The Low Down Review – No. 18

25 Jul

Hospitality by the Unnamed, to Protect the Generous

In Hospitality: After playing to an empty room in Montour Falls and an unsuccessful attempt to find a spot to crash, I found myself stuck at a Comfort Inn in Corning, NY on a Friday night during the Finger Lakes Wine Festival (Read: artificially jacked-up prices; there were plenty of rooms left, despite the tour buses). I grabbed two handfuls of fruit out of the bowl by the door and decided to start Saturday fresh with some busking in Centerway Square. It was a beautiful morning, and while I hadn’t slept much for a week, I felt refreshed. In the square, some folks were setting up for a Farmers Market. I asked them if they had, or wanted any acoustic music to accompany the vendors. They looked at me with distrust, gave no answer and said that I should go talk to the guy inside. Okay. I carried my guitar case and a few CDs inside.

At first, he viewed me skeptically, saying something about not knowing if I could, or if he could allow it, etc. I passed a disc across the counter. He mentioned that I could play out on the stage in the Square if I wanted. “It’s a public space,” he said. He’d even turn off the background music for me. Nice. I set up shop on the stage steps, and started picking out some tunes. A few bucks here, a few bucks there, some folks gathering ’round to listen, a young kid who liked the tunes. He got a disc after he asked his sister for a dollar. “But I only gave you a dollar,” he said. A kind guy who looked like he underwent throat cancer surgery sat on a bench with an “In Search of God” book open in front of him. He read passively, tapping his foot, later telling me he was a drummer. He claimed his retriever, “Sammy” was his only true friend in the world. A teenager in a punk band, with no money sat for a while, nodding his head. It was a good turn into the noon hour and I was feeling all right. Corning’s Gaffer District had other plans, however, and they didn’t include me.

You can’t be here. It’s not allowed.” I was in the middle of “No Diamonds to Toss.” The voice seemingly came from nowhere, and I suddenly felt like I was a kid again cutting through Mel’s backyard. “We have a band here at 2:00 p.m.” It was just after 12:00. I killed the song on the spot as the rest of the Gaffer crew looked on from a table set off to the side. I took a breath. “Well, where can I be,” I asked. “120 feet from the Square.” So be it, and so I go. The folks listening looked confused.

Now, I’m not sharing this story to hate on Corning’s Gaffer District. Seriously, I’m not. That would be too easy, and I benefitted from the outcome; I ended up finding Corning Art & Frame, a great custom framing shop that sold hand-made cigar-box guitars and bass guitars, as well as music memorabilia and a few customized instruments. I made some decent money busking outside that shop in a little less than an hour. I also want to avoid eliciting sympathy. There is no need for any of us to feel bad here; I was more surprised and then confused by the exchange than anything.

I am sharing this story because it’s a vivid example of what I’ve been experiencing with greater regularity over the past few weeks. Namely, people employing an aggressive, arrogant and hostile attitude in an attempt to realize what’s seen in the mind’s eye and forcing a singular vision – I’ll call them “rulers” here. All this situation (and others) called for was a conversation. You guys getting the same out there, or are the planets aligning against me? Maybe it’s me that’s changed. Or maybe the reason is that I’m traveling and meeting more people. But frankly, I’m done with that shit. A message to the rulers: You can rule without meHat tip to the great guys at Record Archive in Rochester, NY for the suggestions and albums.

Thankfully, for every ruler I met recently, I found at least 10 on the conversational side, and I’m grateful for the time they shared with me. I didn’t even agree with half of them, but understanding meant more than agreement with these folks. That’s some good news, and as James, who drove me to the Kansas City, MO airport on Sunday, told me, “I’ve met many more good people, Mike. Many more.”

Speaking of conversational folks, I arrived at the Black-Eyed Susan Acoustic Cafe in Angelica, NY for a Saturday night performance – folks familiar with the LDR might remember this location from the LDR 14, and those of you who are new, check the link out. The folks there again provided me with a memorable evening full of laughter, stories, delicious food, music and general joy. If you need one reason to visit Angelica, NY, the Black-Eyed Susan is a great one. Don, Karen, Jim, Caedren, and Matt, Thank you… Your hospitality is graceful and natural, and your friendship is a true delight. I hope to see you folks again in the near future.

Nipper Found a Place in Corning

Take the Parkway: If you’re a musician or sound engineer in NY’s Capital District, you’ve likely visited Parkway Music. If you’re a musician or sound engineer around here and you haven’t visited Parkway, you better get yourself over there. The folks behind the counter are consummate professionals, are easy to talk to and willing to share not only their knowledge but a few stories to place that knowledge within a digestable context. Even if you’re just a beginner looking for your or your kid’s first instrument, the folks at Parkway will help make sense of the array of options and pair you up with the best fit.

And while I’m on the topic of good fits (you had to know that I’ve been leading you into some news), the Parkway guys recently put me together with the latest member of my instrument family, a Martin D-18 1937 Authentic. This guitar, while newly made, came from Martin’s Custom Shop, which means that it’s hand-crafted by one person, a truly individual guitar. The guitar was built according to the 1937 specifications, hence the date attached to its name. The specs include a solid Adirondack Spruce top, solid mahogany sides, back and neck, solid Brazilian Rosewood purfling and headplate, and a solid black ebony fingerboard and bridge, just to name a few features. In common language, it’s a beautiful, booming instrument with clear, crisp, and even tone. I’m still shocked, and consider myself lucky that I can play it every day. I owe Matt, Madison, Charlie and the guys up at Parkway a great deal of gratitude. Here are some photos from home:

From the Low Down: On Sept. 1, I’ll participate in a campfire of an unusual sort and in an unusual location: right in the bustling center of Cambridge, MA where open fires invite the PD and FD to break up your party. This campfire is sanctioned, however. I’ve been invited to play Club Passim’s “campfire.” Labor Day music festival, and I’m very excited. The folks at Passim scheduled me in for a Saturday songs in-the-round with Sierra West, Jim Trick, and Marianna Bell.


A few musicians I know and shared stages with are also slotted to send their tunes out to the Cambridge crowd: you’ll find the sweet harmonies of the Brothers McCann, the driven soul of Ryan Fitzsimmons, and incendiary and soothing sounds of The Stray Birds (Catch The Stray Birds’ new video for “Railroad Man” here…). I’m truly honored to share the bill with so many established and up-and-coming talents at the historic Club Passim.

Tonight (Wednesday, July 25), catch me teaming up with the Lost Radio Rounders and Cousin Clyde from a slew of good acts, including his latest collaboration, Kim and Clyde. We’re meeting at the Voorheesville Public Library (NY) at 6:30 p.m. for a show titled, “Wildwood Flower: Songs of the Original Carter Family”.

On Friday, I’ll be in Rensselaerville, NY for an 8:30 p.m. performance as a member of Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers. The show is part of the library’s annual fundraiser, the Festival of Writers. I wrote about our part in the Festival in LDR 17. Check it out and arouse your curiosity…

And as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

– Mike

P.S. Here’s a photo I wanted to share from a recent backpacking trip in the ADKs (it’s been a good summer):

Sunrise, Crane Mountain, NY

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