For years I've attended the SouthWest Regional Folk Alliance conference as a listener, going for the showcases late at night. It's the best folk/americana music show you're ever likely to see under one roof (except maybe the national event). The general idea is that venues find new talent and musicians get exposure and see what other artists are doing.
This year I registered as a performing artist and attended the whole conference. What a blast! I'll just mention some highlights here.
Things got started on Wednesday night with an open mic at Threadgills north with a crowd of probably 150. My name got drawn out of the hat and I played Wind River, one of my older songs but that I now play differently with more swing. I noticed my knees shaking but I nailed it and had quite a few compliments later. One from Doug Sill who I'll mention later.
On thursday in the SONGcraft seminar I sat next to Aaron Smith (2016 new folk finalist) and we met & got to talking and he said he liked my song the best of the 30 or so played on Wednesday night! Very surprised to hear that. Funny since I liked his the best!
In the line for dinner I really enjoyed meeting Doug Sill, a professional Nashville writer with 2000 songs including many covered by famous artists, and his partner Lynn Langham. In the open mic my name got drawn again and I played Let Me Go, which wasn't perfect but ok.
At some point I got talking to George Ensle; I've met him before but never gotten a change to talk. He's really a nice guy. He also liked Wind River and invited me to come play at his Strangebrew show on sunday afternoon.
That night the alternate official showcase featured Byrd and Street, which I really enjoyed. I'm starting in the studio with Tommy Byrd on Wednesday.
On Friday afternoon I played the first timer showcase which was 2 songs (Bed of Coals and Who Would You Be Like). It went fine though later I was told I seemed shy. Not surprising. I do need to practice performing.
Saturday was a blur of good clinics and meeting interesting people including a session on recording preparation and one on vocal harmony. Late Saturday night I played two longer showcases in a row, at 1:00 am and 1:30 am. The first one went pretty well until the last song, when I had a train wreck and it was the wrong song choice anyway. All these people were coming in for the next artist when I screwed up, so they only heard the mistakes. Oh well, live and learn. Then I went downstairs to the other showcase and played a good solid show. The host Dave Dersham said later that I "significantly exceeded expectations" based on the demos on my web site. Glad about that.
The sunday show at Strangebrew was really a blast. I was confident and played my two songs well. The sound on stage is so good and it makes it so much easier to play. Beth Galliger added beautiful flute to Church of the Blue Dome. George sounded excellent and his other guests were all great too, include Nancy Beaudette, Doug Sill, & Lynn Langham. George called my Wind River a masterpiece.
At such conferences you see many players/singers/writers that are better than you and it is intimidating but I'm learning not to compare myself to anyone, just do what I do the best I can.
I was blown away by the level of community at this conference. There was really a sense of support and common purpose that is so wonderful.