This subject came up in the Just Plain Folks forum, so I thought I would share it here as well.
In October of 2001, I attended the FARM Conference (Folk Alliance Midwest Region), held that year near Battle Creek, Michigan. At that time, they didn’t have showcase performances, but instead held what I believe was called the “Performance Alley”. As I recall, over two nights, 40 performers got to do one song on the auditorium stage, kind of like a big open mic, but with professional performers. As luck would have it, I ended up being the next-to-last performer, with the emcee going last.
As it was only a few weeks after the tragic events of 9/11, there were a lot of sad, navel-gazing type songs performed. There were also a few very memorable songs. One performer sang about a recent scientific invention that induced orgasms at a touch of a button. (Incidentally, this was true.) A young lady sang about about the time she spent in a park in Florence, Italy, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and being homesick. Another young woman sang about remembering how, when she was younger, she used to lay back, look at the stars, and ask herself all of the big questions in life.
My turn finally came. I stepped onto the stage and thanked all of my “opening acts.” (Laughs from the audience). I then began my patter and everything I said just seemed to work. I told the audience that… there are disadvantages to going on this late in the show. I had to throw out all of my planned material. I had to get rid of my orgasm induction song. Then, I also had a song about being at a park in Florence… OK, it was a parking lot at the K-mart in Florence, Kentucky, but still… Finally I too used to lay back and look at the stars and ask myself, “Where the hell’s the roof?” I got big laughs from the crowd and I began to play.
Right up until I was about to hit the opening chord, I had planned to do one of my own songs, “Upper Middle Class Blues.” However, at the very last second, I decided to do the old Scottish ballad, Wild Mountain Thyme. I began to sing and after a couple of bars, I realized that the entire audience was singing along. Remember, this was an audience of a couple of hundred folk music performers. Chills still run up and down my spine as I remember how it sounded. With the recent terror attacks on everyone’s mind, it was a very healing experience. To this day, I don’t remember consciously making the decision to play that song, but I am so glad that I let it happen.