Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Annie, Get Your Harp

We Go To The Festival

Larry said that he had always wanted to go to the Springing the Blues festival. It is on the day that they open the beach. He said that he had always been working or something previous years and had missed it. I told him that, in the worst case, it would only cost us each 4 dollars to go (two busses each way) and that if we couldn't make any money, we could just come back and only be out a little bit of money.

We went to "Springing the Blues."Larry and I came out to the beach to play our guitars as street musicians and be like those little fish that swim next to sharks and feed upon the little morsels which escape the sharks mouths, playing in front of a closed business just down the street; "Tears in Heaven," by Eric Clapton..over and over and...over (If it aint broke why fix it?) I made about 60 bucks in two hours. One girl came and sat next to me with tears in her eyes and sang along. I never felt more connected to the rest of humanity than then.

The next morning, after missing the last bus out and only getting 3 hours of sleep, disturbed by seagulls, we sat in front of Freebirds while yet another blues band began to to play.

"I wonder what that girl looks like?" I asked Larry. "Sounds like a skinny black girl to me," I said.

"I don't know," said Larry. "Let me go see."

He didn't come back for a while, which meant something.

"No, a white girl."

"A fat one with blonde hair in a black rhinestone dress, standing with her legs two feet apart and belting out vocals?" I asked.

"No, one with dark, kind of frizzy hair," said Larry.

"Kind of Cuban looking?" I asked. This was during the second number.

"No, kind of frizzy in a Polish or Russian way....well, why don't you come check it out...that's her playing the harp"

"That's HER, playing the harp??" (There aren't many female blues harp players)

That was the best advice Larry has ever given me, to check them out. I was trying to catch a nap before playing in front of the Texaco station, but, it's hard to sleep through a blues festival.
My life is changed forever after I watch Annie Raines and Paul Rishelle perform

We "checked it out" and I wound up with tears coming from my eyes when watching them do a song where Annie held one note for 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

When 22-year-old harmonica ace Annie Raines first sat in with 42-year-old country blues guitarist Paul Rishell in a Boston bar in 1992, few in the crowd suspected that they were witnessing the beginning of a musical partnership that would span the next fifteen years and counting.

Paul sat down the whole time as did Annie, who only stood when soloing. It was like watching a grandfather and daughter.

When Paul started stomping his foot is when I finally understood the whole universe.

"Despite the difference in their ages, Paul and Annie are equally passionate about their craft and devoted to the study and performance of a wide range of blues styles, from the syncopated acoustic guitar wizardry of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Son House to Chicagoan “Little” Walter Jacob’s swinging amplified harmonica. Paul has reached what Boston Phoenix writer Ted Drozdowski called “a place deep and resonant as Robert Johnson’s crossroads, where authenticity, soul, and a sense of purpose and commitment ring out in every note he sings and plays.” Annie has added vocals, mandolin, piano, and other instruments to her musical arsenal, while being recognized by top professionals and fans worldwide as the “queen of the blues harmonica.” Says blues legend Pinetop Perkins, “She plays so good it hurts!”

It was a life-changing experience; the whole weekend, actually.

The previous night, we had run into a guy who had a harmonica when we were on our way to find a spot in the dunes to sleep.
He seemed surprised that we were calling it quits, as it was "only" about midnight.

I decided to jam with him. We sat on a bench and I played one of my songs in the same key as his harp. A man came and put a 20 dollar bill in my case within two minutes. The harp player didn't care about the money; he had a regular job.

Then, at the Texaco station, I was talking to the cashier. He was from Cairo, Egypt.

He asked me "Why don't you sit in front of the store and play like they do in New York City, maybe make some money?"

What a far cry from being run off!

I decided that I would do just that the next day.

The next day came and, after being mesmerised by Paul Rishelle and Annie Raines, we went over to the Texaco and I achieved a mile-stone when I played without having even one beer first, to loosen up.

A lady who looked like my mother came and put 3 dollars in my case. It was my first tip playing sober. I think I could actually play that way, even though it hurts.

Poor Larry didn't really make that much money and it began to seem probable that most of his tips at the Kangaroo are from people who have sympathy and wonder how the poor guy could ever make a living. It's not that he is THAT bad, but, not ready for the big time Springing The Blues festival.
I dipped into my money and basically supported him the whole time. I was happy to do it, even though he can go through ten bucks at McDonalds like ringing a bell.

Now, we are arguing.

His Kangaroo finally ran him off, citing "customer complaints" about "the guitar guys out front."

It was probably O.L. calling the police on him. O.L. has been seen in the area, fresh out of jail. He stole 20 bucks from Larry and is afraid of running into him now. It seems like something he would do.

Now I have the best spot in Mandarin. It is at the store where I used to work. They let me sit anywhere in front. They bring me out the extra food at the "end" of the night (7pm). I think they like the added security. I let Larry play there the night that he got run off. He was appreciative, but now, despite all the money I spent on him, he has a negative attitude.

Again, I don't know if I want to take him with me this summer, on my tour up the coast.

I've made about 400 bucks with the F-310 Yamaha, and about a dozen sincere compliments along with two people who want to take lessons from me.

And to think that I spent 3 years at the labor pool shovelling dirt!