Reno Review, Electricity + A Wedding Update

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Hello, Friends,
Do you feel it?  The quickening pulse of Spring?  Everything is blooming and I can’t get enough of the open window and the promise aloft on fresh, crisp air.
rise, sun
chirp, bird
blossom, spring
open, heart

We’re feeling energized after a whirlwind trip with the full band to Reno, NV for the 9th Annual Reno Ukulele Festival.  What a treat for us to be able to bring our Loose Change Orchestra (LCO) to play for the headline Saturday night concert.  It was an honor to perform on the famed Celebrity Showroom at the Sparks Nugget where world-class entertainers have been performing since 1955, and where famously their live-in elephant Bertha stole the show from Geoge Burns nightly. The theater is gorgeous with an old-school Vegas vibe – you’d swear you saw Frank Sinatra tucked away at a deep velvet booth up on the dark mezzanine…

The Celebrity Showroom, Sparks Nugget 

A postcard of Bertha, the Elephant, one of Sparks Nugget’s most beloved entertainers for 30 years.  (c1963)

Jeff and I and the LCO were all in the groove and played one of our very best concerts. Maybe it was the ghosts of all the great entertainers stopping by for a highball, maybe it was the fantastic acoustics, maybe it was positive energy that surrounds ukulele festivals, but whatever it was, it was an electric night. And just to top things off, keyboardist Bob Malone of John Fogerty’s band played a set before us and joined us onstage for a few tunes. Wow! We’re still buzzing from the events of the wonderful weekend. Here we are onstage for our headline concert, and there’s Bob sitting in with us.

An electric performance on the famed Celebrity Showroom stage. (VP & the LCO)

VP & the LCO with special guest Bob Malone.


Jeff and I agree that one of the very best things about this year’s Reno Ukulele Fest was the opportunity to present our newly developed Performance  I & II workshops, and to work with such willing and eager participants. Deepest thanks and admiration to each and every person that shared their talents with the class and opened themselves up to a new way of hands-on learning. Everyone gave their all – my eyes were misty more than once. Just thinking about it now gives me chills. The students ranged in age from grade school to grandparent and came from all walks of life. What an honor to spend time together in such a meaningful, fun and productive way.  Presenting workshops at festivals, schools, and for arts organizations across the country is an increasingly large part of our life and one that we enjoy greatly.  We’ll be expanding the workshop page on our website to including more offerings on topics such as performance, motivation, music, ukulele, and professional development for artists.

Jeff and Erin working with Performance II workshop participants.

 For those who have participated in one of our workshops, we’d love to stay in touch and to hear how you’re progressing. Let’s connect on Facebook and please post what you’re doing. We’re also seeking short quotes (1-2 sentences) about our workshops and your experience of them to use on our website. You can help us with our project by sending a quote; we’d be most grateful. Send your words directly to:   –OR–  post a comment right here on this page.

It’s been one year since we launched, “Electricity”, our 2016 album of original tunes recorded in Nashville at Sputnik Sound with producer Mitch Dane.  And what a year it’s been! The business of making music and making art is not for the faint of heart.  Like all things that matter, it requires total dedication and concentration to the task from the makers. Additionally, I believe deeply that the successful artist must have a strong network of peers and supporters to help them grow, challenge themselves and to send encouragement when necessary. [And it’s always necessary.] Making “Electricity” would not have been possible without you. We spent a good deal of time in 2015 crowdfunding for “Electricity” and your support and enthusiasm helped us make this album which we’ve been touring for the last 12 months.  As Amanda Palmer says in her book, “The Art of Asking, ” …working artists and their supportive audiences are two parts of a complex ecosystem…that thrives on trust and openness.”  THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for joining us on this exciting journey!

Looking back, we can see how much this past year moved us forward. I want to push “Pause” for a moment today, stop the running around being busy,  and breathe deeply of what we’ve already accomplished *together*.  We are so grateful to you all.

2016 | THE FACTS
– released “Overtones” poetry book, March
– released “Electricity” original music CD, April
– Official CD release concert (KCMO) April 19
– #12 Album, “Electricity” on Folk DJ Chart
– #3 Song, “Moon Over Bourbon Street”
– 116 tour dates
– 208 public appearances
– toured 20 US states + Canada
– traveled 31,000 miles over the road
– sold +1,000 CDs
– paid other artists and support staff  (including musicians and radio promotion)  $33K
– signed to local record label, Middle Class Records
– joined the roster of booking agency Heart Roots Music with Representation by Liz DiSessa
– and evidently, you like our “Hot Licks Sauce” because you bought 350 bottles this year. 
“Electricity” did everything we hoped it would including helping us secure distribution and a booking agent, establish a presence on the national folk radio scene, and partner with a record company. Wow!
Even as we’re taking stock of the hard work and rewards (both quantitative and qualitative) that “Electricity” brought, we’re already looking toward the next album. We’ve been experiencing a songwriting boom and are writing new tunes weekly, which feels amazing. To be in this prolific place with so many new ideas is a gift. The creative muse comes and goes, but the work of creating art must happen every day, rather inspiration strikes or not.  We’ve begun to share some of these new tunes onstage, and there are many more songs coming. The new songs are varied in texture and theme, with rich arrangments and lots of horns. We’re loving our expanded LCO and the new sounds and energy the additional instrumentation (trombone, accordion, backing vocals and more) offers. We’ll  be making the new record right here in Kansas City with Middle Class Records later this year.  Stay tuned as we post our progress….
On a personal note – we are 19 days from our wedding (May 14) as I’m writing this email!  We’re very excited and we thank you for all the good words, advice, and well-wishes you’ve sent.  We’re so excited and ready! I re-read the post I wrote after Jeff’s proposal in December, and I feel just like I did that day – I can’t wait for our big day. We’ll take a few days off after the wedding to celebrate with friends in Chicago and then we go right back to work. As full-time touring musicians, spring and summer are our busiest time of the year next to Christmas and so we won’t be able to take a proper honeymoon until the fall. But – ooh boy – we’ve got a big dream for a honeymoon: our first-ever *non-working* travel vacation overseas. We’re planning an exotic Spanish Honeymoon to Spain and Portugal!  I promise I’ll post tons of pictures of the wedding and we’ll give you the “backstage” updates as the date grows near. 
Thanks again, friends. Let’s stay connected via our Facebook Page . Follow our day-to-day moments on Instagram and Twitter. We’ll be posting tour dates for the summer soon as well as info on new workshops plus our progress toward writing the next album. In the meantime, we’ll be busy getting hitched!   #lovewins
Erin (Penny) 
Full Tour schedule | Facebook  for tour updates and insider info | Our story on Instagram and Twitter

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