A Wizard Rock Concert for Air Force Kids

I know I already posted all about this on Twitter and Facebook earlier today, but 140 characters (even if used several times) is not enough to convey how amazing my morning was.

I met a librarian a couple of months ago who works at two libraries here in town: one in Shreveport, and one at Barksdale Air Force Base. She invited me to do a Witherwings show at both locations. I was eager to perform at both libraries, but particularly excited about the show on base. I’m not sure how many Wizard Rock shows military kids get to attend, but I bet they are few and far between. I know these children move around the country every few years, and I know many have spent long periods of time with a parent over seas. I was yearning to do something fun for them.
When I arrived, I saw the round tables set up with white paper ties and piles of markers. A Harry Potter house tie coloring activity!? How perfect!
Then a packed school bus pulled up and a bunch of (I am estimating) 7-9 year olds got off and lined up neatly to come into the library. I was told it was a teen program, but I knew the kids from the Child Development Center were also coming over, so I planned my set to be for a young crowd.
From the beginning I knew I was going to be a fun audience. Nearly all raised their hands when I asked who had seen the Harry Potter movies, and nearly half raised their hands when I asked who had read the books. I started into the first song and got lots of smiles. After I finished “Be S.M.A.R.T,” a little girl to my left said she liked that song, and from that point forward, I had a little fan club of children at the two nearest tables who told me that they “loved that song” after each one I performed.
They clapped, they snapped, they got up and danced and they even flew around the room like Buckbeak. It was completely magical.
After the show I asked the kids closest to my keyboard to place their ties on the table so I could take a photo. Then they all wanted to be in the photo. I wish I could post those pics, but they are minors and their parents weren’t there to give permission. Trust me when I say they were wearing huge smiles.

 

Barksdale AFB library show. House ties!

A few moments later, one of my little fan club girls came up to me and said in the smallest, saddest voice that she didn’t get to be in the photo. So I offered to take a selfie with her. Then my other “I love this song” girls jumped in. It might be my favorite show photo of all time. These children were really just the best, most amazing kids!
As I was packing up my gear, a handful of girls hung out at my keyboard and asked me question after question.
“What is this?” Me: My set list.
“Why didn’t you do this song?” Me: The Tale of Tom Riddle is a bit scary. I cut it if there are little kids in the crowd.
A timid girl turns from a nearby table to say “My favorite part was when you said Buckbeak wouldn’t really eat Malfoy. That it was pretend.” (Uh… yikes. SO GLAD I said that!! O.o)
“Did you take piano lessons?” “For how long?” “How much did your keyboard cost?” “I think it was $267.” “I think it was $8000.” Me: Is this The Price Is Right? (BLANK STARES.) “Who does your hair?” “No I mean, what is the name of the place you go to?”
They were cracking me up.
Then they were told to form a line to get back on the school bus. The shy little girl who got the selfie with me ran up and hugged me.
As I rolled my amp out to the car, they all waved at me from the bus like I was a rock star. I sure felt like one. Hours later, and I still feel my heart could burst with joy. There is nothing as wonderful as an appreciative crowd, but young kids, as yet untouched by social pressures, who jump and dance and smile and laugh, THAT is the best audience I could ever dream of.

 

 

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In Which the Ringlords Interview Me

Saturday night I was honored to do a live chat interview with the Ringlords.™ We talked about music and books and music about books. From my first band, to my beginnings in wizard rock, to future projects (Wheel of Time rock!?!?!) we covered it all.

The Ringlords

Ringlords.™

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

{Please note that due to a bit of a lag, a few of the answers got separated from their questions. I put them back together here for ease of reading. I left nothing out and left all typos in place.}

Ringlords™: All ready to begin ?

Me: YESSSS! I see things now!

Me: You know, the page looked really weird. I thought it was becasue i was used to the phone app, but I think it was a freak alt-universe Ringlords page!

Me: Is this mic on? *tap tap tap*

Me: Hello hello?

Ringlords™: So, Mandala , Tell us a little about your new record

Me: I am really excited about a five-song EP I worked on at the end of last year called “Momentarily Distracted.” It is, in many ways, quite a departure from my other music projects.

Me: You can listen to it here! http://mandalasongs.bandcamp.com/

{Note: I am embedding a player here since a player appeared in the comment, though this shows only the first song}

Me: It has a very different feel from my other two projects: Witherwings and Mandala at Twilight. I basically get right to the heart of some very raw emotions with the lyrics and sparse musical arrangements. Piano and vocals dominate this album, with a couple of songs being backed by a classic trio of piano, drums and bass.

Ringlords™: very cool … we were amazed to see Vick Degiorgio listed on the credits … awesome musician

Me: He really is! He and I go way back! Let’s tag him.

Ringlords™: by wild coincidence Vick apparently knows Sue Martin who is friends with our Chicago crowd from waaay back

Me: Vick Degiorgio and I met in 2002. He was playing bass at a show for a friend of his and we got to talking when I was waiting to buy a CD. He invited me to his weekly music group and the rest is history.

Me: That history is that I performed in a band (that Vick was in) called SusieCool and the Coolotees from 2033-2009. This group of very experienced musicians took me under their wing to sing harmonies and ended up letting me sing lead on quite a few songs. They asked me to fill out the band right before they were to tape a poilet for a tv show that was to be an Orlando version of Austin City Limits. It never got picked up but it turned into some of the best years of my life. Before that performance they put me though “Crappy-Bar Boot Camp” where we played every dive in the city of Orlando 6 or seven nights a week (late into the night when I had to work the next day) until the taping of the show. They wanted to make sure I sounded, looked, and felt like I was a PART of the band and not the new girl. That was the best education I could have ever asked for as a musician and a performer. I earned my place on the stage, that’s for sure.

Me: Ha! I am not a time lord. 2003 NOT 2033.

Me: A name that might be more familiar to your followers though, is Russ Benoit. He played drums on two tracks on this album. You might know him as The Creevy Crisis.

Me: Gotta love the wrock family. I am so happy he played on the songs despite them NOT being wizard rock this time around.

Ringlords™: Yeah, Russ was working on a film, wasn’t he ?

Ringlords™: We understand that one of the songs on your new record has a literary background

Me: Lag…. gaaaahhh.

Me: Yeah, so though this is not a wrock album, or an album with a vampire lit theme, I could stray too far from my love of books!

Me: *couldn’t BIG DIFFERENCE

Ringlords™: Yes… for those of you unfamiliar with FB’s poor programming, anything that does not make them money is treated poorly

Me: “Wrong” is inspired by “The Taker” by Alma Katsu. It is the first of three books, but only the first two have been published. I was drawn to the horribly selfish deeds of the main character, Lanny. She falls in love with the boy in her town that all the girls are in love with. She does some pretty terrible things to try to make him hers. As the story goes on, she is made immortal and makes him immortal against his will to be with her forever. But he doesn’t want to be immortal. He does not love her with the same intensity that she loves him, and the big catch: only she can kill him – and he is begging her to. That is where the book begins… at the end, so to speak.

Me: What drew me to her and her situation is that, despite what sounds here like a very selfish character, is really a very complex woman who you come to sympathize with and like. It is a GREAT story. Oh and there is SO. MUCH. MORE. One word/character: Adair. Yeowza!

Ringlords™: You have quite the literary roots in your music … Tell us how you got into the wizarding sound …

Me: I attended a HP convention in 2007 I think. ANYONE? 2007? Called Phoenix Rising.

Me: It was not my first exposure to wizard rock, that was a Harry and the Potters concert the year before. But PR was the first time I thought that wrock might be for me. After returning home, and going on MySpace and seeing how supportive the community was, I really felt safe to try writing music on my own for the first time.

Me: Goggle confirms May 2007.

Me: I posted my first songs onto MySpace in October of 2007 and I have not stopped writing and performing!

Ringlords™: … and there’s was a clip we saw of you rocking with the Imperial Troopers

Ringlords™: Lessee if we can scare up the vid … hang on

Me: Ha! The Mandalorian Mercs!! They were so much fun. I love mixing with other fandoms. (I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, BTW.)

Me: I use a pic of that performance on my Witherwings band page.

Me:

 

Ringlords™: YES !! the very one !

Ringlords™: LOL! … very suave !

Ringlords™: Is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with that you haven’t tried ?

Me: I really love the Wheel of Time series, but my friend Pattie Beavensaid she would go postal if ever there was WoT Rock. I fear she might be serious so I have not attempted any. DON’T SPOIL THE LAST BOOK FOR ME ANYONE!!!

Ringlords™: Robert Jordan humm ? … we always wanted to see a band based on Heinlein … you should try something like that …

Me:  I’ve read a few Heinlein books… Other than Witherwings, I cannot see dedicating an entire album to one book or author. Books will always influence me though. as they do many musicians!

Ringlords™: So, where are you headed next ?

Me: I’m really just focused on now. I’ve got a new little baby here and he is keeping me quite busy. He loves music though so I can do shows. Lining up one for the Friedricksbrg VA area in the fall right now. Working on booking for 2014 as well.
I’ve worked on some new lyrics here and there but nothing polished.

Ringlords™: Ahh, bringing up baby … That’s gotta put the pressure on you … how do you handle juggling home and gigs?

Me: My husband helps me out a lot at shows. He is merch boy/Daddy extraordinaire!

Ringlords™: Do you get nervous before a performance ? & how do you handle a mistake when you are playing ?

Me: I do get nervous, but it is also a rush.
As for mistakes… Ha! I am like the story of George Washington announcing “I cannot tell a lie! I chopped down a cherry tree!” I usually announce it. “Whoops my bad!” “Whoa what was THAT!?” Luckily I’ve performed long enough that if I forgot the words, I am able to vamp and just keep playing until I can bring that part aroiund again and start over. Or I just make up words or sing about forgetting words. I don’t get upset about it. Unless I am trying to video the performance. But then again, there is a video of me forgetting the lyrics to “Malfoy” that I posted on Youtube. That was harder though because I was singing to an iPod. Then you cannot vamp. I just made fun of myself and started over. Let me find the video.

Me:

 
It comes about a minute in.

Ringlords™: How often and for how long do you practice?

Me: I really “cram” before a show.I get in ruts sometimes, and other times I regularly practice once a day. By that I mean spend time on music whether playing or writing. Baby has made that irregular though. Speaking of baby… sounds like I am needed…

Ringlords™: that’s our cue to wrap it up here … we want to thank Mandala for hanging out with us this evening and struggling through FB’s wony behaviors … be sure to pick up a copy of her new record at that Bandcamp link up above

Me: This has been really fun, guys! Thanks so much for having me and promoting the album. I am SO SO proud of it. $5 on b

Me: bandcamp

Me: Whoops! http://mandalasongs.bandcamp.com/

Me: Ha! Well i posted it again. 🙂 Thanks so much! Have a great weekend everyone!

Me: ❤

Ringlords™: And keep an eye on this page … we plan to bring you an interview with a certain author one of these days coming up


My Thoughts on Amanda Palmer and Musicians Playing for Free

In the last couple of days I have seen many people posting about the recent controversy involving Amanda Palmer.

On August 21st, Amanda put out a call for volunteer musicians to join her and her band-mates on stage in every city of her tour. She offers to pay them in beer, t-shirts and hugs.

Several news outlets such as Prefix and Digital Music News have published articles either bashing this practice or talking about how people are bashing this practice in light of the huge amount of money she raised using Kickstarter. There are some pretty harsh replies in the comments.

But when I read the articles, I was not outraged. I didn’t see the fault in this request.

I thought from the headlines that I would be upset. After all, I am a musician who has had to play plenty of shows for no pay. Instead I was given the meager compensation of being allowed to operate a merchandise table, sometimes only during my set. I was even asked to play a show this past summer at a very large convention where my perks were so non-existent, I was not even privileged enough to be able to attend the convention!

Needless to say, I turned that one down.

I am lucky that my fans are generous and I usually make enough to cover gas and tolls, and can stash a little away for my next big equipment purchase (I am so close to getting new monitor speakers for the studio!!!)

I get the outrage though. I get that musicians are insulted that somehow people expect them to perform for free while everyone else involved in a production gets paid. I am not sure how or when this started, but it seems pretty common these days.

In fact, a former band-mate of mine, who has a new band and is playing regular (paid) gigs, recently posted a response he wrote to a request for his band to play for free. I might have clapped after reading it. I certainly shared it with anyone who would read it. This is what he posted on his facebook page:

Got an e-mail asking The StraightJackets to play a corporate affair…for free. They promised us “exposure” via their website and videos posted on YouTube that would be far more valuable.

Oh, by the way, they wanted us to bring the PA, too!

My response:

Thanks for contacting The StraightJackets.

Corporate shows start at $1500. Outside shows cost $1000 more because of the added PA necessary.

We will add your event to our calendar which gets THOUSANDS of hits and will add videos from the show to our video page giving you incredible exposure for your product. Literally millions of hits per month. You will have more clients than you have product for. That will more than offset the fee we charge to play for your event.

What…you don’t think that the exposure is worth the money?

Neither do we.

But, we are glad to provide you with this exposure since you have asked us to rehearse until we are good enough to be in demand, buy a full PA big enough to handle an outdoor event, travel to your event, set up our PA, play for your event and entertain your clients and friends, tear down, and load out our gear for you…all for free. I guess you are also wanting us to be skilled, talented, and professional, also for free.

Sorry.

You don’t give your pools away for free and we don’t give our music away for free, especially to corporations. You will be paying someone to pick up the garbage for your event, the least you can do is pay the musicians, too.

Good luck on your upcoming venture.

Stuart

So yeah, if this email got me all riled up, you would think I would be outraged by Amanda Palmer, right? Nope. Why? Because if I was reading Amanda Palmer’s blog, it would be because I was a huge fan. And if one of my favorite musicians gave me the chance to play with her on stage in my home town, I would take it without a thought. Beer, a t-shirt, and a hug as payment? Bonus.

She has a paid band backing her up. This call for volunteers is a way to incorporate her fans into her art. It is something she is known for. There is a reason she has a HUGE following and can do spontaneous shows and pack the place.

The controversy apparently arose from the fact that she raised a huge amount of money from Kickstarter. They wonder if she has all this cash, why can’t she pay these musicians?

I think people are missing the point.

Yeah, she did raise over a million dollars from Kickstarter, but since she breaks down where that money is going in her blog it is clear to see that this money is allocated to her amazing Kickstarter rewards and to creating and distributing the album. It has nothing to do with whether or not she has money left over to pay musicians; she IS paying her touring band. Instead, it is about her fans having a once-in-a-lifetime experience to become a part of her show rather than just watching it from afar.

So yes, I think musicians should be paid, but sometimes you take a freebie because it is something that is so cool, you just can’t pass it up. It might even lead to a future paying gig. There is a big difference between being asked to be the main entertainment for a private party and asking if any fans would like to be a part of their favorite musician’s show.

So you just keep doing what you are doing, Amanda Palmer.

***UPDATE*** (9/20/2012)

Digital Music News posted an article yesterday called Amanda Palmer Agrees to Pay Guest Musicians. The article quotes the blog, but does NOT post a link to it. I always like to read things in their entity, so I searched for it on my own, and now you can read it for yourself.

While searching, I also located a blog from September 14th that further explains Amanda’s personal experiences with volunteering or having to pay her own way, and the benefits she received from it.  For example, I learned about an experience she had with her former band:

“…sometimes even paying for my own travel for the privilege of playing with my idols. (the dresden dolls lost a lot of money in order to travel around opening up for nine inch nails. and good lord, were we grateful to lose that money…it won us a huge bunch of fans).”

Amanda makes many, many good points about how different things work for different artists, no matter how famous or how obscure. I really recommend reading it!

My opinion on the matter still remains that there are situations in which I volunteer my time, and others in which I do not. I guess it depends on whether or not I feel I am being taken advantage of, or if perhaps I am gaining some sort of advantage (even if small) for doing so. Only good can come of her decision to pay these musicians, but I still do not fault her for asking for volunteers. After all, I am in the middle of recording a CD at the moment, and where would I be if I didn’t have musician friends who were willing to work for peanuts?! The good will comes back around, my friends.


I Am Up To My Eyeballs in Projects and Papers

Sorry for the lack of posts. It is mid-term time. Though… my midterm project for my video class was due in week 4. (I guess that professor is confused when it comes to math: the half-way mark of 11 weeks is 5.5.)

But anyway… now I am swamped. I am overwhelmed. I have a list next to me with 9 things on it due Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

Here, I will give you an funny performance video to watch from my tour last Fall with Snidget. This is perfect example of me being me. I am a ham and not afraid to make a fool of myself.

Enjoy “Witherwings serenades a Barnes and Noble in Texas with ‘Malfoy.'”


Mini-Tour Wrap-up

Sorry for the delayed post. Coming home from the road only to jump right back into classes, homework and mid-term preperation delayed just about everything in my life not related to school. Which… is going well, by the way. My Audio 101 class is about 2/3 Math and 1/3 Biology, but I am learning some really cool stuff that already has me thinking about what I need to adjust in my home studio. That, however, is an entirely different post altogether.

So the mini-tour which got nick-named the “minotaur” was blast. I really loved being on the road with Hawthorn and Holly. They even thought my reckless driving antics were funny rather than scary, so I expect more road trips to be in our collective future.

No tour is complete with out some road-side stops, and this was no exception. The peach stand dudes in Georgia asked us to contribute to their college fund, and we sang for free peaches. Now THAT is Fair Trade.

We even got to romp around in Universal’s City Walk the morning after our Orlando show. Wish we could have stayed longer, but we live for the open road, man.

But the most amazing thing for me was getting to play with my old band-mates in Orlando. Susie, Vick and Stuart joined me on stage and played MY songs. I was in Susie’s band, SusieCool and the Coolottes, for seven years. They taught me everything I know about live performances and how to be a seamless songwriting team. It could have been really stressful showing up and hearing their rendition of my songs for the first time while ON STAGE, but I had faith in these people. I know NO ONE more professional and knowledgeable than this trio, and they came through as I knew they would. So much so, that when I got ahead of the music on “In Defense of Ginny Weasley” due to the lack of (working) monitors, they caught right up to me in 2 bars.

Here is the only video clip I have at the moment. I will get more posted ASAP.

Thanks to everyone who came out to a show, bought a CD or shirt, or contributed to our gas fund. I met some really cool people and it makes me want to hit the road again as soon as possible!

Wrockers and Wizarding Life folks at the show in Orlando. Photo by Kevin Young.


In Which I Organinze My Brain For Tour

There is so much to do before this mini-tour! It went from a full-fledged tour to a mini tour becasue I decided to go back to school. This school stuff is getting in the way of getting ready for tour! *phsaw* Priorities! 😉

So I am making a to do list for the next few days:

  • Oil change and official recording of mileage. (Hey you, self-employed musicians! Are you aware that July 1st was the start of the increased rate you get back for mileage on your taxes? Get your car’s miles documented ASAP!)
  • Make sure all four bands are on board for the proposed show itinerary. (ie. order of bands and the idea of playing two sets rather than one long one.)
  • Check in with my band for Saturday’s show (I am SO SO SO excited to be playing with a full band!!!)
  • Double check that the chords the guitar player figured out are, in fact, the correct chords.
  • Make sure everyone got and looked at the chords for the other songs.
  • Pull out that awesome new Zoom H4n Handy Recorder (Check! Woot!) and see if/how it works to record ambient sound while running my keyboard directly into it. I would really like to be able to record Saturday’s show. Recording directly from the sound board and being able to capture audience reaction would be fantastic! (…but only if I can control levels. Need to find a manual on-line.)
  • Call the Taste to find when they want us to sound check. The restaurant part of the place is open all day. The art show portion of our event starts at 7, but the concert doesn’t start until 9.
  • I need to communicate this to all the musicians. *side note: THANK GOD for smart phones. I have been doing so much of this communication (emails, facebook messages etc.) on the train to and from school.*
  • Figure out what the heck I am going to wear. I hate this part. I can never just find something at the store when nothing I own seems to be working out. At least I know I am going to wear the sparkley new bracelet I bought a few weeks ago JUST for Sat’s show 🙂 I feel no pressure when deciding what to wear for house concerts or library shows, but  involve a stage, lights etc – and now I gotta glam it up.
  • Email reminders to my professors that I will not be in class on Monday. I am glad they find my excuse acceptable, but there will be consequences for missing material. I hope my hard work the rest of the quarter makes up for it.
  • Make sure the ipod is loaded up for all the shows. As for Saturday, organize the parts of my set not being played on piano or by the band. I have already made several versions of set lists. I guess I either need to pick one or load all of them onto the ipod.
  • Back-up my ipod. It is sometimes acts flaky – like starting the song 15 seconds in. *grrr*
  • Create a wrock play-list for intermission. Get permission from those bands.
  • Find/borrow/purchase a FUNCTIONAL car charger!!!
  • Organize my merchandise.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

Okay. Is that it?!?


Coverage of the Mount Kisco, NY Show

I just found a link to the article about Tuesday’s show in NY.

Stu Bayer was the photographer who covered the event. He seemed genuinely interested in this thing we call Wizard Rock ❤

Here is a link to the short article and wonderful photos:   http://chappaqua.patch.com/articles/photos-wizard-rock-at-mount-kisco-library#photo-5721146

Photo by Stu Bayer http://chappaqua.patch.com