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From World Fantasy to Riley’s Pour House

November 17th, 2012

Still decompressing from World Fantasy in Toronto, I’ll be resurfacing at Riley’s Pour House this Saturday (November 17) for a marathon performance – four hours, four sets, 60+ songs. A real aerobic workout, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night.

I’d like to tell you about that show, but first a few words about the music sessions that took place at World Fantasy.

What a blast!

Organized by Christopher and Barbara Roden, the sessions were a late addition to the program, announced by word of mouth a few hours before the first one went live at 10:00 p.m. Friday, November 2.

Joining me were MaryAnn Harris, Charles de Lint, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. We took turns calling the songs, sometimes playing solo, but generally jamming together on Celtic, country, and folk-rock standards. We did originals too, with Charles performing “A Dog Named Johnny Cash” and “Cherokee Girl” —  both featuring wonderfully catchy hooks that I haven’t been able to shake yet.

Along the way we were joined by Howard Fox, an artist from Israel whose remarkable paintings generated considerable buzz at the art reception (with one painting going on to win the convention’s Member’s Choice Award.) Playing harmonica, Howard accompanied me on a rendition of  Lennon and McCartney’s “For You Blue.” Then he asked me to lay down some improvised progressions. “Keep it going,” he said, and as I did he made up a song that he called “Fantasy Fair” — completely improvised — proving that he is as skilled at lyrics as he is with painting. This was Howard’s first World Fantasy Con. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

The crowd grew as the night progressed. A lot of folks sang along, some danced, and when we called it quits around midnight, we were all committed to doing it again.

On Saturday we were joined by Martin Springett, who introduced his original tunes with stories about some of his past performances. Introducing his instrumental “The Dragon,” he spoke about playing for a group of children, all of whom listened with eyes scrunched tight, picturing dragons taking flight while he played.

And then came another improvised performance, this time from Ellen Klages, who asked the audience to call out a song topic. “Manual typewriters!” someone shouted, and she was off – nine minutes of improvised blues about platens, carbon paper, writer’s block, and Nebula Awards. No summary can do it justice. Fortunately, you can catch the whole thing on YouTube.

Click on the link at the end of this post . . . and enjoy!

Also joining us on that second night was singer Angela Keeley, who provided an eclectic mix of songs ranging from the bawdy “Scotsman” to the teen-angst standard “Last Kiss.” Great stuff!

I understand there was a third session on Sunday, but by then I was on the road, heading back to Pittsburgh with all those earworms stuck in my head. I didn’t bother with the radio. The memories were enough.

I’ll be playing some of those same songs again tomorrow night when I perform at Riley’s – the Pub that was recently honored by Irish Echo as one of the best Irish Pubs in the States. For good reason too. Food, drink, ambience, friendly people, music – Riley’s has it all.

I usually open the night with ballads and ramp up from there, but this time I’m planning to start with some rocking sea shanties. Lauren Connolly-Moore will also be on hand, lending her sweet harmonies to some contemporary tunes. I’ll hope to see you there.

So . . . were you at World Fantasy? Did you attend our jam sessions? Do you have anything to add, amend, or comment on?

Are you a fan of the Pour House? Do you have any requests for tomorrow night?

As always, the comment section is open . . . as are my email box and Facebook page. Use the comment option below or the little email and FB icons above. I’d love to hear from you.

Now fasten your seatbelts. Here’s Ellen Klages with her nine-minute blues improvisation “Manual Return.”