The Wayward Coffee House was a great gig, and gave Claire and me an opportunity to spread our wings and ruffle our feathers. It felt Sooo good! Thanks to those who dropped in to listen. And many thanks to Stewart Hendrickson and Bob Nelson of the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society (pnwfolklore.org), and the pleasant folks at the Wayward for opening this door. If you haven’t taken a look at the PNWFS web site, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s full of historical and contemporary information on local acoustic and roots music. And don’t forget to check out the Events page, and the NWHoot which is an online periodical published bi-monthly.
Filling up a two-hour engagement took some planning. Especially after many years of open mikes where your mind can spin out of control when an opportunity arises to do three songs and you only planned two. In addition to learning and practicing a bunch of songs there are other things to think about such as wardrobe, chit-chat between songs, and breathing. Claire even put a big sign at my feet that said, “BREATHE!” Apparently I look at my feet a lot when I’m concentrating on guitar work and hold my breath till I get to the end of a phrase. I guess that’s why I don’t play 12 bar blues; 8 bars is a long enough time to hold your breath.
All that said, the most confusing thing in preparation is arranging the set list. How does one arrange a set? Thematically? Dynamically? Chronologically? Alpabetically? Or do we use some other adverb that’s in the dictionary, but not in my spell checker? Do you put all your best stuff in the first set where those who come late won’t hear it, or in the second set where those who leave early won’t hear it? Maybe the shotgun approach is best; just write down all your favorite stuff and start singing? I know Claire is gritting her teeth now, because she put a lot of thought into organizing the set list and it flowed very well.
Regardless of the order, the important thing is to give each song its moment to exist in the space between the singer and those who hear. That is the moment when the song does what only it can do. Off the printed page of words and notation, songs carry packets of emotion like photons carry light. These packets burst in our hearts and bellies. They make us feel who we are and what we are about. I’m not a physicist or a neuropsychologist, but I’m sure there is more healing power in a song than we can ever know.
You can check out some of the videos from the concert on YouTube. Just go to YouTube.com and search “Hank Payne” or “Claire Favro” and they should pop up on the screen. Just remember that the video titled “Claire’s Dog Hank” has nothing to do with us. Thanks to Stewart for doing such a nice job on the recording and making the videos available.