Field Report: Conflikt

Interfilk is a nonprofit that sends filk (yes, that’s a word) musicians to exotic, distant locales to perform. This past weekend, I was honored to be the Interfilk guest at the 2014 Conflikt music convention in exotic, distant Seattle.

I flew up last Tuesday for what I thought would be a couple of days of school shows and writing workshops before Conflikt. Both school shows fell through. This was okay because I got to play tourist in Seattle, which turns out to be better in January than in summer because the museums are less crowded. I had some quality time with the residents of the Seattle Aquarium:


The convention opened on Friday evening with… you know what? I really can’t give you a play-by-play of the con: I was was literally having non-stop fun every waking minute for the whole weekend, so it would take several days to tell you everything. I’ll just mention a few high points.

-Dinner Wednesday with Eric and Wendy Zager at Joule, my new favorite Seattle restaurant. Creative but unpretentious meat and veggie dishes served family style.

-Musical shenanigans at the opening ceremonies: Sunnie Larsen, Amy McNally, and I performed a filk (lyrics by Sunnie) of Vixy and Tony’s Siren Song. I always get a little anxious playing a song while the original composers are IN THE AUDIENCE (paging Dr. James), but Tony was laughing in the right places and said I played it well. Phew!

-Cohosting a songwriting panel discussion with Nicole Dieker, the front-woman of Hello The Future. From her music you might think she is scary-brilliant, but in person she is just wonderfully brilliant. With a big side order of funny, charming, and erudite. Good looking, too. She comes out with a new album about as often as I wash my car, but unlike a lot of genius artists she can actually explain how she does it. After an hour with her, I feel smarter.

-Lunch Saturday was a group songwriting game: you sit at a table with 6-8 people and two random words printed on cards. By the end of lunch you and your team are expected to compose and perform an original song using those two words. My team’s words were IRISH and ORTHOGONAL. This might have been a problem but our team had a bunch of seriously able writers and one secret weapon: Bob Kanefsky. At first, we worried about whether it would be right to deploy the Kanefsky. What if other teams try to deploy a Kanefsky of their own, we wondered? Ultimately we decided to go full Kanefsky; let history judge. After an hour of sweating and bickering (with so many good writers at the table, our chief dilemma turned out to be TOO MANY good ideas), we had a more-or-less finished song to share. Three things you might not know: beer used to be sold by the bucketful (glass bottles are a modern luxury); a colleen is an Irish girl; Irish Spring was a popular scented deodorant soap when I was a kid. Of course we wanted a traditional Irish tune for our song, so this one is to the tune (more or less) of Star Of The County Down:

On July the first I was seized by thirst so I went to an Irish pub
Inside I seen a fair colleen with her hands in a frothy tub
She looked at me and said, “What’ll it be?” “One mug of that!” I said.
She said, “I don’t think it’s fit to drink, be it on your own fool head!”

She said with a frown as she set it down, “Keep it out of your eyes, it’ll sting.”
Then I sniffed with a sneer, “Is this Irish beer? It smells like Irish Spring!”
I sipped that stuff, it was really rough though the smell was rather nice
It hit me hard like a ton of lard and the taste of my dad’s Old Spice

Now here am I feelin’ like to die, orthogonal to the john
For now I see, no barmaid she, she’s the laundress of County Down!

It’s a little rough, but with some polish it might be worth sharing. And no, I won’t be recording it for this site for obvious reasons.

-My show on Saturday afternoon went well. One of my resolutions this year has been to spend more time consistently practicing my older songs for performance. I noticed a difference onstage and I think the audience did too: I sold 48 CD’s, raising some serious money for GriffinEd. Thanks to everyone for that!

-Sunday was more laid back: I helped judge a songwriting contest, sold some CD’s, and enjoyed some concerts. After dinner, a great big happy filk circle with guitars, dulcimers, cellos, drums, and much more until very, very late.

Okay, back home now. Many thanks to the kind people of Interfilk for sending me to Seattle. Big plans coming tomorrow.