Friday, August 21, 2009

Michfest Part 9 (The Last Leg)

Day 10 (8/10) Tuesday
The drive to MA was brutal. I could hardly stay awake. I had to talk on the phone all the way in order to stay up. By the time I got to my grandparents house I was beat down. I could hardly keep my eyes open. My mother talked about going out to dinner and I almost turned her down. I just wanted to sleep.

When I got to my parents house I fell asleep in their big chair in the living room until my niece woke me up to say it was time to go eat. She’s so cute. I could hear her saying, “Nana, auntie Shelley is asleep.” I was way more than sleep. Hearing her felt like a dream.

I peeled myself up and went to dinner with my parents and my niece. We had a good time. We stopped at the supermarket after dinner and then I went home and washed my hair. As soon as that was done I bought my bus ticket back to New York and went to sleep.

The next day I was on my way back to Brooklyn and on my way to see Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal at Prospect Park. As if that wasn’t enough, on Thursday I had to do a show with Jeff and Shawn and the BEA Rock Camp for kids in Greenpoint. I didn’t get to sleep in until Friday and I did nothing that day. Well maybe I started writing this blog.

In Conclusion
As you can see we had a great time in Michigan. All the ladies out there reading this blog I want you to seriously consider coming next year. Michfest not only has music, but there are great workshops and the friends you make at Michigan stay with you for life. I mean it. I know some of you city girls are antsy about camping, but this is high end camping and trust you will be changed. If Gloria Bigelow can change, you can change. I love you Glo! If you are concerned about the cost, you can go as a worker and that will cover your entrance or get on the payment plan. This festival is one of the best organized events I have ever been to and I’ve played some places and seen some things. Trust! Sorry if I sound like a PSA for Michfest, but I love it that much. It is a refuge. It is a place of safety and peace. It is a land of womyn and what could be better than that? (That question is rhetorical. LOL!)

Thanks for taking the time to read my Michfest recap. I hope to see you next year! I will be there!


Honorable Mention
-The man who stopped to give us bunji chords on the highway in Ohio after our stuff fell off the roof of the van. Now that's what you call a good Samaritan.
-The man who helped Gina get to the hotel in Grand Rapids after getting lost four times. She thought he might be a serial killer, but he turned out to be an angel.
-The missing forks in the Belly Bowl (see the photo below).
-Showers under the stars. There's really nothing like it.
-Gal's Diner for making the food RIGHT every day and every night! (Where's the cookbook?)
-Maritri Camping. Who would believe it? (see photo below)

[Maritri camping. Yes it really happened. lol]

MVP (Most Valuable Players (meaning musicians))
-Julie Wolf
-Lee Free
-Ganessa James
-Pamela Means

My Healers
Shirley Jons (sweat lodge)
Luciana Padmore (reflexology)
Linda and Donna (crystal/energy healing)
The ladies in the workers massage tent (massage)

[The Night Stage Crowd on Opening Night. You can't tell, but the crowd just keeps going.]

[The Night Stage during the day]

[The Night Stage lighting and sound tower]

[The Night Stage stage door]

Michfest Part 8 (Sadly...We're On Our Way Home)

Day 8 (8/9) Sunday
The original plan was to get on the road right after Gina’s signing, but Gina decided to stay another day. So we took our time getting our stuff together to leave. Everything was wet. Hanifah, Olive, Bombshell and I had to lay our clothes out in the sun to dry before we could pack them. That took time. We also had to take the tent down and figure out how to put that big ass tent back into that little carrier. It seemed impossible, but we figured something out. I had to take the rest of my merch to Goldenrod and I bought a pendulum before Maritri left earlier that day. I also bought some earrings from Kelly. As you can see everything was just taking longer that we anticipated. So our 1pm departure turned into a 4pm departure. That wouldn’t have been so bad if we had 4 drivers, but leaving Mich we only had three because Ri decided to leave with Gina the next day. So more space in the van, but that meant longer driving shifts.

It’s always hard to leave Michigan, but this time around I think I was too tired to cry. I think I was ready for a dry bed and a flushing toilet. We finally got all our things together, got in the shuttle van to the gate, packed our van, took one last port-a-jane pee and headed for the real world full of cell phone signals and men. Yes in that order. I think I got my messages before I saw my first man. When leaving Michigan there is always the lament of going back to a world of men, but this time for me it was about going back to the world in general. I had to jump right in and it has been challenging.

[Farewell Michigan. I'll see you next year.]

The van ride home was good, but long. Hanifah took the first shift. We watched Sia’s DVD on Olive’s laptop while Bombshell slept because she knew she had the next shift. Hanifah got us to Ohio and then Bombshell took over. She got us through Ohio and into PA when I took over. I had the real overnight shift and it was brutal. PA at night and tired is no joke. Finally I had to pull off the road somewhere in PA and against my better judgment drank a 5-hour energy drink. Now I don’t do caffeine at all so this stuff was potent. It got me through the drive, but by the time we dropped of Bombshell in the Bronx I was hyper and jittery and exhausted all at once. That stuff says there is no crash, but that is a LIE!

Day 9 (8/10) Monday
After dropping off Bombshell I drove us back to Brooklyn. I dropped off Olive & Hanifah and headed home. Unfortunately I still had a whole bunch of stuff in the van. I had carried all of Ganessa’s guitars and Maritri’s not to mention my own. I was beat down and it as all I could do to get that stuff upstairs and park the car. The Universe saw fit to give me a space on the proper side of the street with no drama. I don’t think I could have circled around looking. I would have cried for sure. Then I went upstairs and thought I would hit the hay and take a shower later. Well that was a short lived idea because I was offending myself! So I jumped into the shower and into bed. When I woke up it was so hot that I smelled like I had never got into the shower! I think it was that 5-hour drink coming out of my pores. That was crazy. So I got in the shower again and then got up to face the world a bit. I had to get Maritri’s guitar to her so I did that, picked up my cat from my girl Iowan who was the cat sitter for the week and a few other things, but I had to get some rest because I had to drive my grandfather’s van back to him in MA the next day.

Michfest Part 7 (blaKbüshe Finally Hits Michfest)

Day 7 (8/8) Saturday
About 3 or 4 in the morning the monsoon rain began and I do mean monsoon. My wonderful condo tent started leaking at all the corners and I was cursing the ladies who helped us put up the tent who told us we didn’t need a tarp over the top or bottom of the tent. Lies! Lies! Lies! Okay I forgive them, but damn it was a mess. Then the tent started leaking from the top. So little drops eventually started falling on my head. Not cool at all.

I woke that morning very cranky because I didn’t get much sleep and then I was thinking, damn! I have been here all week waiting to do my set and then the rain of all rains comes on the day I’m supposed to perform. I mean I wasn’t the only one. Gina’s show was that day as well. Not to mention all of the other groups performing on that day (LAVA, Evolution V, Nervous But Excited and Jen Foster). It was a wet mess.

We were all up at the Belly Bowl for breakfast just shaking our heads. Chix Lix sound check was supposed to be at 8:45am, but that was a no go. So the ladies sat in Central Heating and practiced. I was told that my sound check may not happen, but then out of the blue I got word that it was happening because the rain had slowed. We gathered all our stuff and went over to the Day Stage only to have the rain start coming down in buckets again. It was a mess. I watched as the sound ladies did their best to keep that stage and all the equipment dry. We didn’t want any electrical mishaps out there.

Somehow they managed to sound check Nervous But Excited and then it was our turn. When we checked the rain was slowing, but still going. One of the stage hands was tipping water off the canopy so that it wouldn’t cave to the pressure of the water. We did a brief check and then I headed back to the greenroom tent to get ready.

My hair was still wet from the night before so no waves were holding. We tried to blow dry my hair, but it was too late. Bombshell started working on my face and slowly the band trickled back to the tent. Ganessa and Maritri had to go to Gina’s sound check and Pamela had to go back to Chix Lix sound check. Everyone got back in time, but Pamela was the last. There was no time to get her in gear because we were heading to the stage. It was all good. It’s really about the music right? Right! So we hit it.

[Beauty takes time...]

On a side note, Maritri had not originally planned to sing with me, but since she was there and I asked, she chimed in. Maritri knows some of my songs, but not all. I wasn't worried though. She jumped right in and sounded amazing with Tiffany!

Gaetano, my stylist, made me a dress for Michigan even though he couldn't go. It was a sheer sequence dress that hit above the knee that was screaming Tina Turner. You know what I’m talking about? Under it I wore a hot pink bikini top and hot pink hot shorts. I had on some hot pink heals and we were good to go. The colors were yellow, hot pink and orange. We looked great. Even the canopy matched!

[Maritri, Luci & I pre-show]

[Maritri, Ganessa & I pre-show]

[The büshe Rockin!]

[Ladies enjoying the show]

The sun came out and the show went off without a hitch. We had a lot of fun and were joined by the mud ladies who came running naked into the area of the day stage, danced and disappeared as quickly as they arrived. They were a lot of fun! You had to be there. I did a little shimmy with Bombshell and we all played to our hearts content. The set was "Release," "blaK Girls," "Give it to Me," "I'm a Woman (I'm a Backbone)," "Can't Blame a Tree," "Box," "I am American," "Go Head & Rise," with "Long Train Running" (slow blues) as an encore. It rocked! blaKbüshe on the land was Pamela Means (guitar), Lucianna Padmore (drums), Ganessa James (bass), Christelle Durandy (percussion), Tiffany James (BV) and Maritri Garrett (BV). I can’t forget Cathleen Ridley (on hands) who signed the hell out of my songs. The ladies put their stamp on the music. I know it will happen again. Hopefully next year. Please Lisa, Please!!! LOL!

After the show Lisa came up to me and gave me a big hug. She said my show was everything she expected and more! What a great complement. Elvia Kurt who is an incredible comedian and host for the Saturday Night Stage, also greeted me with very kind words. I think all my Buddhist “training” teaches not get to attached to things good or bad, but I did hold on to that moment and others to follow for a while. I worked very hard for this festival. It’s one that I’ve wanted to play for a very, very long time. I felt and feel very blessed.

After the show I made my way to Goldenrod to sign CDs. It took me a while to get over there so some folks bought music before I got there and I wasn’t able to sign for them, but others came through while I was there. Tiffany came with me so we both signed. The rest of the crew had to run to other stages.

While I was at Goldenrod two things happened. A sista named Olokun came by and give me a bottle of wine, which she insisted that I drink in the woods. Then Maria, one of the Native American sistas who worked the womyn of color sweat, came by the table to tell me the she enjoyed the show. I mentioned the Native womyn's sweat that was supposed to have happened that morning. I figured it didn't because the rain was coming down so hard I figured they would just call in off. Well Maria informed me that Barbara, one of the other sisters, got up at 3am and started the fire to heat the rocks for the sweat. She kept the fire going through the rain and then 5 women showed up for the sweat and they kicked it off at 9am as planned. What??!!! Do you really feel me when I tell you the kind of rain that was happening there? How do you keep a fire going through that kind of rain? Those Native sistas are fierce! I mean really. Maria said it was the hottest sweat of the week. Amazing.

After signing I want back to my tent, changed and headed over to see Gina Breedlove and Evolution V at the acoustic stage. Gina’s set was off the hook. Her band included Ganessa (guitar), Maritri (guitar), Judith Castleberry (vocals), Mayra Casales (percussion) and Jennifer Vincent (bass). Gina’s set was way too short for my taste, but as I said above the sets are shorter on the acoustic stage. Gina’s voice is like water and it just washed over us. Also I don’t know anyone who can wear a pair of jeans like Gina. Just beautiful. I hope to see her back at Michfest next year on the Day Stage so the festival hear more of her. After Gina was Evolution V. I really wanted to stay and see their whole set, but my stomach was angry at me. I had not eaten really the whole day because I can’t eat before I perform.

[Gina Breedlove setting the stage on fire!]

[Maritri, Gina, Jen & Mayra]

[Ganessa & Maritri holding it down for Gina]

Some of you know that I am witch. So it nice to be on the land and surrounded by my people. I have to be honest and say that many times when people think of witches they just think of white women, but we are much more than that. That was made very clear with Evolution V performed. This ensemble consisted of Aleah Long, Tammi Hessen, Ubaka Hill, Yaniyah Pathfinder, Queen, Nyame-Adama Selassie and Tory Trujillo. All women of color. All fierce. All doing the spiral dance! They opened with a procession down the long isle that leads to the stage. The called in the Goddess and proceeded to show Michfest how the sistas do it. I was only able to stay for the beginning before my stomach took over, but Olive has not stopped singing the Spiral Dance song. In fact she sang it all the way home. Fierce women! Just beautiful!

[Yaniyah Pathfinder calling in the Goddess]

[Ubaka, Tory & Aleah]

I headed back to the Belly Bowl to get some food and then I had to get ready for Chix Lix. It wasn’t starting until 10pm, but I just wanted to be ready. Christine Love let me borrow her white knee high platform boots. With them I wore a jean mini and a tie-dye shirt with a big peace sign. Was that 60s enough?

The night began with Leslie & the Ly’s. I had no idea what to expect and because of that I got way more than I expected. Leslie & the Ly’s was a lot of fun and although they do music, it was all theatre. Who knew that was going on in Iowa?

After Leslie was Melissa Ferrick. Her set sounded great! I was really getting ready at that point and helping other folks get ready for Chix Lix. Hanifah was singing “Girl From Ipanema” and she decided to wear a long dress. I was great! She looked incredible. Vicki was in her black gown for “Baby Love” something she says she rarely does, but she was wearing it well. The Topp Twins were decked out in wedding dress and suit while Teresa Trull was in her priests collar for “Going to the Chapel.” The Chix Lix band had on their CHiX t-shirts and we were ready to roll.

[I am ready for my closeup]

[Hanifah wowing the Night Stage with "Girl From Ipanema"]

[A few of the fab chix on Chix Lix. Pamela, Tory, Vicki & Aleah]

The set turned out really great. Some of the other songs we did included, Toshi doing “White Rabbit,” Aleah doing “Piece of My Heart,” Judith doing "Everyday People" and Ferron doing “Downtown.”

After the show there was a party in the Belly Bowl with DJ Rimarkable on the wheels. The place was packed and everyone was jammin’. I cracked open the bottle of wine I got earlier that day and shared it with my peeps. I was damn good indeed. Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz 2004. Check it out.

[DJ Rimarkable rockin' the impromptu set in the Belly Bowl]

[Happy dancing people in the Belly Bowl]

The party ended way too soon. In the workers section everything has to be shut down by 1am. It makes sense because the ladies in the kitchen have to be up at the crack, but it was our last night and I didn’t want it to end so soon. I wandered around a bit because I really didn’t want to go back to my wet tent and in particular my wet bed. My air mattress was soaked. Basically I had to sleep on the top half of the bed. That was not cute at all. We had contemplated staying for another day to see the Closing Ceremonies and to support Gloria who was performing her set on Sunday afternoon, but we decided to stick with the original plan and get on the road. I really wanted to stay another day because it's always hard to leave, but in retrospect I'm glad we left when we did. There is always next year.

Michfest Part 6 (Let the Healing Begin)

Day 6 (8/7) Friday
When I woke up in the morning I was still hoarse, and it was already shaping up to be a busy day. There was all kind of healing happening on the land and I needed a bit myself. I started with working my crystals to help clear my throat.

Lee managed to get me onto the Chix Lix set playing tambourine on “Love Child,” “Everyday People” and “Stand.” The only problem was that rehearsal fell right during the time when I would be at the womyn of color sweat and it was right before my own band rehearsal. So I knew it was going to be tough.

I prepared myself better, or so I thought, for the sweat this time. Last year I didn’t drink enough water so when I came out I had a terrible headache and I couldn’t get warm. Turns out it was the coldest night of the festival. So this time I was ready. I drank lots of water the day before and the day of the sweat. I also ate so that I could make sure I was okay. I really love to sweat, but it’s intense to say the least. I needed a healing that day because I needed to sing that evening for rehearsal. So I got myself ready to sweat and be healed.

Just a side note, on Wednesday night I hurt my finger playing tambourine with Black Patti. On Thursday, Linda from the Topp Twins did a little healing on my finger with her pendulum, which helped, but it still hurt just a bit. So the sweat needed to clear my voice and help my hand because I needed to play bass on my show the next day.

If you are not familiar with going to a sweat lodge, it is a Native American tradition. There are various reasons and seasons when people sweat, but on the land there are sweats during the week for all different kinds of folks. Even one for kids. There are usually four rounds and after every round the flap is opened and the sun/air can come in. Depending on who is pouring water for the sweat will depend on how intense it gets. In this case and in the case of all the sweats on the land Shirley Jons pours the water. She’s an amazing woman.

I won’t get into too much detail about being inside the sweat lodge, but I will say that I made it through. When I thought I was getting a headache I would let that thought go and feel better. The only thing that worried me was my finger because it felt like it was swelling up, which would make sense because I was in heat and the finger needed ice, or so I thought.

When the four rounds were over we all filed out of the lodge. I felt okay inside, but as soon as I got out I was wobbly. I almost felt like I couldn’t get my balance and I was very dizzy. I stopped to wash my hands, but I had to put my hands on the ground to try and ground myself a bit more. When I was able to get up I walked slowly to a chair under a tree. I felt nauseous and like I could pass out at any moment. I couldn’t cool down. I was talking to myself, telling myself not to throw up. I hate throwing up. Someone asked me if I wanted some water. When it was handed to me instead of drinking it I poured it over my head. Then another and another. Then I looked up and that’s when I knew something was different. Everything in front of me looked like a picture negative. The people in front of me were all light. It was like I was seeing peoples light and everything behind them was dark. Just like a negative. That kind of freaked me out so I just put my head down and kept pouring water on me. Then I looked up again and the same thing. Head down. At this point Shirley asked me if she could pour water on me. I said yes. She checked to make sure there was water in her cup and not another clear liquid, and then pours it over my head. Now at this point something happened.

The water she poured over me was not as cold as the water I was pouring over my own head, but when her water hit me something happened to me. It felt like something jumped out of me. I had to tell her to stop because it felt so wild and jarring. Then she laid down in front of me and asked me if I wanted an orange. I sucked the juice out of it, but couldn’t eat the whole piece. I still felt like I would throw up. So I just spit the rest out. I kept eating oranges and I started to feel better. Shirley looked at me and said “I told you you were going on a journey.” Uh...yeah! I finally came back from somewhere. Then I ate watermelon and I don’t really like watermelon, but it was good and it helped.

Most of the time I was trying to come back, Ganessa was by my side. I thought she was there for moral support, but it turns out she was down for the count as well. It was very intense. Ganessa, Tiffany, Marya and I walked back to the artist/workers section and I had to go straight to Chix Lix rehearsal.

Now Chix Lix is a set that happens every year at Michfest, well at least since I’ve been going, that is usually a set of covers. I can’t remember what it was the first year, but last year it was Chix Lix Flix. So they did songs from movies. This year it was Chix Lix 60’s. The set is always put together by Alyson Palmer who is the bassist from the band Betty. It’s pretty amazing. Folks are given the songs before they get to Michigan, but they only get to rehearse together on the land. As I stated earlier, Lee got me on the set playing tambourine and I was ready to go.

As we were walking up the hill toward the rehearsal tent I could hear tambourine coming from the tent and I was a bit bummed because I figured I had been replaced. Well when I got to the tent I knew I had been replaced because there was Vicki playing the tambourine! [Just to be clear about who Vicki Randle is. She was lead vocalist and percussionist for the Tonight Show band (now the Jay Leno Show band) for 17 years.] Now how could I top that? Well I remembered that Sly and the Family Stone had many tambourines in the band so I jumped in and added to the atmosphere of the song.

[Me, Auntie Vicki and my cheesy grin. lol. Doesn't it look like we could be related!]

I was totally muddy and wet because I just came from the sweat. My hair was literally dirty, but I just jumped in. As I started playing I got the smile of approval from Vicki and I felt better. Then I though to myself, “Hey, I’m playing with Vicki!” It was amazing. After rehearsing the Sly songs they did “Girl from Ipanema.” So I took a break and rinsed myself off. Then I came back and they did “Baby Love” and “Love Child.” Vicki just let me take the tambourine for that because she sang with She (that’s the name of one of the performers) and Melissa Ferrick.

When that rehearsal came to an end it was time for blaKbüshe rehearsal. By this time I am beat and I have a headache, but low and behold I can sing. The sweat had worked. Also my finger was feeling way better. Dare I say all the way better. I was healed! When the ladies got to the tent we jumped things off, and managed to almost get through the whole set. People were stopping by the tent to see who were. I am not a festie virgin, but my band is new to the festival. So not many people knew who we were, and unbeknownst to me they were asking around. I had no idea until later when Gina told me that people kept stopping during dinner to ask. That made me smile.

[The blaKbüshe ladies crew rehearsing "Box" for Saturday's performance.]

After rehearsal we ate dinner and then I took a real shower. I still had a headache and I wanted to go to sleep, but I needed to twist my hair so that I would look like something for my show the next day. Since I was doing that I sat in the Belly Bowl and listened to the music on the night stage. Everyone sounded incredible.

There was a bit of a Friday night debacle. Medusa was supposed to open the night stage, but she didn’t make it to the festival. I’m still not sure why, but in here place Lisa put together killer line up of MC’s which included Hanifah, Reina, God-dess, and Judith Castleberry with Karma on vocals. The band was Vicki Randle (percussion), Julie Wolf (keys), Gail Ann Dorsey (bass) and Melissa York (drums).

Sia was up next. Talk about killer show. I could only hear it, but damn it was amazing. Folks that saw her said she was in all white up to her eyes and then her she had on pink gloves. They said that she signed one of her songs while she sang and also had jokes all night (I could hear the jokes). The thing I really liked about Sia was the fact that whenever I saw her on the land she had a big smile on her face. She just oozed joy and she was so cool. Never took herself to seriously.

The night ended with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. She was amazing as well. As I listened to all these ladies while I twisted my hair under the stars I felt really blessed. Really, really blessed. Another late night meal and I was off to bed. I had to get my beauty rest for the show ahead, but alas rest was not to be had.

Michfest Part 5 (The Colored Girls and the OG's)

Day 5 (8/6) Thursday
I can’t remember what I did during the day this day. I think I got up and went running, but I really can’t totally recall. I remember the shows I went to go see and…oh wait! I think it’s coming back to me a bit. Yes it’s back! Thursday: Womyn of Color tent dedication, C.C. Carter at acoustic stage, CocoMama, Teresa Trull, Barbara Higbie, Vicki Randle & Julie Wolf, and Girl in a Coma on night stage. Luciana barely makes it to the fest. I’m gonna back up to the tent dedication. Oh yes, now I remember why we were late. Let’s roll back.

Black Patti had to sign CDs at Goldenrod (the on-land record store) that morning. So we all went over to the craft area and set up to greet folks. After that was over we headed to the Womyn of Color Tent Dedication. It was already under way when we got there. Olive, Hanifah, Ri, Maritri and I made the trip. A few people performed at the tent dedication, but the thing that stood out for me the most was Yaniyah Pathfinder doing the dance of the four directions. It was off the hook. I still have to reach out to her to make sure I learn how to do that. It was beautiful and amazing.

After the tent dedication I headed back to eat lunch real quick so that I could get ready to go see C.C. Carter at the acoustic stage. Bombshell was dancing with her. C.C. is a writer and spoken word artist who is very proud of her hips! They are beautiful hips if I do say so myself. So she makes it her business to gather all of the women of color that she can find on the land with big hips to share a stage with her while she praises them. It’s really fun and it gives women of all shapes and sizes to stand up and be proud of the fact that they have more to love. Also you have to be size 12 or up to be in her show. Now that's what's up! After C.C.’s set ended we headed back for dinner and to stake out a space at the night stage for the set to come. Gloria Bigelow was hosting.

Thursday night kicked off with CocoMama lead by percussionist Mayra Casales. Talk about a hot band. People were on their feet dancing for the whole set and we literally kicked up some dust. My feet were filthy and the bottom of my pant leg was nothing but dirt, but it was all in good dancing and good fun. Christelle and Sofia Tosello are the lead vocalists of the band and they are both incredible. Mayra came out from behind the congas once to sing and Christelle took her seat behind the drums. All these ladies have the most incredible stage presence and they are all just beautiful. CocoMama is not from Brooklyn, but they are representing New York. Holla!

After CocoMama, the OG’s (as Gina calls them) hit the stage. OG stands for Original Goddess and these ladies are nothing short of that. Thursday's OG’s were Vicki Randle (vocals, percussion, guitar), Teresa Trull (vocals, guitar), Barbara Higbie (vocals, fiddle, piano) and Julie Wolf (vocals, keys). These ladies are nothing short of the truth. It was so wonderful to watch them work. They are all stars in their own right, but when they come together it’s magic. Maritri was going to take a shower after CocoMama and I told her that she needed to wait and check out the OG’s. After the first song she understood why I suggested she hold off on the shower. I’ll have more to say about these ladies as the story unfolds, but I’ll just say it was an honor to be a part of a festival that included them and even more of an honor to later share the stage with them.

[Lisa, Aleah, Judith & Juanita. Just a small section of the OGs]

[Teresa & Barbara! Total OGs]

Finally Girl in a Coma hit the stage. I had been hearing about them for some time. I believe that Bitch and Von Iva had toured with them at one point or another. Lee kept telling me about their lead vocalist Nina Diaz and how great she is. Well they did not disappoint. The band is a trio and talk about power. I’m glad I got to check these ladies out. If they are in your town go see them. Don't sleep!

Thursday down, well almost. Luciana was supposed to be in that day, but she missed her plane in New York. I had no idea until late in the afternoon when Lisa Vogel (co-founder of the Michfest) saw me in Central Heating and very calmly squatted down next to me and told me that Luci missed the plane. I love how clam Lisa is. Clearly she’s been doing the festival so long that not too much can rattle her. She told me that they tried to get her on standby on the following flight but her name wasn’t called. So they were trying to get her on a third plane. Periodically I would ask the folks in Central Heating if they had any idea when or if Luci was getting in. Finally I got word that she should be in at Midnight. Then Midnight turned into 1am. I was tired, but I told the Central Heating ladies that I would wait for Luci and show her to her tent so they could go off duty. They work really hard for us all day and it was the least I could do.

As I said, I was tired and I started to realize that I really needed to shut up because I was hoarse and I had to do a rehearsal on Friday and the show on Saturday. I had tried to have vocal rehearsal earlier that day with Maritri and Tiffany and I had nothing to give vocally. So it was starting to worry me. I really needed to shut up and be in bed. These cold nights weren’t helping.

Finally at around 1am Luci shows up out of the shadows with a plate of food. I was expecting to see her come from one direction, but she came from another. I was in Central Heating and CocoMama were in there doing a little percussion jam. Vicki was jamming too. Luci started eating, but she soon put her plate down when she recognized Mayra Casalas. It was like a reunion and she just jumped in on the jam as if she had been there all week. That was great to see considering how long her day had been. Besides missing two planes she had a layover in Chicago. It was truly a trains, planes and automobiles type of day for her.

After the jam was over it was time for bed. No running for me on Friday morning. It’s time to sleep, but not through breakfast. ☺

Michfest Part 4 (Let's Get the Show on the Road)

Day 4 (8/5) Wednesday: Opening Ceremonies
Wednesday kicked off with a bang. That was the first day of two of the Brooklyn shows. First, Ganessa was on the acoustic stage and then later that night, Black Patti on the night stage. The night stage also featured the Opening Ceremonies and Von Iva. I was looking forward to the whole day.

I bought a lawn chair and headed over to the acoustic stage to get ready to see Ganessa who would also be joined by Tiffany. I hadn’t seen them perform together in such a long time so I was really excited for the show. I was the first one in our crew to get there, but soon Marya arrived. A woman named Rachel Davis was the first act on the bill. She was really incredible and a great way to kick things off.

Then Ganessa hit the stage. She did a couple of songs on her own and then asked Tiffany to join her. One thing that I really love about acoustic stage is the drama of it. It’s really the prettiest stage and it’s set up in true amphitheater style. When people come out on stage two huge doors open for the person to walk through. So much drama and I love that. It just adds to the whole performance.

[Ganessa hitting the acoustic stage]

[Ganessa & Tiffany giving the wonder twin power]

Ganessa and Tiffany sounded great together as usual. The set was only 25 minutes, which was way too short. So I’m going to see what I can do to help get her on the day stage for next year. Then she will have a longer set. I think people really need to see more of her. I know that’s that’s a bias opinion, but it is true. When that set ended I headed back to the artist area to eat, but soon we had to get ready for the night stage shows.

We had to be in the backstage area by at least 7pm and that’s when Bombshell really started working. She came along with me to do my makeup, but once people got wind of that fact that she is a makeup artist she was doing work all over the place and she also landed herself a spot dancing in a show with C.C. Carter! That’s kind of how it works on the land. If people find out that you have skills then you are put to work in some form or fashion.

Bombshell was steady doing make up backstage and we were all getting dressed when the Opening Ceremonies began. We had to hit the stage right after that was over. That night Black Patti was solid gold. Either white and gold or black and gold, but gold was the thread. Before I left Brooklyn I found these black sequence hot shorts and a black top with gold sequence. I was so excited to rock them. This was defiantly the festival of sequence for me because I wore a black dress with clear sequence for my show, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Maritri and Christelle arrived just as the opening ceremonies were getting ready to kick off. Maritri was there to play with Gina Breedlove. Christelle of course was playing with CocoMama and blaKbüshe. So most of my gang was here. Just missing Luciana now.

I could only hear the opening this year, but all the costumes looked great and the music was wonderful. I’ve since seen pictures of people holding signs and dancers dancing. Although I could not see it, I could feel it the vibe.

[Ginger, just one of the beautiful ladies in the Opening Ceremonies]

Soon the opening ended and it was time for Black Patti to hit the stage. We were ready to roll. Hanifah had planned a big Brooklyn opening with a flag and all, shouting out Brooklyn because so many artists on the stages this year were from BK. So the plan was for Ri to trigger the loop “Brooklyn we go hard, we go hard…” and then Olive and I (in our hot shorts) were supposed to hold either end of the flag (it was on two poles) while Hanifah hid behind it. Then we were supposed to do the stripper squat (you know what I’m talking about) lowering the flag to reveal Hanifah in her “armor”. Then we were supposed to follow her down the catwalk so that everyone could see what the flag which read “The People’s Republic of Brooklyn,” turn around, and then head back to start the set. Also Ri was supposed to be hyping the crowd as well. Now this all would have worked wonderfully if the track could have been heard in the house! For some reason that just did not happen and Ri’s mic didn’t work immediately. So we were out there looking cute in semi-silence. It was a strange moment, but luckily that was not how the rest of the show would turn out. In fact the rest of the show was off the hook! Really it was amazing. I play tambourine and bass in Black Patti. In fact I’ve had to play 5-string because that’s what Ganessa plays and it didn’t make sense to have two basses out there. Some of the things I was playing Ganessa had made up so they were just better on the 5. So I went back and forth and sang some BV’s as well. When I played bass, Ganessa played guitar and when I played tambourine, Ganessa played bass. It was a lot of fun. After we got off stage I realized that we looked like the Soild Gold dancers. I might be dating myself by saying that, but those who know, know. Lol. Black Patti is Hanifah Walidah, Olive Demetrius, Lee Free, Ganessa James, DJ Rimarkable (Ri Ri Garcia) and I.

[The Solid Gold dancers! LOL! No really it's Black Patti. Doesn't my hat look like Ecstasy from Whodini? LOL!!! Thanks Christine!]

Wednesday night was set up to be a fool proof line up. It was basically near the lineup that happened last year Thursday night. [Insert flashback music] Michfest…2008…Thursday night line up. It consisted of Hanifah Walidah & the Fuckin’ Ladies, Bitch & Ferron, and Von Iva. Last year none of us had ever heard of Von Iva, but after they played, EVERYONE knew about Von Iva. I came home and ranted and raved about Von Iva. It was a magical night. With that in mind we fully expected Wednesday…2009…to be the same thing. I saw Von Iva do their sound check earlier in the day and even that got me excited. But now we are back to Wednesday night.[Insert back to present music]

[Von Iva at sound check. Go ladies!]

When I got off stage I changed my shoes, put my jeans on and got ready for Von Iva. What happened next floored me. It floored many of us who had witnessed the band before. Because I really love and care for these ladies I am not going to go into a lot of detail, but I will say that it wasn’t the show we were expecting and I could feel a bit of sadness even as Lay Lay (drums) and Bex (keys) were holding it down. I would expect nothing less. The show must rock on. Those who didn’t see the 2008 show loved the 2009 show. But those of us who saw the 2008 show, know what we did not see. That may not make sense, but those who know, know. It didn’t put a damper on the evening overall, but my heart goes out to those ladies. Besides being some of the sweetest people I know they are one of the most kick ass bands on the planet. Look them up people. Von Iva’s the name. Rockin’ the house is their game.

Wednesday was the first night of the midnight meal. The artists and workers get a meal after every night show. I can’t remember what we had, but I’m sure it was good because all the food there is amazing. We also had the great fortune of playing double dutch in the Belly Bowl thanks to Juanita. Us grown gals tried our best to keep that thing going, but many of us got caught in the rope. It doesn’t always come back like you think it will. I think Tiffany got the most jumps in, but it was so much fun to watch and be a part of. I foresee a double dutch intensive workshop next year.

[Gina getting her double dutch on. Juanita & Ubaka on the ropes.]

[Tiffany swinging the single rope. Double was getting tough. lol.]

It was another cold night in the tent. Bombshell got extra blankets. I didn’t, but I was okay. After sitting by the fire a bit I called it a night. Another Michfest opening down. Up next…Thursday.

[Michfest Video Blog Part 2]

Michfest Part 3 (Settling In/Work to Do)

Day 3 (8/4) Tuesday
Tuesday is the official start of the festival. It’s the first day of shows on the acoustic stage. People are slowly rolling in. I had to play with Hanifah on Wednesday so we had rehearsal on Tuesday. Ganessa, Tiffany and Marya also arrived that day. Ganessa and Lee jumped straight into the fray. They had rehearsal with Hanifah and Toshi Reagon for the opening ceremonies.

Hanifah’s rehearsal went well and then later in the day, I can’t remember at what time, the Brooklyn crew went around and flyered the port-a-janes with information about all the artists from Brooklyn who were playing the festival. Black Patti (Hanifah’s band), Gina Breedlove, Ganessa James, Gloria Bigelow and Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe were all on the bill this year. It was a banner year for Brooklyn for sure.

That day was also pretty subdued. I saw folks that I met in years past. I ran that morning with Olive and Gina, which was really great. It was so nice to run in a place where the air is clean. It makes you want to get up in the morning and exercise.

Tuesday was the first day of breast casting at the womyn of color tent. The first year I went to the festival I had my breasts cast. I still have them and they are still holding up. Lol. After having my breasts cast the first year I decided that I was going cast breasts the next. So last year I learned from the master, Cassandra. It was such a great experience. Womyn would see me later and tell me how happy they were with the cast I made them. So you see I don’t only have musical skills, I’m crafty too! LOL! This year I went over to help as well.

Tuesday night got really cold. We could feel the chill in the air even before the sun went down. Although this was my third year at the festival I still don’t know if I brought enough warm clothes. I didn’t freeze or anything, but it always seems to get so much colder than I think it will. I guess because it’s August you just think it won’t really dip too low. Well that night and some others we could see steam coming out of our mouths. Remember it’s August. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it, but we were in the northern part of the state. It just gets that cold. Bombshell and had lots of covers, but we were still very cold. I didn’t know if I would want to get up in the morning and run, but I did. You know when you are under the covers and it’s cold in your house you don’t want to get up, but imagine getting up and just being outside. It was cold, but it was only an overnight thing. So it was bearable. But damn it was cold!

Tuesday down. Let’s the events begin.

Michfest Part 2 (Rolling In & Setting Up)

Day 2 (8/3) Monday
When we work up in the morning it was raining. I prayed that it wouldn’t be raining when we got to the land because I had no desire to put up my tent in the rain. Usually I wouldn’t even think about it because the festival provides tents for artists, but this year I decided to purchase my own tent because Bombshell was coming with me and I wanted us to have enough space. As an artist you are allowed on guest for free, but the festival will not provide a tent for them. With that in mind Bombshell and I would have to share space and the two-person tent the festival would have provided would not have been big enough for us. So I made the tent investment.

Now, back to the morning at the hotel. We all came down and ate the free breakfast. We got ourselves together and made one more civilization stop at Target just to make sure we had all that we needed. I had to purchase another set of sheets for the air mattress and a few other choice things. Then we left Target and headed for the festival.

The ride was a lot shorter than I thought it would be. Bombshell drove us onto the grounds and what a site to see. Since this was the first time we drove (you might remember my dreaded Chicago airport blogs of last fest) we had never seen the line to get in the festival. When driving in to Michfest, the last place to get phone signal is Hart, MI. When you get there the festival asked us to call the office so they can inform the gate of our arrival and we won’t have to wait in the festie line (that’s the line of folks who are regular festival goers not performers or workers).

There is a 3-mile stretch of road that leads to the gate. We turned off a paved road to this dirt road and let me tell you there were almost three miles of cars waiting for the gate to open. It was amazing. People were just posted up by their cars, meeting and greeting each other, playing instruments and eating. Basically just chillin’. It was just incredible. They had either been there for a while or knew they would be, but everyone was cool. I saw a cool lady in pink who would later turn out to be my girl Christine Love and then another woman in a full on Wonder Woman costume. I really need one of those in my life. We rode by all of these folks and right up to the gate where they waved us in and we parked. It was the VIP treatment, woods style.

We unpacked the van and repacked the vans that would take us to the artist/worker area where we would be camping. When we got there everything was taken off the vans for us. That’s one thing about this festival. You don’t really have to life a finger for your things. They have folks specifically designated to help the artists with their items. All of our things were unloaded off the vans and brought into an area called Central Heating. That is basically the artist nerve center/night show green room. In Central Heating they know when people are coming in and going out, how they are traveling and who they are traveling with. It’s a seamless operation. Honestly this ship is so tight it’s amazing. I’m so glad that this is one of my first festival experiences of this size so I know how things should really go and how you should be treated as an artist.

When we got all of our things out of the van we located out tent. Lee Free (Hanifah’s drummer) and Kelly dropped it off earlier. We put everything on a cart and two workers were assigned to help Bombshell and I put up our condo tent. I call it a condo tent because it was really big and it had a screen porch.

We wheeled our stuff down to an area that I later dubbed the suburbs because it was kind of far from everyone else’s tent area, but very cool still. It took us a bit to put the tent up, but we chose not to read the instructions because they were a bit like IKEA and any one who has bought something from IKEA knows what I’m talking about. After a bit of back and forth we got the thing up and it was great. We could fit our air mattresses and the rest of our things with no trouble. I hung a clothesline between two trees across the way so that I had a place to hang my towels and such. We were home; at least for the week. Tiffany and Lucianna were in our area, but they hadn’t arrived yet. Tiff would be there on Tuesday and Luci on Thursday.

[This is my condo tent in the wood. Tiffany next door]

Monday was pretty chill. After we got set up and ate I walked around the land a bit. All in all the land is 650 acres. I went and said hello to folks at the Womyn of Color Tent (Cassandra in particular) and just took it all in. Monday night was not so exciting, but it was one of the best nights of sleep I had. I was warm that night so no sleeping in layers. There would not be much more of that. The following nights were very cold.

One day down and many to go. Well at least that’s what it feels like when you get there, but then the days just fly. Sadly they just fly by.

Michfest Part 1 (Road Trip!)

Everything is just a little bit better on the land. You become just a little bit thinner. Your self-esteem gets a little bit higher. Your skin is just a little bit brighter. Your waist is just a little bit smaller and your hips just a bit bigger (if that’s what you are going for *wink*). You play just a little bit better and the art appreciation is just a little bit higher. Everyone is a little bit funnier. You’re just a bit tanner and your body is exactly how you have always wanted it. You realize the true beauty that you are. It’s Michigan in general and Michfest in particular. It’s a whole other energy and everyone is transformed. Even those who thought they never would be. People who don’t like the outdoors or bugs develop a whole new appreciation. It’s Michigan in general and Michfest in particular.

This was my third year at Michfest, but the first year bringing my band there. In the years past I was part of Hanifah Walidah’s bands. First, the Fuckin’ Ladies and now Black Patti. Either way it’s always lots of fun. So what’s my story? I’ll start from the top because I know you all like it like that.

The preparation for Michfest this year was so much different for me because I was bringing blaKbüshe. First of all Michfest is an ALL WOMYN’S event. So that means there are NO men allowed at all. Not on sound, not on lights, not on anything except cleaning the port-a-janes and they come in and out without notice. With that in mind I had to configure an all female outfit for this festival. None of my guys could go. Some of them said they would go in drag if possible, but as pretty as they are they would have been spotted in short notice at the open showers. Oh well. Lol.

My preparation for this festival began early in the year. I had to track down the players, which turned out to be a little trickier than I expected. Ganessa was on board, but that left guitar, drums, percussion and vocals. Chuz (vocals) couldn’t come because she was working a job that wasn’t letting her go for a week or even 3 days for that matter. After a conversation with Ganessa about asking her sister Tiffany if she would come to Michigan to sing with me, we took a shot at asking if she would be willing to fly from Austria to NY to Michigan to sing with me at the festival. I really thought she would not agree because the festival could not get her from Austria to NY, but with a little finagling we made it happen! Tiffany was on board. Next drums.

I have always admired Tamar-Kali’s drummer Lafrae. So I set out to get her on board. When I finally tracked her down we talked and it seemed like it was a go. Then suddenly, not to long into our conversations, she realized that the timing for the festival was not going to be good for her. I was bummed because I was back to square one for a drummer. Let me just insert here that I was really trying to assemble an all brown, all-female band. Shouldn’t be to difficult right? Well, back to the drummer situation. I was wracking my brain and then I remembered Luciana Padmore. Perfect! I got in touch with her and as the Universe would have it she was free! So now we had bass, drums and vocals. Next stop percussion.

Last year at Michigan there was an incredible all-female Latin band called CocoMama that played. One of their lead singers and sometimes percussionist is Christelle Durandy. We met on the land last year and then realized that we knew each other form various events around NYC. So I hollered at her to be the percussionist on the set. She was more than down and to make it even better her band CocoMama was asked to play at Michfest again this year. So she was coming anyway! That’s what’s up. So we now have bass, drums, percussion and vocals. The last and biggest missing link was guitar.

This seemed to be the hardest instrument to lock down. Black women who play electric guitar didn’t seem like a hard find, but it was really a challenge. Most of the black women I know are only acoustic players. I could think of various white women, but very few black women. Sounds insane right? Then Ganessa dropped the name Pamela Means on me. I had never seen her, but after Ganessa gave me the name and Jeff and I went out one night check her at a small spot in Brooklyn. I think it was either really cold or snowing on that night so there were only about 5 or 6 people in the house. Well, Pamela did the damn thing! She really blew me away. At that point I knew I wanted her to be a part of blaKbüshe. I asked, she said yes and the band was complete.

I won’t give you all the details of rehearsals and such before the fest, but I’ll just say that it all came together. Let’s fast forward to our road trip to Michigan.

Day Before (8/1) Saturday/Day 1 (8/2) Sunday
If you are someone who travels then you know how challenging it can be to get some sleep the night before you have to leave. This trip was no different for me. We left on Sunday morning, but Saturday was a trip in and of itself. Mind you I went home to MA on the bus on Friday night so that I could get up on Saturday morning and rent my grandfather a car, while we took his van to Michigan.

I got up on Saturday morning, had breakfast at IHop with my grandparents and then went to get the rental car. When I got there everything seemed to be flowing nicely until the guy at the car rental place told me that my credit card had expired…the day before! Now how could I miss getting a new card in the mail? Did I get one? I was beside myself. In the end we just put it on my grandfather’s, but that just shows where my brain had been. So we get the car, I go back to their house to get my bag, then I head to my parents house to say hello to them and take a shower.

After my shower I chatted with my parents a bit and then left because I had to get back to New York before it got to late. Yes my crazy self still had errands to run and I hadn’t packed a lick. So I hop in the ride, wave goodbye to my family and make my way back to New York.

I can’t remember what time I got back, but there was still work to do and sadly it took all night. Not to mention that my friend Shelly Martin a.k.a. Bombshell, who was going with me, was still in the process of moving from Brooklyn to the Bronx. There was a lot going on. Too much to even repeat. Needless to say when I got to Hanifah’s house to meet the caravan I was happy to turn the wheel over to Ri when she asked for the first leg. To say I was beat is an understatement.

So who was in the caravan? In my van was Olive, Hanifah, Ri Ri and Bombshell. In the next car was Gina, Karma and Cree and in the last car was Vanessa, Alex and Michelene. We had enough room for most of our stuff in the van, but a few things we had to be strapped to the top. About an hour after our scheduled departure time we were finally good to go. We pulled off the block and we were Michigan bound.

We decided that we weren’t going to really follow each other because we all had directions and cell phones, but it was still a caravan. Our first scheduled stop was Oberlin, OH for lunch. The driving shifts went as follows.

Ri started us off and I have to give her big props because I think she drove through most if not all of PA and much of it in pouring rain. If you have ever driven though PA you know that there is just no scenery out there. I mean the mountains are beautiful, but after a while you just need something else. Then to have to drive through rain too? All I can say is power to my girl for real.

Then I took over. I figured that I would get us to Oberlin. As I was going along I felt good, but I could the feel a wave of tired coming on me. Then as we were driving somewhere in Ohio we hear a load noise from the top of the van. Olive looks back and calmly said, “Is that our stuff flying down the highway?” What??!!!!! I look in the side mirror and low and behold it is! So I pull over and Hanifah jumps out of the car. I follow suit, but on her side so not to get hit by traffic. We can see our stuff on the highway. Luckily it didn’t hit anyone and luckily it was linens and a chair, but that chair could have hurt someone for real. Hanifah and I ran down the highway toward our stuff. She tried to slow down traffic, but they weren’t slowing at all. So we just waited until there was a clearing and when she headed out onto the highway I followed. She grabbed one set of linen and I grabbed the chair and we ran back to side. The strange thing was that the traffic didn’t stop, but folks did swerve around the stuff. I guess they saw us and knew something had to be up with these black women running down the road. LOL!

We were still missing Ri’s stuff and I looked down the road and saw a dot in the road that I knew was her linens. So I just kept running down the road while Hanifah took the other stuff back. When I got down to where it was it had fallen almost on the other side of the highway. My original plan was to wait for a clearing, run out and grab the stuff, then run to the other side and wait for another clearing. Well as the Universe would have it the road just opened up. It just cleared. No traffic at all and this is the middle of the day. So I ran out, grabbed her stuff and ran back before any more cars showed up. The folks waiting by the van said it looked crazy. My adrenaline was flowing so there was no fear involved. It was actually really invigorating. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. Needless to say I was very awake now and I drove us the rest of the way to Oberlin, where we had lunch.

After lunch Hanifah took over until it got dark. I believe she got us into Michigan. Then Shelly took the rest of the way to get us to the hotel where we would be spending the night. Unfortunately Gina got a little turned around so it took her some time to find the hotel and she was spent by the time she got there, but we all arrived alive. Very tired, but alive. One day down, one to go (on the driving front).

Stay tuned...