Stage Performance Guide For Your Bluegrass Band is a new publication designed to help bands connect with their audience and be more entertaining on stage. Too many bands know how to make good music but lack the skills needed to be truly entertaining.
The author, Mark Johnson, says, “For a band to be successful they need to realize that it’s really not about the music, it’s about the audience. It’s about giving them what they want. They want to be entertained and make a special, emotional connection with the band, and that takes more than just music. At a live performance, what goes on in addition to the music is at least as important as the songs themselves.”
A partial list of topics discussed in the book include:
- How to grab the audience by their emotions and make them love you.
- How to exude confidence on stage without appearing arrogant.
- How to use comedy to really connect with the audience.
- What to do if something goes wrong on stage so you don’t embarrass yourself.
- The importance of adding emotion to your vocals to better connect with the audience.
- How to deal with stage fright so you can perform with power and confidence.
- The importance of your front man doing a good job of connecting with the audience.
- How to get the focus off of yourself and on to the audience where it belongs.
The four members of the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band recently joined Fresh Air for an in-studio performance, as well as a discussion of traditional and modern bluegrass music. Grammy-winning lead vocalist Peter Rowan, along with Jody Stecher (mandolin), Keith Little (banjo) and Paul Knight (bass), played several songs from their new album Legacy and demonstrated various styles of bluegrass singing, including the three-part gospel-style harmonies Rowan learned from Bill Monroe.
Monroe, the so-called father of bluegrass, heard Rowan playing shows in New England in the early 1960s. In 1965, he hired Rowan to be the guitarist and lead vocalist of Monroe’s band, the Kentucky-based Bluegrass Boys.
“I went to Nashville and started hanging out and started the long process of being assimilated into the band,” Rowan says, laughing. “And people began writing in the week after I sang my first solo on the Grand Ole Opry. Bill took me aside and said, ‘You know, Pete, we’ve had a lot of phone calls and a lot of letters. And people, they like the way you sing. And that’s a good thing. And then he said, ‘And they say you sound like me. And that’s not a good thing.’ “
Monroe was only half-kidding. He insisted that Rowan, who sang with the Bluegrass Boys for a little more than two years, develop his own voice and style. Then, one night, Rowan says he went over to Monroe’s seat on a late-night tour bus and asked his mentor what he thought was the hardest aspect of being a full-time bluegrass musician.
“And he said, ‘Teaching bluegrass music to people and then having them leave,’ ” Rowan says. “So I knew if I had to go, I had to go, and it was going to be difficult.”
Rowan moved in a different direction. He returned to Boston to work on the band Earth Opera, which opened frequently for The Doors. He then moved to San Francisco, where he and David Grisman formed Old and in the Way with Jerry Garcia in 1973.
“We finished a show one evening, and the band came off the stage, and some of the members started quibbling that if we had done it this way or that way, we could have played it better,” Rowan says. “And Garcia — just like a zen master — said, ‘No thoughts.’ The dressing room was very quiet. He just didn’t want a whole lot of conceptualizing over something that was fleeting. And I think that permeated his worldview.”
West Chester, PA based Roots/Americana group Mason Porter announce the release of Story of the Rifle. Reaching into their repertoire of traditional folk and cover songs, the band decided it was time to record this material which has been such a big part of their sound since its beginning. The album was recorded this past summer at Second Story Sound Studios in West Chester, PA by engineer Mike Bardzic and mixed by Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Hoots and Hellmouth). Following up their 2009 release Thunder In the Valley, the band took a more raw and organic approach to the Story Of The Rifle and the result is bursting with energy.
The album was initially released as a limited run (just 50 copies) at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in August. The album sold out that weekend and their performance was one of the most talked about of the festival “The band I was most impressed with, was Mason Porter” says Dennis Bakay of Philly2Philly.com. And Helen Liecht of WXPN Philadelphia says “They really rallied everyone at the Folk Fest around with their old timey folk feel – but with a real indie spirit.” The extended release features four additional tracks that were not on the Folk Fest release as well as new artwork and liner notes by publisher and folklorist Max Spiegel.
A complete album from start to finish, Story Of The Rifle is not a single story, but a collection of great folk tales. Mason Porter expertly puts their spin on classics like “Long Black Veil” and “Wayfaring Stranger” and isn’t afraid to reach outside of the box for a cover of the White Stripes “Hotel Yorba” and a hard hitting blues medley of “Spike Drivers Blues” (Traditional) and Robert Johnsons “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day”. A masterfully crafted rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and a sparse but powerful arrangement of Merle Travis’ “Dark As A Dungeon” showcase the bands strong dynamics fans are used to.
Both vinyl and CD editions are available for pre-order at www.masonporter.com. The band will celebrate with an album release show at the World Café Live in Philadelphia on Dec. 17th 2010.
Homespun Bluegrass performed at the Shindig today. There were Peg and Skip were joined by Lynn and Larry Peters of Santara Wind and Jeff Propert of Heavy Traffic. Larry’s grand daughter joined them for two numbers. She is 11 years old and did a good job. Sorry Larry I didn’t get her name.
Plexigrass, Heavy Traffic, The Mason Dixon Bandits and the Lost Ramblers all performed as well. it was a good day.
Featured bands will be Plexigrass, Heavy Traffic, and Lost Ramblers.
Come to the Elks Lodge, 260 Washington St, East Stroudsburg, Pa.
Heavy Traffic will be playing at the Shindig on Sunday. They are a four piece traditional bluegrass band established in 2001. Based out of New Jersey, Heavy Traffic plays weddings, parties and festivals in the tri-state area. Founding member Earl Karlsen on mandolin and vocals hosts the Bluegrass Express radio show Saturday mornings on WFDU out of Farleigh Dickinson University. The band’s hard drive can be attributed to the savvy Scruggs style banjo pickin’ of Arnie Reisman. Heavy Traffic’s high lonesome sound comes from the unique tenor vocals of Jeff Propert who also compliments the group with his tasteful rhythm and lead guitar. This bluegrass quartet is powered by the solid bass playing of Guy Leatherman.
The effort from all corners of the bluegrass world to memorialize the Bill Monroe centennial in 2011 is getting an assist from the bluegrass state’s Owenboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau. They have launched a new web site, billmonroe100thbirthday.com, to make information available about the many centennial events taking place in Kentucky during 2011.
Owensboro, KY is the home of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, and is located a short distance from Monroe’s home place in Rosine. It was also the original home for the IBMA, and the first World Of Bluegrass and International Bluegrass Music Awards were held in Owensboro in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
In addition to the event listings, the new site features a biography of Monroe for the uninitiated, and a list of his career highlights. There are also images from official centennial photographers, and the complete catalog of the IBMM Centennial Art Exhibit. This exhibit includes new works of Monroe-themed art being offered for sale to benefit the work of the museum.
And of course there is a thorough listing of events in Kentucky during September 2011, leading up to Monroe’s 100th birthday celebration on September 13.
Find it all at www.billmonroe100thbirthday.com.