A good day for our first Pickin’ in the Park of the year, cool and fairly dry. Chris and I arrive at the park about 1:15pm and sat down and ate the sandwiches we had brought while the featured performer, Ron Short, was setting up on stage and doing a sound check. After we were done we went and changed out of our church clothes, then unpacked our own instruments and put them on stage.
Nina Ketron, the organizer, arrived shortly before the 2pm start time. We let her know we were there, and she said she might want to have us start, then bring Ron Short afterwards. We didn’t hear her final decision until the end of her welcoming statement, when she suddenly introduced us from the audience. So we scrambled up on stage.
We didn’t waste much time; the microphones were set just fine for Chris, and I made do. The crowd was as big as we’ve seen there, and very responsive. The first two songs, “I’ve Endured” and “Going to the West”, went over pretty well. I could also see Ron Short standing in the wings, but I couldn’t tell if he was listening or just waiting his turn. At the end of the second song, Nina signalled for us to do one last song, which surprised us a bit, but we jumped ahead to “Going Down to Tampa”, which felt great and went over really well. There’s always a silver lining—the resulting three-song set was even stronger than the five-song set we had planned, and we get points for being ready to play at a moment’s notice … and ready to wrap up at a moment’s notice.
Ron Short is a very talented guy—songwriter, actor, multi-instrumentalist, storyteller—and a performer who could teach us a lot about stage presence. It’s not the sort of stuff we usually listen to, but we couldn’t help but be drawn in. He played for about 45 minutes, and the second hour was devoted to folks who had shown up for their own turn to play; the music isn’t always great, but it’s a relaxed and down-home time, always fascinating and enjoyable to watch.
The program is supposed to end with an all-performer jam onstage, but during the second hour I had watched most of the performers wander off, so I figured it would end with a perfunctory couple of songs. As the last performer was wrapping up, Ron Short came up to us and told us that he had enjoyed our set, and we chatted a bit. He gave us the best compliment we’ve gotten in quite awhile: “I can tell that you boys have been working at this.”
Then it was time for the jam session, which Ron took charge of, and it was surprisingly good, lasting half an hour and keeping a good portion of the audience around. The songs were nearly all old-time tunes, and Chris enjoyed getting to trade a number of breaks with Ron on fiddle.
As we were packing up, Ron came over and asked us if we had some sort of card. We don’t, but I wrote down my name and phone number on the back of our setlist. He said that he had a friend who was organizing a festival in eastern Kentucky, and that he thought we would do well for him as an act. Wow. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but he was serious, and it’s quite satisfying just to know that he liked us enough to recommend us to his friend.
And, yes, I’ll be getting some cards made pronto.