Skip to content

If you squint, our summer schedule almost looks like a tour

May 12, 2014

We’ll be hitting some of our favorite spots in Baltimore, as well as DC and Frederick. Looking at them in a list, it almost looks like a tour! Of course, they’re separated by weeks or even months between each show, and I get to go home and sleep each night, so of course it’s not.

One of the highlights for me is that we get to share some stage time with our friends Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray again, on August 8. Now those are some real road warriors … Erin and Chris have lived most of their married life out of their van, putting down some roots briefly in California and the DC-Baltimore-Frederick area. This official video of the first track off their new album is a sunny representation of that:

Of course, five days in the car and you’re desperate for a real shower, cramped and cranky from sleeping upright, and starting to question the validity of your meal choices. But it’s honed them into a far better band than they were a few years ago, and I loved their music even when it was a lot more prototypical.

Touring is one thing I never got a chance to do, so it’s something that’s “missing” from my musical education. I don’t travel well: I dislike driving, I really dislike flying. Even when we played in New York (well, Brooklyn), I drove home at 1:00 in the morning. I don’t recommend that. When I lived in Texas, I didn’t have a problem traveling four or six hours to play shows, but gas was cheap then, and you must be a lot tougher when you’re only twenty, because 2:00 a.m. when you’ve been up since 6 in the morning isn’t painful at all. And, of course, I was in the military at the time, so I couldn’t just pack up and take off.

I can pinpoint the moment I knew I could never be a touring musician: I was sitting around listening to a conversation between some friends from a jam session in San Antonio; many of them had toured, a couple had even been roadies for “name” bands going back forty years, and one of them made a comment about one of his favorite musicians being fifty and living in his car. There was a lot of derision in the way he said it, and this came out of a musician who had been on a label and had a minor radio hit in the 80s, did his time with alcoholism and a broken family (his son played drums with him, though, so they had patched things up years ago), and hadn’t had a job other than playing his guitar in decades. I thought about whether there was anything I’d rather do than play music at any given time, and once I realized that there were other things I enjoyed doing, I scratched off “go on tour” from my to-do list.

It’s funny how you can regret something that you know you’d hate, but then again, one of my neuroses is that I live in a state of constant self-doubt, embarrassment, and regret no matter how happy I am with a decision I’ve made.

Anyway … here’s our summer shows:

Friday, May 30, 2014: Joe Squared for the dinner set, 7:00-9:00.

Joe Squared
133 W. North Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-545-0444

Sunday, June 8, 2014: World Folk Music Association showcase with IONA and Laura Dungan & Aaron Fowler.

El Golfo Restaurant
8739 Flower Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20901
7:00 p.m.
For reservations, call 301-608-2121

Sunday July 13, 2014: Todd Walker’s Sunday Songwriters’ Songfest at Frederick Coffee Co. and Cafe.

Frederick Coffee Co. and Cafe
100 N. East Street
Frederick, MD 21701
4:00-7:00 p.m.

Friday, August 8, 2014: Joe Squarednight show with the Katie Bowers Band (that’s Katie and Joe Scala) and Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray.

Joe Squared
133 W. North Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-545-0444
10:00 p.m. showtime

Saturday, October 4, 2014: Teavolve with Beggar’s Ride. Details TBA.

FAWM 2014 wrap-up

February 27, 2014

I did February Album Writing Month (FAWM) again this year.FAWM, for those who don’t know, is a self-challenge to write 14 songs in the month of February. Despite getting a late start and having a few weeks of feeling bad due to illness, I even finished a few days early thanks to some collaboration with my friend Mosno.

Read more about the process, read about the highlights, and my overall thoughts on the challenge here.

New show added — January 24th at Cellar Stage

December 29, 2013

On Friday, January 24th, 2014, we’ll be part of a showcase at Uptown Concerts’ Cellar Stage (in Hamilton, Baltimore, MD) along with Lynn Hollyfield, Jessica Smucker, and Neptune’s Car. It’s kind of a big deal for us, because it means that we’re not just an opening act this time when we play there, and we get to bring along Joe Scala to make a full trio.

You can check out info for the show at and on our shows page.

“Baltimericana” released (Jon & Joe side project recording)

October 21, 2013

Just thought I’d post a little note over here about the Baltimericana EP. This was a home recording project that Joe and I recorded starting last summer. It’s finally ready. There are four new songs on it, and it’s a free download. You can listen to it here:

And I’ve done some “Song Sources” posts about the writing process behind the tracks over on my blog. Check em out here.

“A Hole in Everything” – Co-Writing Session

April 14, 2013

That’s a working title for a new song with lyrics by me and Jen.

Co-writing continues to be an enjoyable (if sometimes weird) experience for me. This time it was with Jen, and we finished a song I’ve been working on for almost two years. I had a first verse, and then every time I tried to write a second verse, I just couldn’t come up with anything good.

So I played Jen the first verse (and chorus). It was a pretty bare bones character sketch of two people with very different personalities.

I know you were the kind
to be always one branch higher
Anything to be at the top of the tree
And I was the tongue-tied boy
Rooted and grounded and bored
Maybe a broken arm was all I need

Somewhat ironically, it was Jen who pushed for it to be more of a story, so we talked about what kind of relationship between the characters was implied by what was already written, and then something really fun occurred to us: we made it a duet, which is not something we’ve done ever. This opened up an entirely new way to explore the song, because now instead of one person talking about himself and someone else, it was two people talking about the other person.

Male character:
I know you were the kind
to be always one branch higher
Anything to be at the top of the tree

Female character:
When I finished my climb
I knew I was a flier
My heart wanted much more than you and me

Second verse:

Female character:
Always biting your tongue
You played helpless and quiet
Clinging to restraints you were chained to the ground

Male character:
I was the tongue-tied boy
Rooted and grounded and bored
Maybe a broken arm was all I need

I’m quite pleased with what came out. “Miscommunication” is good fodder for stories. Jen commented that the net result is that there’s a disconnect between them, some breakdown in compatibility and their basic ability to even understand each other to work past it. There’s also an interesting psychological bit with the way the narrators construct their sentences: his lines start have “I” as the subject even when talking about the other person; hers use “I” to talk about herself and “you” to talk about the other person.

Jen is better than I am at actually saying what “she” (or her narrator) means, and also seems to have a much easier time being completely open and honest about her own personal experience, so it’s a good foil to my tendency to be oblique sometimes to the point of obscurity. Her willingness to throw every idea out there really helped put me at ease for the session. Mostly I was relegated to rewording things slightly to maintain the rhyme scheme and rhythm, but lyrically it’s a true collaboration now.

The song has a chorus, and we did some fun vocal things with the harmonies, but I’ll save talking about those for when we have a recording of some sort.


Practice makes … all your songs sound different

March 25, 2013

If anyone’s wondering (all eight of you!) why I haven’t blogged in a while — well, I have. It’s just that I’m blogging in two places now, here and on “my” blog.

Joe Scala and I got together today to work on a few of the FAWM songs linked to in the last post.

It’s peculiar reworking songs for a band without everyone present: You get these weird gaps in the rhythms and music where you want someone to play a drum fill or you need a lot of extra noise and it’s just not there. Then you have to resist the temptation to add it all back in before hearing it in context with everyone else. Then you have awkward moments like this:

“Okay, this is the piano solo. Count out twelve bars and then we come back in. No, don’t play on those twelve bars, just count them out in your head. Piano solo. Solo solo. Okay, maybe some drums. And your guitar is NOT a drum.”

“Jon, you started too early. That was only 10 bars.”

“No, it was twelve.”

“Well, then, stop speeding up while you play.”

“It wasn’t me! the piano player sped up!”

And according to Joe, I don’t write “two-guitar songs,” which is probably true. Even though a piano fills a lot more sonic space than a guitar, it’s just not the same thing: A guitar can’t play complicated bass lines or really high tinkly parts, and just having another set of strings makes things sound more homogeneous. Or maybe I’m just not good at staying out of other peoples’ way.

But it was a good practice. “What Kind of Heart Beats (In the Black Breast of the Beast)” was very easy to translate; the piano sounds good in it, and the bass was a very easy addition. Joe’s “Grounded” is also sounding spiffy. We rewrote some of the chords, and I can actually play some bass on it for Joe. It’s also fun having some songs written by other people in the band in the works. It’s something we tried to make happen a bit in the past, but I didn’t spend time rearranging them to our sound, so they were always slightly out of place. “The Language of Flowers” is going to sound awesome as soon as we have that piano solo down.

We also worked on two more Joe songs: “No Man (is an Island)” (he started playing this live last summer when we did the “triple solo” show at Bread and Circuses) and “Just a Taste” (one of his best from FAWM 2012), and a couple more of mine that still need some work.

No recordings from this session, but we may post a few demos if we get something good.

FAWM wins … and So Long To Tim :(

March 1, 2013


Some of you may remember — if you were following our blog or Facebook this time last year — that Joe Scala did February Album Writing Month (FAWM) last year. I still listen to what he made every once in a while — it was an amazing achievement. Well, he did it again this year, and he convinced me to do it, too. And we both completed the challenge, writing 14 songs apiece, one of which is a collaboration between the two of us, the first of what we hope to be many.

Some linkses to the new songs

I wrote a little blog post wrapping things up, with videos of what I thought were the strongest songs from my challenge, on my personal web site. Rather than repost the whole thing here on the Midway Fair site, please hop on over and have a listen to some songs that might appear in our set list in the future.

Joe blogged about each song he wrote, and has a soundcloud player for the whole album.

Here’s our FAWM pages, where you can see all the songs in one place:

Other News

Many of you are friends with members of Midway Fair, either online or in real life, so you may be aware, but there hasn’t been an official announcement: Tim Taormino has decided to leave Midway Fair for other pursuits (mainly being a dad). Tim was a bedrock of the band for three years, and his decision, though understandable and not entirely surprising in the circumstances, was still a pretty hard blow. We’ll begin the search for a new drummer in the coming months.

We do plan on hitting up the studio in the fall to record some new material, including the song “Most Distant Star,” which I think is one of our absolute best.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.