Well, I’m back from SPAH and almost recovered. After about the first 3 days at SPAH you are pretty much running on adrenaline. I’m not sure but I think alcohol and sleep deprivation has something to do with it.
Here’s my recap. I arrived in Denver on Tuesday at about 3:00PM and as I was waiting for the shuttle to the hotel, who walks up but the great Paul Messinger. Already he has a harp in his mouth and he is noodling around. That seems to be a trademark of great players – they always seem to have a harp in their mouth working on something. So we get on the shuttle, take our seats and who’s sitting next to us? Joe Filisko and Eric Noden. That was a harbinger of things to come. This was not going to be a dull event.
As we approached the hotel everyone’s cell phones started buzzing like crazy. It seemed that we were driving straight into the teeth of a tornado and we were all getting alerts. Indeed, as we got within about of mile of the hotel we could see blue skies to the left and blue skies to the right but nothing but an angry black storm directly ahead of us. Our driver pressed on. Paul kept assuring us that we had nothing to worry about. He stated confidently, “I’ve survived every tornado I’ve been through.” I thought that was self-evident since he was sitting next to me, very much alive. I was confused. We pulled up to the hotel, got out of the van and went inside, at which time we were promptly ushered, along with every other guest in the hotel to the Tornado Shelter, which I believe was the main ball room. So it was a quick forced reunion of old friends because literally everyone in the hotel was huddled in the same room.
The Blues Blow-Off Tuesday night was nothing short of amazing. For a complete list of who played (and a brief description) you can visit the following link.
Jason, Ronnie Shellist, Joe Filisko, etc. were all great but the guy who stole the show in my mind was Dale Spalding – the current front man for Canned Heat. He was supposed to play with his brother Larry but Larry’s flight was held up (something to do with a tornado) so the Iron Man himself – Mr. Jimi Lee – filled in and they just knocked it out of the park. After his set I told Dale that, “I didn’t know that Frank Sinatra played the harp.” Dale is just an amazing crooner who plays a mean harp.
Back at the hotel, a few of us were discussing how calling the event the “Blues” Blow-Off was kind of a misnomer because it was hardly just blues. There was a tremendous variety of music. Perhaps if future events display such a variety of talent it might be better to call it a “Harmonica Showcase” or something to that effect.
On Wednesday I led a workshop which I called “Everything you always wanted to know about Custom Combs but were afraid to ask”. Truthfully, I was up against some pretty stiff competition in my time slot so I really didn’t expect a big crowd. After all, who spends all that money to fly to Denver just to talk about combs? I was pleasantly surprised. We had about 40 people filter in and out of what was supposed to be a 1 hour workshop but instead lasted over 2 ½ hours. In attendance were Lars Siefert, President of Seydel, Will Scarlett, Inventor of the Over-Blow, Harvey Berman of Harvey Harp fame, Russian Superstar, Boris Plotnikov and many others. The conversation migrated away from combs to a discussion about various ways to make your harps play better.
I won’t bore you with details of the rest of the week but I will say that it was a great venue. The hotel, accommodations and food were excellent. The beer was cold. The workshops, seminars and nightly performances were terrific (at least the ones that attended were). True to my word, I was able to mix about equal parts of business and pleasure. I had my vendor’s booth open for about 3-4 hours each day and the reception was wonderful. Thank you to all of you who stopped by to say hello or to make a purchase. It was much appreciated.
By now, most of you have seen the videos of Jason’s awesome performances. I would be remiss if I did not make public another video that Jason made at SPAH. This will seem amazingly self-serving (and it is) but there’s no other way to do this than to just put it out there.
I am truly honored to have someone of Jason’s stature endorse my products. Thank you Jason.
And the same goes for Mr. Ronnie Shellist. Thank you Ronnie.
SPAH will be in San Antonio next year. If you’ve ever thought about going to SPAH but just couldn’t pull the trigger or justify the expense, start saving $2-3 a day and in a year you’ll have a SPAH fund. Cut out that cup of expensive coffee or brown bag it for lunch a day or two each week. Put the money you save in a SPAH fund and I’ll see you next year in San Antonio.
---------- Tom Halchak www.BlueMoonHarmonicas.com
Last Edited by florida-trader on Aug 19, 2015 6:46 AM
Thanks, Tom, that's a great report. More! I hope more people will post their own reports.
I will be in San Antonio next year. The Blues Docs and I have been approached by SPAH honchos. Maybe the Satan and Adam doc will debut. It's time. I've never been to San Antonio. I'll/we'll be there.
Last Edited by kudzurunner on Aug 18, 2015 6:15 PM
SPAH is always a blast and this year was no exception. Tom had the booth next to mine. Usually the booth is swamped on the 1st day as people arrive, and the last day as they look for ways to dump some of that spare cash they brought. This year, it was simply crazy all day every day. Lots of customers, lots of questions. I don't get to go to many of the wonderful seminars during the day but I get to hang with everyone in the evenings, for the jams, etc. This year I was so exhausted from the day I had to skip a jam or two. Still - it was a great SPAH - from the incredible modern blues of Jason Ricci to the musical virtuosity of Filip Jers to the sweet chromatic tone of Koie Tanaka to the old school trio of Mo Vint and the Harmonicats - every kind of harp can be heard, at its best.
Once again - if you have never been to a SPAH convention, put it on your bucket list.
My hat is off to outgoing president Winslow Yerxa, who has been instrumental in assembling the most talented and qualified incoming regime that I have seen at SPAH. I'm looking forward to great things! ---------- *************************************************** /Greg
SPAH was great and the folks who consistently pour hours into making it a success really stepped up again this year.
It is a wonderful blend of outstanding players, beginners, and strugglers like me. Everyone is welcome and regardless of who you are or what level player, you have the unique opportunity to hang out literally 24 hours a day with some of the best.
A big thank you to Seydel who makes my attendance possible and a nod to Greg Heumann who is a great neighbor in vendor area.
On that note, I came home with a few extra unlabeled Seydel harps. If you dropped some off with me for repair, shoot me an email. I have a few stragglers that I'm trying to identify.
I live in the San Antonio area and am naturally looking forward to next year. ---------- Greg Jones 16:23 Custom Harmonicas firstname.lastname@example.org 1623customharmonicas.com
Meaux Jeaux – I’m not sure how much need I would have for a rental car. When I went to the Harmonica Collective in Indianapolis, I took the shuttle to the hotel, checked in and never left the building until I got in the shuttle back to the airport. At SPAH, the only time I left the hotel in 5 days was the first night for the Blow-Off and about 6 off us used Uber (thank you Greg Heumann). Let’s just save our rental car dinero and spend it at the bar.
Adam – Thanks for the kind words and it will definitely be a treat to see you in San Antonio. I’ll be looking forward to hearing you perform plus host a workshop or two.
Greg Heumann – it was great to see you again. But I got news for you brother. I don’t think you were exhausted from the hard day’s work. I think it had something to do with copious amounts of ………. of ……….. of…………. the water! Yeah! It must have been the water – and the altitude!
Greg Jones – I think those Seydels are mine. You were going to turn those into monster OB/OD harps for me and file it under “Warranty”.