Sunday, March 30, 2008

Folk Alliance Fun, Part I: Wednesday

Last month, I made my way to Memphis for the 20th Annual International Folk Alliance Conference. Armed with my banjo, my MoJo flask and little sleep (thanks to a late gig the night before at the Turf Club), I flew to Memphis via Dallas with Red House VP of Operations Chris Frymire. On the second flight, we were interested to see that Texas songwriter Tom Russell was sitting across the aisle from us. He was worried about his luggage that he saw sitting on the runway as we were leaving the gate since he would be performing that night at the Folk Alliance Awards Ceremony. (Based on what he was wearing at the ceremony, I couldn't tell if his luggage had or had not arrived.)

After arriving at the Memphis Downtown Marriott and checking in, Chris and I connected with Red House president Eric Peltoniemi and got some dinner with Storyhill's John Hermanson and singer-songwriter pal Justin Roth. We then headed over to the Folk Alliance Awards...not many surprises but lots of technical glitches, which was too bad since XM was broadcasting it on their folk channel The Village. Tom Russell performed his song "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?" which won him the Song of the Year Award (and was also featured on the 2008 Winters Collection!). For the full list of award winners, click here.

I then stopped by a cocktail hour, hosted by Susan Werner (who had just won Contemporary Artist of the Year) and her manager Michelle Conceison of Market Monkeys. It was really fun to see Susan again...the last time I saw her was last May when she and Catie Curtis stopped by my radio show before they played a show together at the Cedar Cultural Center (which was followed by too much merriment at the local Town Hall Brewery). I had a glass of wine with her, finally met her tour manager Famous Jane and caught up with many radio folks like Brian Quinn of WUMB. I would have liked to have stayed, but I had to run to prepare for my own Mother Banjo showcase, sponsored by Raining Jane.

(Now for those of you who have never been to Folk Alliance, in addition to workshops, panels and official showcases in the early evenings, there are private or "guerilla" showcases that happen in the afternoon and late into the night. Certain hotel rooms are blocked off as music floors where artists, promoters, agents and others present solo shows and in-the-round performances so conference attendees spend hours navigating through packed hallways littered with fliers wandering from room to room to hear big name artists and up-and-comers play music into the wee hours.)

I had never showcased at Folk Alliance so I feared I'd be a bit nervous playing for a whole host of industry movers and shakers, but those hotel rooms are so darn cozy and the wine Susan Werner had given me was so good that I felt totally relaxed and did what felt like a good set. John Hermanson and Justin Roth who were in attendance said they had never heard my voice sound stronger--must be a result of no PA and my struggle to be heard over the drum session going on in the room next door.

After my showcase, I hung out for a little bit but went to bed early, trying to get one good night of sleep before the true Folk Alliance madness set in.

More to come in Part II...stay tuned!

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