Some unedited footage from the West Coast leg of the Fod Fest tour. Wish I could have been there!
Posts Tagged ‘FOD Fest’
The fourth annual FODFest is in full swing, and I wanted to describe what playing at opening night was like so anyone living near one of the 14 concert venues can get a feel for why this is something you shouldn’t miss.
The opening night concert had by far the biggest and most impressive venue on the schedule: The Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington, MA, is a beautifully restored 650-seat concert hall that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
As you know if you’ve been following the FodFest story, Daniel Pearl (known locally as “Danny”) started his journalism career in the Berkshires. He was also a talented musician who played in local bands. A new job at the Wall Street Journal took him to Atlanta, where he met and became good friends and band-mates with Todd Mack, a recording producer and a singer-songwriter, who you’ll read more about here when he gets back from the FodFest Tour and has time to answer some questions. In one of those simple twists of fate, Todd then moved to the Berkshires, and got to know and work with some of the musicians Danny had played with.
After Daniel Pearl was brutally murdered in Pakistan in 2002, Todd started FodFest to honor his memory. What began as a backyard jam in 2005 has now grown into a national 14-city 17-day tour. So when the call went out here in the Berkshires for local musicians who knew Danny or who felt they connected with him through his story, his music, his writing, and his ideals — well, a lot of people responded. More than 70 musicians volunteered to participate in the Mahaiwe Show and ultimately, Todd was able to accommodate about 30 musicians in two sets (not counting the entire Berkshire Batteria, a Brazilian drum ensemble that numbers about another 30 percussionists). More musicians will join in in other shows, and some of the musicians will be performing in several shows (or even more). David and I played in the second set as part of the “FOD-POD” — the back-up band that joins in when the people leading songs want musical support.
Each show is different, but here’s the basic idea: About 12 – 15 musicians sit on the stage at a time, and those who wish to lead a song take turns at the central microphone. They can either play solo, or they can ask the other musicians to join in. The trick is that a lot of them are playing original songs — and not only have most of the musicians never met each other before, let alone rehearsed – but a lot of the songs aren’t predictable in terms of their modulations and chord progressions. Some of the songs were easy to follow, some — not so much. Interesting feeling to be on stage in front of a pretty hefty audience — and not only not know what you’re doing, but KNOW that you don’t know what you’re doing — and that THAT is part of the whole point of it. I’m looking forward to hearing the tape; the concert was recorded for radio and taped for local cable access TV.
There was a lot of variety, a lot of improvisation, and a wonderful response from the audience, which I guessed at about 400 people. Most of the musicians were thoughtful and respectful in their selection of material, choosing songs that they felt honored Danny in some way. In addition to many guitars (including an unusual 10-string guitar), we had Tahitian ukelele (David) and resonator guitar (also David), violins, mandolins, banjo, upright bass, keyboards, drums, and miscellaneous percussion. One of the highlights was that Todd had invited four young musicians to perform as well, and all I have to say about that is this: If you don’t want to be out-staged, out-performed, and out-applauded, don’t share the stage with super-talented kids! Those fabulous young musicians got the biggest applause of the evening. And justifiably so. They were fantastic.
It was what would have been Daniel Pearl’s 45th birthday. And I think that together, in celebrating Danny’s life and spirit, we all spread the word that music is a way for people to communicate, to share, and to spread joy.
All the concerts are free. They’ll all be different — some are in clubs and bars, some in small halls. But they will all have this amazing connection between players, and between musicians and audience. Please check the schedule (www.Fodfest.org) and go if you can.
We did the first concert tonight, and I’m too exhausted to blog about it. But here’s (most of) the schedule:
10/10 – Mahaiwe Theater, Great Barrington, MA
10/11 –Narrows Arts Center, Fall River, MA
10/12 – Acoustic Café, Bridgeport, CT
10/13 – Sullivan Hall, NYC
10/14 – IOTA, Washington, DC
10/15 – The Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC
10/16 – The Handle Bar, Greenville, SC
10/17 – Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC
10/18 – Smith’s Olde Bar (Atlanta Room), Atlanta, GA
10/ 19 – The Basement, Nashville, TN
10/20 – Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
10/21 – White Eagle Pub, Portland, OR
10/22 – Axe and Fiddle, Cottage Grove, OR
10/23 – Somewhere in CA, TBA
10/24 – Starry Plough, Berkeley, CA
10/25 – Somewhere in CA, TBA
10/ 26 – Hotel Café, Los Angeles, CA
For updates, check www.fodfest.org.
And if you live in one of those cities, get yourself there! It’s free, and you won’t be wasting your time.
A little interruption in the teaching series here. Check back later in the week — well, more likely next week — for more articles on artists who teach. This weekend, we’ve got some other stuff taking center stage — namely, us. David and I are playing at Sheffield’s Dewey hall on Saturday night. And NEXT week, we’re playing at FOD Fest (see below). So for the next couple of days, I’ll be talking about rehearsing and performing and jamming. In between rehearsing and performing and jamming. And cooking for everyone. And vacuuming. Yup, it’s a life full of glamor….
Yesterday, sometime between a morning of writing and an afternoon of teaching, David and I got a call from Todd Mack, who is the motivating force behind the whole FOD Fest tour. http://createworklive.com/2008/09/24/fod-fest/
Todd was going to be on our local radio station, WBCR, www.BerkshireRadio.org, promoting the first concert in the 14-city 17-day tour. Could we come and join him?
FOD Fest honors the memory of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter (and former Berkshire County resident and musician) who was killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. The tour kicks off here in Great Barrington. MA, at the gorgeous Mahaiwe Theatre on October 10. Todd was looking for musicians to play along with him during the radio interview, to deomonstrate what we’ll be doing at the concert. So we showed our last students out the door, threw the piano and guitar and resonator and Tahitian ukelele into the car, and headed over to WBCR’s new digs.
Okay, so let me be clear about how FOD Fest works.
A whole bunch of musicians who have never met before, let alone ever heard each other’s songs, meet on stage. Mostly it’s songwriters doing original material, although a few people choose to do covers. Anyway, they take turns playing their songs, while the rest of the musicians back them up, add fills and leads, or just sit and listen.
Soooooo….. how do you play along with a song where a) you have no sheet music or charts and b) you’ve never even HEARD the song before?
OK, I’m going to reveal some secrets here: Sometimes it isn’t all that hard. Here’s why: Songs very often (although certainly not always) follow formulas or fall into predictable patterns. So, for example, your basic country tune is pretty much going to have the same three chords in it, and after playing a thousand country tunes, musicians learn to hear which of those three goes where. Blues is another predictable form: There are some variations, but if someone says “This is a blues in E,” you’ve got enough information to jam all night. In other musical forms, the same patterns simply repeat in the song over and over again. Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goimg Nowhere” is an example. So is pretty much any song with a “stray cat” walking bass line. One of the most timeworn chord progressions is the one you’ll find in “Heart and Soul” (that’s the duet you may have banged out on the piano back in fourth grade). “Heart and Soul” is (mostly) the same is “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” which is the same as “Today While the Blossoms Still Cling to the Vine” which is the same as a thousand other songs.
But sometimes playing along without a chord sheet (read: safety net) IS hard. It can be especially tricky when you’re dealing with singer-songwriters who are pretty accomplished musicians — but who want to throw their whole bag of tricks into every song they write. That’s when you find yourself scrambling to change keys because a tune that was happily sitting in C Major has morphed into F sharp minor, and believe me, you don’t want to be pounding out a C chord when that happens.
Sometimes you have no idea what’s going to happen, like when someone gets up and says “I don’t know what key this is in….maybe A? Oh wait, I’ve got the capo on… so maybe it’s in B? Well…. I don’t know, but there’s a lot of chords in it. It goes sorta like this… You all play along. ” And then they play a sequence of chords that would have left Bach scratching his head.
Fortunately, tonight fell much more into category A. There were four of us there: In addition to Todd, David, and me, Seth Rogovoy, the editor of our regional magazine, Berkshire Living (www.BerkshireLiving.com) brought his guitar. Seth’s passion is music– he writes about it in the magazine – and he also plays guitar and sings. I’ve played with Todd before a few times, and of course, I know David’s songs. But I didn’t know what Seth would be pulling out of his hat.
Before we played, Todd spent some time talking about Daniel Pearl, who was as talented a musician as he was a reporter. (You can read about him at http://www..danielpearl.org/about_us/danielpearl_bio.html) The inspiration behind FOD Fest comes from Danny’s love of music, and the whole idea that music is a way for people to communicate from the heart: It brings people together. And at FOD Fest, boy, does it ever.
In between parts of the interview, we played a bit: Todd chose a song I’d heard a couple of times before, and invited us to join in, but I got my signals crossed and started in the wrong key. Once I found my way to E flat, all was well, but I, ooh, baby, talk about some interesting dissonance there at the beginning. Seth did the Dylan song “I Shall be Released,” which is fortunately a Category A song (repeating chord pattern). And David led all of us in one of his songs, “Man in Black Blues,” which you can hear at David’s Sound Clicks page. http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=306627 (Another Category A song, since it’s a blues). And we ended with “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” (repeating chords).
I think we gave our listeners a bit of a taste of what is to come next week, wrong notes and all. Except next week, we’re playing in a 675-seat hall, and something like 20 – 30 musicians are expected. Plus, I’m quite sure that some of the songs are going to be in the less formulaic category.
It’s playing without a safety net. It’s music from the heart. It’s totally unpredictable. It’s a lot of fun. And you can come and share in it. David and I will only be at the Great Barrington Show, but FOD Fest’s schedule is taking it to fourteen East and West Coast Cities: Check the schedule at http://fodfest.org/Home.html.
I’m figuring that most of you will recognize the name Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in Pakistan by terrorists in 2002.
I’m also figuring that you don’t know that Danny (as he was known to his friends) was also a musician.
Before Danny was a Wall Street Journal reporter, he worked for the Berkshire Eagle, the paper of record in the rural Massachusetts county where I live, and he also played the violin in local bands. This all happened before I arrived here, but the Berkshires is a small rural community where everyone knows everyone, especially in the arts; Danny has not been forgotten. People say he had perfect pitch, well-honed classical skills, great chops, and an infectious joy in sharing his art.
Sharing his art: That’s what it’s all about, and that’s one of the reasons Todd Mack — a singer-songwriter, recording engineer, radio-announcer, author, and a close friend of Danny’s — started FOD Fest. FOD stands for Friends of Danny, and it’s an annual event involving musicians who knew him, played with him, or connect with his story. Todd started FOD Fest four years ago as a low-key back-yard jam. I played at the second one, which was held at Todd’s old house. We sat on his deck, and singer-songwriters took turns playing their songs. Those who knew Danny said a few words about him; the rest of us played along as the back-up band. FOD Fest takes place every year around Danny’s birthday to honor his memory and his ideals: that mutual tolerance, education, and an honest quest for understanding can build bridges between people of vastly different cultures. It’s part of a larger non-profit effort, Daniel Pearl World Music Days, which is sponsored by The Daniel Pearl Foundation (http://www.danielpearl.org/about_us/danielpearl_bio.html) and takes place with concerts worldwide and the support of a long list of stellar, internationally renowned musicians.
FOD Fest has been steadily growing: The first year I played, it was broadcast on a few radio stations nationwide; Last year, it involved concerts in several cities, and this year, it will involve a series of concerts all over the country. The inaugural 2008 FOD Fest concert is right here in my neck of the woods, at the Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on Friday, October 10 at 7:30 p.m., and I’m honored to be one of the musicians performing that night. Other shows will be in venues in New York City, Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tennessee. My partner, David Hodge, is also performing, and he’s got the whole national schedule up on his site: http://www.davidhodge.com/2008/09/21/fodfest-2008/
Please check the schedule and come by! The concerts are free (although donations are gratefully accepted to offset the cost of the concerts). The format is one Danny would, I’m sure, have liked: an improvisational sharing of music from the heart.
I’ll be posting an interview with Todd Mack (recording engineer and producer, radio host, songwriter, guitarist, singer, children’s book author, and FOD Fest organizer) later in the week. Stay tuned.