Just got back from the Chippewa Valley Ragtime Festival in Eau Claire, WI. The flannel sheets on my bed have never nestled me quite as sweetly as they do now, typing this, but I had a great time.
Ragtime festivals are more like family reunions than anything else. You’ve got your crazy uncles, your awkward cousins, your sweet grandparents, and your playful nephews. There’s food. A festive atmosphere. A preponderance of alcohol (especially when I’m in attendance). This corner of the musical world is so small and intimate, it’s hard to get lost in the woodwork, especially when we all gather in one place.
They are inclusive, wonderful, and affirming events. That said, I always feel like I’ve wandered onto the set of the sequel to Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind – the cast of characters that attend these events, myself included, is literally worthy of a screenplay – but I mean, think about it: What kind of people travel a thousand miles to celebrate and enjoy a music that is so dead you can’t even find a book about it in Barnes and Noble? My people, that’s who.
My friend Danny described ragtime festivals thus: “It’s like an extended family you don’t have to love.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I arrived in Eau Claire late Thursday morning and was immediately shuttled, along with fellow performer Bill Edwards, to the first of what would end up being three performances at area elementary schools. The performance, at Meadowview Elementary, was for over 400 kids, grades K-5. I’ve never performed for that many kids at one time. It was insane. They were great sports, though, and erupted into spontaneous (with excellent rhythm) clapping along with the songs I played. It was good practice for the upcoming Artist-in-Residency.
The festival part started on Friday night with a concert, and kept up through Sunday morning. I was one of three featured performers, and together we put on three concerts.
I had a terrific time, and aside from a few weird song choices (selections from “The Muppet Movie” for senior citizens, for example… my bad) I think I did a pretty good job. It was a privilege to share the stage with the other performers, and people seemed pretty pleased with how the whole thing went.
What a privilege it is to get paid to do the thing that I love more than anything else. Man. Life is good.