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Reborn in Montreal - FOLK ALLIANCE - One Boy's Journey: DAY 2

March 15, 2005

Pete Morton and I had something else in common (other than sharing a cab) - "jet lag." Now you might find that amusing - Pete did - since he flew across the ocean and my flight was 1 hr and 9 minutes... Now that I think about it, I guess that is amusing. Oh well, I finally slept and I was ready to go.

Folk Alliance events were in several locations - I was off to the Conference
Center - Palais des Congres - to meet Ann and Abbe from the Folk Alley team at the Exhibit Hall. It was 10 degrees Farenheit and I ran through Chinatown to get there. I later learned of underground tunnels with shopping malls, but I still prefer sunshine and the air was fresh.

The place was huge. I found the registration booth, checked in, and entered the Hall. Under the high ceiling were rows of folk record label reps, (Rounder & Red House) instrument makers (Martin, Taylor, and Guild) along with agencies, musicians, publicists, and periodicals. I couldn't walk 10 feet without seeing someone I knew or someone I wanted to know. Suddenly there were faces and voices behind the e-mails. Poor Ann couldn't leave the booth to get lunch and I couldn't get through the conversations to reach her. It was like going to 47 different Christmas parties at once. And everone had candy: brochures, CDs, magazines, showcase schedules, and yes, candy. My tote bag was being stuffed as I walked - my backpack was filling up too. I finally broke through to fetch Ann a sandwich, and I was off again. I had another deadline - the Lifetime Achievement awards were at 1:00 PM.

Two of the great benefits of a conference like this are the gifts of unity and strength. Normally during the year each of us attending work alone. Following the luncheon is the one time where the greatest group of us are in one place. Looking across the room I began to realize that I'm not alone. I see the potential we can have as a group.

Being honored are The Newport Folk Festival, the late Stan Rogers, and Odetta.
It was insightful to learn that Newport failed at first, but the artists of that generation rallied to continue without pay and today the event thrives.
Stan Rogers died so young - he was only 33. The subject matter of his songs gained him instant respect and it continues today. Check out Northwest Passage, Barrett's Privateers and The Field Behind the Plow. Stan's son surprised the crowd by singing Northwest passage. We joined him. I don't think I've ever seen Odetta speechless. She was truly moved by being honored and we all stood and cheered.

Returning to the exhibit hall I ran into Jessica from the Duhks. It would be the first of 11 times that we would cross paths that weekend - all over the city. From Indian restaurants to hidden elevators we kept making the same choices. How odd.

At 4:30 The Folk DJ reception took place. I'm always fascinated to see who else does what I do, and how they do it. I always make a point to listen to Rich Warren from Chicago, Gene Shay from Philadelphia, Mary Cliff from Washington, and the folks at WUMB in Boston. I also met Jason Bouchard from Ottawa who has hosted a program for years. We ended up staying in the same hotel and shared a few breakfasts. I worry that I see too many talented veterans and not enough young broadcasters to eventually carry the load.
The event also allows aspiring musicians to have at us. We are clear targets for 90 minutes, but that's OK - there ought to be a time where we are readily available. If I was in their shoes and I had made an investment to come here I would expect that opportunity. Luckily My tote bag had been emptied back at my hotel.

We had to meet and greet quickly because I had a dinner date. (No, not with Rachael Davis or Sandra Luna) The Folk Alley crew was being treated by Bob Zucker and his wife from Amaz Records in Arizona. What a couple - so encouraging and so exited by the music. Joining us were Kyle their recording engineer, Jim Pipkin, a songwriter from Arizona, and Caji a young and gifted singer and guitarist from Brazil. In Early April I'll travel to Arizona with Al Bartholet, Folk Alley's GM, to see how folk music gets along in the American Southwest.

The night was young. The best way to take in the Folk alliance at night is to study the program guides and make a solid plan - a "race card" if you will - that wil carry you through to 3 AM. Then, like a any good trip, be prepared to go with the flow and change that plan at a moment's notice. There are SO many heroes to cherish and new artists to discover. Since our conference is being paired with the world music conference (Strictly Mundial) many of these singers and groups are from all over the planet.

Over the course of this night I would see songwriters Lori McKenna, Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry, Mark Erelli, the only performance by Redbird, and my new friend, Pete Morton. I caught two of the young roots bands - The Mammels and The Duhks (Jessica and I cross paths again). Kate and Anna McGarrigle received a Lifetime achievement award and Ann Ver Wiebe told she thought she saw Emmylou Harris in the elevator. There was more French Canadian music in Club medley, and an 8 piece Armenian band in Gesu. Club Soda had Majorstuen from Norway. They feature SIX fiddles!

When I finally returned to my hotel room after 3:30 AM I noticed something in the elevator - something I hadn't seen in months. The elevator was lined with mirrors and their was man grinning like a Cheshire cat in each one of them.

(Shortly Jim will fill you in on the next two days of the Folk Alliance.)

Posted by Jim Blum at March 15, 2005 3:56 PM


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