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Stephen Lee Rich: What Just Happened?

Gigs and Discs - November 23, 2012

There are lots of things to tell, lots of things to relate, and much to be said and done.

The big news, of course, is the release of my new, six-song EP, "Free Range Sofas". The official release date is Thursday November 29th. But, you can get a copy now (or download it) at .

On the official release date (Nov. 29th) I'll be doing a CD Release show at Froth House, 11 N. Allen St. in Madison, WI. Showtime is 7:00pm (CST) and there will be no cover charge. i'd love to see you there if you're in or near town.

On Saturday Dec. 8th I'll be part of WDCB's annual Holiday Hoot! WDCB is the public rdaio station in Glen Ellyn, IL. It's run out of the College of DuPage.  The hoot will feature an amazing array of talent.

Andina & Rich
Bruce Foster
Andy Andrick
Jenny & Robin Bienemann
Bittersweet Christmas Band
Andrea Bustin
Kristin Cotts
Amy Dixon-Kolar
Gilmary Doyle-Andrews
Sue Fink
Robinlee Garber
Guyz with Bad Eyez
David Hawkins
Steve Justman
Dean Milano
Larry Rand

Sandy and I will be doing a couple of songs early on, and I'll show up, later in the show as The Lizard to do the Holiday poem "Merry Humbug".

  The "Holiday Hoot" is a wonderful annual event featuring continuous live music performances by outstanding folk artists, complimentary holiday treats and refreshments, door prizes, children's area with a costumed "Mrs. Claus" and drawing/coloring table, artist CD sales, displays, and more!

Thanks to event and show sponsors:
Wicked Good Cafe
Old Town School of Folk Music
Tobias Music
Studio A Sound and Recording

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities and group discounts, contact coordinator Lilli Kuzma at

The Holiday Hoot is a production of the Folk Festival Radio Show on 90.9fm WDCB - Listener Supported Public Radio! Proceeds benefit WDCB Public Radio.

Please Note:
SSC 1200 is accessible by an elevator if needed!

It all happens at Saturday, December 8, 2012
1 to 6 p.m.
College of DuPage
Student Services Center (SSC) - Room #1200
425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

$12 at door/$10 with advance purchase online at
Free for children under 12 with parent


Back to the Studio! - March 8, 2012

Here’s what’s up in a rather large nutshell!

Sandy Andina and I have gone back into the studio to make TWO new CD’s. One will be an EP to be released this year in time for the Holidays and will be about the Holidays. We’re calling it “Merry Humbug”! it will feature Sandy’s wonderfully original Holiday song “Season Of Hope”, my satirical tirade on Holiday Commercialism “Buddy, I’m Just Sick To Death Of Christmas “ , and much more. The title track is a recitation from The Lizard. The other 14 song Andina and Rich CD doesn’t have a working title yet, but is scheduled for release early in 2013.

Sandy has written a whole bunch of wonderful, new songs which just don’t quite fit into the Andina and Rich mold. So she’s hard at work on her second solo project. She plans to call the disc “Candy Apple Red Herring”.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten started on a couple of solo projects of my own. The full, 14 song CD, scheduled to be release in the summer of 2013, is being recorded under the working title “Reality Checks Shouldn’t Bounce”. I’m also working on a 6 song EP for release in the fall. My current working title for that one is “Free Range Sofas”. But, that could change at any time.

Don’t get the wrong idea here. Andina and Rich is still a going concern. We will still have a pretty full touring schedule. However, Sandy will be undergoing knee surgery early in June. She will be out of commission until, at least, the end of July. I have done very little solo work in the last ten years and, to be honest, I’ve missed it. So, I’m taking Sandy’s convalescence as an opportunity fill that little void.

All of the tour dates for my solo act and for Andina and Rich are on my calendar page. Check them out. We may be coming to a venue near you.

More later.
Be well.

Finally! A Vacation! - October 19, 2009

I’ve been meaning to blog on this vacation for quite a while. I’ve been to busy enjoying it to do anything about it until now. I just woke up ( for no reason that I can figure) at about 4:00am (EDT) and couldn’t get back to sleep. Blogging seemed like something vaguely useful to do. I’m sitting at my laptop with the headphones on listening to WPR’s broadcast of the BBC World Service. I’m realizing how little news I’ve listened to since this trip began. I don’t feel to bad about it. Ingrid and I haven’t had a vacation together in roughly three years.

We got something of a late start last Thursday. It took us longer to get packed than we had anticipated. We got on the road just before 5:00pm (CDT). We decide that, even with the late start, we weren’t going to rush. We would arrive when we arrived and no sooner.
Destination? St. Joseph, Michigan. Why? Ingrid grew to her teens there and hasn’t been back in forty years. We found that many things had changed, but many others had not.
We discovered the difference between the two in our explorations on Friday and Saturday. Ingrid’s old house is still standing, although it has undergone much renovation. It is a small, two story, very blockish sort of house. The kind that most real estate agents would sell to a young married couple as a “starter” house. When Ingrid lived there it was decidedly a “fixer-upper”. That particular part of town; the housing between the train tracks and Lake Michigan, forty years ago, was considered the poor side of town. That is no longer the case. Somewhere along the line, somebody finally figured out that that was lake-front property and the value shot through the roof, as it were. Gentrification has possessed the neighborhood. There has been a lot of restoration and even some new construction there. The house which used to be just south of Ingrid’s, for example, has been torn down and replaced with a McMansion .
The downtown area is thriving and vibrant with many diverse shops both new and old. Of the former variety is a small bead shop from which Ingrid has been ordering material for her art and jewelry projects. It took some doing to get her out of there to move on to other shops. Of the latter variety, across the street from the bead shop, is an old style five and dime store which Ingrid remembered from her childhood. The young lady working at the counter told us that her grandmother had worked there as a teenager. At the south end of the downtown strip is a small music store. It’s accent is on band instruments. The walls are covered with trumpets, trombones, and the like. There is a small display of stringed instruments; cheap, acoustic guitars, one or two violins, and a fire-engine red ukulele. In the counter display I found something for which I have been searching for years -- a steel slide whistle. The only ones available in most places are the crummy, little, plastic ones. I couldn’t pass it up.
At the north end of the downtown strip in a huge, old, very official looking building which currently houses the St. Joseph Tourist Information Office. The structure was built in 1932 to house a bank. It is startling to imagine that someone had the moxie to establish a bank at the depth of the last Great Depression. The interior has been fully restored. The marble counters and teller-window cages are in tact. Ditto for the original vault doors (although, the vaults are now used to store tourist brochures).

The most jangling change, according to Ingrid, is that St. Joe has become a very arts-friendly city. There many outdoor sculptures , and more galleries per block than many, much larger cities.

We ended our stay in St. Joe watching (and photographing) the sunset over Lake Michigan. Having grown up in Chicago I have seen many sunrises over the lake. One must admit that most of them were seen as an adult, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, after closing some four o’clock bar (they’re open until five on Friday and Saturday nights). Thus, my appreciation of said events were experienced through something of a haze. That having been said, this particular sunset was very different from anything which I have ever seen.
Though the sky was cloudy, they were the sort of puffy, cumulous clouds one associates with a warm, summer evening ( the temperature was in the forties). They formed a great, gauze screen through which bit of sunlight shown , causing the horizon to colorfully glow with the promise of a better tomorrow.

Sunday morning we moved north to Ludington, Michigan. I’ll write more about that part of the trip soon. BTW, new photos from this trip are posted in the photo gallery.

What A Summer! - September 3, 2009

It has been an incredible summer! I started by producing a one day music festival at Mill Bluff State Park in central Wisconsin. Then things got busy.
Most of the summer has been spent on the road with my frequent musical partner Sandy Andina. The high points were going to Clarkson, KY to kick off a new concert series at Royal Farms and ATV Trails, and going to Sparta, IL to start recording the next Andina and Rich CD.


Royal Farms and ATV Trails are 550 acres located just east of Clarkson, KY. Most of the land is used to raise horses. The rest (obviously) is used as ATV trails. People come from all over the country to run their rigs on these trails. The concert series is produced and booked by Sandy hardin who, on stage, is known as Th River Red. She runs an outfit called RedStarr Entertainment Co. She put on only two concerts this year. But, come next june there will be Twice monthly shows at Royal Farms. Sandy told that they’re rehabing one of the barns to turn it into an indoor concert venue so that the series can run year round.


Last month Sandy Andina and I spent the three most productive day we have ever spent recording at Inside-Out Studio in Sparta, IL. It’s run by a fellow named gary Gordon who is an absolute wizard of a studio tech. He also knows how to create a perfect working atmosphere. Sandy and I went down there in the middle of last month for three days. We expected that, at best we would be able to lay down the raw tracks for abot five songs. We laid down the raw tracks for NINE! We left there on August 14th. Since then, Gary has almost finished the nine songs that we recorded. He’s added bass, fiddle, and a few other elements and they sound wonderful. We’re going back down to record the remaining five song we need for the CD on Sept.15th. When it’s all done we’ll post a couple of the songs as a preview of the new CD. BTW, the working title for the new project is “Two Guitars, A Dulcimer and an Attitude”. The picture which inspired the title is posted on the photo page.


So far, 2009 has been the best year I’ve had in a long time. I hope that your year is doing just as well.

Be well.
Stephen Lee Rich

The Future! - January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

The Future is HERE! The Future is NOW!

It’s 2009! Welcome to the Future! I’m going to lay aside my usual Year-end review this year. There are too many important things that will change our lives (immediate and long range) to which we need to give attention.
I won’t belabor the obvious by saying too much about the Presidential Election. My general thought s on that can be found in the blog that I posted at the time. Just click below. What the incoming Obama Administration and the Democratic majority in congress will bring remains to be seen. The last eight years have left us an immense amount of cleaning up to do before we can even begin to move forward.
If you’re in my line of work, or just a music lover, there are radical changes which have been building up and a now coming to fruition. The two top-selling songs in America, “Bleeding Love” recorded by Leona Lewis and “Lollipop” recorded by Lil Wayne, did not achieve that status through CD sales. They are the first two songs in history to top the three million mark in sales in one calendar year through DOWNLOADS! The Future is here! The Future is NOW! While it’s true that both songs were produced for major record labels, it is also true that the bigwigs in the industry have yet to awaken to the full reality of the marketplace. That gives indie musicians a handy little window of time in which to make a mark.
This is the Age of the Indie! This is our time! Proof? Check out the Oscar for “Best Song” in 2008. It went to an Indie. It will be another three to five year before the huge corporate interests in the industry finally catch up to what the Indies already know and find ways to successfully close the doors to us. Don’t think that they can’t! Don’t think that they won’t! Their current organizational inertia and their denial of market realities are the only things that are stopping them now.
Those of us who already have the marketing tools in place need to work them harder than ever before. Aside from advancing your own career it will also help to maintain Indies as a viable economic force. It will help to keep the doors open when the corporate giants wake up to close them. There are many small download services who will take singles directly from you. You need not go through any other larger company to get to them. Most of them will take singles. So, you don’t even have to have a whole CD ready to start generating PR and income. This approach can work. A couple of friends of mine in Chicago, Alan Jay Sufrin and Miriam Brosseau who bill themselves as Stereo Sinai, are doing it. They only make CD’s on special order. They do the rest of their marketing as downloads. This is working for them. They now have music placed in two different films with matching videos on YouTube to get the word out.
I’m not saying that the CD is dead. It’s too soon for that. The CD is still a saleable item. It still has value as a promotional device. People who are middle-aged or older still prefer to have some kind of software in their hands. Ditto for festival and club bookers.
As a music fan you can make a difference as well. Seek out the Indie vendors now and then. Their prices are, for the most part, on par with the major download services and the selection is wildly more eclectic. That’s where you will find the real gems. That’s where you will find artists who are following a muse rather than a formula. That’s where you will find originality rather than imitation.
The Future is Here! The Future is NOW! USE IT!

May you have good health and good fortune in 2009.
Stephen Lee Rich

By Way Of Response - November 9, 2008

My last blog entry was also posted on my MySpace page. It gained the following response with which I must take issue.

“I don't hold out much hope. Obama was voted into office by people who put his skin color first and completely ignored his utter lack of experience and his (proven) evil past associations. These are not the actions of thinking people. As a Senator, Obama couldn't even get a security clearance because of those past associations.

As someone who served this country with pride, and as someone who's "been there, done that", I know what our enemies are capable of, and I know what we've been doing to battle those enemies.

Our enemies are closer than most people realize, and our enemies are gloating. As we used to say in the Navy, ‘stand by for heavy waves’.

The American Dream has nothing to do with entitlements, handouts or punishing hard work and success.”

First let me say that I have nothing but respect for those who serve or have served in the military. My father was in the Navy during the Second World War. My brother-in-law is retired from the Air Force and, in civilian life, works in the maintenance dept. of the local Air Force base. His youngest daughter serves in the local Air Force Reserve unit. I will always honor those who are or were part of our armed forces. You are to be applauded for having served. I save my venom for those amongst our political leaders who would put them in harm’s way capriciously.

That having been said, I take great offense at the idea that I would cast something as important and vital as a vote based on something as trivial and useless as political correctness. That offense is leavened by my mirth at the idea that a concept so inflexibly narrow could gain the kind of broad base of support which is needed to elect someone to the Presidency of the United States.

As for the so-called “past associations” I can only offer the following observations. You might want to keep these in mind at the next election.

By Stephen Lee Rich

Beware the man who offers a list of how much we must fear and boasts deliverance.

Beware the man who cries, “Hide under your beds and I will make your beds a safe shield!”

Beware the man who arrests angels from their flight then demonizes the fallen.

Beware the man who proclaims, “Those who do not know terror, who stand up to and face it are dangerous fools! I shall smite them down along with all those amongst the scribes and rabble who applaud them!”

Beware the man who brags that he can make fear know fear.

While it is true that there is much in the world of which to be afraid, we must ask ourselves this question.

Against whom do we need the greater defense,

The foreign terrorist who hates us for being us,

Or the man from our own home who is having breakfast in the bed under which he would have us hide?

As you have pointed out,” Our enemies are closer than most people realize”. I thank the Lord that the domestic ones, at least, are no longer gloating.

Be well.
Stephen Lee Rich

I'm Still Amazed! - November 6, 2008

We have done an amazing thing! I refer, of course, to the fact that the American voting public has elected Barak Obama to be the next President of the United States. I’m still absorbing the reality of this. I’m still doing a double take and asking, “What just happened?”
This is a significant and positive turning point in history. That goes without saying. What is less obvious is how infrequently one gets to witness such an event. I haven’t felt this stunned and euphoric about any single event since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon!
We can argue the comparative importance of that event until the cows come home and draw no conclusion. There is, however, an important lesson to be learned from that event.
What we proved, with the moon walk and last Tuesday’s election, is that we can set a goal and achieve it. This may also seem painfully obvious. But, in 1969 as now, there were many of us who were beginning to wonder if the light at the end of the tunnel hadn’t been snuffed out. Then as now, there were many of us who wondered if the American Dream wasn’t just some sort of cruel myth. Then as now, the Dream has been proven to be alive and well if we are willing to do the work needed to realize it.
As President-Elect Obama pointed out, there is much work yet to be done. We need to get to it ASAP. Remember that the price of freedom is vigilance. The price of progress is labor.

Be well.
Stephen Lee Rich

Open Mic Thoughts - July 31, 2008

I’ve been thinking very seriously, of late, about the future of the Open Mic at Escape Java Joint. It needs to change in some sort of substantive manner. I’m not certain what the nature of that change should be.

The Downsides (why change seems needed)

For a start, things have been absurdly slow in the last month and a half. One expects a certain level of that from about the middle of June through the return of the students in August, but this has been ridiculous. We’ve had, on average, two to five performers each night. That’s wretched. With a start time of eight o’clock that still leave us finishing up around nine thirty or so. Maybe things will pick up in the next couple of weeks, but I’m not so sure. We’ll see.

Secondly, now that they have started putting bands in the gallery on Saturdays, we are relegated to the lounge for most of the month. That seems to be wearing on people a bit. We’re in the Gallery only on the first Saturday of each month. Even at that I have to remind what few people are coming in what room we’re going to be using each week. Two weeks ago the venue was showing a political film in the gallery and had a band playing on the front patio. The open mic, having been sandwiched between them, actually had six performers and a room full of listeners that week. The whole place was such a madhouse, what with three events going on, that I’m not keen to repeat the experience again.

The third problem is that I’ve been doing this virtually non-stop for nearly five years now. In the music business that’s one hell of a long run. I’m fortunate that there have been a number of people who have been willing to help out and take over the open mic when I’ve been booked out of town. But, I haven’t really had what one could honsetly call time off in five years. As a result, I’m very close to burning out on the whole thing.

Possible Solutions

The first problem may just be a matter of cranking the Publicity Machine a little harder. On the other hand, it could be that folks are just getting tired of me. I could step away from it – only host once in a while and hope that the other hosts would step in to keep this ball in the air. I could also discontinue it. Angela Smith’s open mic at Café Zou-Zou is cast in much the same spirit as ours has been. Maybe it’s just time to pass the baton.

It just might be the fact that the darned thing happens on a Satuday night. I’ve never been happy with that. We can’t go back to Fridays. Escape holds its weekly art opening on Friday nights. We could move it to Thursdays. That, however would put us head to head with Jim Scwall’s Songwriter’s Night at Bab’s French Quarter which is just a few blocks away. Wednesdays would put us in direct competition with Mark Croft’s open mic. No matter which night we put it on we’ll be pushing against some kind of other event. Doing it on a weeknight, however, might help in getting some working performers in to play. Open Mics are great places to break in new material in a no-pressure situation. Maybe moving the night will help.

The last problem is more difficult to solve. I’m back to the passing of the baton idea. Maybe it’s time. Maybe some of the above mentioned changes will help to relieve the burnout factor. What has made this so much fun for me has been to watch people grow and change. There are people who got on stage for the first time with us and are now working entertainers. We’ve given the first local exposure to a number of people who had just moved to Madison and wanted to break into the local scene. We’ve even been written up in a mainstream, daily newspaper. Almost no open mic anywhere has had that happen to them. If they get written about at all it’s in the alternative weekly papers. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved with this event through five years and three venues (Speed Jump Java Joint, Urban Market, and Escape).

I have made no final decision yet. I’m open to suggestions. In fact I would love some help on this. Please, send me your thoughts by e-mailing me ( or just responding to this blog directly. All suggestions, ideas, and thoughts will be welcomed. As one might well imagine, my perspective is not all that it could be on this subject.

Be well.

Stephen Lee Rich

Independence Day - July 4, 2008

Here we are on July Fourth, 2008 setting off fireworks and taking a day off of work. Some will take the opportunity to take a small day-trip to somewhere. Some will touch base with family. Some will set up the barbecue grill and get some good food going. Some will work in their yards or gardens (my plan for the day). Some will just relax and zone out in front of the TV.

Whatever you decide to do with your day off, be safe and well, and remember why we celebrate this day. The United States of America, as we know it, exists because of the events of 4 July 1776 and the decade or so thereafter. It was an amazing and miraculous period of time in history (not just ours, but that of the world).

While a certain amount of reflection on that time is nice, we also need to look forward to see what we can do to live up to the legacy that has been left us and make a few miracles of our own.

Stephen Lee Rich

The Open Mic - April 17, 2007

The Open Mic at Escape Java Joint on the night of April 14th, 2007 was absolutely amazing. It was International Night. We had a visit from our old friend Doug Hamilton who was back in town for a few days after having moved to Bristol, England last January. There was also music from a young man from Leuven, Belgium who was visiting friends here in Madison, Wisconsin. He calls himself Milow and he is quite remarkable. He sings and plays the guitar very well. His original songs are not only good, but commercial as well (those two are not always the same thing). I’m always tickled when we get hot, new talent at the Open Mic. He has a website and a Myspace page. and
He has music posted ther. You’ll get a chance to hear the studio versions of what the open mic-ers heard unplugged.

The evening of the 14th had us packed to the rafters. We had thirteen performers and a roomful of people there just to listen. There was music from
Doug Hamilton
Marcy Dunagan (her first time on our stage)
Ingrid Frances Stark (poetry and pennywhistle)
Tom Zogrofi
Joe Crash
Kathleen Camilla King (one of our most reliable regulars)
James Rotch
Ken Jackson
Nancy Rost (one of our rotating hosts)
Johnny Darco
Dave Schindele (who, later this month, will make his debut as one of our rotating hosts)
Kid Fear

The best part is that everybody was loose and relaxed enough to sit in with with the other acts as back-up musicians. We always close the show with Bruce “U. Utah” Phillip’s tune “Hymn Song”. Everybody sang and half of the instrumental solos we from musicians who had not taken the stage for that number, but were still sitting in the audience. This kind of sharing and generosity of spirit is what an open mic is for. At least, that’s what our open mic was set up to be.

Yodeled Thoughts - October 23, 2006

Mark Foley

Whatever one may feel about Mr. Foley’s antics or the Republican leadership’s non-response to it, it must be remembered that had the Democrats been in power at the time, and had one of their own been caught doing such a thing, the situation would have been nearly identical. The Democratic leadership would have turned the same blind eye to the activity until it was too late. Then they would have done the same dithering semi-denials that we have seen from the Republicans so far. The only difference would have been that the left-leaning pundits would be functioning as apologists and calling for treatment and mercy instead of blood. This would, of course, guarantee that the issue would stay in the headlines until Election Day. Thus dooming the prospects of most of the Democratic candidates running. As it is, the right-leaning pundits, at the very least, have enough wit to keep their mouths shut in the hope that it will go away soon.

I saw a very strange bumper sticker today. It said,”Frodo Failed! Bush has the ring!”

This sort of thing has been said before, but it bears repetition.
The single most revolutionary or subversive act that one can commit is to create good art. That is to say art which forces the reader, listener, viewer, or whatever to reexamine some small portion of reality. From the reexamination come questions. From the questions can come the kind of answers that sew the seeds of subversion and revolution.
Note that I am not advocating any sort of shooting war, here. The kind of revolution which will have lasting impact and benefit will be a revolutin of thoughts and ideas. As long as we are willing and able to question and challenge conventional wisdoms and that which is said to be “common knowledge” we will be able to grow as individuals and as a society. It is possible that you may wind up agreeing with those coventional wisdoms. But, how will you know if you don’t question them first?

What A Night! - June 4, 2006

I started learning the skills of an M.C. back in the late 1970’s hosting a twice weekly showcase night at a comedy club in Chicago called Kobart’s Komedy Kove. Since then I have M.C.’d open mics, acoustic jams, and folk festivals. Since moving to Madison, WI, in late 1994, I have had no trouble finding regular work using those skills. Last night (3 June 2006), at Escape Java Joint and Gallery’s open mic was one of the most remarkable experiences I have had in thirty-some-odd years as an M.C.

The whole thing started as a way to sneak in an Andina and Rich gig at Escape. My frequent partner, Sandy Andina, and her other partner, Susan Urban, were booked this past Friday at Wild Hog in the Woods Coffeehouse, in Madison. They bill the act as S.A.S.S. (Susan and Sandy Sing). Both had agreed to stay overnight in Madison to so that Sandy could co-host the open mic at Escape with me. We billed it as “Andina and Rich with special guest Susan Urban”. I’ve spent a good deal of the last month trying, through e-mail, snail mail, and word of mouth, to get the word out about that particular night. The result was beyond my wildest expectations.

We had thirteen performers (a record for us) and a full house of listeners. The latter part of that may not sound like much until one considers that the usual “audience” for any open mic is just the performers themselves. The quality of the performers was also impressive. We had a number of our regulars such as percussionist Cristopher Fox, and singer/guitarist Joe Pitcher. We also had a few working professionals like Robby K, and Douglas Hamilton (the latter of whom is well known to listeners of the Dr. Demento Show for his song "Free Gas") who came in just to break in some new material. In addition to that Ron Dennis came by with his autoharp and Ben Doran (of the duo The Dustbunnies) brought in his hammered dulcimer.

Doug Hamilton had also brought in his upright bass and backed up Sandy and I for the finale’. We sang “You Can’t Do It All On Your Own” and closed, of course, with the Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips tune “Hymn Song”.

The final list was (not in any particular order)
Peter Kocher (his first time at ANY open mic)
Christopher Fox
Joe Pitcher
The Colonel and Friends
Ron Dennis
Douglas Hamilton
Anthony (a performance poet who actually PERFORMS)
Susan Urban
Just Duet
Charles (who was the host of one of the first open mics that I attended when I first came to town)
Ben Doran
Robby K

The point here is that last night the open mic finally achieved what I’ve been trying to build since I arrived in Madison. We achieved community; a sharing of the music which transcends any individual involved in it. No matter how one goes about defining the genre’, this is what Folk Music is all about. To the performers, thank you for sharing your talents with us. To the audience, thank you for taking the time to listen. It is the combination of the two which makes it all worth doing.

Do good. Be well.
Stephen Lee Rich

Escape Java Joint's Open Mic - April 9, 2006

What can you say about an open mic that, in its four year history, has presented, on any given night, a didgeridoo, two hammered dulcimers, a woman who plays Elvis and Buddy Holly tunes on a pennywhistle, comedy, poetry, has launched at least one songwriting career, has provided a place for countless other working professionals to break in new material, has introduced a couple to one another who are now married, and is hosted by a yodeling cowboy?
Well, we have a heck of a good time, for a start.
An open mic is proof that Vaudeville never completely died. It just mutated, adapted and survived one more time.
An open mic has a number of purposes. First and foremost, it's a place for people who want to be entertainers of one form or another to learn the craft of being on stage. It's also a place for people who have no proffessional aspirations, but who have lots of music or poetry or whatever inside of them, to share thier talents with others. It is, as previously mentioned, a way for working songwriters to break in new material in a non-pressure situation. It is a place for any given member of the general public to come in and get a look at the cross section of creativity that is available in thier community. Mostly, though, it's just good, honset fun! It's always surprising because it's never quite the same show twice in a row.
At Escape Java joint specifically we try to keep it diverse by using a roster of rotating hosts: Aaron Nathans, Bowen Marvik, Nancy Rost, Ron Dennis, and, most frequently, your Friendly, Neighborhood, Yodeling Cowboy.
We gear up at 8:00pm (CDT) on Saturday nights and keep going until we run out of acts or midnight, whichever comes first.
Escape Java Joint is at 916 Williamson St. In Madison, Wisconsin, USA. If you're in the area we'd love to have you join us.
Before I forget,
singer/songwriter Jesse Griest brought in the didgeridoo. Kris Kidd and Ben Doran are the two hammered dulcimer players who showed up on the same night. Kathleen Camilla King, a regular at every open mic in town, is the rock & roll pennywhistle player. Working pros who have come in to break in new material have included Bennett Cooke, Robby K, Alan Jay Sufrin, Miriam Brosseau, and Doug Hamilton. The career that we helped to launch was that of one of our rotating hosts, Nancy Rost.
And the couple that met and got married ? That was Ingrid Frances Stark and a certain well known yodeler. Open mics are always full of surprises.

Music as Community - December 4, 2005

I hate saying, “Goodbye”. For the past two years I have had the pleasure of running an open mic at a little place in Madison, Wisconsin called Urban Market and Coffeehouse. On Friday December 2nd, 2005, at the conclusion of the open mic, Urban Market closed its doors for the last time. We’ve tried to create an atmosphere in which people can comfortably perform, relax, and grow. We evidently succeeded. Aaron Nathans who edits the monthly newsletter of the Madison Songwriter’s Group called us “the most welcoming open mic in town”.

When word started getting around that we were losing our venue and why (the landlord wanted to tear down the building to put up condos) we were all quite pleased and somewhat amazed at the number of supportive e-mails and phone calls that we received. Many suggested new places to which we might relocate. The latter, more than anything, is why I am telling this story in the first place.

I found out that Urban Market was closing late last Wednesday night. The first
person that I told was Karen Darcy, the editor of the music listings in Madison’s alternative weekly newspaper the Isthmus, so that we could kill
the listing. She sent me back an e-mail telling me about a place called Escape Java Joint, the
owner's name, the phone number, and the suggestion that I tell the
owner that she sent me.
The second people I told were Sandy Andina, Amy Curl, and Ron Dennis,
all of whom were booked to work my annual Christmas show. We had
planned to stage it @ Urban Market and it was too late to find another
venue. Ron started spreading the word about the demise of Urban Market.
Darlene Buhler of the Madison Folklore Society suggested that Ron
should call Escape.
I called the place on Thursday afternoon and talked to the owner Duane
Erickson. Ron stopped in to talk to him on Friday afternoon. On Friday
night Ron came into the last open mic @ Urban Market full of good news
about a possible new venue. He had even made a mock-up for a flyer. That's when he found out that I had
already talked to the guy. I stopped in on Saturday afternoon to nail
down final details. The open mic will move to Saturday nights (Duane
already has asuccessful show going every Friday). We satrt up in the
new venue on January 7th, 2006. It would not have happened any where near that quickly had it not been for a number of people pulling together to MAKE something happen. That kind of communal effort is what this music is all about.

Performing 101 - November 27, 2005

One of the very few things that I know anything about in this world is performing. For whatever it's worth I submit the folowing blog entry. I'm going to make it the first of a series.

Performing 101

There are millions of people or schools offering lessons on how to play an instrument, dance, sing, write songs, or tell jokes. There are countless workshops, books, dvd’s, cd-rom’s, and, for all I know, statuarey and samplers designed to instruct people in the “performing arts”. There is little, however, designed to teach people how to perform; what to actually do when you get on stage to present any of those other things. This column will attempt to fill some small part of that void. While I do not claim to be the alpha and omega of all knowledge and wisdom in this area, I do claim, having been an entertainer for thirty-five years, to have learned a thing or two. We’ll spend more time with general principal rather than specific techniques. Not all techniques will work for everyone. Although I may draw from my own experiences and the experiences of people I have known to illustrate one principal or another, keep in mind that I do a yodeling cowboy act. The things that I do on stage are unlikely to work for, say, a heavy metal band or an Elvis impersonator. The only way to find out which specific moves will work for you is to try them. If a given trick dies horribly then you porbably don’t want to do that again. Most of the actual learning proccess happens by trial and error. One of the things that we want to do here is to identify and, one hopes, avoid some of the more common errors. Let’s start with the basics.

Performing is, first and foremost, a craft. I cannot emphasize this enough. It is an applied set of skills. Performers are as much craftspeople as carpenters, tailors, or photographers. I can hear the argument about that last one already. Not all photographs are art because not all photographers are artists. There is a huge gap between Ansel Adams and the annoying, intrusive jerk that your cousin Yolanda hired to take her wedding pictures. What the two have in common is that both are using the skills needed for the craft of photography. While the latter practitioner may, in fact, produce art, he or she is not an artist simply by having picked up a camera and taking pictures. Ansel Adams was able to achieve what he did through a good deal more than merely having an artist’s soul. He learned what he needed to know about his equipment, the use of light and shadow, and the reproduction of the images. That knowledge is what enabled him to communicate his artistic vision to the larger world.

Similarly, you are not automatically an artist simply by virtue of having strapped on a guitar to stand up in front of a room full of strangers to sing. You had to spend a lot of time to learn to play your guitar, keyboard, trombone, banjo, nose flute, or whatever before you could get anything out of it that sounded like music. You had to spend a lot of time to learn to, sing before it started to seem natural coming out of you rather than sounding like a half-baked impression of someone else. Convincing an audience to understand and enjoy what you’re doing takes a similar amount of work. It is a separate set of skills from actually making the tunes happen. Performance is all about communication.

Next: Allright. I’m on stage. Now What?

I, of course, invite comments, questions argument, and whatever else you've got in response to the above. Just click the link the "Contact SLR" link (above and to your right).

Be well.
Stephen Lee

The Wedding Story - October 20, 2005

On Saturday Oct.8th Ingrid Frances Stark and I were married. I had promised several people who could not make the ceremony that I would post the story of what happened.
Where should I begin? So much happened. Let’s begin with almost being left at the altar – by the minister! The wedding was scheduled for 1:00pm. The minister had it written in his date book as being at 4:00 . Ingrid’s brother managed to scare up the minister’s cell phone number and called him. He finally showed up at five minutes to one.
Okay, we got through that little crisis. The preacher was ready, the music was ready, and we were at the back of the church ready to enter.
Me (to Ingrid): Have you got our little cheat sheets with the vows?
Ingrid (surprised): I thought YOU had them.
It turns out that we had forgotten the vows, our readings for the service, and the marriage license. I ran home to get those.
Okay, we managed to get throught the processional, the blessings, and the readings. We were up to the vows. Ingrid and I have each been wearing silver promisory rings since last spring. The procedure, which we had imagined for the vows, was for each of us in turn to remove the other’s promisory ring from the left-hand ring finger (with a comment about what it represents) and place it on the right hand ring finger. Then the same person would take the wedding ring and place it where the promisory ring had been (again with comments about what it represents). The other would then repeat the prcedure for the first. After that we were to speak our actual vows.
Ingrid grabbed her own wedding ring instead of mine, I dropped her wedding ring and the minister had to go chasing it, and my promisory ring couldn’t get past the last knuckle of my right hand ring finger. After a few one liners about creating a juggling act during the wedding and how all of this had worked in rehearsal we got through it. We are married, but not without having turned the church into a vaudeville theater (or do you say “music hall”?).
If these things ever went smoothly life wouldn’t be any fun at all

AGE???? - October 3, 2005

Chicken Soup For The Cannibalistic Chicken
It isn’t the passage time that causes the anxiety. It’s the mud that it tracks into the house (usually across that new carpeting in the front hall). It’s that little touch of gray that you find in your hair or beard; that horrifying moment when you see one of you parents staring back at you from the mirror; the realization the your belly has mysteriously transformed from washboard to washtub.

So, you color your hair or beard (or both), stop looking in the mirror, go on a grueling diet (Dr. Charlatan’s 30 Day Gruel Diet) and begin an excruciating exercise regimen. But, you can’t exercise or even exorcise away the demons of age.

The next step, in that case, is denial (and the first one to say “a river in Egypt” will be drowned in the Red Sea). Being a man, I’m not sure how this works for women (although my wife has acquired an interesting collection of “support” undergarments which might cause one to wonder where she has hidden the whips and chains). For men, however, it takes a fairly simple form: IMPRESS THE YOUNG GIRLS.
More on this later (because it gets stranger).

Stephen Lee

Changes? - September 20, 2005

We’re all in this together. We are each part of the great whole of humanity. I have always believed this. Whatever changes happen in or to the world this remains true.

My maternal grandmother, Genevieve Bullen, passed away in January of 2004. She was born in November of 1901. It is almost frightening to contemplate the number of changes that she saw in her lifetime. She saw the world go from horses and buggies to re-usable spacecraft. When I was thinking about that a couple of days ago it dawned on me the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime, though not of the staggering scope that Grandma saw, is still considerable.

I grew up in the 1950’s. Despite nostalgic claims to the contrary, it was an era, which was every bit as prone to the sociological equivalent of mutiple personality disorder as we are now. On the one hand we were the country that slapped Hitler down! We had gone toEurope and kicked some major butt. Of course we didn’t dare express the thought in quite those terms. It would have been considered dangerously close to swearing in those days. On the other hand we lived in fear of the legacy of W W II’s other “great dictator”, Josef Stalin. The cold war was a going and highly profitable concern. It was the former attitude, however, with which I had the most experience as a boy.

We felt that we could go anywhere and do anything. There was no acievement beyond our reach. Thousands of people delighted in trying to predict how far we could go with it all. They would tell us of the wonders to be found decades hence in the early years of the 21st century. Some of them seemed absurd. Some of them seemed like nearly impossible miracle. Some of them were more accurate than others.

What was accurate? Well, when I was in the fourth grade, in our science class, they taught us about the great plans scientists had for putting a man on the moon. Now third-graders learn the same thing in their history class.
We have instantaneous, worldwide communication. At a moment’s notice we can access a nearly limitless menu of entertainment and information. This has been a particular boon to the buisness of news
gathering. Of couse, about half of it goes by so fast that you don’t have time to make sense of it all but, you can’t have everything. Even if you could, where would you put it? Computer technology has become part and parcel of almost everything we do. Back in the 50’s the very idea of being surrounded by computers scared us half to death. Now, what in the world would we do if we couldn’t call up our e-mail on our cell phones? We can clone things. As a matter of fact we’re cloning anything that can’t run away fast enough: sheep, goats, cats, dogs, rabbits. As for that last one,”WHY?” Talk about hauling coal to Newcastle!

What was inaccurate? Well, we’re not all dressed like Flash Gordon. This is a good thing. No great super computer has arisen to take over the world and enslave us all. We did that all by ourselves with a whole bunch of little computers. This is maybe not such a good thing. The Cold War, which dominated the back half of the 20th century, did not end in a world shattering nuclear holocaust. Philosophers and social engineers have had endless hours of fun debating whether or not that was a good thing. We have not colonized other planets or set up mining operations on asteroids. I won’t kill a lot of time listing the woes of the space program in America. You know the drill. You’ve heard the list. Suffice to say that, optimistic observers not withstanding, I doubt that we’ll be seeing manned mission beyond our own moon until, at least, the time when our grandchildren are old enough to be setting the agenda and allocating the funds.

So here we are on an ever shinking planet with an ever increasing population of diverse peoples, cultures and ideas which we are unlikely to leave any time soon. In short, we’re stuck with on another on this wretched, little mudball. There is, therefor, no intelligent reason that we should not be spending a lot more of our time and energy than we do just trying to get along with one another. We’re all in this together. We are each a part of the great whole of humanity.

Frog Fight! - September 16, 2005

Just for the sake of variety, here's something a little different.

Frog Fight

No frogs were waiting on the front porch to greet Winthrop when he got home from school on Tuesday. The frogs had been there to greet him every day for as long as he could remember (given that he was only seven years old, however, that wasn’t a heck of a long time). Though he called and croaked for hours, no frogs came . Winthrop was very disappointed.

Where were they? Why had they stayed away? Had he offended them?
If so, how? He hadn’t called them any unpleasant names. He wasn’t even sure that there was any sort of unpleasant name which one could call them.
They were, after all frogs.

There had to be a way to get them back! Winthrop thought and thought. Myabe if he put out some food he could lure them back. Even frogs liked a nice gnosh now and then. But, he had no idea what kind of bugs frogs ate or how to catch them had he known.
Wait a minute! Everybody said that Uncle Marvin was a little buggy.
He could lash Uncle Marvin to the porch swing! That would help him to coax the frogs back!

So, he went to talk to his uncle. Uncle Marvin said that he would do it. Everybody was right. Uncle Marvin was a little buggy (maybe a lot). Winthrop jumped for joy (but, only after he had scared up enough duct tape to lash his uncle to the porch swing).

It worked! As soon as Winthrop had secured the last strip of tape to the swing, the frogs slowly began to return. Winthrop was ecstatic. The frogs were ecstatic. Uncle Marvin was very uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, they all lived happily ever after (except for Uncle Marvin, who died of warts).

Copyright 2001 by Stephen Lee Rich

Be well.

Stephen Lee

There's News and There's NEWS. - September 13, 2005

As mentined on the home page I'm getting married in October to Ingrid Frances Stark. We met several years ago when I was hosting the Open Mic at Mother Fool's Coffeehouse in Madison, WI.
If I have the timing right, that means that we must have met when I was still married to Pat Lisle (who passed away in January of 2002). My earliest memory of Ingrid is from just after I became the regular host of the Open Mic at the now defunct Speed Jump Java Joint (how's THAT for a coffehouse name) in Madison. From that point, we clicked almost immediately. We have, from that start, been interacting like two people who have already been married for quite some time. In July of 2004 we moved in together. This past spring we decided to make it all official and take the vows. We chose Oct.8th because A) it falls on a Saturday, so none of our friends or family will have too much trouble getting out here to attend, and B) because it falls on the day between my birthday and her mother's birthday thus leaving niether one of us a decent excuse for forgetting our anniversary.
The tile of this entry, however is about news. Recently I sent out the folowing e-mail to the people on my monthly mailing list.

I'll say one last word about Hurricane Katrina and then I'll shut up about it. I've put my money where my mouth is. The profits for sales of the CD anthologies "Acoustic Dog: Volume 1" (Pachanga Records) and "Tappin' Out A Rhythm. Pickin' Out A Tune" (Travenia Records), and my solo CD "Facing Monday" if purchased from CD will go to the American Red Cross through the end of September.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch the Open Mic @ Urban Market and Coffeehouse (1 Sherman Terrace, Madison, WI) is still going strong every Friday night @ 7:00pm CDT. I'll be the host up through Oct.7th. I'll be taking a couple of weeks off after that because I'm getting married. Bowen Marvik will fill in on Oct.14th and Aaron Nathans will take the duty on Oct.21st. We'd love to see you there. Please, join us to play or to listen.

The BIG news is that Sandy Andina and I have finally finished our CD "Because We Can".
It should be available through CD before the end of the month. Meanwhile, you can hear a couple of tracks from it on my website."

I've been taken to task for mentioning the wedding in passing and playing up the Andina and Rich CD as the "Big News". As I mentioned, we became engaged last spring. All of our friends and family have known about it since then. The planning and worry over putting the whole thing together is, at the moment, an ongiong part of our lives. It's not news. The newly finished CD, however, is.

Thanks to all who have sent congatulatory e-mails. We'll try our best not to screw this up.

More later. Be well.

Stephen Lee

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