Summer Music

Mitch listening to music on the B-Line
Mitch listening to music on the B-Line
The music scene is much more relaxed in the summer here is Bloomington, there is no doubt. Here I am in a recent photo from the HT, relaxing to the sound of Sarah’s Swing Set during the opening of the B-Line Trail through downtown. I also saw Fiddle n’ Feet and Jim and Ann along the way, it was a great nite for outdoor music.

Farmers' Market, Spring 09

Hoosier Hotcakes at the Market
Hoosier Hotcakes at the Market
The Farmers’ Market has always been home for the Hoosier Hotcakes, and this is our 30th year playing songs about farming and food. So infants we played for in the 80’s are bringing their babies to see us here in the aughts.

We began playing regularly in 1980, when the Market was at Third St. Park. From there it moved to the Square, and we went with it. But the merchants on the north side of the square felt their business was being hurt by all the people there, so we moved again, to the parking lot between the old and new Libraries. The time here was a golden age, there was organic produce, great crowds, and it was here that other musicians started showing up to share the space.

For several years we played with Mary Dart, who like Lotus Dickey, showed me many of the old popular songs of the 20’s and 30’s. Brad and Linda played at this location, as did Pete Sutherland and Karen Billings.

Hoosier Hotcakes at the Farmers' Market
Hoosier Hotcakes at the Farmers' Market
When the Market finally moved to Showers Plaza, we found a corner distant from the amplified stage music. I guess we should be flattered the city has found that music should be part of the scene, but we find that stages keep people at a distance, we just feel more natural in a crowd rather than in front of one. So for the past 29 years we’ve played tunes on Saturday morning, IMHO it is Bloomington’s best to community event, where meeting with our neighbors is casual yet meaningful ways.

Since moving to Showers, other great musicians and dancers have since set up at the Market, including Curtis Cantwell Jackson, Sarah Flint, James Yang, and FiddlenFeet.

We enjoy this place and time for music, I hope others do as well, and that we keep acoustic music in public spaces as part of our cultural heritage.

The Pirate Flags WFHB Street Dance

The Pirate Flags flew Friday nite at the WFHB Street dance, with the sun setting at one end of 7th. St. and the moon rising at the other. Max Harstein’s jazz band played a mellow swinging set, but they seemed to play just a few songs, and we were on before we knew it.

The street was packed with families and dancing ensued. We had a great time, our best show so far, no doubt about it. The kids were running around, friends were meeting and talking in the street, folks were singing along to songs they knew, and we all had a sunset to remember.

Photos by stv johnson

House Party- the tunes live on

On Saturday nite Eileen and I went to a house party featuring a duo of old-time players (Yannig & Galen) from upstate New York. When we got there, Katie Hicks and Yannig had their fiddles out in the yard. So I grabbed my guitar and tuned up. We went round our little circle picking tunes and playing them. Yannig made an incredible loaf of bread for the party, it was delicious.

Yannig came up with a tune he called Texas that was very similar to the tune I know from Melvin Wine that he called Charleston Gals. The A part was nearly identical, but in the B part of Texas slips into a strange minor section that I could not entirely figure out. I’ll have to poke around a little and see what I can find. It may be like Rocky Mountain Goat, which sounds like Whiskey Before Breakfast, yet it is substantially different.

Charleston Gals I learned when we were playing with Jake Krack, Jake learned it from Melvin Wine, master fiddler of West Virginia. I got to meet and play with Melvin at the Krack homestead before he died in 2003, and I see some real parallels between him and Lotus Dickey. Both men led hard scrabble working class lives, yet found time to play and share the music they learned from the previous generations, and through the hard times their kept the faith and their music, and would gladly share it with all around them. They were both old-time saints, men who lived to share their joy in music.

I’m happy to see another generation tapping into the tunes and the spirit of music as we learn it through the air, there must be something important in this oral/aural tradition, I am happy to be part of it!

Best Show Ever! (Indoors)

The Hotcakes played at Max’s on Fri, Feb 20, it was a benefit for Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, and a great success. We raised a bunch of money, and Max’s had it’s biggest sales night ever. The place was packed with families, babies, toddlers, and shin kickers.

We were booked for 7-8 pm, but I knew 7 pm was bedtime for some of my crew, so I showed up at 6 pm. Shannon and Tolling were there to juggle, and so were several families who just happened to be there. I pulled out the guitar and harmonicas and started playing as even more families came in, I had to ask the waiter to turn off the LP he was playing (a good one, I was playing along on my uke.)

I started playing and Shannon juggled and soon we quite the kid mosh pit going on. When Eileen arrived around 6:30, the place was rockin’, and by 7 pm it was packed. I think a number of folks came early because I mentioned I would be there in my Facebook invite, it’s amazing how well that works.

As we were early, I set up right in front of the stage, enabling the kids to get up close and dance with the music. It was standing (and running) room only, and I knew not everyone could hear, so I took a stroll around the place, playing to people more than to the room. I had two Happy Birthday tables, and a request for If I Had a Hammer, which I should do more often, with Obama in office, I feel like its hopeful message may come true.

We played right up till Kayle Truman showed up with his guitar, and took the stage. He played a bunch of the classic country blues greats like Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller. I got to play some backup harp with him, it was some fun, but my best riff ended up being in straight harp rather than the standard blues cross harp. He played in a wide variety of keys (always a good thing), and I was amazed there were tunes I couldn’t accompany for lack of a harp in Db or F# Major. Anyhow, I hope to run into him again, he’s a great performer.

Hoosier Hotcakes at Winter Market

Hoosier Hotcakes at Winter Market
Hoosier Hotcakes at Winter Market

Eileen and I have been at the Winter Market three times this year, we filled the early slot twice, not our natural position timewise. But it is so worthwhile doing, we don’t mind. Winter Market has been going great guns for all winter, we played the opening day and it was packed! Come on down and hang with your friends and neighbors, Harmony is buzzing with energy on Saturday mornings.