A visit to the 2012 Lone Star Uke Fest

Debbie PorterThe 2012 version of the Lone Star Uke Fest happened on June 1 and 2 in Dallas at the Bath House Cultural Center, an arts facility owned by the city. If you went to either of the earlier Lone Star fests, this one, organized by “Ukulady” Noel Tardy, was a good deal smaller. Instead of the big roster of teachers and performers at the previous fests, this year there were three–east Texas singer Debbie Porter, the “Play Ukulele by Ear” impresario Jim D’Ville, and Austin’s own Pops Bayless.

Friday evening was basically a big open mike, along with a singer / songwriter competition. On Saturday 6/2, there were basically two morning sessions, one for beginners and thePops Bayless other for “intermediate / advanced” players. Debbie and Pops switched off for these. Each one of their classes was intended for one level or another, but everyone took part in every class. Debbie shared lots of performance tips for “open mike” singers on all levels–most notably how to phrase a song, and importantly, how to determine which key is correct for you, as many folks sing too high or too low. Pops had everyone playing the blues in a matter of minutes, and then shared the best way to play the blues on a uke.

Jim D'VilleJim D’Ville did his “Play Ukulele by Ear” class and jam throughout the afternoon. His message, delivered very much in the style of a musical stand-up comic, was for every player at every level to “throw away the book”–in other words, lose the notebook many ukers carry to meetings or performances with all their favorite song sheets inside. Instead, Jim showed us all the 1 – 4 – 5 musical form of an average rock / folk / pop song (not all songs follow it, but most do) and how to figure it out without having to look at sheet music.

The three teachers, along with Texas novelty band the Wahooligans, performed Saturday evening. It was all lots of fun, worth the three-hour drive in each direction, and highly recommended if they hold another one next year. –from Walter

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