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The Stars Align

October 19th, 2013

flotsam-wfcI’ve just heard from a good friend who has a membership to the  World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. The convention sold out over six months ago, and since then memberships to the international gathering of writers, editors, publishers and fans have been trading like stock futures. If you’re interested in fantastic literature, WFC is definitely the go-to event of the year. But my friend tells me that he thinks he might skip it, toss the membership, stay home and get some writing done. Crazy? Maybe, but I can sympathize. The pull of unfinished work is strong . . . but sometime you have to resist.

This fall season has been amazingly busy, with the Baltimore Book Festival a few weeks back, the PAISTA Conference earlier this week, a performance at Riley’s Pour House tonight, and events at the University of Brighton and World Fantasy’s Reading Café coming up later this month.

1383702_10151609605645426_1348373447_nAnd there’s more.

Today, some of my good friends at Raw Dog Screaming Press and Dog Star Books are holding a bookstore crawl in Pittsburgh, with events kicking off this afternoon at 1:00 with four-time Bram Stoker winner Michael A. Arnzen reading and signing at the Carnegie-Mellon Bookstore in Oakland. After that, Stephanie Wytovich appears a couple miles north at The Big Idea Bookstore on Liberty Avenue. Then it’s ten blocks west for Matt Betts at The Muse Stand at 3:00. After that, at 4:00, Bradley’s Books at Station Square will play host to Heidi Ruby Miller before the day wraps up with Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s in Dormont.

An amazing day!

There’s no way I’m going to miss dropping in on the Raw Dog writers before heading to Riley’s for a sound check. Seriously, if you live anywhere near Pittsburgh (say within 100 miles or so), you owe it to yourself to make at least one of these appearances. Yes, I know, there are other things to do, but who knows when these stars will align again?

In the days to come, watch this space for a couple of follow-up reports. One from PAISTA (where the good people who attended my presentation on Flash Fiction provided some terrific questions that I’d like to respond to here) and another on today’s events. After that I hope to get to at least one WFC preview before crossing the pond to the UK.

Stop back soon. More to come.

Until then, scop on!

The Connolly Brothers Reunion @ Riley’s: Looking back at then from now.

July 7th, 2013

The Connolly Brothers 1975 crop 2“. . . looking back at then from now.”

That’s a line from “Leaves and Dust,” a song that my brothers and I performed back in our folk-rock salad days. The lyric makes a pretty good tagline for today’s post. (And you can hear our vintage recording of the song by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.)

Earlier, I blogged about my reunion show with Chris Laughrey, whom I started performing with back in college.  Along the way we opened for The James Gang and Andy M. Stewart, did some radio and TV, put out a couple of CDs (now out of print), and perfected a sound that keeps pulling us back together in spite of the divergent paths life has charted for us over the years.

That reunion performance with Laughrey Connolly was back in May. Now I’m gearing up for an even bigger show, this time with my brother Mark (that’s us in the photo above, circa 1975). Once again, the show will be at Riley’s Pour House, the pub that the readers of Pittsburgh Magazine have named one of the best Irish Pubs in Pittsburgh. The date: Wednesday 17, 8:00 – 11:00PM. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.

Lauren and Soundbord crop 1 drotoneMark and I started playing professionally in the mid-70s. We called ourselves The Other Brothers back then, and under that name spent a year performing the coffeehouse circuit before Mark relocated to New York. After that, brother John and I kept The Other Brothers flag flying through the end of the decade, performing five-nights a week with a more electrified version of the folky acoustics that had defined the performances with Mark.

When Mark rejoined us in the 90s, we changed our name to the The Connolly Brothers, which is how we’re being billed at Riley’s, even though we will also be performing with Lauren Connolly Moore (who is carrying on the tradition through another generation!)

Paz & Ukulele Eddy

The dynamic duo of Paz & Ukulele Eddie will kick off an opening set at 8:00 PM.

So save the date. If you’re anywhere in the Pittsburgh vicinity on July 17, you won’t want to miss this one.

Rock on!

Photos: The Connolly Brothers (Lawrence and Mark) in Oakland 1975, photo by Pat McGuire. Lauren at Jerree’s Recording Studio 1991, photo by Lawrence Connolly. Paz & Ukulele Eddie, from their Facebook page.

Music: “Leaves and Dust,” words and music by Lawrence C. Connolly, performed by Mark, John, and Lawrence Connolly, recorded at the Black Frier Studios. Copyright © 1978 by Lawrence C. Connolly. All Rights Reserved. Click here to play: Leaves & Dust by The Connolly Brothers.

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.”

Your Favorite Genre Song?

September 3rd, 2012

The forthcoming publication of Rock On: the Greatest Hits of Science Fiction and Fantasy has me contemplating some of the great rock ‘n roll genre songs. There certainly is a ton of them.

Science fiction? How about David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Genesis’s “The Return of the Giant Hogweed,” or Mastadon’s album-length epic Crack the Skye? (Great stuff!)

Fantasy?  Let’s see . . . there’s King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King,” The Moody Blues “House of Four Doors,” and of course Uriah Heep’s Demons & Wizards. You can’t go wrong with any of those.

Horror? Yeah, there’s plenty, everything from Dickey Lee’s sappy ghost story “Strange Things Happen” (OK . . . it’s not really horror, but I recall it giving me a chill when I heard it as a kid) to anything by your favorite death metal band. And we might as well toss in a lot of the songs of Bruce Springsteen, whose work inspired the horror anthology Darkness on the Edge a few years back.

I’m not trying to be definitive here, just free associating – rattling off a few titles that come instantly to mind. The point is, if you’re a fan of genre fiction, you’ve probably got a personal rock ‘n roll playlist of greatest hits. And you almost certainly have a favorite.

At the moment, my favorite is “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” by  Warren Zevon and David Lindell. It’s a complete horror story in a three minute song, delivered with equal doses of irony, political commentary, and literary awareness that leads all the way back to the medieval  epic Rolandskvadet (The Lay of Roland).

I’ll be playing that song this coming Saturday (September 8), when I return to Riley’s Pour House for a night of American and Irish music . . . and later this month when I perform my “Songs of the Horror Writer” show at Horror Realm.

Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, consider using the comment box below (or Facebook or email) to tell me your favorite genre song(s). I’m always looking for new material.

Rock on!