FLORIDA TOUR - Feb 1 - 5

Wow, what a great trip! And to think I almost didn't go. I only had one concert date at Gloria Holloway's Tampa UU Dome Concert Series, and 3 weeks to book something to go with it. Mucho thanks to Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsun for allowing me the honor of opening for them at two great house concerts, and to Jack Levine for landing me a gig in an Irish pub in Tampa. The drive down to Tampa was late and long, but I made it to Gloria's apartment by 2am Thursday morning, where she graciously received me as her guest. After a good night's rest, we spent much of Thursday chatting about everything under the sun, in between the myriad of folk music business phone calls Gloria received. She is one hard working advocate for us folkies, so patient and dedicated to everyone she talks to. The first gig was Thusday night at Lu & Ray Winberg's in Sarasota. I managed to arrive just as they were sitting down to dinner - what timing! Delicious lasagna with salad and tempting desserts was layed out buffet style. Lu, Ray, Steve & Cindy and I sat down and had our meal with the windows open enjoying a perfect breeze and watching the heron and egret prancing about in their swampy backyard. I missed the alligator that had been there earlier. I thought of my mother, and how she would love to live in such a breathtakingly gorgeous home, but would never go for alligators in her backyard. Lu commented that Steve always knows the exactly perfect diplomatic thing to say in any given situation and I would have to agree. He replied, Naah! And of course that was the perfect diplomatic thing to say. It was a sold out show and I played my opening set to a warm audience. Steve & Cindy followed and it's the first time I've had the pleasure of hearing their full show. They are truly perfect, with beautiful songs, harmonies and comfortable and humorous stage banter. Steve & Cindy are both excellent musicians and I especially loved Cindy's tasty and skillful concertina playing. I drove back that night to Gloria's because we had to get up early and go the WMNF for a radio show at 8am. Cam McWilliams of the Live Music Showcase was very nice and made me feel welcome. He interviewed me briefly and I played a few songs. Then Gloria and I went back to her apartment where I was able to catnap all day -- something I haven't done in years -- occasionally waking to the sound of the thundering monsoon outside. I kept thinking Oh my God, it's still pouring as hard as it can pour. This went on for many hours. Turns out it was the fourth most rain ever received in Tampa/St. Petersburg area in all recorded history, as much or more than brought by hurricanes! We weren't sure we would make it to Four Green Fields Irish Pub since the news reports were all about the floods all over town. But we got there just fine, and it was packed to the rafters. I met the owner, Colin, and he said it was a slow night due to the rain. I said I didn't think they could fit many more people in there, and he assured me they could. Well, more came later and it was quite a night. They were obviously there to unwind from a busy week and not really to listen to music, so I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to hear amid all the loud talking and laughing. I played bar scene in Lincoln, Nebraska for years, but it's a world I left long ago for the concert circuit since I am quite mellow and I couldn't take the whole noisy smoky atmosphere anymore. But suprisingly, the night went much better that I'd expected, as people listened intermittently and I had my monitor turned up so I could hear just barely okay. Right when I started I decided to just roll with it and I kept smiling (except through the sad songs) and actually really enjoyed it. Folks came up and asked for the birthday song and I led the bar in Happy Birthday to Dougie Fresh, I think his name was. I played only cover tunes, mostly obscure songs but some people recognized them and sang along. I sold a bunch of cds and made some new friends. They paid me well, and I was very uplifted and humbled by the whole deja vu experience. Saturday it was off to Ormond Beach, to Chuck & Pat Spano's for another house concert opening once again for Steve & Cindy. I had lots of time to chat with Chuck and especially Pat. We shared stories about our kids and bonded only as moms can do. As soon as Chuck found out I was opening he had bought all my cds available online and was playing them nonstop while I was there, which was really sweet and made me feel genuinely welcome, to say the least. The show was also sold out in a packed living room. Most house concerts don't use a sound system, but Chuck has a state-of-the-art fabulous sound system, and he knew exactly how to make the best of it, including recording and filming the show. The audience was perfect and Steve and Cindy once again put on a stellar show. Steve and Cindy had to take off right away afterwards to head back to Vermont, just as I had to take off right after the show in Sarasota. I sure wish we could have hung out a little more. They are lots of fun and both very interesting to talk with. After nearly everyone headed for home, Pat & Chuck and Tom Shed and his wife Aimee and I hung out for a while. Tom and I had a little song swap. He's a wonderful writer/guitar player/singer who had lots of interesting stories. I spent a restful night at Chuck & Pat's, then headed back to Tampa to play my concert at the UU Dome. The clouds had cleared a bit and the rain had finally subsided. I had a nice crowd of folks to play for and it just went perfectly well, always a blessing in this business. Jack Levine brought his entire family to the show and then took us all out to dinner after the show at a great Vietnamese Restaurant in Tampa. Gloria and her friend Craig came along too, and I got to meet Gloria's six-year-old granddaughter Mattie, who is just delightful and adorable. I tried to teach her how to use chopsticks and she made a good effort at it. After the dinner I headed for home and made it all the way through Atlanta, mostly because I had a long conversation with my dear husband Charlie via cell phone, and he kept me awake until I got my hotel room at 2am. I really wanted to make it through Atlanta during the late night hours, because it is arguably the worst traffic city in the U.S. Stayed in a nice hotel and made it home by 5pm on Monday, just in time to get ready for my rehearsal with my new all woman band, THE BROWNIES, named for our only venue so far, famous Brown's Diner in Nashville. The Brownies consists of me, Gretchen Cline and Susie Monick. Gretchen sings beautifully, writes great songs and plays the fiddle. Susie plays concertina, banjo and mandolin and is a fine songwriter. We've had two rehearsals and are very green as of yet but have high hopes for our sound someday. Well, I'm off to get ready to go to Folk Alliance in Austin. I leave tomorrow. I'm sure I'll have plenty to report. Til then, take care. -Laurie

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