Calaveras

 

Calaveras Back on Stage!

Calaveras is back on stage after a nice long break to get our next album going and give Vickie a chance to finish hers (it’s done and it’s amazing—we’ll have it at the concert, and play a couple of songs from it--www.victoriablythe.com).   

On Friday October 10, at 7:30 pm, we’ll be the kickoff show of the 5th season for the Point Richmond Acoustic Music series at the First Methodist Church, 201 Martina Street in Point Richmond (www.pointacoustic.org). The Series is produced by our wonderful friends and fellow musicians, Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan.  We’ve added some new songs and will have Mark Holzinger and Sam Bevan with us.   Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Happy New Year!

Here we are again, on the brink of a brand new year, with new hope, new zeal, and 10 new pounds of holiday happiness to apply that hope and zeal to.   

Keeping Calaveras going has been a little challenging this year, with about 8 months of chronic cough and vocal gunk for Vickie (now under control), and Bell's Palsy freezing one side of Greg's face for the past couple of months (although his right profile looks great!).  Plus we lost our old reliable home base for trying out unfamiliar material in front of familiar, friendly faces--YellowWood in Danville finally succumbed to the economy.  

But that hasn't stopped us from keeping the flame burning--Vickie's nearly finished an album of jazz-folk (jolk?) fusion songs and is launching a new band into that territory with fantastic performers John R. Burr, Sam Bevan and Mark Holzinger. She and Greg are helping the First Congregational Church of Berkeley pull together and perform weekly music for a new casual, kid-friendly 9 AM service.  Just recently, Calaveras joined the YouTube revolution a little late with a little video Greg put together featuring our best-selling iTunes song, Bad Dog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ICKu1lLMeA .  (Numbers apparently count--please view it, like it, link it, rate it--again and again and again!)  Greg also was surprised to find that he has been nominated for a national Pushcart Prize for poetry.  From its website:  "The Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses series published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in the pages of our annual collections.”  Here's the poem that's been nominated:  http://www.theshinejournal.com/beattiegreg.htm

We hope and expect to get the performance ball rolling again in 2011, and in the meantime we thank you deeply for your support and wish you the best possible new year!

Calaveras

Vickie, Greg and Dave

 

Going South

Nobody ever said “Go South young man,” but we’re well past being young, and nobody can tell us what to do anymore. So we are going South (only literally, we hope), down to Las Cruces NM by way of Telluride, Boulder, Santa Fe and Truth or Consequences, with a little family R&R time in between. It’s times like this we are thankful for being a hybrid-- industrious suburban family by day and wandering gypsy minstrels by night--the minivan and the day job go a long way to making it possible for us to live our bohemian dream on the road. The tour is more a matter of happy accidents and coincidences than careful planning--Scott Doeser, a DJ with KBOO in Telluride CO, heard our music through his friend and our engineer/producer, John Jacob, and asked us to play there this summer. Then at the FARWest conference in November, Lee Herman from Las Cruces NM asked us to play at his house concert series this summer. Then my three best friends from law school suggested we all get together in Santa Fe for “The Big Chile”--a rehash of our circuitous routes to the present.--right smack in between Telluride and Las Cruces. I am often dense, but sometimes fate rings the bell of inevitability loud enough that even I hear it. So with a beginning, middle and end-point, the trip quickly took shape (after about two dozen press kits and even more obsequious emails and phone calls). Our preteen son and teenage daughter are going to be with us, which will add more than a touch of National Lampoonishness to the trip--we’ll be in Vegas for a day, doing whatever it is that stays there, stopping at Roswell to hunt for UFOs, and visiting America’s biggest bat cave. If we spot it, we’ll probably pull over for the world’s largest tinfoil ball, or a house made entirely out of cacti and bottle caps. Just before we leave (actually, after Vickie has left and on my way to the airport) Dave and I will be playing the SF Free Folk Festival at 3:00 Saturday the 12th.

Happy New Year!

This is of course the time of year when people take stock--families write long holiday letters to their friends reporting on everyone's accomplishments (and usually leaving out their arrests, drug rehab stints and psychotic episodes), companies write up their annual reports emphasizing their improvements (minimizing their layoffs, scandals and government investigations), and performers seem compelled to sum up the prior year's feats (rarely describing the nights when there were more people onstage than off, or when laryngitis turned them into a mime troupe). So it is with awareness of the genre's suspect past that I write about Calaveras in the year 2009. For those opposed to shameless bragging, be assured that for this boy from a small mostly Catholic central valley town, bragging is always accompanied by shame--I force myself to do it for the fans. I hope both of you appreciate it. It turns out that when business is slow, people with jobs and bands have a lot more time to unleash their musical passions. So, while in many ways 2009 was a deep ditch out of which we are only starting to crawl, it was a great year for Calaveras. We had our first nationally promoted CD release--Green Girl, which made it onto dozens of radio stations' playlists, received great reviews and got us on some important radars. We had some "next level" shows--the Florence Oregon Winter Folk Festival, where we shared the stage with Barry Maguire and Tom Paxton, a premiere showcase at the FARWest Folk Alliance Conference, and a sold-out, standing O Fiddling Cricket show at Mission Coffee in Santa Clara, among many others. We were selected out of over 500 submitting acts to appear at the main-stage Emerging Artist showcase at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in upstate New York, and played in a beautiful church in Connecticut and a dumpy music joint in the lower East Side on a sweltering summer night in NYC--all bucket list experiences. We also got a long way toward putting together an album featuring Vickie's voice, mostly our songs, and some great jazz players. We kept writing new material that, at least while it's new, we are certain is our best. And our song Ready to Fly landed on a compilation album with Livingston Taylor, Carly Simon, Natalie Merchant and a host of other performers. So we thank you all sincerely for your support in 2009, and look forward to an even better 2010. It's starting off with a bang (see the calendar page). Greg, Vickie and Dave

Aah, New York in the Summer!

We just got back from our blitz tour of Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Connecticut and NYC. Falcon Ridge was a wondrous experience--those New Englanders like their summer, even if it behaves like winter in California--rained every day; the fields turned into three inches of slick brown muck; thunder and lightning, hail and brimstone, everything but locusts and plague . . .and everybody had a great time. We got caught in a sudden downpour (which turned Dave's unguarded sleeping bag into a water bed) while visiting a charming couple, Dave and Sue Bastien from New Hampshire, and their friends. No problem--they threw up sheets with clothespins to the sides of their cozy ten-by-ten canopy, and 8 or 9 of us huddled in their for three and a half hours waiting out the storm and swapping every song we knew, and several that we didn't. When we got back to our tent, there was an all-out hoedown going on in the food hall down the road, with as much whooping, stomping and hollering as I've ever heard at 1 in the morning. We went over to peek in just as it ended--I've never seen so many rosy-cheeked, happy, exhausted people trudging through mud before. The emerging artists showcase was fun--incredibly well organized backstage, house sound was apparently great, audience appreciative and warm, and sun shining. Even more fun was playing in Newtown CT at the Congregatoinal Church capably ministered by Vickie's brother Matt. Always cheerful and energetic, Matt and his wife Martha organized a publicity blitz, advance tickets, posters, newspaper articles, etc., etc. and the result was a whole bunch of enthusiastic folk music fans on a Sunday evening paying to let us have a great time. At the end, the audience stood up and cheered, and our ten-year-old son Cameron ran up on stage. I thought he was going to high five me, or tell me how great the show was--but it was hot and all he wanted was to steal my extra water bottle. Then on to New York City, the big apple with a little worm hole where they let folk music in. We played at a place called Googies on a sweltering muggy Monday night. The place notified us in advance that they wanted acts to bring at least 20 people, and we only knew of five who were coming. As Vickie and I were taking a cab cross town to get there, Dave called to say he and his brother had just had a fender bender, were waiting for the police, and might not get there. {Dave's our guitar player, and Ned was one of the five.) When we got there, the sound guy was AWOL. We only had a 50-minute set, with an act immediately following us, so we fidgetted as minutes ticked away. The stage was lit and hot, and even before we started, we were literally dripping. The sound guy finally showed up, and we started the first song five minutes late as a duo, looking hot, forlorn and worried. Then good things happened--in comes a crowd of locals, filling the room. In comes Dave after the second chorus and jumps on stage for the next song as if nothing had happened. Drinking and rowdy music appreciation ensue. A group of Ned's friends invite us around the corner to a beauty shop one of them runs, which happens to have a PA next to the shampoo chairs(!). They go get some pizza and wine, and we plug in and play a second set for a room packed with hairdressers and revellers. Aside from the challenge of picking guitar in a swivel chair with arms and a hair dryer hood, it was a nice reminder of the best thing about living in a vibrant city--the abundance of people willing to spontaneously gather and celebrate life, music and each other. Good trip all around.

We're going to Falcon Ridge!

We got the news recently that we're among the fortunate few that have been selected out of over 500 applicants for the prestigious Emerging Artist Showcase at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in upstate New York (www.falconridgefolk.com). We are thrilled to be selected, and thrilled that we have enough frequent flyer miles to get us, the kids and the instruments there. The festival is July 24-26th, and we are uber-fortunate that Vickie's brother Matt is the minister of a wonderful church in Newtown, Connecticut, where we will be doing a benefit concert on Sunday the 26th and visiting with their charming family. I will always think of Falcon Ridge as the place where we lost one of the great songwriters of our time, Dave Carter (http://www.daveandtracy.com), just as his career was going meteoric. I had the great fortune to meet Dave and Tracy Grammer at Kerrville a few summers before, when we both won the New Folk competition. Dave's life and their wonderful music have been an inspiration to us ever since, to work hard at our craft, aspire to the greater things he showed us were possible in music, and appreciate every day as the gift that it is. Greg and Vickie

Ready to Fly on Major Compilation

What a gorgeous spring day--birds singing everywhere, roses blooming, a warm breeze, cheerful little children springing out of their beds to skip to school. Wait a minute, that's not my life--I'm just happy because the AARP has chosen our song Ready to Fly to be on a major compilation album about growing older, featuring Natalie Merchant, Livingston Taylor and other singer-songwriters I admire. It's going to be used to raise funds for senior foster care, a concept that has been developed in New Hampshire and that the AARP intends to promote across the nation--elderly moving in with host families much like foster children do, but with more autonomy. I'm told they will be promoting it to hundreds of thousands of AARP members and on TV, radio, etc. If you are as old as I am, keep an eye out for it--you'll probably get an AARP discount to go with your $2.99 Grand Slam breakast! Speaking of Ready to Fly, we stumbled on a wonderful little blog entry from someone who saw us play the song at the Florence Winter Folk Festival in Oregon a couple months ago. It seems (immodest but) appropriate to put it here. I am very thankful that the muse visited me so generously with this song. "2009 Winter Folk Festival Pt.1 Every January my town celebrates Folk Music. I love Folk Music (which is why I use caps, where no caps should be) I LOVE FOLK MUSIC. I am not an authority, I do not know all Folk Music, but what I know I love. My mother and I made a day of it, okay really it was just half a day- but it counts. We started with lunch out, fish and chips at the Beachcomber (Lovejoys was closed (bummer.) And then it was onto the Florence Events Center for folk arts, folk crafts, and great Folk Music. I make sure I take in this festival every year for two reasons, yes as I said the great Folk Music, but also for birthday shopping. I usually find the best little birthday presents there. But not this year, the kewl things I found, I had found in 2006. So no neat birthday presents from there for this year. But, the music wow. Mom and I wandered the booths peaking and seeing, and the entire time I could hear great music coming from the theatre speakers, I was anxious to get inside and listen. After deciding which booths we needed to hit after the music we went inside to hear Calaveras. Sadly we were too late to get more than three songs, but oh were they worth it. The second to the last song of their set took me totally by surprise. In truth I can't remember what came before or after in their set for the second to the last song was simply amazing. The song was about relationships that are parted by the conclusion of life on this plane and the sweet belief we shall be reunited on another. In a clear voice she (Victoria Blythe) began singing: "I am standing on the edge of the water And I am watching the wild birds fill the sky And I am longing to be lifted up among themI am not dying I'm getting ready to fly." Chills swept up my back, goose bumps raised with the hair on my arms, my heart swelled, and my tears flooded quietly over the brim. In the dark theatre tears silent ran down my cheeks before my fingers could wipe them all away. The clear notes of their voices raised up to the rafters and I thought my mom would shake her head when she found out I was crying. But as the song finished I turned to her and said, "That is what I love about Folk Music it grabs you by the heart and answers something in your soul." It was with those words I saw my mom (I think for the first time in my life) crying. She looked at me, as she wiped away her own tears, and in a voice choking on tears she said, “I could just see your dad, free flying with the birds just as he loved.†I am pretty certain the song haunted her well into the night. Sadly I could find recordings of the song, but no video to share with you. Visit Calaveras on their MySpace webpage, Ready to Fly is the second song on their playlist. http://www.calaverassongs.com/music-2.html Sith, Cele"

National Release of Green Girl

Over the next several weeks, Powderfinger Productions will be promoting our latest album, Green Girl, on Americana radio programs across the nation. Our house is cluttered with stacks of CDs, press materials, and cute little green picks featuring the wood sprite (aka Green Girl) from our album cover. In a week they, along with our musical fate, will all be in the hands of hundreds of Americana DJs. This will be our first national CD release, and coincides with our mini-tour of Southern California the second week of June. We are also expanding our performance calendar across the Bay Area, with gigs coming up in Marin (Sleeping Lady in Fairfax, May 23), the South Bay (4th of July at Lake Vasona in Los Gatos and the Fiddling Cricket series at Mission Coffee with Michael McNevin in August) and the East Bay (a split bill with Big Wide Grin at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, date TBD). Watch our calendar for more details. We had one of our best shows earlier this month playing at the Acoustic Vortex house concert in Marin--a great venue with a fantastic crowd, thanks to the hospitality and hard work of Bruce Victor and his merrry band of acoustic music promoters. We also caught a great show last weekend at Caren Armstrong's songwriter series at Left Coast Cyclery in Berkeley with John Haley Walker and Michael McNevin. No offense to the performers, who were wonderful as usual, but the most important thing about the show for us is that for the first time in 13 years, we were able to leave our ever-maturing kids at home without a sitter, marking the long-awaited chance to look in the paper on Thursday and actually go hear some music on Friday--life continues to offer up little rewards for its survivors.

Sarah Palin sings!

In the midst of the worst financial news in our lifetime, nasty politics and descent into winter weather, a few good things: It turns out that Sarah Palin is a godsend to comedy writers. She's a former beauty queen who hunts moose, named her sons Track and Trig, and thinks being within five hundred miles of Siberia is a qualification to be President, for God's sake (and she means that literally). Writing a political novelty song has never been easier, and we've got one--Sarah Palin's Form Letter. We've recorded and videotaped it with the help of Jim McVay and John Jacob behind the controls, my son Austin as her son Track, and Vickie as the cutest lumberjack you ever saw. We'll be releasing it on YouTube, MySpace and points beyond in the next week, and debuting the song at the SF Folk Club's Hootenanny for Obama (see our calendar for details). We've also learned recently that we've been selected for the premiere showcase at the FARWest folk alliance conference this month, and for the Florence Oregon Winter Folk Festival in January. I'm feeling better already . . .

Wonderful Week

We've had quite the two week stretch as a band. A week ago Saturday, we played for an hour on KALW in San Francisco, with JoAnn Mar interviewing us and the irrepressible Richard Rice between songs about the SF Folk Festival. As the KALW poster-children for the festival, we got some wonderful publicity and a chance to connect with the Bay Area's loyal folkies before the event. As a result, we ran into people over and over again at the festival telling us they heard us on the radio and made a point of coming to our show and buying our CDs. Hooray for Marconi! The next day, we had our CD release concert and fundraiser for South African AIDS prevention at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. The church cleared over $6,300 for the cause and we and they were elated. We also sold a big pile of our new CDs, and had a great time playing to a terrific audience. Thanks again to John Jacob and Mark, the church's sound guy, for taming the big, bouncy sanctuary, to minister Pat de Jong for inviting us, Sam Bevan for adding his hot bass licks to everything, and to everyone who bought those tickets! The festival gig was at the end of a harrowing day--a 10 AM bat mitzvah for our dear friends the Hirsch's, a 12 noon luncheon at our house for a university women's club, a 4:00 wedding in the Oakland hills at which we played the processional, and a 5:40 show at the SF Folk Festival (just Greg and Vickie, with Dave on vacation). 'That made it all the more gratifying to meet so many people who said they really enjoyed our music. So now, after a little lunchtime outdoor gig at Redwood City tomorrow, it's on to the Kate Wolf Festival this weekend to hang out with the kids, do some campfire singing and let some other musicians do the hard work on stage. Hope to see you there! Greg and Vickie

Green Girl Almost Alive

It's been a long, hard winter--but as the earth spirits turn the hills a brilliant green, our third album, "Green Girl" is finally quickening as well. John Jacob has spent countless hours gathering top notch musicians (e.g., Tim Ellis--guitar, Sam Bevan--bass, Jim Norris--drums, Pete Grant--pedal steel, national guitar and dobro, and Joe Craven--nearly everything else, just for starters) coaxing good performances out of us and putting together exceptional acoustic mixes. He captured our voices with a microphone that he says can record a jet engine at close range with nearly zero distortion and Vickie's voice sounds as clear, warm and mature as it ever has (but Greg overloaded it once--go figure). We've put a couple samples on the site in their pre-mix, very-close-to-final versions--check out Green Girl, Peace of My Love and Bad Dog. We're excited and exhausted, and hope to have the album on the street in a few weeks.

Progress

There is always this little wall of resistance that builds up just as I sit down to write about the band. I wonder--how many little details of our personal quest can we inflict on others before they conclude we are massive egotists who find our own petty accomplishments the most fascinating thing in life? I don't know really, but it'll be fun to find out. Today's update is about the Southwest Folk Alliance and our studio project. We spent a great weekend in Austin last month getting to know a lot of terrific people, including Dalis, the coordinator of the event, Mad Agnes, a cool liittle folk band from Connecticut, Gypsy Heart, a duo with a phenomenal bailalaika player, Jon Vesner, Cathy Mattea's husband and a terrific songwriter, and a bunch of nice Texans with nice things to say about our music. The farther south I get, the less I can tell when people are just being southern ladies and gentlemen and when they mean what they say, but being from the hard-knock world of Oakland, I'll take nice whether it is sincere or not. We got several invitaitons to return and play, which we hope to turn into a mini-tour in a year or two. We got home and within a week started our next CD project. We've been at it hot and heavy (when we aren't working, eating or sleeping) ever since. Our producer John Jacob lined up some wonderful musicians, and we are (swear to God) enjoying the experience, which can often be pretty stressful. Sam Bevin has reinvented all of our bass parts--he's as comfortable with a fretless electric as a stand-up, and creates melodic bits of brilliance where we would just thump the one and five. He also livens up the control room by bringing his eleven-month old daughter Penelope to hang out and try to eat patch cords. Jim the drummer was like a ZEN master, the most mellow drummer we've ever encountered, and completely at home in every genre we tried. And Tim Ellis came down from Portland to give us a sparkling high guitar counterpoint to a lot of our rhythm and lead guitar work, and to rip a few solos. All three of them were fun to work with, professional, incredibly talented and without any visible sign of arrogance, which we know is not the norm. Oh yeah, and the music is just laying us on the floor. If I can figure out how, I will put a few rough cuts on the site as we go along--we love 'em.. So we have the rhythm section and lead done on 14 songs, and will be adding some color (harmonica, pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin, maybe a concertina) and then heading into vocal work(hopefully before the cold and flu season claims any of our throats). We'll then decide whether a song or two ends up on the cutting room floor, fight over cover design, liner notes, etc. and with a little luck, we should be wrapping up the project in late November. Our next big adventure is in Portland at the beginning of November, the Far West Folk Alliance Conference. We'll be sharing a guerrilla showcase room with a band called TinCat. These things tend to go all night, so we'll be flying up Friday late, sleepless in Portland til Sunday and back at work Monday. I don't think musicians abuse booze and drugs that much, they just look that way after three or four days without sleep. We hope to see you in Portland or after the holidays, when we plan to have several CD release parties. Invitiations to follow. Greg, Vickie and Dave

We've Been Selected for the Southwest Folk Alliance Showcase!

A little luck never hurts. The Folk Alliance organization puts on big regional conventions, and the centerpiece is their talent showcases, where a few performers are spotlighted in the main ballroom, prime time on Friday and Saturday night. Last month, we were registering for the Far West Folk Alliance Conference in Portland Oregon this November, and noticed that while their showcase slots were already full, the Southwest conference in Austin this October was still accepting applications. We sent in our application and never heard back. Today we happened to check their website to see who was going to be featured, and low and behold, there we were, booked for Saturday night. What we've realized over the years is that the folks at the venues who book bands are busy, and have access to lots and lots of bands. They aren't particularly concerned about any one band, cause there are a hundred more lined up to take their place. So if a band isn't looking out for itself, nobody else will. In this case, all's well that ends well. . . we're in, we found out about it in time to book a flight, and we're thrilled to be selected. Hope to see you in Austin!

Calaveras Plays West Coast Live

Sometimes you work for years to get a good booking, and sometimes good things happen just out of the blue (after years of working to get good bookings). We played a concert at Lake Vasona in June to a nice local crowd of a couple hundred folks, and the next day we got an email from the producer of West Coast Live, a local, nationally syndicated radio program, saying he loved the concert and asking us to play on the show. We said sure, and all of a sudden, we're playing live next Saturday (Sept. 8), on scores of radio stations for thousands of people! We're thrilled to have the opportunity, and hope you will catch us locally on KALW 91.7 Greg, Victoria and Dave

Welcome!

Finally. It’s been 14 years of noisy coffee houses, noisier bars, stoned sound engineers, deep discussions, major interruptions, occasional flashes of brilliance, and a common dream that keeps fluttering in and out of our consciousness. And here we are, on the web at last. We hope you like the site, which we intend to update and improve regularly. The songs now displayed were mostly recorded in 1998 and 1999, and we’ve been doing a lot since, just not making recordings of it. But all that will change soon, as we are headed back into the studio with John Jacobs, a brilliantly talented engineer/producer, and hope to emerge by year end with a folk-oriented album of our best stuff of the past six or seven years. We have gained and lost a couple of fan bases over the years as we stepped into and out of, and into and out of, the spotlight. We are hoping to gain one again as we aim in earnest for a higher rung of whatever ladder this is that all of us musicians and writers and singers with day jobs are steadily climbing. Why now? A lot of things are pointing us in this direction. Our kids are old enough to hang out at shows and even sell CDs, our lives and those of dear friends have offered up plenty of raw material, and our set lists have been getting stronger year after year as we hack away at our lesser efforts with Darwinian ruthlessness. Recently, the world seems to be giving us a nudge to give it a shot--in the past three months, we’ve had one after another incident (the urging on of fans, gigs offered to us we used to only dream of, and the enthusiastic kindness of strangers at our shows) that suggest it’s a good time to once again cast our bread on the water. Thanks for visiting--we hope we’ll see you at a show or two down the road. Greg, Victoria and Dave

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