OneManBLAM! was originally developed to provide an unplugged outdoor performance option for Volunteer Music - a free music initiative for communities of need. But, it has become a stand alone entertainment option, available for private parties, as well as street fairs, festivals and corporate-sponsored events.
OneManBLAM! offers the richness, range and humor of 'street' one man band, in either plugged or unplugged mode. And our repertoire has been honed to adjust to the demographics and mood of a variety of audiences.
Mark Foley, the creator of www.peacesong.com, began staging free musical 'happenings' in city parks and the New York City subway in 2005. In that year, he developed VolunteerMusic to bring these live concerts to communities of need and to support worthy civic initiatives.
Between May, 2006 and October 2007, VolunteerMusic presented over 147 free concerts. Among the venues we have served are Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (Rehabilitation Department), Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, Rusk Rehabilitation Hospital, New York Foundling, Hebrew Home for the Aged, Jewish Home & Hospital, the MMS Scholarship Fund, Volunteer of America Bronx Early Center, NYC PS 137 & 147, Intergenerational House, White Plains Senior Center, Atria Senior Living Centers, The White Plains Public Library, The White Plains Farmers' Market, Westchester Center for Educational and Emotional Development and Cardinal McCloskey Services(Walkathon).
VolunteerMusic's expenses have been partially funded by fees for private events, as well as appearances at events such as the NYC RoadRunners Club Half-Marathon Fest, the Lincoln Square Winters Eve Fest, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation's 'Summer on The Hudson' concert series and the Westchester Arts Council's ArtsBash 2007.
Mark Foley has performed on public radio nationwide and has appeared on MTV Network's VH-1.
Developing the One Man BLAM!
OneManBLAM! is a one man band.
Why and how did I develop my version of this 'street' performance form?
I had been working in the standard singer-songwriter mode -- I would play guitar and sing. And that worked well when I created PEACESONG(see www.peacesong.com). Most peace rallies and events are amplified.
When I started VolunteerMusic(see www.volunteermusic.org), however, I wanted to play either with or without sound reinforcement. And outdoors, no less.
That's a challenge. At 20 feet or so, the best acoustic guitar, outdoors and un-amplified, can sound like a stick scrapping over a picnic table. The acoustic guitar was, after all, a 'parlor' instrument.
But amplification in public spaces poses an issue. A permit may be required. (In NYC parks, for example, two permits are required.)
How to create the biggest sound experience outdoors without amplification?
The answer was 'one man band'. So, I set out to assemble a collection of portable sound makers that could be played simultaneously.
The inventory which I evolved includes:
12-String Guitar(Rainsong Jumbo 12-String)
Harmonica Neck Brace - modified (Dunlop Harp Holder)
Harmonicas(Hohner Special 20's)
Special Effects: Kazoo, Whistles & Calls
Foot Percussion: Clave, Foot Bells, Cow Bell
The guitar and harmonicas were fairly straightforward elements.
For guitar, I choose a graphite Jumbo 12-string because it is lightweight, stable, clear and LOUD. And the harmonica is the quintessential one man band addition because it is small, portable and very evocative.
But the special effects and foot percussion were challenging.
How to have the 'special effects' in convenient ranges for blowing? I didn't want to stop playing guitar to hold a whistle to the side for a toot. And the neck brace was already in the mouth position holding the harmonicas.
I decided to 'stretch' the real estate of the existing harmonica neck brace to accommodate special effects.
After poking around in hardware stores, I found some mirror angles. These small metal flanges slide into position on either side of the neck brace, and create a spot to place one special effect on each side.
But how to attach the effects to the flanges? I experimented with hose clamps, wire and other bits of hardware.
Finally, I settled on Velcro tape! All the special effects got 'loop' Velcro taped around them. Sturdy squares of 'hook' Velcro provide the anchor on the flanges.
I then taped all harmonicas with loop bottoms and hook tops. This way, I can stack one harmonica on top of the other in the same brace - making simultaneous 'hands free' cross key playing possible.
With the special effects challenge solved, I still needed a way to trigger the foot percussion
The easy approach would be drum kit foot pedals. But those things are surprisingly bulky and heavy.
So, I devised two 'strap triggers' to whack at my clave and cow bell. Each consists of a curved African drum stick attached to my ankle with a hose-clamped dog collar.
Did I say it pays to be handy if you're going to play one man band?
Now I can use hands, feet and mouth to create a heck of a ruckus. I do hope you enjoy the results!