early may shows

So I'm a little hazy on what a meme is, at least I know what a dream is. A dream band, that is. That's what I get to hear behind me more often than not these past few years, and it's a constantly shifting bunch of yokels. Back in my late-1990s-early-and-mid-00's incarnation it was a steady cast, which I believe is what is usually meant by "band," though, like "meme," it's possible the new generation has taken a once-stable word and given it reassignment surgery. I wish the word would just go away, "band." It's a very juvenile word, smacking of suburban garages and posed photos with deadpan expressions and vows sealed in blood and never any money. When promoters say, "Are you bringing a band?" I think I know what they're getting at, but I'm never totally sure. Are people I've never met a band? Is a group of players without a bassist or drummer a band? What about three people, is that a band?

Switching it up constantly is an enjoyable and energizing MO for me at this time, which is why you often see me with different personnel, show to show. Since I'm old and pretty established, I have entree to some astounding players, some of the best in acoustic music, most of whom I could never have worked with 15 years ago. Bassists alone: Mike Bub, Missy Raines, Todd Phillips -- holy Eucharist! You just can't do any better than people like that.

In a week I'm going out with a fresh bunch and don't blink or you'll miss it. Dennis Crouch I've known casually for years and recorded with, but never travelled with or played a note in front of an audience with. I wonder what that'll sound like? Noam Pikelny, same as far as friendship, and I've gigged exactly three times with him; never have I sat in a stinking minivan for hours on end with him. There goes the friendship. Matt Flinner I've never met. Just a fan. Me of him, that is. And Shad Cobb...well, he's the odd man out in the group, we've actually had sex with each other. Great, great sex.

I wonder if the newness of this quintet will show, especially the first time we get on stage together? If you're reading this now and are there on the 9th, let me know what you think. Back when I might be doing my 400th show with the same 3 accompanists, with whom I crisscrossed the country year in and out, I'd sense strongly that our longevity allowed us to offer a positive good to an audience. They were aware and appreciative of the fast easy communication between us. On the other hand, though, I often encounter genuine disbelief when, after someone asks post-show how long I've been playing with so-and-so, I say truthfully, "We met for the first time just yesterday morning!" So I don't know how audiences consciously perceive that stuff, I only know it's a very different experience for me in those two performance scenarios. With the old-timers I relax and bask, with relative strangers all neurons are at attention. When you're old, an increased attentiveness is quite valuable.

These are the 5 -- and probably only 5 -- shows I'll be playing with Noam et al:

May 9 City Winery Nashville

May 10 Memorial Hall Cincinnati

May 11 Refectory Columbus

May 12 Birdy's Indianapolis

May 13 City Winery Chicago