Vance Gilbert is Coming

Hi friends!

Vance Gilbert, our international touring artists for the Summer Tour 2017 – Mullum to Woodford. Check out the first instalment of his tour diary below!

Hi VanceFriendsandFans.

So here I am at Logan airport, about to fly two flights through Canada and then one all the way to Brisbane Australia, for 7- 1/2 weeks, after a truly tremendous three days at North East Regional Folk Alliance.

Damn- check me out all International touring artist and stuff. 

I’m not sure if I’m the first one to ever rhyme or rap a keynote speech but it seem to go over well. As did my two performance instruction classes. And the magnificent diversity workshop that I got to moderate.
I also played a 15 minute showcase of my own and a couple of what are deemed “guerrilla showcases“ late at night. But you know what? My 15 minute showcase with my ragged creaky voice was great for me because in an ironic turn, it was the thing I cared least about. It was easy-going, familiar, careless in a “there goes Vance” loving sense, and I think if nothing else just entertaining enough to end the evening of showcases without trying to sell them anything…as these people know who I am and what I present when I do what I do. What I believe to be most important about NERFA is that I could play a part in facilitating diversity, and voice, and illuminate the capabilities of others for 72 hours.
The keynote speech swung the needle in a variety of directions, as some of it did take the community at-large to task. One coffee House manager looked at me somewhat flat-faced and said “well that was…..special“. Another one took me aside and wondered why I didn’t push harder. Somewhere between those two responses I feel like my job was done.
Not long ago I would’ve been hurt by one of these responses and intimidated by the other.
I thank both of these people and everybody in between and their responses for what I hope is their honesty, and for helping me develop a thicker skin when I raise my voice to make this a better, more cognizant world.

Here’s the speech in its entirety it’s long. Xo

I’d like to thank the NERFA powers that be
For this keynote spot and for thinking of me
I’m grateful to know so many of you
And to be part of your journey
We’re sure in this together and we’re all being all learny
And for those that don’t know me It’s never too late –
You just wait..

While I’m at it let’s recognize Veterans
It’s Veterans Day
There’s a lot of war out there
We wish it weren’t that way
That’s a whole other debate
And I don’t want to run late
But this is my chance to say thank you.

In these days of division
And historic revision
Of all that’s about us
You might ask yourself questions
Like “What the hell am I doing
With this English degree
In a world where you can get
All your music for free?
I strap on a six string
And press a CD
Here I come, look out world
Kumbaya whoop dee dee”

Well I have some suggestions
Ideas and opinions
That won’t come as groundbreaking
Or particularly scale-tipping
But it’s coming from me
And I’m big on this scene
Big like a barnacle’s big in international shipping

Lemme ask the whole group
Who here headed to college
And majored in music?
Science? Economics?
How many of you call this a second career?
How many just come
For the music you’ll hear?

Well a lot of us come-
And you really can’t blame us –
With our voices, guitars
And our hopes to be famous
Ed Sheeran, John Mayer
Bonnie Raitt, Jewel they
Started out all acoustic
Before rock and roll ruled them

Look, I’m not here to question
Your motives or dreams
OK, maybe just a little
Cause you know how it seems
All your aggregate skills
And audience thrills
And here you are just trying
To pay your damned bills

You wanna make your million
With a folk music song?
You better start with 2 million
And hope they all sing along
Ah yes, singing along
Is a folk music tradition
Along with baking brownies for the show
In the Unitarian Church kitchen
Kumbaya said the singer
With a banjo on their knee
Kumbaya said the audience
All together, one two three

O my folk community
My loving, well-intentioned folk community
My character filled, incredibly skilled
Folk community
You’re my family, and we’re bound
By story and sound, even when you say:

“You can stay on my couch
Will you tune my ukelele
Were you trying to sleep?
Oh yes we’re always up this early
You’ll be sharing his room
We hope it’s alright
He’s been teething so never mind
How he screams through the night

Why’s your nose so drippy
And your eyelids so fat?
I guess we should have told you
That we have a cat
Oh, we combined the money
From your merch and the show
We can take a wild guess
If you really need to know
Can I send you a check
For the rest of your merch?
Can you get up at 6
To play for our church?
When you said “no dairy”
Did you mean both milk and cream?
Cause “lactose intolerance” sounds
So racist and mean
And my favorite when I asked
If a soup was vegetarian
The response made me weep
“You won’t hit no chicken
if you don’t dip too deep..”

O my folk community
My loving, well-intentioned folk community
My character filled, incredibly skilled, strong-willed
Folk community
Your my family, and we’re bound
By story and sound

You laugh at my banter and playing
And you love when I sing
You give me a place to do all these things
You’re always there
To witness my story
And that’s the most important part
Cause one day the voice
Will be creaky and broken
But the story in the song
Live forever and ever

And I’m forever grateful
I love how you rail at
The unfair, the evil, the hateful
You pay your good money
For my whole catalogue
Some of you just up and handed me money
To help save my dog.

O my folk community
My loving, well-intentioned folk community
My character filled, incredibly skilled, love instilled
Folk community
Your my family, and we’re bound
By story and sound

Even when community means
From the folk’s wide reservoir
Comes some college trained white boy or girl
With an acoustic guitar

Community that rolls their eyes and says
“Gracious, I hope he doesn’t rap –
I gravitated to this music to
Get away from that crap”

Well too bad, folk community
If you expected Arlo or Woody
Count yourself lucky I ain’t wearing
Gold rings and a hoodie

Community like that coffeehouse
Where I joked about being black
That actually booed me and surely
Won’t be having me back
And these were old Liberals
Too blind to look see
That I’m the only chip chirpin
In their 1960’s Kumbaya cookie
I guess they figured if you
Exist long enough as part of the problem
You simply outlast it
Like I should be over and done with
and gone past it
….Because you have

No wonder he’s in office
It couldn’t be clearer
Never mind baking brownies
You better get a damned mirror

Then again, maybe the booing
I received on that night
Means rather than insulting somebody
I’m getting something right
No, people don’t tend to cheer
When you challenge perception

O my folk community
My loving, well-intentioned folk community
My character filled, incredibly skilled,
Love instilled, ready to rebuild
Folk community
Your my family, and we’re bound
By story and sound

And tell me where would the lot of us be
Without folk radio like WUMB
And WFUV as you drive
From Maine to New Jersey
Down I-95?

So many community stations
Far too many to mention
I know you have your bottom line
With staying alive
Your greatest intention but remember:

When you hire consultants
That claim for survival
You must play Blondie
Or Creedence Clearwater Revival
When your Board of Directors
Is making you nervous
You gently remind them
Who it is that you service

Your new artist spotlight
Is bread that you cast
On your water of listeners
But they’ll spin the dial past
The left hand side of the radio
When hits and repeat playlists
Gets even the new artists pissed
Or you only play them
‘Round 2 or 3 AM
Remember they’re listeners too…

But I couldn’t guess how many CDs
Assault you each week
On the PD’s desk
And the follow up calls
From Biff and Songlines
And independent artists
That hope you hear
Their special sound,
Bending your ear
Your phone is forever ringing, but know this
We rank you higher than you might suspect
We thank you.

So tell me, House concert hosts
And Folk club managers
How’s the new season looking?
Have you stretched folks parameters
With the acts that you’re booking?

I hear you -There’s too much to do
Not enough audience to go around
And you throw your hands up and say
Your numbers are down

I say get some young blood
On your management team
And find out new artist talent
On this wide folk scene….

And I hope they don’t get mad
And their feelings don’t get hurt
Stop hiring me, Ellis Paul and Susan Werner
Christ, we’re older than dirt!

And you festivals – get ethnic, for god’s sake
And take a wild-assed chance
Add some Samba and Camico
To your night of folk dance
“I’ve tried” you say
“But those people wont come”
Do it anyway for “your” audience
C’mon them people ain’t dumb

It’s your folk community responsibility
To teach something new to them
It’ll be far less obtrusive
If you get them in the habit of being
More artistically inclusive

And you Small Theatre managers
With your small theatre blues
Tel the owner, your Board of Directors
Your fantastic news
Of your sold out show
Even though you set up chairs
In the vestibule, or the green room
Or they sat on the stairs
Or right on the stage
What can they say
When the town says they like
That you hosted a kick-ass
High school open mic?

Indeed what can they say?
When that’s 20 kids less
Smoking cigarettes
Outside the CVS.
Tell them get the hell out –
Yeah, that’s a full-house sellout

As for opening acts
I’m a tremendous fan
I wouldn’t be who or where I am
If it wasn’t for some club
That took a big chance
On this loud, brash, performer…

Be brave, folk programmer
Front that singer-songwriter
With a Celtic fiddler
Or a local rapper
Or a Native American storyteller
They may not be your audience’s
Absolute cup of tea
But look at the teaching
You did that evening
Sure, they come to be entertained
But they’ll smell your well-rounded enthusiasm
All the same
And probably get some on them

They’ll be driving home and say
“What a great feel in that house
And we got this CD
That’s way out of our wheelhouse”
And now on their shelf next to
20 Great Russian Marches
Or Handel’s Admeto
Sits “15 Ray Charles Hits”
Arranged for the banjo.

Isn’t that what you want
With your house concert?
Or is it just an excuse
For you to make dessert,
Chicken wings, Spinach salad, and Quiche
They’ll thank you for dragging them
Out of their niche
Oh, and artists – this doesn’t get you
off of the hook
Do your homework
Give everything a second or third look
Do everything you can to keep live music alive
Derivative is ok but we already have
A Lake Street Dive

For example when you think of a protest song
Is it all about getting folks
To sing along
To some galvanizing chorus arm in arm
As one united voice?
Or is it a story you tell of a woman
Who had no choice
But to work in a factory
Or marry a man she doesn’t love
To save one she does
Or a little of all of the above

My point is you’re armed with words and guitar
And most importantly that stage is all yours
For at least that song
So sing that song be it
The King Of Rome or
What’s Going On

Whatever the genre be
Open up Itunes and learn the chords
to Saigon Bride, Mercy Mercy Me,
Strange Fruit, Go Down Moses
Fortunate Son, Joe Hill,
No need to be dulcet or have monster skill
Ukelele, guitar it don’t matter, you’ll kill

Or write your own protest story
In prose if you must
Let the poetry come later
Learn to trust your subconscious
Hey songwriter yeah, by the way
Stop rhyming for god’s sake
It does not rule the day
Ok, don’t do as I do
Just do as I say

Yes, the songs you are singing
Are the signs of the times
And you have a responsibility
To address them in kind
Folk music can be historically shameless
and act like it’s blameless
Rampant with sexual assault,
Misogyny rule
Male indiscretion,
(like that’s something new)

Where every other ballad from 2 centuries past
Has a knight or a prince
Or some pain in the ass
Forcing himself on some maiden so fair
And with all of his money, and horses, and charms
Ends with her diving off of some cliff
With a babe in her arms

That kind of coersion
By white men of wealth
Who couldn’t keep their hands
Or their dicks to themselves
Is nothing new – you can bet your life
Traditional folk music is rife with it

But hey look fellows, I’m no different here
When the blame’s passed around
I get no free pass
Just because I’m brown
However I might learn a little quicker
Cause I, too, have been down..

I’ve been called out too
For boy-centric stuff I’ve said
And it hurts like the war
But my job is to be bigger
Than I was that day before
And treat my sister better
And teach 100 more sons.
Learning is hard but it doesn’t
Stink like stupid
It’s your chance to think
And in turn teach others to change

There’s your damn community.

What’s your legacy?
What will you leave behind?
Does your music stand and fight
Or quietly change people’s minds?
There’s room for all approaches
Varied as notes on a staff
Some will take your legs from beneath you
Or make you pee when you laugh

So when you go to these showcases
And you stay up all night, remember
Every song is a weapon
If you sing it right
Every stage is a pulpit
Every microphone a gun
Every banjo is a ..
Lemme go back to the mic thing…

Woody Guthrie proclaimed
He’d never write a song
That brought a man down
But he either lied or he was wrong cause

Gil Scott Heron
Pete Seeger
Nina Simone
Georgia Sea Island Singers
Hugh Masekela
Bob Dylan
Peter Mulvey
Miriam Makeba
Holly Near
Johnny Clegg
Francis James Childs
David Roth
Joan Baez
John McCutcheon
Joe Jencks, Ani,

Or that 1933 Black Texas Chain Gang from the Library of Congress recorded on a tired cassette
That I could discard and download
But i just ain’t quite ready to part with yet..
Every writer named Anonymous –
Who was more often a woman than not
To Eminem free styling In a high-rise parking lot
No disrespect meant to Woody at all but
Sometimes you got to sing
To make the big men fall

Oh this ledger is unending
There’s many I missed
Look at that – There’s a space for you to add
Your name on that list
All the folk money and all the folk fame
And community don’t mean a thing
If you got something to say
But you don’t bother to sing


Yeah you voted – so what now?
It didn’t get the job done
You want to bring folks together?
Then find a way to lift
All these voices as one.

Sing, Dammit!……..Sing

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