Festival Heartstrings Review

Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) 2016

What is NERFA, you ask? The formal answer is that NERFA is the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance. Its goal is to provide opportunities for members to network regionally and to advance the overall mission of Folk Alliance International. NERFA is also so much more. Whether you’re a musician, artist agent/manager, venue representative, journalist or something else, the value of networking and self-promotion cannot be overstated. For artists, its posting and presenting yourself, both digitally and physically. For agents/managers, it’s advocating your belief in the artists you represent. What we do in and for the music world is something we never actually turn off. We do it not only because we want to, but because, by our nature, we have to. It drives us. It’s in our blood. This is a bond and trait that every person at NERFA shares. A stranger at NERFA isn’t really a stranger at all. I was told by many that the conference has a way of making you feel like you’re at summer camp. As a first-timer this year, I found that to be true and in the best way. The feeling isn’t just because of the familiar faces from one year to the next, it’s also due to the schedule — the hours (activities start early in the morning and continue late, well, into the next early morning. There’s a sense of community fostered by everyone settling into the same hotel–some not even venturing outside into the light of day for all three state days–and breaking bread together at the community meals. And there’s also the excitement one feels knowing that so many amazing things are occurring simultaneously at any give moment–which to choose is a constant thought.

The morning and afternoon hours are filled with one-of-a-kind workshops and panels, where industry professionals offer their personal expertise and experience on various subjects and topics. A few of my favorite workshops included “On the Griddle” (where an elite panel listens to and then critiques the first sixty seconds of one of your original songs), “Make a Radio Ready Recording,” “Contracts for Performing Artists & Venues,” “Why I Didn’t Book You” and many more. Each jam-packed with useful information and advice. Each evening, after dinner, there first were the Formal and Tricentric Showcases which would take place in the main ballroom and conference rooms on the main floor of the hotel. Then, at the stroke of 11:45 pm, the late night Guerilla Showcases begin. This year Guerilla Showcases were presented throughout the second floor of the hotel where each hotel room was converted into an intimate performing space hosted by regional venues, presenters and musicians, such as Club Passim, Pie & Whiskey, Philadelphia Folksong Society, Cup of Joe, AcousticMusicScene, and countless others. Take a casual stroll on the second floor during the late night hours and you will hear amazing music coming from virtually every room. Stop in, grab some food and a beverage (most rooms provide refreshments at no cost), grab a seat, sit back and enjoy! If you’re in it for the long-haul, you can hear buskers and some impromptu jams in the lobby from after the Guerilla showcases end at 3:00 am until about 6:00 am. Some of the most amazing intimate moments can be found in these wee hours.

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