Considerations on Booking Acts for the Nanaimo Folk Connection

We at the Nanaimo Folk Connection (NFC), are often approached by musicians interested in being hired for the feature part of our show. We decided to put together this page about what we take into consideration when we choose our feature performers.

Those wanting to play at the folk connection must contact Sue Averill, the member of our committee who does the booking. Then Sue, or one of the committee, will need to hear enough of their music to get a sense whether they would fit into the musical philosophy of the NFC. Sometimes that can be accomplished by a simple three song set on our open stage, but we also need to be sure that a performing act can sustain interest for an hour. Testimonials can be helpful too.

As it states in the name of our group, we are primarily a folk music event. Fortunately folk music is a wide genre, allowing us to present an amazing variety of different music. There have been many attempts to create a simple definition of folk music, and as Pete Seeger pointed out in his comments on the subject, what people consider to be folk music changes over time. However, we do have some fairly clear ideas of what we consider to be the kind of music our audience wants to hear.

Most folk music has some kind of traditional connection. Often it is music that has been passed down from person to person. In the past, it has been the music of amateurs — not so much so recently. Also these days you can find much folk music written down, so it is not just music from the oral tradition. Many of our favourite performers have started out playing music from the oral tradition and progressed to writing their own songs that clearly are inspired by that tradition and sometimes indistinguishable from traditional music. This would include people like Bill Gallaher, Tanglefoot, Wade Hemsworth and Stan Rogers, as well as much of the music that came out of the ‘60’s folk revival by Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger and folks like that. We consider blues to be a traditional music of the black culture, and thus we have hired both Ken Hamm and Dan Livingston as features in the past.

One characteristic of this music is its acoustic nature- although we do permit electric bass, we keep the intimacy that way. Another very important characteristic – perhaps the one that does set folk music apart from the other acoustic forms- is its thematic material, which is about ordinary people’s’ lives and experiences, telling stories and describing interesting characters in a way that everyone in the audience can relate to. This can take the form of choruses and other audience participation, or just be something about the common human condition. It can be presented in a humorous way, in a haunting melody, or flat out rhythmic. But there isn’t the first person focus on me and feelings that is the basis of most pop and rock music heard on the radio.

Another thing that we consider Fork here at NFC is what people call world beat music. This includes ethnic music originating from distant parts of the world. Thus the amazing vocal quartet we featured a couple of years ago called Zeelia which sang mostly a cappella traditions songs from the Ukraine, falls inside our mandate as did the wonderful klezmer band that played the open stage a few months ago.

We like to present a mixture of regionally local musicians mixed with occasional favourites who are touring in our area from afar. The local flavour is what really makes our coffee house “folk”, an the touring musicians from other parts enrich our overall musical experience.

We are fortunate here on the Island that there are many people who perform, and we can choose from them acts that maintain a high performing standard. We expect anyone who applies to do a feature to be able to present an appealing, varied set of about an hour in length in a thoughtful and polished way that will appeal to our audience and send them home humming and happy.

We pay our feature performers out of the door receipts for the night. Performers play from about 9:00 p.m to 10:15 or 10:30 depending on the audience response. We guarantee $150 for the evening, but sometimes pay more if we have a good house, or more than one person in the feature act.

One thing NFC is not, is a singer/songwriter showcase. That doesn’t mean we never hire singer/songwriters, but we only hire those who fit within our other guidelines. We also feel folks who write music without that traditional connection are well served by other venues in the area, like the Songwriters Circle, CHLY shows and Island Showcase.

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