Notes from the Road – Folk Alliance 2009 Day 4 [2/21] and Leaving Memphis Last day – unlike festivals where you are really all about playing music, enjoying the camaraderie of the other artists and soaking up the atmosphere, as a performer here you are all about making an impression, putting your best foot forward, getting the right people to see you perform, making contacts and strategizing. In other words, though you do get some (emphasis on the lesser quantity implied by the word) chance to visit with artists and friends from across the country / world, this is WORK and you have to approach it as such. Those artists that attend something like this and stay in their comfort zone, i.e., just hanging out with people / artists they know, sitting in their room when not performing and waiting to be found as opposed to making sure they get found, get little or, more likely, no benefit from attending. As a consequence, if you are really working at it, by the last day you are major league EXHAUSTED – and, I AM! I was up and at it by the crack of 11 a.m. – hey, I’m old, give me a break!! Much like yesterday I started with CAFFEINE then moved to E-MAIL then focused on personal hygiene. I’m a folkie, but I’m not an animal – a shower a day is not too much to ask. I had a protein bar (yum . . . NOT) and got my stuff together for the Exhibit Hall. I needed to go out and get another batch of bottled water so I wanted to hit the set up period for the Hall, then take the trolley up to the local grocery. An aside, just to satisfy my desire to serve the consuming public. The Marriott Convention Center here is perfectly situated and designed to host this event and, I’m sure, will remain the venue of choice for this conference for years to come. Furthermore, what I’m about to say is NOT a criticism of the Folk Alliance Board’s choice of the venue (or the FA Staff’s). However, Marriott, as a business enterprise, is, in my humble opinion, vastly over rated and charges far too much for what they provide? I say this not based just on the experience here in Memphis, but everywhere I’ve stayed in a Marriott around the country. As far as this week, here’s the deal. The rooms are ‘discounted” for the event to about $140 per night, which all things considered is not too bad of a rate. BUT (and it’s a big BUTT) everything is designed to suck more dollars out of your wallet. For instance, at Marriotts you are not allowed to use a lobby luggage cart to bring in your bags. To use a cart you must be assisted by a bellman who, of course, expects a tip for his efforts that you didn’t need or want in the first place. They tell you it is for “insurance reasons”, but it’s odd to me that Comfort Inn, etc. have no such insurance issues and provide as nice or nicer rooms at half the price. Where other hotel groups provide free wireless internet, the Marriott charges $12.95 a day. Where far less expensive hotels have parking available at no charge, Marriott charges $12.00 per day to park (not valet – park it yourself). And forget about food and beverage in the hotel – a bottle of water is $3.00 (which is why I go buy a case of water for $4.99 up the street). By the time its all said and done with taxes, fees, etc. the actual cost per night is more like $200. Consumers have the ultimate power in a capitalist economy – I suggest we start using it wisely in these troubled economic times. For my part, Marriott will not get any business from me except in those circumstances like this where I simply have no choice. Enough carping. My errands accomplished the Exhibit Hall opened. Though less crowded on the final day and less intense it was still a very productive day. Lots of opportunities to get in front of folks I had not yet talked to, hand them a Sampler CD, etc. Needless to say I will not be hauling home any Chexmix or tangerines – every single scrap scarfed! And by the time 6 p.m. rolled around I was most definitely ready to be down with the booth. Three days is quite plenty thanks so much!! I packed it up quickly and efficiently taking the gear directly to the car [no need to haul it twice] and headed back up to the room to get my feet up for a few minutes. At around 7:30, David Russell and I caught the trolley up to Union and then wandered down to 2nd to get dinner at the Flying Fish. Outstanding! Ice cold oysters on the half shell, catfish, shrimp, red beans and rice – oh boy. And all washed down with a cold beer. Heaven. Then back to the hotel to work up a couple more songs for the night’s last showcase. David is backing me again and giving me a bigger sound to help draw folks on in. Tonight I’m in Bill & Kate Isles’ room and, as before, had the folks I wanted to see show up to hear a quick set. David and I went a little more laid back for this set, in keeping with everyone’s energy levels and the winding down vibe. We pulled out some of my older tunes, This Old House and Annie’s Chairs, plus my Memphis inspired Sinner’s Song and finished up on the up tempo of Yellow Butter Moon. Gloria Holloway was in the room for this set (thanks Gloria!) and a couple of new contacts from the Texas and TN areas. Fun set – and now it’s MILLER TIME. Though I was dog tired I deposited my guitar back in my room, got a drink and wandered the performance halls to catch a last minute showcase or two, say some goodbyes, etc. The end of these four days of madness is always bittersweet. You are SO glad to be done, yet disappointed that the energy high is over. Wrapping Up and Loading Out I was able to drag myself out of bed by about 10 a.m., probably about 6 hours of sleep, and start gathering my stuff that was strewn about the room. When you come to one of these conferences the most important item to retain is the conference program which contains in it the full address, email, etc. of every attendee, who the showcase presenters were, etc. It is a gold mine of information for the future. Once I made sure I had that in the bag, everything else was easy. I made a couple of trips to the car to get all my stuff there. Bellmen were running about like ants trying to make the most of the torrent of departing attendees. Even if I had wanted one I couldn’t have gotten one. Beautiful weather out for the drive home – cold, in the 30’s to low 40’s, but clear and sunny. Very Nice. I was out of the hotel by a little after noon and headed over to Westy’s for one more bowl of Gumbo then homeward bound. See you next year Memphis. There are a couple of folks who always deserve high praise and much thanks for this event – Folk Alliance Director Louis Meyers and Staffer Cindy Cogbill. There are other staffers as well, but I don’t have as much contact with them and don’t know them by name – thanks to them too. The FA Staff works absolutely, positively non-stop for the entire conference. ANYTHING that someone needs no matter the time day or night is attended to quickly and graciously. Cindy, in particular, has always been a “make it happen” person for me and I can’t say enough about the job she does, always with a smile as big as Tennessee pushing at her cheeks. Louis and Cindy, my sincerest thanks! So, its back to Florida I head with lots to do (the follow up is, of course, the truly critical work so that all done so far isn’t for naught) and much learned. See you soon.