Tag Archives: Bill Harley

Chasing gigs, improving the show and a Kindie act needs to play the Grammys.

Back to reality/ post Grammy Blues

Back to reality/ post Grammy Blues

I’ve been home a week and a half since the Grammy’s and life has returned to normal.  Normal as it ever is being married with two kids, working fulltime/stay at home dad and oh yeah! I started a band a few years ago.  My life priorities pretty much run in the same order except the kids come before the wife.  She would agree.  Right before the Grammy’s I was sending emails to places that might hire us for a gig.   We’ve had some success here with local libraries, getting return gigs at a few venues and festivals and just got booked at Schubas (this is a local legendary music hall and we’re very excited). We got the gig because we stuck with it.   What I’m leaning is that there is no fast track to getting gigs.  Most bands work through this same process.   Apply for jobs, send out emails, make phone calls, send demos (make sure they’re good!) or videos, network and here is the most IMPORTANT PART… FOLLOW THROUGH!  Just like your golf swing or jump shot.  If you send off one email or just apply for a gig and wonder why the phone doesn’t ring well… Follow through.  This does not mean you start stalking after gigs.  That just pisses people off.   What this means is when you send an email and get No Reply.  Two weeks later send a follow-up email.  You may not get a reply (try again.  I usually go with 3 attempts).   They may tell you they’re booked please inquire in a year.   Write it down and in a year try again with your new songs/videos, improved (up to date) EPK (Electronic Press Kit), ETC.   Go to a few industry events because people who book shows and play shows usually attend.   Talk to fellow musicians and band who do what you do. Share what you know and listen to what they have to say.  Meet bookers and listen to what they have to say.    I went to the Grammys for this reason. I Will Attend Kindiefest if possible for the same reason.  Putting a face next to your music (make sure it’s ready!) makes you not a stranger when inquiring about your next gig.    Hand them a business card, CD or both.  BE POLITE AND COURTEOUS AT ALL TIMES.   This is small industry and if your rude, inconsiderate or a general dirtbag the word will spread.  Use your manners and most of all keep plugging away. That’s what I’m doing. If you have any other suggestions feel free to share.

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Rockin’ Out Island in the City

Now onto performance improvement.  We’ve had really good gigs and some not so good gigs (nature of the beast).  The learning curb is steep and fast.  In terms of musicianship we have been knocking it out of the park our last few shows.  We listen to each other and the band has really come into its own but our showmanship needed some work.  So that’s what we’ve been doing.  Finding what works for us.  Call and response, dance moves, silly band antics, how to keep the show rolling, fun and the audience participating. The fun should always lead back to the music which is why everyone is there.   Being that most kindie  shows run 45 minutes to an hour this isn’t rocket science.  It does take some structure, planning, rehearsing, rehearsing and more rehearsing. Because it’s not enough that the band sits around and plays really good music.  You need kids and parents to feel involved in the show.  It’s a Live Music Experience and all should have a good time.  Or what’s the point?

Shameless Grammy Photo

Shameless Grammy Photo

Lastly the Grammys.  I think I had a Grammy hangover the last week.  It was all so much fun and I did so much (see Rollin’ with the Bogle)it took a few days to really take it all in.  Mind you the day after returning home I went right to the firehouse.  Total reality check.  But here’s what I am proposing and leave comments as you see fit.  The Pre-Telecast Grammies was a nice show with some really great music acts.  Why shouldn’t one of the Childrens Grammy acts perform for the pre-telecast show.  I think it adds legitimacy to the whole kindie movement.  Especially with this years acts and the fact the house band TOTALLY ROCKED!  The Pop-Ups singing “Connect the Stars” with a live band would’ve been awesome.  Or the Okee Dokees doing “Haul Away Joe” or my personal favorite “Thousand Star Hotel” with the big house band.  Those are just great songs.  Heck it was a Woody Guthrie year so why not Elizabeth Mitchell singing any one of Woody’s songs?  A lot of Bill Harley songs are timeless and ageless and JumpinJazz Kids could have rocked the house.  So powers that be if you read this let’s get the ball rolling!  The Kindie movement won the Grammy now we need to take the stage.

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GRAMMY WEEKEND part 2 – Sunday… and some Monday.

Dressed for the Grammys

Dressed for the Grammys

So after Saturdays epic schedule I was not moving too quickly. Jeff had already worked out and hit the continental breakfast by the time I rolled out of bed at 10am.  Jeff also had an agenda for Grammy day as he needed to get photos and interviews with the kids artist for some publications back east.  If you missed it he did a whole preview of the Grammys for Time Out New York-Kids.  My agenda was much simpler.  Eat, pick up my suit jacket from the front desk (had it dry cleaned) and get dressed.  Then head to the Grammys pre-telecast show and enjoy the experience.

Our kitchen.

Base of Operations.

So I had bought some food at the local supermarket on Friday which came in handy for breakfasts during the weekend.  So I ate while Jeff showered and then I went and got my jacket from the front desk and it was 11:30 and time to go.  I could not move fast at all.  The last day had done me in.     So I told Jeff don’t wait for me I’d follow in a cab.  Off he went and I cleaned up, got dressed and headed off to my waiting taxi around Noon-ish.   It’s been a long time since I was in a smokey smelling cab but I was reminded when cabs, bars and restaurants all had that odor.  I don’t miss it and it was only a 20 minute ride. So the cab drops me off as he can go no further (barricades) and of course it’s the farthest point to the entrance I need at the LA convention center.  I may have missed my morning walk but I made up for some of it as I asked an officer (lot’s of police presence) for directions. He told me go down there take a left. 

5-0

5-0

Well down there was two blocks and then after the left was another two blocks and the finally to another left and only a block and I arrived just as they were putting the food and beverages away….Nooooooo!!!  What to do?  I quickly requested a bottle of water and rehydrated.  I then discovered they left coolers of soda and water opposite of each theater exit in the lobby.  Smart thinking!  It was only 12:30 and they Grammy’s wouldn’t end for another 7 1/2 hours!!!

A Grammy worthy sky!

A Grammy worthy sky!

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The theater at last

 Having finally arrived at my destination and now  hydrated I went off to see if I could find the folks I knew in attendance.  Unlike the televised show the pre-telecast is much more relaxed.  You can sit anywhere you want.  People come and go as they please and I couldn’t find anyone! So I headed in into the Theater.  No one there so I texted Jeff and he said he was in the Lobby. Off to the Lobby I went and no luck.  Leave it to me to be unable to find the 6’5″ guy in the lobby.  Just then I ran into Debbie Block and she invited me to sit with her, Bill and the other nominees.  Well alright!  Into the theater I went and what a great seat it was. 

I'm at the Grammy's!!!

I’m at the Grammy’s!!!

Bill Harey, Debbie Block and Family.

Bill Harley, Debbie Block and Family.

No sooner than we had sat down the Music started and our host for the evening actor David Alan Grier started the ceremonies.  Unlike the TV telecast they are very quick in the pre-telecast.  The say the category, nominee names and boom winner.  No clips of songs, no shots of the pending winners.   There was a webcast but all they do is show the winner who is jumping up and down in their seat (this happens a lot) and all the folks around them going nuts.  It was completely random as well.  You never knew who was going to win or where they were seated.  Then a short speech and moving on.   It was a lot of fun to be there.  What I learned this weekend is that the biggest fans of music are musicians.  Duh right?  I know lots of people love music and people express it in many ways.  But I digress…  The Children’s Grammy was the 33rd category so we had some categories and performances ahead of us.  The two performances that stood out for me were Eighth Blackbird ( They were very cool modern classical music from Chicago!) and John Fulbright (Rocking out Americana style).  The house band was also kicking some serious tail.  They made every act they played with sound better. A testament to their professionalism. (I don’t remember who they are and if anyone knows and reads this please tell me).  Then at long last category 33- Best Children’s Grammy came up and I’ll just let the pictures tell the story.

The moment before

The moment before

The momemt before...

The moment before…

We have a winner!

We have a winner!

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On the Big Screen

That was the last I saw of the Okee Dokee Brothers that day.  Congrats to the fellas on their great CD it truly deserved to win.  All the nominees for the Children’s Album Category were really good this year.  The Pop-Ups, Bill Harley, Elizabeth Mitchell and JumpinJazz Kids all put out great stuff.  (Part one has the links). As the show went on the crowd started to thin and I went to get another bottle of water before they put the coolers away.  As I exited the theater there before me was the “D” as my nephew calls them.  Tenacious D had been up for best comedy album (Jimmy Fallon won) and now were making plans to leave as they talked to fans.  Knowing my Nephew Chris is a HUGE fan of the “D” I had to stop and ask to take a picture.  Jack Black couldn’t have been more gracious. I took a pic and then he insisted I get in one as well “or what’s the point”. So thank you Jack and Kyle!  He was totally stoked to get the pic and text!

Me and the "D"

Me and the “D”

It was time to head to the big show in the Staples Center.  A little walk was nice after being in the theater for the 3 hour show (lots of categories).  The one thing I should have done was got a bite to eat somewhere before the big show.

Rolling with the Bogle

Rolling with the Bogle

  We walked by lots of restaurants and should have stopped for an appetizer or something because the lines in the Staple Center for food were ridiculous! On the other hand seeing folks in thousand dollar suits and dresses waiting in line and wolf down McD’s has it own comedic worth.  I would subsist on Twix candy bars and my standby, Reeces Peanut Butter Cups (Only first floor vendors were open. Every other floor closed. Why?).  That and the water fountain would carry through the telecast portion of the day.  We made it to our seats in good time.  When I mentioned to the usher my nose was starting to trickle from the height.  She told me not to worry as every seat up here comes with a box of tissues.  Haha funny girl!  IMG_20130210_164205

So the show itself was a lot of fun.  Most of the time you could see the big screens on the right or left (sometimes they were off…Why?) and we could also see behind the scenes as they changed sets.  There was 4 areas of performance.  Stage Right, Stage Left, Upstage and then they had a  circular platform in the audience.  Those stage hands were working hard and super efficient.  The show moved well and the acts were all pretty good.  The best though was Bruno Mars and his dancing band.  Just awesome! Along with Sting and the Marley Children it was a great set.  He made me a fan with that number.  Then later you had the Levon Helm Tribute which should have ended the show (not LL Cool J).  Mavis Staples still kicks ass!   The Weight was alive, electric and gives me chills thinking about it now.  I thought the show as a whole moved really well.  While the seats had a bit of altitude the people around us couldn’t have been nicer.  The women sitting next to me were a pleasure to talk to.  One an actress  ( I apologize for forgetting her name) and the other a singer/songwriter.   Her name is Emily Dale (I remembered her name cause I wrote down her website.)  Go visit her link and have a listen.  She’s good.  Maybe a future Grammy winner? 

Leavin the Grammys

Leaving the Grammys

Then it was off to dinner with Bill and Debbie, friends and family.  We went to a place called Barbrix and the food and company we excellent. I sat across from Regina Kelland who was one of the organizers for the Children’s Grammys Concert and Luncheon and a person whose been working in the kids music business a long time (she had some great stories).  Peter Alsop (Bill called him the Godfather of kids music) was there with his wife Ellen Geer who couldn’t have been nicer along with Debbies sister and her husband.   I ate brocollini, whitefish, salads, a cool take on aranacini, a Bolognese with polenta and much more. The wine was really good though a bit ironic as it was an Italian Red and I was in California. 

Excellent choice.

Excellent choice.

After a lot of laughing and storytelling the night came to an end.  I found out the Bill Harley is going to New Zealand.  My Kiwi friends with kids should go have a listen as he is one of the finest storytellers I have ever heard.  He sings pretty good too!   We said our goodbyes and we went back to the hotel… No really!  Back to the hotel and off to sleep…  The next morning we packed up and checked out. Got in the car and headed off to Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean.  We did make a brief stop at Loyola Marymount University.  The school that had captured my basketball dreams at a young age. Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble and the forgotten Jeff Peabody ran teams out of the Gym… Literally.  It was the most awesome display of run and gun basketball anyone had ever seen and the guys in my neighborhood were in awe.  How I longed then to own a t-shirt or hat from that school.  Being pre-internet days we had no luck securing the wanted swag.  But 20 years later I was passing right by and amended that wrong.  I got a hat and t-shirt and a hat for my buddy Greg.   Even sent a picture text so he got one he likes.  Isn’t technology awesome! 

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWarm weather and blues skies along with the crashing of the waves.  I could have stayed there all month.  But it was time to go and my flight was leaving in three hours.  The Santa Monica Pier is not a bad way to end a trip to California.  My thanks to the many people I met and laughed with and especially Jeff Bogle who was a great travel partner.  So back to the real world of kids, work, wives and making music.  I wouldn’t have it any other way… Well I do wish it was a little warmer.

The Pacific and me

The Pacific and me

GRAMMY WEEKEND part 1 – Saturday

Griffith Park Obsevatory.

Griffith Park Observatory.

It’s taken a few days to decompress from the great weekend in LA and I’m gonna have to make this a two parter due to sheer volume. First thing is the weather. At no time did I see any Ice or Snow and the last day it was nearly 70 and had my feet in the ocean!  I was contemplating how to get my family to where I was but that wasn’t really a choice.  Secondly I was in good company.  I was traveling with Mr. Jeff Bogle and we hung with lots of great people. 

Gotta get the tickets!

Gotta get the tickets!

Famous LA traffic!

Famous LA traffic!

  I arrived on Friday so I could check into the hotel,  pick up Grammy tickets and have a drink with a friend in downtown LA.  I have a penchant for fine whisky and we went to Seven Grand on his suggestion.  It didn’t disappoint. It was an early night thankfully because  Saturday started early and ended earlier… so to speak.  I awoke at 5:30 am (not by choice) having slept 8 hours and decided to go for a walk.  Afterward I made breakfast, showered and we (Jeff and I) were off and running.  Later that  morning was the Grammy Nominee kids concert followed by an Industry Luncheon at the Mint in LA.  The show was really good as you would expect from 5 Grammy nominated bands. 

Ticket Time!

Ticket Time!

 The Okee Dokees, Elizabeth Mitchell, The Pop Ups, Bill Harley and the JumpinJazz Kids were all excellent. 

Okee Dokees at Grammy Show

Okee Dokees at Grammy Nominee Show

Pop-Ups taking the stage

Pop-Ups taking the stage

The sound for the acts was excellent.  No small feat for the changing bands and styles.  A shout out to the sound guy at The Mint.  A job well done indeed.  So after the show there was the luncheon.  So everyone filed out onto the sidewalk while they set up tables and chairs for 100.  With the weather being beautiful it wasn’t a problem.  Artists signed autographs for kids and Industry folks mingled.  There I got introduced to Todd McHatton who’s I think I’m a Bunny” took the kids music world by storm two years ago.  It’s a really smart, funny, Henson-esque song with Todd’s daughter performing on it as well.  Go check it out cause it’s a lot of fun!  Then it was time for the luncheon and  I got to  renew friendships, start new relationships and hand out the new 4 song CD sampler to as many people as possible.   I had a short conversation in the back  with  Joe of the Okee Dokees, helped the Pop-Ups look for a lost item (they found it in the car) and then heard Bill Harley give a heck of a keynote speech about Sandy Hook.  It was honest and sincere and my thanks to Bill for being poignant without preachy.  Thanks Bill.

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 Then as it wound down and the nominees ran off to their Grammy Nominee dinner  many collected outside and talked for another hour or so.  I handed out a few more CD’s. Then there was more talking and more laughing (my feet started to hurt) with Randy Kaplan, David Tobocman, Norm and Heather from Rythym Child and Mr Cookie Jar and whoever else I may be forgetting. Then some people were hungry and  it was time for some supper. 

Post Luncheon with Todd, Norm, Mista Cookie Jar and Jeff.

Post Luncheon with Todd, Norm, Mista Cookie Jar and Jeff.

So following the after luncheon gathering we headed off to a really great restaurant called the Mohawk Bend.  The place catered to vegetarians(a few in the group) and had a fine representation of nearly every California Brewery!  The food and beer were excellent.  I had a Deliverance Strong Ale which is barrel aged awesomeness from Lost Abbey Brewery.   I highly recommend it.  I also had a chance to talk to David Tobocman (check his music here) and his lovely wife KC, Gina McHatton, the McHatton kids and Rebecca who writes the Kids Can Grove blog (go check it out!) and of course my partner in crime for the weekend Jeff Bogle (OWTK).   Dinner and company proved to be excellent as did the desserts. (I had a home made salted caramel Ice Cream)  Lots of sharing makes a happy table.

So the Tobocmans had to leave (time to relieve the babysitter) and I thought we may head to the hotel.  Not when your rolling with the Bogle.  We then headed off to Griffith Park Observatory.  I had never been there and what a cool place it is.  They have a giant telescope (skipped it due to long lines), all kinds of cool science exhibits, a Tesla coil (check out the electricity) and it overlooks Los Angeles.  This was one of the highlights of my weekend. 

What a view!

What a view!

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It's Electric!!!

It’s Electric!!!

What a totally cool place to visit.  One day I shall take my whole family out to LA and we shall stop at the Griffith Observatory.  Places like that make learning fun and inspire kids to inquire more about science. I’m ready to go take a science class myself!

I think I forgot to mention that Todd gave us all a sneak peek at a new CD coming out.  He’s been collaborating with Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold) and that stuff we heard was really amazing.  Look for it in the next year you won’t be disappointed.  Anyway after hanging with the McHattons I figured we’d be headed back to the Hotel and drop Rebecca at hers…  Wrong again! 

Mels!

Mels on Sunset.

When your rolling with the Bogle you roll all night.  So off to Mels where we met up with Mindy Thomas, Kenny Curtis and crew from KPL (Kids Place Live) and our friends the Okee Dokee Brothers.  Mindy and the Brothers were all dressed up having just come from the Grammy Nominee Dinner.  Kenny Curtis and his crew had been editing the Kids concert from the afternoon and broadcast it the same day…Phew!  That’s a job well done!  Anyway after a full day there was a lot of laughing,  a couple  beers,  a milkshake on the table and more laughing. 

KPL crew and Joe.

KPL crew and Joe.

Okees Dokees and Rebecca

Okees Dokees and Rebecca

So Kenny and the KPL producers headed home.  The rest of us stayed a bit longer laughing and talking about things I have been forever sworn to secrecy! Well we did talk about…. Nyet!  So finally we paid the bill and headed back to the hotel…  No really!  We dropped Rebecca off as she had an early flight and we went right back to the… 

Burger awesomeness!!!

Burger awesomeness!!!

And then we headed off to bed…   To Be Continued.

Booking gigs, demos and the Grammys

So prior to the New Zealand adventure and after I have been endeavouring to book gigs for the band.  Not only am I the Songwriter and Executive Producer for the new CD Block Party which should come out in the spring I have a host of other duties as well.  They are as follows – Manager, publicist, roadie, sound engineer, equipment manager and Guitarist/vocalist.  Not uncommon in the world of music but still a lot to do when you add Husband, Parent of 2 and Chicago Firefighter.  So I try to book one gig a day or at least send an inquiry as to playing a gig somewhere.  I slowed up on this back in December as we were working on the new CD and the holidays were upon us.  So now I am back to the grind.  If anyone would like us to play an event in their  area let us know and we would be glad to inquire.   Now to send another email and make another phone call…

The 4 song demo is nearly ready in time for the Grammys.  All sorts of industry folks are supposed to be there and I should be appropriately prepared.  At least that is the intention.  John Abbey at Kingsize studios has been doing a heck of a job mixing along with Alton Smith who has been doing a heck of a job getting us the right sound and leading the band in the proper direction.  The four songs that are going on the demo are Imagination Train, Bah Humbug Halloween, End of the day and My Favorite Summer Day.  Each is different than the others with four different singers and 4 different styles.  Like a band buffet.  Hope those that get a listen like what they hear.

And since we mentioned the Grammys it looks to be a busy couple of days.  I fly on Friday in the late morning and then go where I don’t know (remember to pick up tickets!)  It’s free day so I’m going to try to visit family and friends.  Saturday it’s off to the Children’s Grammy Nominees Family Concert.  There I shall get to see Bill Harley, The Pop-ups, Elizabeth Mitchell, The JumpinJazz Kids Band and our family favorites and friends The Okee Dokee Brothers.  I look to enjoy the show and it’s followed by the ANNUAL NETWORKING LUNCHEON for the children’s recording arts industry (I took it right off the web site!)  Here is where I hope to hand out a few CD’s.  Then the next day it’s the main event as the 55th Grammy awards take place with this guy in attendance. The seats are a bit high up. (I may take a picture with a Lakers championship banner if you get my meaning.)  But I will be there!  Also the kids Grammy is given earlier in the day (it’s much more informal) in a completely separate building followed later by the main event.  Then to the main event and then dinner with Bill Harley, his wife Debbie and some others.  Looking to be quite an enjoyable evening indeed!

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Lots has happened, lots to come and always something to fix!

So due to good fortune, timing and a Mother-in-law who was willing to watch the kids my wife and I  were able to make a trip to NEW ZEALAND!!!   My friend Nick was getting married and invited us to the big day.  What a way to start the new year!!  So off to Kiwiland we were and what a trip it was.  From Aukland to Taranaki and Rotorua and back.  Great views, nice people and lots to do including a ferry to Wahiki (great food and wine at the Mudbrick), swimming in the Tasman Sea (stung by a jellyfish) and visiting geothermic geysers and lakes (Waiotapu).   I will say that when we return in the future we will be bringing the kids along and stay for longer than a week!

A little soap and Kaploey!

A little soap and Kaploey!

Our view of Auckland Harbour

Our view of Auckland Harbour

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The morning walk

The morning walk

              So while I have just returned from NZ next month I will be attending the Grammy’s in LA!  All I can say at this point is this is Awesome!!!  I will be going with my friend Jeff Bogle who writes one of my favorite blogs called Out With The Kids.  If you want to know what is currently good in Kids music and music in general I highly recommend his work.   He also does game reviews and writes for Time Out Kids NY as well.  So with him I shall witness my first Grammy awards and more importantly get to see who gets the Childrens Grammy.  This is exciting because The Pop Ups, Bill Harley, Elizabeth Mitchell and our friends The Okee Dokee Brothers are all up for the award.  I have met Bill and seen him perform and he and his nominated CD High Dive are outstanding.  I was lucky enough to catch the Pop Ups at Kindiefest two years ago and they are fantastic and their nomination well earned.  While I am a big fan of Elizabeth Mitchell I have yet to see her perform or meet her but since they are having a show in LA before the Grammy’s I intend to correct that and as for the Okee Dokees…  You can read what I have to say about their CD Can you Canoe? right here…  So Look for me February 10th.  I”ll be way, wayyyyy up in the cheap seats.  If you see me wave and I promise to wave back… 

In the world of Poochamungas we are now in the mixing and overdub stage.  We have recorded 14 songs and now need to add and fix  things as they are needed.  This is very exciting.  I think you the fan are going to be very happy by our efforts because I know I am very pleased with the work so far.  See you all soon!

A bounty of Family Music

If you follow the kindie world as I do and your not in a band, a parental music blog/critic or a talent agent/booker I would worry about you a little.  But being in Chicago we are really blessed with an active kids music scene. Justin Roberts and Ralph Covert are from here and play regularly.  We have Mr. Singer, ScribbleMonster, Little Miss Ann, Human Tim/Robot Tim, Laura Doherty, Jeanie B and many others including my own Poochamungas.  Any weekend of the year there is quaility family music playing at a festival,  club or library somwhere near you.  But in the next couple months we not only have the local scene we will have Dan Zanes, Bill Harley, Jim Cosgrove and Trout Fishing in America.  I reccomend you see as many of these performers as possible because they really do represent the finest in family entertainment. From Jim’s high energy positive message “free range family rock” as he calls it to Bills truly amazing story telling (Walk Around the Block is a family fav),  Trout Fishings great musicianship (I still can’t believe two guys can make that much music) and Dan Zanes who’s just plays the music he loves for the people who enjoy it.   Each one of their shows are interactive fun and they have been doing it a long time. They are all masters of the craft and make it look so easy (it’s not) and have so much fun.  Each act has their special way of performing  and have performed all over the country.   Most of all they don’t visit the Chicago area very often.  So go see these performers as they stop for a show.  See dates and places and times below and click on them to link to where they are playing.

Dan Zanes at the Old Town School of Folk Music Oct 15 (Chicago)

Jim Cosgrove at the Blues Bar Oct 22 (Mt. Prospect)

Bill Harley at the Stage Left Cafe at the Woodstock Opera House Nov 12 (Woodstock)

Trout Fishing in America at the Od Town School December 4 (Chicago)