Okee dokee folks… Last Saturday night Common Fence Music held their first Community Hoot. This show was in the feel of the old Fiddlers and Fishermen show that was an annual and very popular event at CFM for years. The Community Hoot was basically a scheduled and juried open mic. Participants applied to be part of the show and were given 10 minutes each to present their songs. Ten acts were selected for the Community Hoot and in a bit of a departure from the Fiddlers and Fishermen show, this one had the audience voting for their favorite acts.
At 8pm, Erin Young, CFM programming director and the show’s curator, gave the nearly full hall the lowdown on the evening’s schedule and then introduced the emcee for the event, Mike Fischman. Mike is a member of the RI Bluegrass Hall of Fame and a long time DJ on WRIU radio. He is also very funny — like having all three of the Three Stooges rolled into one person and they’re all vying for attention! Mike rambled a bit about the night and then said, “Moving right along, which is kind of what we have to do,” and then brought on the first act, Ramblin’ Rhode.
Timmy May played guitar, sang and was accompanied by a young woman named Jamie on fiddle. Together they made up Ramblin’ Rhode and played original songs — one about going to MerleFest, another about Newports’ Jim McGrath — and also managed to squeeze a third into their 10-minute slot. Timmy May is well known at the Fast Net Sessions in Newport, and his material had a traditional and old-timey feel to it.
Next up was David Deprest. He thanked Fischman for the wonderful introduction and to that Mike exclaimed, “You wrote it, not me!” Deprest mentioned that he was local and that he actually walked to the gig. He sang a couple of songs from his current CD, titled Grandma’s Car, starting with the title track that had the refrain “going down to Nashville in my Grandma’s car.” He told the audience, in case they were wondering, that it was a true story and it was a 2000 Toyota Corolla. His next number was “My Heart Is Like My Guitar.” Overall Deprest’s mini set showed confidence, though there seemed to be a little nervousness underlying.
Jamestown’s Ed McGuirl, who often performs with MC Fischman, began his set with laughter after his bio claimed that he would be “a rich and famous folk musician if it wasn’t an oxymoron.” His socially conscious “Tomorrow’s Not Too Soon,” performed with guitar and rack harmonica, was followed by the historical and sometimes hysterical song about Roger Williams, “Don’t Forget Your Hat,” played on mandolin. He noted that they were historical facts that he made up, just like what is happening in this country now.
The quiet and quirky Kate Mick followed. Mick accompanies herself on banjo and announced that her first song was about the moon “which is full tonight.” She kept on plucking and her second song was a stream of consciousness number about which she said, “See if you can understand it.”
Jon Dember and his ukuleles were next. Dember claimed that he was an “armchair songwriter,” but his songs had very clever lyrics and hooks. One was not only funny, but was socially conscious and dealt with sea level rise and the banking crisis and had the chorus “haddock in the attic.” At one point he was swinging his hips and went into a short rendition of “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles. In honor of V-Day, he also played a love song called “Don’t Ask Why.” Though he was not a polished player, his set was quite enjoyable.
Mike Fischman took the stage and announced that it was time for intermission and the raffle drawing. Folks grabbed a snack from the kitchen and waited and hoped that their ticket would be drawn. During this time, the next act, a full band, Anthony Loffredio and Barn-Burning, were setting up.
Loffredio played guitar, sang and was backed by Barn Burning’s players on lap steel, bass and drums. He mentioned they would be performing a couple of “Don’t” songs and that would “tell you what not to do tonight.” Anthony apologized that they were playing as a band and said, “I was going to be a solo, but everyone was going to be around!” The band had a sound that was a little bit Psychedelic Furs and a little bit of The Cure.
Singer-songwriter John McDaid had the audience singing “gotta make an effort if you wanna turn a profit” to his cleverly written original composition. Another made reference to “mango Mussolini” and had the refrain “lost in translation.” He seemed to have won them over with his lyrics.
Newport’s Malerie Day sat, legs crossed, on a stool, quietly sang and played finger picked guitar for her set. She performed a song “In Time” and another, possibly from her current EP.
Russell Bailey was dressed in black from the cap on his head to the shoes on his feet. His guitar was the only visual break from the blackness. He told the audience that his compositions were born out of traditions and troubadours. His first number took place in a German cafe and parts of it were sung in German. Bailey introduced his second song, “Velvet Robe,” as being a bit Chicago Blues by way of New Orleans.
The last act of the evening was Old School Pickers, who are based around the duo Flowers and Rain (Greg Ferriera-guitar/vocals and Cassie Minto-fiddle) with the addition of Paul Murphy on bass and Laura Hart on vocals. Murphy told the audience how 50 years ago he was in this very room at a dance and went next door to the little store and that is where he met his future wife. The quartet closed the competition with “Fisherman’s Blues” by The Waterboys with Minto capturing the violin riff of the original version.
Overall the audience seem to enjoy every act. They were all warmly and enthusiastically rewarded with ambitious applause. All were asked to make their selection on a ballot and to turn them in to the volunteers. After a short interlude of song (and comic relief) by Mike Fischman and Ed McGuirl, the ballots were collected and tallied. Erin commented how some folks were so passionate about the process that they checked off all the names on the sheet while others used a point system or highlighted their favorites with stars.
Starting with third place she announced Old School Pickers had claimed that position. Second place went to Russell Bailey and first prize was awarded to John McDaide. All of the participants received CFM gift certificates. The top three were given nicely framed certificates, and John McDaid scored himself a new ukulele for his first place finish.
Young declared the evening a huge success and expressed hope that this would be the first of many “Community Hoots” to come. At the formal close of the hoot, an open session began where anyone who wanted to play could. A circle of chairs replaced the long tables in the room and slowly musicians filled the seats and joined in with the others.
Erin has done a great job with what she has created in her time at Common Fence. I certainly hope that what she has worked hard to institute continues after she retires from her position at the end of this season.
If you would like to know more about Common Fence Music, picket on over to commonfencemusic.org
Please check out photos from the “Community Hoot” on the Motif Facebook page at fb.com/MotifRI That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com