Something Fierce this way comes

09/03/2011 at 12:13 pm | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations | 10 Comments
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**Update: the autographed CD’s are now sold out, but you can still pre-order the CD — it’ll come shrink-wrapped and all ready for you to get signed at a show sometime!**

 

IT’S HERE IT’S HERE IT’S HERE!  AFTER TWO AND A HALF YEARS SOMETHING FIERCE IS HERE!

I’ve been yelling about this a lot so I’ll try to calm down, quit spinning, and give you all the details.  And I’ll briefly stop saying thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.  (Though I can never ever be grateful enough for your patience and support.  I’m gonna make like an NPR station during pledge week pretty soon and compulsively send you all tote bags out of gratitude.)

The record will drop on OCTOBER FIRST TWO THOUSAND ELEVEN!   According to Google, October first is also Julie Andrews’ birthday, the anniversary of the creation of Mensa, and the Texarkana Egg Fest.  An auspicious day.  The record will be available to download on that day, from anywhere in the world, through Bandcamp.com.  Physical CD’s will start shipping that week, so you should receive them shortly after that.  If you pre-order the album, digital or physical, you’ll get an e-mail the moment it’s released with the entire record as a download all ready to go!

Wanna know how it sounds?  The tracks “Anchorage” and “Good Morning Moon” have already been released as singles, and I’ve posted some samples of a few more on Soundcloud for your listening enjoyment.  And I’ve written a few vulnerable artsy thoughts about the record, too.  I hope you like it so much!

Here is how you can pre-order Something Fierce.  And you should, so that I can afford to print it for you.

Digital pre-orders!  For you modern types.

If you pre-order your fabulous digital double-album through Bandcamp, you’ll get a little bit of music now — if you like — and on the first of October you’ll automatically receive your tracks and shiny digital album art to download!  So go ahead and pick it up now.  Price is about $15.00 or whatever you feel beyond that.  If you have any issues at all, e-mail me or Katie at mcminion42*at*gmail.com.  Thank you!

CD pre-orders!  For you who need something to play frisbee hold.

I’ll be signing 500 copies of the physical CD for you early birds!  So if you order now, your album/s will come autographed (no dedications, sorry.  Bring it to me at a show and I’ll sign it to you).  If you buy the CD, you’ll also get the album as a download that will be delivered on October 1st — so however long the postal service takes to your corner of the world, you can still join the CD release party that day!

The double disc costs $25 autographed, a little less ($20) if you want to wait until the release and get a not-autographed copy.    I’m absorbing a little of the cost of international S&H because I really want to keep overseas shipping affordable for my friends across borders!

I’m a CD person still — I buy physical discs and play full albums in my car and in my house.  But I know there’s an environmental cost, and I’d like to minimize that where I can.  So this is a carbon-neutral run of CD’s, or as close as we can get to it — they’re printed with soy ink on post-consumer recycled materials; the trays are made of recycled water bottles, and carbon credits are purchased to offset manufacturing and shipping.

**Donors’ Circle Members:  remember that you’re entitled to two free copies of the record if you like!  There are other goodies for you as well.  Be sure to fill out the form I sent you in order to receive your benefits.  But if you want to order more copies, these links above are for you.  Any questions, just e-mail me or Katie at mcminion42*at*gmail.com!

And thank you thank you thank you thank you for your order.  I fantasize about this all going very smoothly.  (But it never seems to go completely perfect.  So if you have any issues along the way, just let me know, mcminion42*at*gmail.com, and we’ll do our very best to get it sorted.)

Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you want to know more about the record itself, here are some details. Something Fierce is a double album with two parts — vol. I: Good Luck With That and vol. II: from Alaska.

I announced the album and formed the Donors’ Circle in March 2009, and I began writing songs and booking musicians for the project around that time.  Recording began in November 2009 and has continued up to last week — at intervals between touring — we did studio work in Seattle, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Austin, and Anchorage.  About thirty people made noises for the record, and over a hundred fans helped to fund it.  I did all the editing myself before, during, and after the 49>50 Tour, and this spring I even added some songs written on that journey.

Here’s a track list so you can see if your favorite song from the live shows is on Something Fierce (track order not necessarily finalized):

Something Fierce, vol. I:  Good Luck With That

  1. Good Morning Moon
  2. The Avocado Song
  3. Highway Five
  4. Dear Mister Darcy
  5. All New (Heart Shut Tight)
  6. Temporal Dominoes
  7. Press or Say Three (your call is important to us)
  8. Ina Flew the Coop
  9. Free Bird

Something Fierce, vol. II:  from Alaska

  1. Whistle While You Wait
  2. Early Is as Early Does
  3. I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl
  4. The Underground (One Bird at a Time)
  5. Coffee by Numbers (Faon’s Song)
  6. Equinox
  7. E.S.B.
  8. Perilous Road
  9. Aurora Borealis
  10. Anchorage

Things I’d love for you to know about this record:

  • Some lines and songs are in fact inspired by friends on Twitter and Facebook.  Usually they know if/when they’re to thank.
  • I consumed enough fruit snacks while editing this record to feed a crowded day care center for a month.
  • For this record my mother played the turkey baster, my sister banged on her cello all over like a drum, my brother clicked a mechanical pencil and played his trumpet valves with his nose, my stepdad played the harp and jaw harp, Brian Adams shot his Hasselblad, and I played goat toenails and shook my dead cat’s ashes in a tin.
  • You can perhaps hear a number of musical and lyrical compressions honoring Zelda, Dr. Horrible, Elizabeth Bennett, and a number of other fictional characters.
  • I dare you to figure out which songs I wrote before, during, and after my divorce.  You’ll probably be wrong.  But there’s a lot more relationship stuff in this album than I’ve previously included, and it’s more vulnerable than what I’ve written in the past.  I take a lot of musical/stylistic risks and I hope they pay off and move someone.
  • One of the songs sounds like it’s about a breakup or an unhealthy relationship, but it’s actually an ode to a beer I fell completely in love with on first taste.
  • There are really a lot more drums and a lot more noisy hollering of the sort I do on tour.
  • The typewriter and rainstick can be heard on about half of the tracks, though they’re subtler than in the past.
  • Several members of the Donors’ Circle sang and whistled along with the chorus of “Good Morning Moon” from their homes all over the world, and their voices are part of the record.
  • Some songs and characters and scenarios were completely fictional, as in “Dear Mister Darcy,” until they came true to the letter.  Spooky.

The physical product will be very pretty, I think.  The two discs will come in a carbon-neutral matte digipak, and it will include a 16-page book with all the lyrics and gorgeous photos by my friend Brian Adams and illustrations by my amazing Mom, Karen Luke Fildes. My favorite part:  no UPC code on the outside of the artwork.  When the disc is sold retail (very very seldom), we’ll put the barcode on a sticker outside the shrink wrap — so once you open your music it will be simply that, music, with the UPC business hidden away in an inside corner with the credits and copyright information where you’ll hardly see it.  Fans funded this project, and fans are mostly buying it straight from me, so the economic scope of this project is a little too simple to merit interfering with the artwork by adding a barcode to the outside.  Somehow that feels right to me.

Here are some of my thoughts on the record from a little earlier this year.  It’s a little different than what’s come before.  The vocals sound a lot more like what you might hear at a live show, because I’ve done hundreds of live shows since I last went into the studio.  Something Fierce is truly my own voice, and the voices of my community (including you guys!).  And it represents a lot of growth musically and personally since Got to Fly, my last full-length album.  It’s less overtly nerdy (remember Got to Fly was a commission about Firefly and BSG) and yet still laced with geekiness throughout.  I hope hope hope hope hope that you like it.  I hope it makes you feel something once in a while.  I hope it’s art worth loving for a few of you, and worth enjoying for the rest of you.

Okay Marian, quit talking and get some rest.

P.S.  If you think you’re going to like this, tell the world to get on board.  http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/album/something-fierce is the link to share around the web.

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Special Shows: all about community

04/06/2011 at 9:22 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | 2 Comments
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There are some special-enough shows coming up that they deserve more than 140 characters.  Because I’m sensing a theme.

First, the show details, then the important-ish things I’ve been thinking about for months:

4/14/11 Vagabond Blues in Palmer AK – Marian Call Poetry-Themed Solo Show

I only have one serious solo show in Southcentral AK this month, and it’s at one of my favorite venues in the state.  If you haven’t heard a show at Vagabond, it’s worth going and bringing friends.  Quiet, intimate, one of the best natural acoustic spaces for music anywhere in Alaska, hardly any of amplification needed.  Plus great coffee & healthy food.  I do hope you’ll come hear this show — I’ve been sort of creating my own venues lately, which is fun, but oh, what a relief to play in a music venue designed exactly for what I do! And this will be a special show for National Poetry Month — if you hadn’t picked up on it, poetry is deeply important to me and to what I do.  You may hear some unusual stories & poems!  Tickets available online at this link or at Vagabond Blues or Fireside Books. Bring the kids, it’s all ages and kids should enjoy concerts!  Facebook event to share here.

4/15/11 Acoustic North AK – Live at the Snow Goose Theater – Streaming Online at Ustream.com

Last year I helped coordinate a showcase of four female singer-songwriters in Anchorage.  The show sold out, tons of people watched online, and universally we heard the same thing: Do More Stuff Like This!!!! For a number of folks it was their most memorable concert of the year; I heard those exact words over and over.  It was like Mountain Stage or Prairie Home Companion, people said.  It was magic.

Why it was magic:  we were community.  We were experiencing something all at the same time, all together.

So we’re doing it again, but this time with more musicians (boys even!), several poets, and a more serious focus moving forward.  I love the touring artists we get through Anchorage.  But I want to see our very own local talent on the same great stages in the same quiet venues, not just consigned to noisy bars or background music.  We have incredible folks here in Anchorage (so many we couldn’t begin to fit them all on one bill) and I am excited to experience a few of them together in the right kind of place.  And you can see this event live in Anchorage, it will be amazing — tickets on sale now at http://mariancall.com, $10-15 — or you can watch it on Ustream, live or after the fact.  This will be a show to remember. Facebook event here for the live concert, Facebook event here for the webstream.  Invite someone!

 

Acoustic North AK Poster

Now for some ill-informed ramblings that I’ll likely regret when someone brings up politics in the comments (don’t).

The 49>50 Tour all over the continent taught me a great many things, like how suspicious I should be of Cincinnati chili (60%), how to eat a crab that still has its shell on (cringeing), and how often the GPS is infuriatingly correct (about 98% of the time. Infuriating).  But mostly it taught me that our culture is trying really really hard right now to figure out community.  That’s why social networking hit a nerve with this poor species and took off so quickly — and that’s why advertising is trying to sell you not shampoo, but a relationship with your shampoo — we’re reaching out for people, for a sense of connection, for sharing.  And yet in some ways isolating ourselves more.  We can select our company and our entertainment with incredible precision & customization, yet I don’t think that’s quite the route to happiness.  Two things have been rattling around in my brain with respect to this Acoustic North show:

1. I love my online world, Facebook, Twitter, &c.  I don’t see it as interfering with community — for me it actually creates community.  But then — I personally spend a LOT of time going out in real life, with real people, to real events that we share all at once.  I chat on Twitter with people and then try to get to a Tweetup or have coffee.  I make friends online and then drive several thousand miles to meet them in person, and try to create a real life experience we can have in common — including online Real Time Experiences.  (Webstreams and radio, I find, have a more unifying community feel than customized entertainment like Pandora.  Why?  You’re sharing the listening experience with other people.  It’s not just for you.  You selfish human you.)

My point is: the Internet is as community-creating or as community-sucking as you let it be.  If the Web is sucking your community away from you, if you’re getting Facebook-depressed and refreshing to no effect, then go have an experience together with a lot of other people in real time.  If you’re shy, find one that doesn’t make you nervous, possibly even a webstream or online radio that has a strong community.  It really really helps.  And it scratches far more deeply the itch that social media only begins to reach.  Don’t your most satisfying social media experiences happen when, for a brief moment, everyone’s talking or joking about the same thing? (#HollywoodPostItNotes tonight.)

2. I got to see a lot of towns & cities this year.  In fact I made a list, and it was short, of decently-sized metro areas in North America that I have not seen after my crazy tour.  And towns have different characters.  Citizens love to talk about the character of their city & compare it to others, by the way — just ask them what their town’s like and step back.

There are cities and states that have an incredibly strong sense of community and local identity, and there are cities that don’t.  This is not a value judgment, it’s a fact, easily observable (if difficult to quantify).  Just visit Austin or New Orleans or Joshua Tree for awhile, you’ll feel how much the community is a living, breathing character, and how important it is to the people who live there to participate in and protect and nurture its character.  Or just observe the way people behave & think differently about their town during the World Series or Superbowl — oddly I found a very strong strain of localized devotion & sense of community in smaller collegiate-sports-fanatic towns in the Midwest and South, far removed from the Austin or New Orleans sort of music/nightlife culture.  Where does this feeling come from?  Why did it bother me so much when it was absent?  Because it was often absent.

I think part of this sense of community comes from experiencing stuff all together in real time.  You know very well the difference between watching a sporting event in the arena, watching it live at home, and watching it recorded later — those three very different degrees of involvement — the depth of connection is about being a part of something at the same time & in the same space as other people. Weather and seasonal changes, which touch absolutely everyone, have the same effect — the unusual environment here in Alaska bonds people together like very few other places I’ve been.  We experience so much out-of-the-ordinary stuff all together that even when we disagree vehemently with the Alaskan at the next barstool, we still have an incredible amount in common.

In my very favorite places on the continent, this sense of community translates into (or is it created by?) people going out all the time instead of staying in.  Maybe it’s to watch the sunset or the ocean, maybe to run a marathon or play in a pickup basketball game, maybe to hear free or paid concerts a couple nights per week, maybe a friend’s backyard barbecue, maybe it’s going out to the Farmers’ Market — there are cities and small towns where people go out All The Time.  And there are places where everyone stays in and the streets are barren.  I know which places I feel an immediate connection with as a visitor.  I know which I’d pick to live in.

And it’s not about nightlife, or spending money, or subsidizing certain industries, or a certain income or race or lifestyle.  Unless that lifestyle is Get Outside Of Your House And Your Head If You Want To Be Fully Human.  (Poor communities are sometimes much better about this than wealthy ones — sometimes not.)  It’s about crossing the mental hurdle that may keep you from connecting with strangers and getting out of your home.  It’s about building and participating in the structures that make it possible for a whole community to get out more — more family-friendly venues, more childcare, more free activities that are actually good, more accessible cabs & transit, &c.  Going out doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  And if it does cost a bit — wouldn’t the economy of any town be invigorated by this sort of activity?  Isn’t that what every chamber of commerce wants, a vital social life on a broad scale?  USE them streets and sidewalks and parks.  VISIT your small businesses.  Drop a few dollars on a hot cocoa, a few cents on a good busker, and walk down a bike trail, and you’ve participated in the life of your town.  And probably made yourself feel more like a person.

For some of you, this is duh.  But I know a heckuva lot of folks who need to have this revelation for real.

I feel strong community in Anchorage.  Always have.  It could and should get better — I’d really like to see the local population turning out a little more for the evening entertainment.  We have so much going on that’s underattended (though admittedly lots of it is underpromoted too).  I’d love to see more all-ages venues here, and more quiet, grown-up friendly venues.  I want to see the average Joe coming out more for music and art here — I know it’s possible from visiting other cities where that is simply embedded in the local culture.

But here’s what I already love about living here: when the sunset is amazing and I’m not too pressed for time, I detour to go watch it.  And when I get to my favorite spot by the water, I find dozens or sometimes hundreds of other people already there.  When the lunar eclipse occurred, the whole town turned out to look for it in freezing temperatures, and everyone was talking about it the next day.  When the aurora went active at 1am on a weeknight and my roommate and I go went a quest to find it, the parking lot at Point Woronzof was already totally full of people of all ages and races.  It was a holiday atmosphere.  I was rubbing elbows with people different from me, people I likely disagree with, people I rely upon, my fellow Anchorage dwellers.  That felt like community.  That made me love my city.  That, world — we need more of that.

Come out to a show!  Get out of your house and go see what’s happening where you live!

(You know you have the internet on your phone anyway.  It’s not like you’ll miss anything important happening here.)

The Hot Place: Texas

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

House Concerts 101

03/22/2010 at 10:25 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations | 17 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.  There’s an updated version that is very much the same.  New info:  https://mariancall.wordpress.com/booking-a-house-concert/**

My 2010 tour will consist primarily of house concerts. Yet most of my listeners have never attended a house concert. Even fewer have hosted.  So what’s the deal? Here’s the deal.

Let’s go back in time, back to the millenia before television brought Mick Jagger at halftime into your living room through a glowy blue box.  If you wanted live music, you had to make it happen in your own house, yard, church, pub, temple, piazza, or outhouse.  The best modern equivalent is a house concert.  I’m not saying those old days were better, but I am saying it’s probably been too long since you’ve listened to fantastic music up close and live in a quiet environment — that’s a transformative experience.  It’s way different than going out, way different than listening to MP3’s, way different than anything the glowy blue box can bring you.  And you still make it happen.

I’ve played dozens and dozens of house concerts now, and 90% of them were with hosts who had never organized a house concert before.  So don’t say you can’t do it — you can!  It’s entirely simple, cheap for everyone, friendly, fun, environmentally smart, economically smart — and the food and alcohol are way better and cheaper than what you get going out.

How does it work? You contact an artist, set a date, get them your address, invite your friends by e-mail and take RSVP’s, plan for food or drinks (if you want to), and then I show up, set up my gear, and play for you!

Things prospective house concert hosts ALWAYS say to me:

  • “I’d love to, but my house is too small.” EVERY host says this at first. No, it’s not. I’ve done house concerts for 5 people in a tiny cabin in Alaska and for 25 in an even smaller crowded standing-room-only flat in Hollywood, with everyone shoulder-to-shoulder.  I’ve even played a dorm room.  Your house can fit way more people than you think.
  • “I’ve never done anything like that before.” You probably have.  Take any kind of house party you can think of — a drunken BYOB bash, a child-friendly family potluck, a birthday party with presents, a backyard BBQ, a fancy wine and cheese event — and just imagine that the theme of the afternoon/evening is music.  The artist (me) will provide absolutely everything related to the music part of the show; all you do is put on a very normal party, invite people, set out drinks, and wait for all of us to show up.
  • “I don’t know if I want strangers in my house.” No need to have any (besides me).  You can have a private event, just for your friends and family.  Or you can host it at a local community center, school, place of worship, park, swimming pool — anywhere!  People get all sorts of creative, using these concerts for fundraisers, community events, conventions, kids’ time, etc.  The host sets the parameters.
  • “It will take so much time!” Well, it can, but it doesn’t have to.  I’ve played some elaborate, carefully coordinated house concerts, and some that the hosts just let happen. Potlucks and BBQ’s, especially, are low-to-no maintenance and take only a few e-mails to coordinate.  To get everything you need to compose the invitation and promote the show, see the “Publicity Tools” tab above.
  • “My place is a mess.” Everyone says this, and everyone is lying.  By the time I arrive you’ve usually scrambled for thirty minutes and made it look lovely.  (If you need an excuse to clean up, this would be it…)
  • “You can’t come to my town, I’m out of the way.” People who contact me and ask nicely usually get me to come sooner or later.  If you’re out of the way, just guarantee me a certain number of people in attendance, or a certain amount of money (surprisingly little) and I’ll make it happen.  As long as I don’t lose money coming to your town, I will probably be game!
  • “Wow, that was amazing and special and unforgettable. And it was so much easier than I thought!” I hear this Every. Single. Time.

Most hosts and guests are thrilled by their first house concert.  Get out to one in your area if you want an idea of how they go!  There are lots of normal folks like you beginning to host monthly or quarterly concerts because they’ve found it’s so easy, fun, and memorable.  Artists love to be asked to do house concerts — after the bars-and-cafes grind, they’re a pleasure.  Your favorite local artist would probably be thrilled to play one for you.  Why not ask?  Ask me anytime: visit this blog entry to actually request a concert, or e-mail mcminion42@gmail.com to ask questions.*

Answers to FAQ’s are below if you’re thinking of hosting. If you’ve hosted or attended a house concert before, do leave your thoughts in the comments!

– What do I need to provide? Just some comfortable space where people can stand or sit and mingle, and later listen attentively to music.  Consider what your sort of crowd would be comfortable with.  You also need to provide at least some of the people — most house concerts are populated by the host’s friend and social circle, though occasionally one will be promoted as a public event and I will invite other fans to RSVP.

– What’s the food and drink situation? This is completely up to you.  I’ve played at fully catered gourmet dinners, potlucks, barbecues, desserts, wine tastings, and even afternoon or late evening events which had no real food — only beverages and cookies. Anything goes, as long as your guests are prepared for what to bring and what will be available.

How does the event flow? Usually the event starts with about forty-five minutes to an hour of mingling and food and drink.  When the moment feels right (or right on the clock, however you like it) you invite people to claim their space for the show, and I begin performing.  I usually do two forty-five minute sets with a break (so as not to wear down guests’ attention span.  I am very generous with my tunes;  if folks are engaged I’ll go as long as the audience likes and do any and every request I can).  During the show at some point, I invite people to give money, usually $10-15, and/or buy CD’s, and I leave it at that.  The host can keep their hands clean of the money business for the most part; I’m used to doing it myself.  After the show people mingle some more, in varying stages of sobriety, sometimes staying all night and sometimes going home right away.  When everyone’s gone usually you and I crack one last beer or heat one last cup of tea and sigh and chat about how fun the evening was.  Then I drive away (or sleep on your couch, depending) and provided your guests are the good kind, you’re left with minimal mess.

How do I promote the event?  Do I have to post my personal information on the internet? You can make your event private — only for people you know — or public.  If it’s public, I will advertise it, but I will not post your name or address on the web unless you ask me to.  Usually prospective guests can get the address in exchange for a firm RSVP by e-mail.  (And my fans are awesome people that you’d want to meet anyway.)  To get the word out, e-mail invites and a Facebook event usually do the trick; some folks use a service like evite, but I’ve almost never seen that go very well.  The very best promotion in the world is word of mouth. If you’re excited, your friends will be too.  I’m happy to help with a free MP3 for invitees, plus all the links and photos and posters you could want — or a spiffy e-mail/web invite like the one below.  Plus I’m happy to give you CD’s and bonus things.  House Concert hosts get Marian Call perks of all kinds — just ask!

UPDATED: for help writing an invitation or get official images, posters, etc., just click on the tab at the top of this page called “Publicity Tools.” Everything you need is there (scroll down to the bottom).

Things it’s important to clarify when you invite people: 1) this will be a house concert, not a house party, and the music is the feature event; 2) bring your own (chair, food, beer, kids, whatever they should bring, as people want to know); 3) whether kids are welcome, and if they are, whether childcare will be provided.

What about the *gulp* money? Awkward… I understand completely. Asking guests for $$ is awful. If you mention it up front, in the e-mail invitation, it’s actually less awkward — and if you leave a basket at the door, instead of passing the hat, again, less awkward.  People don’t like letting other people watch them pay.  A good way to phrase the invitation is to say there’s a “$10-15 per person recommended donation for the artist, pay-as-you-can.” I’ll reinforce that with a friendly announcement that I’m used to making.  I never begrudge folks coming and not paying, or paying less than $10.  But I do have to make ends meet.  So the idea is to prepare guests for what to expect before you’re speaking to them in person.  I don’t require a minimum guarantee, unless I’m flying far afield, but if you think you might have less than 12-15 people, it’s good to tell me that directly, since that may affect what other shows I look for in the area or what date I book with you.

Can I really do this? Absolutely!  And to paraphrase most of my house concert hosts from around the country, it’s a fantastic and memorable and [insert many glowing adjectives here] experience.  You’ll be so glad you did.  So will I.  I’m proud of you!

*To inquire about booking a house concert with me, visit this blog entry and follow the instructions.  I don’t respond to Facebook or Myspace booking requests, nor Twitter DM’s; it’s not official booking business ’til it’s in my real inbox at mcminion42@gmail.com.  Also: you may hear from an assistant of mine sometimes, but rest assured I’m overseeing all correspondence that goes on.

House Concert InvitePhoto by Brian Adams. http://baphotos.com or http://flickr.com/brianadams.

P.S.: this is an old invite for a show in 2009.  But don’t worry Arizona, I’ll be visiting you in June!

***Update, by request: you can see my rough calendar dates on this Google calendar or at http://mariancall.com/tour.php.  If you want me to come visit, tell some friends about me!***

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