The Hot Place: Texas

04/06/2011 at 4:42 am | Posted in 49>50, Stories from the Road | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(Photos to go along with this blog are at Flickr.com/mariancall.  Earlier blog posts linked & listed in this entry here.)

For an Alaska-dweller I spend lots of time in Texas.  I have a lot of fans there, I have family there, and I must admit: I love Austin.  I know I know, loving Austin is passé and uncool already, but know what?  I don’t care.  Avocados are 5/$1, they sell hot sugared pecans by the side of the road, and there’s live music and street fairs everywhere — well-attended too, people come out and support local.  I just avoid SxSW and snooty “industry” types and eat a LOT and I’m good.  So despite its reputation and its insecurity issues, I usually enjoy my time in Texas.  (When they aren’t shooting me with airsoft guns between the eyes, like they did on my first tour there.)

Bryan Ray and I drove very late from Oklahoma after I did this shiny breakfast interview to head “home” where I’d stop for a full week.  I recall getting out of the car at 1am and doing jumping jacks to stay awake at the gas station — which is a great way to attract some Texas homeboy attention. “You in need of assistance ma’am?” asked a would-be cowboy.  I couldn’t think of a good way to say, “No, I just want to do jumping jacks,” so I’m pretty sure I hid behind a trash can until his hat went into the convenience store.

We pulled in exhausted and in the morning I woke up in familiar surroundings — for the first time since I left Fargo, ND, I recognized something!  I knew where my coffee shops were at!  I could navigate without a GPS!  Almost.  So visiting Austin is a dream.

I could also afford a couple of concert-free days to play Ingenious with Dad, drink lots of tea and eat lots of peaches, and actually hear other people sing.  I drove out to Kerrville Folk Festival, a sort of beautiful remote hippie folkie lovefest in the Hill Country.  I’ve always heard only wonderful things about Kerrville, and sure enough the performances we enjoyed were completely stellar.  I ran into Randall Williams whose wise words in 2007 helped direct my career more than he could ever suspect.  And I found Raina Rose, a favorite singer-songwriter of mine, hanging around the music shop playing guitar with friends and strangers.  So I knew a grand total of two people.

Funny though — I didn’t quite fit in with the straight folk crowd.  My songs don’t have repeating choruses that everyone can harmonize to around the campfire.  And not having grown up with the culture myself, I didn’t know the music everyone else knew.  I didn’t have a guide to show me around, and a couple people asked me if I was from New York. “Um, no, Alaska.” “Well you look like you’re from New York City.” I hid behind a trash can again until their hats went away, thinking, “But I was so careful to wear dirty Texas hill country clothes!”  I wandered around the campsites and numerous hippie buses, and thought how strange it is that I lived on a hippie bus for half a year — full-time in fact, through the winter, hard-core hippie bus-living.  Yet I totally failed to gel with this crowd.  I was too metro, too fast, too uptight, too techie, and too New Yorkish.  (Incidentally this is also my social obstacle in Alaska, where so many of the awesome people are chill and outdoorsy and carry djembes and guitars on their backs.  Wonderful folks. Me no fit.)

Kerrville Folk Festival

Ah well, you can’t win them all.  I returned to Austin, bought Hadestown at Waterloo Records, drank beer, played more Carcassonne, watched some Pixar movies, and felt more like me.  And tried not to be too disappointed in my awkwardness around the nice folky hippies I would so like to befriend. #toouptight

The next morning (if memory serves), I got a phone call that expanded my working definition of ‘surreal.’

“Good morning, this is Paul of PaulandStorm. We do this thing called w00tstock and everyone has been recommending you.”

I hid behind a trash can but this is a less effective tack when you’re on the phone.

For the most part I tried to convince them that they had the wrong person, because my renown and fan reach were insignificant compared with the rest of the lineup.  But I failed. “I really don’t have that many fans,” I told Paul.

“Well, you have the right ones,” he replied.

There’s no disagreeing with that.  My fans are amazing.  So I signed on for w00tstock 2.4: SDCC.  Then I packed to leave Austin and head Into the West.

***********************

Well, mostly west.  First I drove south.  SOUTH TO SPACESHIPS!

A friend of mine from college is now awesome enough to be designing launch/abort/reentry suits for astronauts.  She’s an adorable & sweet engineer who can do her job in killer heels.  Geek girls FTW.  She & her husband threw a house concert, populated almost entirely by NASA folks, and I could not have been more excited.

Some audiences are harder to play than others — it took me some time to learn that certain groups, such as engineers, astronauts and Saskatchewans, do not respond with quite as much laughter or applause or engagement or Zombified passion as, say, SDCC attendees.  Thankfully the Midwest had prepared me for my engineer audience and I managed to navigate the stoicism.  Afterwards I got to learn just a very little bit about what’s been happening with NASA’s funding and why — but don’t ask or argue with me, I’m not an expert.  Just a curious party.

The next morning I got to go to Johnson with my host and hostess.  Not for the tram tour, for the REAL tour.  The photo blog describes my visit better — you can find the set here on my Flickr with captions.  GUYS THEY HAVE SPACESHIPS THER EFRO REALS

In fact as I was touring robotics with my host, he asked if I wanted to get in the Lunar Rover. “You mean the spaceship?” I asked. “We usually call them rovers or modules…” he said. “NO!” I replied, maybe only in my head. “You are making spaceships.  Don’t ever lose sight of how freaking incredible that is.”

What blew my mind the most was the age of their infrastructure and the incredibly tight budgets they have to work with.  Still using the same everything from the sixties — buildings in need of renovations, ancient furniture, no chance to redesign older elements with newer synthetic materials…sometimes it was a little hard to stomach.  NASA’s research has historically given humanity so many things for so little investment.  I’ll spare you the political rant I want to write here — I’m sure you can imagine how it goes.  Grr Argh.

My tour over, I left Houston with one mission: to warn you all that there is a Cylon device inside the Lunar Rover.  I didn’t put it there.  Not my job.

Cylon Device

****************************

Dallas would be my last stop on the way out of Texas.  There are a number of other worthy cities, but Dallas had two things I wanted to see: Kristina Morland and Jayne Cobb.

Kristina Morland made one of my desert island discs, Pidgin Music.  It’s one of those CD’s I have bought seven copies of for everyone I know.  I asked her to open for me at Poor David’s Pub — and as I remembered, she’s not much for live performance.  But glory can she write and arrange, and hallelujah can she sing.  I’ve worn out that disc.

I didn’t have as much time as I wanted in Dallas, so I coordinated a sort of happy hour with some fans ahead of the show.  The minutes were too few, and like at all geekish fan gatherings, it started awkwardly, but I tell you what:  I really love my fans.  Given a half hour and the right topic they are so warm and funny, and yes it’s awkward, but as I learned at Kerrville — maybe awkward people are just my people.  I don’t think I fit with the cool kids.

But the uncool kids had a great time that night.  We rocked Poor David’s, which is a really fantastic TX venue — I hope they’ll let me back.  My heroes play there, folks like Sarah Harmer and Kasey Chambers.

And a real honest-to-gods hero showed up, too. Jayne! The man they call Jayne!

Jayne Cobb

Yes, this is his actual head and his actual plaque.  Zippy wantsta go to the crappy town where he’s a hero.

Instructions in Excruciating Detail: Booking Shows Near You, or, Fan Power!

03/28/2010 at 10:13 pm | Posted in 49>50, How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

**NOTE: This is an awesome blog post, but it is out of date!  Instead, see this page for updated 2013 show booking notes!  The writing below is wonderful but also it is a historical document from early 2010.  New info:  https://mariancall.wordpress.com/booking-a-house-concert/**

This blog entry is your complete guide and FAQ to making a Marian Call concert happen in your area on the 49 to 50 tour.  Odds are I sent you here so we can make a show happen!  Below you can find links for the forms you’ll fill out and answers to a number of questions.  Please read the applicable sections before requesting a concert.

There are two kinds of shows: House Concerts and Venue ConcertsHouse concerts I set up directly with you (even if they’re not at a house, or not at your house).  For venue concerts, such as cafés, bars, farmer’s markets, and music halls, I collect information about a venue that you think is really a perfect fit and has dates open, and I contact them myself (unless the manager happens to be your brother-in-law or something, in which case you introduce us).

If you get a mass e-mail or a contact from an minion of mine during the booking process, I hope you’ll pardon me.  This project is so huge and so exciting I need a little help and a little automation to manage it all.  But the good news is it makes it possible for me to meet you in person at sometime soon!

The bestest newest ever e-mail address for booking questions, which goes to me and my various helpers: mcminion42@gmail.com!!!!!

Use this e-mail address for booking questions and venue suggestions.  No need to cc mariancall@mac.com; all the mcminion42 messages are forwarded to me automatically, and I still read everything myself.  I might have a very cool helper answer some of it though.  Don’t worry, your personal information (home address particularly) is very very safe.

Applying for a House Concert:

If you want to host or set up a house concert (even if it’s not at a house), be sure you’ve read all about how I do house concerts and then follow the instructions here.

  1. Check my Public Google Calendar by clicking here [link disabled later] to see when I plan to be in your area, and what dates I already have scheduled gigs.  The schedule and map are flexible — until I have concerts anchoring me to this location and that (so don’t cry if you don’t see your city just yet).  You can ask for a date when I’m trying to be elsewhere; worst I can do is say no.  You’ll notice that later in the fall, i.e. farther east, I’m not sure which state comes in which order yet — gigs that get nailed down will determine my route. Also note: some days I will designate for “travel” or “rest” and those are unavailable.
  2. Choose a date or dates to request. If it’s way in the future when times are flexible, just pick something you like!  Know that for house concerts, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sunday afternoons or evenings usually work just fine — and even more non-traditional times, like brunches or lunches, have worked in the past if you’re interested in something a little different.  If you’re looking for a date in, say, August, September, or October, know that we may have to hold out on nailing down the date on one show until I’ve confirmed a few others, etc. (events are very interconnected). So let me know if you have a time constraint, too, i.e. “I can do Thursdays but not Wednesdays,” or “I’ll be home this weekend but gone the next.” I deeply wish I could play in every town on Saturday night, but I can’t. I also wish I could play every day without resting, but I can’t do that either.  I’ll accommodate every request I can without running myself into the ground.  If I can’t play your town or your day, I’m sorry — hopefully I can come back!
  3. Gather information and make decisions about the kind of event you want to plan. Just figure out the basics — find out how many people you can fit (more than you think); if it’s not a house, make sure you can secure the space or find out if it costs anything; if it is a house, check to be sure that it’s yours, or that the neighbors won’t mind coming home to a big surprise.  Decide what kind of food you want to provide or coordinate, and whether kids will be welcome.  And actually count how many people you believe you can get to come from within your own social circle (I can provide more sometimes).  Decide whether you want a public or private event.  Feel free to ask  questions: mcminion42@gmail.com or, for quick questions, @mariancall on Twitter.
  4. ****Most important**** Fill out this Google form: [link now disabled]. This is how I can keep all of these requests organized and make the tour happen.  If you don’t have ALL the information, especially the optional stuff, don’t sweat it.  Though the more clearly you can visualize the event, the more likely I am to approve your date over someone else’s.  (But it’s not the LSAT.) Then e-mail me so I know there’s a new entry in the form. mariancall@mac.com
  5. If I can’t choose your proposed concert, I’d like to say in large, friendly letters: DON’T PANIC. I still love you, and I will nearly always provide you with a personal invite to another nearby show. Please don’t be bitter.  If you want to know what makes me choose some shows over others — larger house concerts will probably be better than small ones if they’re in the same area; public ones are usually preferable to private ones, so other fans can come; kids and pets have no influence on the yes or no vote, I just need to know about them; if you or your community can lodge me for free, you may have a slight advantage (though no lodging is not a dealbreaker); money overall is less important than connections — i.e. lots of people barely listening is worth less to me than just a few people really listening and caring.  Also, please don’t hold back because you think I’ll reject you — I’m happy to do small shows and out-of-the-way places if they fit into my schedule and you’re willing to bring some open ears to the event.
  6. If I do choose your concert: DON’T PANIC.  You may freak out about it sometimes, but trust me, when you look back you will find it was pretty easy.  And it will be really fun.  I’ll notify you, we’ll iron out the details and reserve the date, we’ll arrange a (very informal) contract, and I’ll equip you with what you need to set up/advertise/invite/manage RSVP’s and so on.

Explanations and disclaimers: The calendar and route are subject to change, because they must be.  The reality of such a large tour is that I may have to rearrange a date with you if my travel schedule changes (or my car breaks down).  I hope for no cancellations at all, but the universe will ultimately decide that.  So please be understanding and a little bit flexible.

If you’re offering lodging, that lodging will be for me and an accompanist (almost always a guy). We’re cool sharing a room but we don’t share beds. We’re also cool crashing on couches, air mattresses, cots, the floor, what have you.  Some accompanists are allergic to pets, so let me know in advance if you have them.

Let’s make it happen!

Recommending a Venue Near You:

If there’s a local cafe, restaurant, or music venue — or maybe a podcast or local radio station spot — that you think I should play, please, let me know about it!  It’s so hard to know which places are a good fit or locally loved when I’ve never been.  I may or may not hit them all on this tour, but I do want to know what venues I should be aiming for, and fan recommendations are the number one way I decide where to try to play.

  1. (same as above) If you want to recommend a specific date, Check my Public Google Calendar to see when I plan to be in your area, and what dates I already have scheduled gigs.  PLEASE check your venue’s website or calendar to make sure they have openings around that time before you send me pursuing them — if they’re already booked I’d hate to waste your time or mine.
  2. Not all venue recommendations require a date. So if it’s more a recommendation to file away for the future — or a radio station or podcast or another musician to work with — and not a specific concert for this tour, that’s ok.
  3. ****Most important**** E-mail Marian at mcminion42*at*gmail.com.  Let me know what the opportunity is like, and if you really want me to book a show there on this tour, please provide a date if you can and let me know you see this as a real, immediately possible event.  Let me know if you think you could bring people you know to it.  Otherwise I will probably file it away for reference and use it only if I need it, since this tour is mainly made possible through house concerts.
  4. Venues that might seem great but aren’t actually that useful: the premier venue in town, i.e. the Grand Ole Opry or Carnegie Hall. I’m unlikely to be able to play in the best spot in your city (yet).  Also, music festivals.  Folks are always inviting me to play at music and geek festivals, and I’d love to because they are FUN, but generally they aren’t the best use of my time.  I don’t make much money or connect with fans very well, the dates aren’t flexible, and I can’t take the time to keep track of all the different application processes.
  5. Venues I might like better than you think: bookstores, galleries, shops, radio stations, farmer’s markets, really good local open mics or showcases, cafes open to free lunchtime background music. 
  6. Really Good: connecting me with a local musician who does roughly what I do (someone making acoustic music full-time, touring, accessible to all audiences) to share a show.  I love to open for other artists, I love having other artists open for me, and I love to share the stage with locals.  Recommend a musician!

It’s really preposterous to attempt a tour of this size without a booking agent or full-time manager or promoter.  But you are already helping so much, and I’m hopeful your enthusiasm will only grow as this thing takes off.  I know mine is.  I can’t wait to hit the road again!  And I can’t wait to meet you or see you again.

I’ll be there soon — all my best,

Marian Call

Coming Soon to a Backyard Near You: the 50 States Tour. 49>50

03/26/2010 at 9:38 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, News & Explanations, Stories from the Road | 12 Comments
Tags: ,

Somebody stop me.  I’m about to do something nutty again.

Of course, nutty can be good. Like a rich deep brown locally brewed ale on tap. …..What were we talking about? Right.

When I release my new album Something Fierce, I’m going on a very long driving tour of the U.S. and Canada, as musicians are wont to do.  And on this tour I shall attempt to play a show in each of the fifty United States as well as a number of Canadian provinces.  All without a label, manager or booking agent — without a steady paycheck — fueled only by fan goodwill and positivity and coffee.

This unnecessary yet numerically satisfying scheme hit me when I was counting things (as I sometimes do), and I got to this nice, round, somehow pleasing number that came after forty-nine — you know the one.  I was holding fifty dollars of petty cash in my hand as I cleaned up the till after a really beautiful concert last Friday.* “Fifty,” I thought. “Aren’t there fifty of something else too?”**

I wouldn’t be the first to do this, not by a long shot.  Just another joining the ranks.  I want to see the country where I live, I want to meet all different kinds of people, I want to feel the distances between things.  I want to swelter in summer heat and break down on straight flat stretches of highway and barely sleep and drink gas station coffee.  (Actually I don’t, but it’s worth it to come and play for you.)  I want to meet you all!

And yes, Canada, Europe, and Australia, you’re next.  Though this could take a while.  It’s a pretty big country and it’s hard to gig on Mondays and Tuesdays.

A venture like this, without label support, is only possible through your participation.  And though I love your participation, I don’t want to selfishly bank on it — it’s the kind of gift that it would be rude to budget for, like birthday money from Aunt Mae.  Every time you help me I’m amazed and grateful.  In the last few days over Twitter and Facebook, you have proved that this venture is possible by inundating me with e-mails, advice, and invitations to come to your various neighborhoods and play house concerts.  To which I say: all right! You win!  I’ll come to every corner of the country I possibly can.  If you want a show in your area, you can read about how to get it here.

Here’s my very, very general route, subject to change, color coded by month:

Eeeeeeeeeeee!Green = May / Blue = June / Red = July / Orange = August / Slate = September / Pink = October

This is such a massive project that I need a system.  Actually I need a cute personal assistant and a caffeine IV and possibly a nifty robot that makes toast and prints money, but lacking those, I need integrated docs and maps and calendars and contacts.  I’m designing an online infrastructure to make it possible to book this tour without an agent, based entirely on fan involvement. 90% of my shows on this tour will be requested and set up, with very little effort per gig, by fans.  All the details about how to set up a show near you are in this blog entry here. Let’s make it happen!

I can’t play absolutely everywhere in the U.S., but this is about as close as I can get.  So come and meet me when I’m close to you!  I’m already imagining what sorts of silly souvenirs I can try to collect in each state.

I love my job.

Also: T-shirt ideas, anyone?

More to come shortly. If you have an idea you simply must share with me right away, you can write me at mcminion42*at*gmail.com.  Comments on WordPress, Facebook messages/comments, and Twitter responses are important to me and I read them all, but may not make it into the final informational mix. E-mail is king for the moment.  This post will be modified once booking forms are really and truly open.

In conclusion, I’d like to say: WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!

Marian

P.S. States where I don’t know many people and could use help or local expertise: HI, ID, NV, MT, ND, SD, NE, AR, IN, OH, LA, MS, FL, NC, VA, RI, ME.

* The concert last Friday was really and truly gorgeous and inspiring.  I sang with three other Anchorage female singer-songwriters and we streamed it live on the web. You can see video at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/singer-songwriter-showcase-anchorage-ak.

**My favorite number is actually 51, because it feels so like a prime number — but NO! 17. Fooled you. 51 is surprising like that. Someday 51 will be the new 42.

Update: The tour now has a name: 49 to 50. Or 49>50. Alaskans will get it instantly the rest of you may need help: we’re the 49th state, and proud of it.  So 49>50 is shorthand for “from Alaska to every other United State.” Or possibly “Alaska is awesomer than every other state.” Don’t tell Texas I said that.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.