Saturday, November 20, 2004

Home Again + The Second Show

I didn't get another chance to blog you from Bartlesville, but we're home now and I thought I'd take a moment to catch you up. Sorry if you've tried to visit the website at and run into trouble. I don't know what's going on but I'm trying to get it figured out. You can visit here directly at, but then here you are, so maybe you knew that!

The last school show was at Kane elementary yesterday morning, where we packed all the Pre-K through 2nd graders into the library. For a moment it looked like they wouldn't all fit, but we found places for everyone. I don't know if I've ever had a better group. Those kids participated with great enthusiasm, but even more impressively, they quieted themselves between songs. I don't think I had to ask for their attention even once!

We were packed in so tightly I didn't dare try "You're a Dinosaur" but I had heard on the morning announcements that the word of the day was "Voracious" so I couldn't resist doing "The Great Green Squishy Mean Bibliovore" which has the word "Voraciously" prominently featured. The kids and the librarian got a kick out of that.

Well you're probably wondering how the evening show went! We got into the room early and it was set up like a restaurant (which is basically what it is most of the time) with big heavy tables and chairs everywhere. I found the building manager and she was unaware we needed it set up differently. She looked a bit pale when I told her - the tables were rather hard to move and there was nobody around to do it. Anyhow to make a long story short, after a brief period of panic (during which I also found out that Steve, the sound guy, was stuck in traffic) we got the process of re-arranging the room underway. My wife, Lisa, gets credit and thanks for most of the heavy scooching.

Steve arrived and identified another challenge: the room lighting. Basically there was no light on the end where it made the most sense to put the band. Steve helped fix the problem, teetering on a ladder trying to move track lights that seemed unwilling to budge. We also set up a couple of floor lamps, which at least improved the situation.

We managed to get all the equipment in and set up before John and Cody showed up, and were ready for a sound check, but the bass player, Bob was still at large. Just at the moment we were about to run a sound check without him, in he came. It turns out he was also stuck in traffic, and with a cell phone that wasn't working.

My show was hosted by the Tallgrass Tellers, a Bartlesville storytelling group, and was part of Tellebration, an international storytelling event. I thought they were very accommodating to allow me to bring my rock 'n' roll band, after all it doesn't exactly fit the image of a "storyteller." Even though they knew that my songs tell stories, it was going out on a limb a bit for them to try something so different, for which I was very appreciative.

So I began to panic again when we did the sound check and members of the Tellers were making sour faces and putting their hands over their ears, because we were - LOUD! The room was pretty small and responsive, and even when we made sure we were playing as softly as possible, we were still loud.

However, and in spite of a vocal mic that was trying to make me look like an idiot, the show went very well. Once we had people in the seats (about fifty of 'em) the band didn't seem quite so loud, and once the audience began grooving with the music I think all the presenters relaxed a bit. I haven't heard the recording yet, but Steve did a lot of grinning during the show. He says the audience came through beautifully. They were very enthusiastic participators. And that cantankerous vocal mic sounded great on my voice - much better than our previous attempts to record using a wireless mic. Standing in one spot to sing felt a bit weird to me but I got used to it.

The only problems I anticipate with the recording are due to my own mistakes. As Lisa says, I get nervous, wanting it to be perfect, and that causes me to make mistakes. It's a psychological Catch-22. But we set up the sound in a new way and could all hear better, so the band was much tighter than last time. I think at the last show Monday night I'll feel more relaxed. Hopefully between the two we'll have great takes of every song.

After we all signed autographs and ate cookies during the intermission and we made sure John, the guitar player, had a ride home (a whole other story) it was nice to relax and catch at least part of the second half of the show. The Tallgrass Tellers provided three storytellers. I was glad to see that most of the audience stayed on and enjoyed the more traditional storytelling part of the evening as well.

Evalyn did so well! She latched onto a new friend, 6 year old Kiara, and they played together before the show. They sat together during the show, and Evalyn was a great audience member for me! By the end of the show Evalyn had conked out across some chairs and was sound asleep for the entire second half and the tear down afterward.

Bob had to scoot right out to another gig, but the rest of the band capped off the evening with a late night trek to the local pizza joint. It was nice to have a chance to relax, socialize, and eat! (I'd only had a chance to grab a few apple slices and a couple of cookies since lunch!) If you're ever in Bartlesville check out The Pizza Place. That's what it's called, honest. It's a tiny building but the pizza is superb.

This morning we had another show for the public. Attendance was light, but we had fun. I just took requests from the kids. There were about 8-10 kids with their parents I think. I brought five of them to the front to be dinosaurs for "You're a Dinosaur" - that's something I've been wanting to do but hadn't had a chance to yet, so it was good to try it out. I think they had fun.

Evalyn got to play with Kiara again. They invented a game which involved running from the back wall to the chairs and launching each other's stuffed buddies into the chairs. After lunch from - you guessed it, The Pizza Place! - I did a workshop on writing songs with kids while Lisa and Evalyn headed for Wal-Mart. We only had an hour and four participants, so it was more like a good conversation. We covered a lot of ground quickly, and hopefully everyone went home with some helpful information.

Then Lisa, Evalyn and I headed home! It's weird to think this week is over - I've been preparing for it for so long! It'll be even weirder after Monday's show, when I move into a totally new phase of the project: post production! I hope we get to visit Bartlesville again soon. All the kids were wonderful and the trees were outrageous this time of year - bright yellow and red. That was Evalyn's first observation when we arrived. I said, "We're in Bartlesville Evalyn, what do you think?" She said, "I like the trees!" Her other favorite was the hotel swimming pool.

Anyhow, I need to thank Fran Stallings, my main contact who put together the public events, and Mary Birkett who drummed up the funding and arranged for all the school shows, as well as all the librarians who hosted me at each school and all the other Tallgrass Tellers who worked hard to publicize the events - everybody made me feel welcome and appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. I love Fran too - I am the host of the Art of Storytelling with Children Podcast and I interviewed Fran Stallings and we talked about environmental storytelling… Fran is an amazing storyteller who will dazzle you with her narrative skill and storytelling heart.
    Take a listen and tell me what you think.

    Eric Wolf