the kitchen workers on the one day when i was there, and i jumped in there with him and we played some really hot cajun music, and got the kitchen staff dancing. now, that kitchen staff was also somewhat inconvenienced, because i was in front of the walk-in cooler, and fiddling takes a lot of room. somehow they let me know when they needed to pass through, even while we played this really hot cajun music. i'll never forget this; it was the high point, really, of my time there. it was partly because, many many years ago, i worked in the hippie kitchens myself, and i worked hard, day after day, and i felt this way when i got there, i felt, first, accept their dinner, which they have so graciously provided (and which i would have paid for if i could have found out how), then, they have music, they need someone to play for the kitchen staff (and they even consider that a "job" that people do), i'll do that, and i'll do that well, and they won't forget it. someone took pictures. someone got tears in her eyes. most people smiled and went on out to work their shift at the main show. the accordion player, i'm going to find that guy, and play more music with him, first chance i get. it might be a few years, though. he's from austin.

there was a low point, in the heat of the afternoon, when i was at a party, lots of alcohol and someone spilled a drink on my shirt, and i couldn't play music, because the country musician kind of insisted on holding the floor. the woman whose birthday it was, was kind of over the top, but had trouble brewing in her life, and the sun just beat down hard, every time we turned around. it occurred to me, and i learned this, that these folk lovers, and rainbow people, had trouble from the minute they left the camp. and, just like always, it took a lot of faith, to travel a long way, get through the checkpoints and the police on every corner, and make it to a camp, where they're safe, and things can be shared, and the music flows at every opportunity.

i'll try to collect some of the best of kerrville, perhaps on my music page. suffice it to say, it was great, and a long drive down into the hill country, really one of the more beautiful parts of texas, was nice also. i'm becoming more comfortable with the state, and the long hours of driving, the open spaces, the huge sky, the people. i saw two memorable bumper stickers, one said, my governor is a jewish cowboy, and the other said, don't mess with reckless. lots of austin people, lots of texas music, texas food, the hot texas sun. and the cool nights, that went on forever.


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