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Hosted by assigned participant players, the Acoustic Live Friday afternoon booth showcases slogged through a constant downpour.
I followed them part way, staying inside, next to Jim, the harp player, and Sarah, the fiddler, soaking in their swooping melody lines that helped the song fly.
This was my first close-up taste of this phenomenon; an organically formed band whose disparate pieces meshed as if grown together out of the same soil. The story, however, begins with husband and wife Mark Miller and Beth Jamie Kaufman, who form the main stem from which the banda€™s other tendrils sprouted. After graduation, Mark went back to Boston, where his degree did not prove to be a job magnet. In spite of an obvious talent in the digital realm, Mark decided to move to San Francisco to become a chiropractor. At that point, as he said, a€?deep in the purgatory of the transition from the mature and peaceful art of analog tape editing to the nuclear fallout caused by the insertion of the first generation of PCs into the recording studio, I got a random phone call asking if I could write music for a video game.
Mark spent the next 10 years building the largest independent studio for video game music and produced soundtracks for more than 100 titles. Early in this period, Mark and Beth played together in a a€?dismal blues band.a€? She said, a€?It was us and a bunch of musician guys that all worked with Mark in the video game scene out in San Francisco. A job offer from Harmonix brought Mark and Beth back to the East Coast and Mark worked for them leading a€?up to but not including the development and launch of Guitar Hero.a€? Needing out of the game business, he went back for his MBA at Northeastern University.
Beth, being very resourceful, managed to find out what the instrument was (a bouzouki a€” leave it to David Lindley), and got Mark one for his next birthday.
In conversation with three of the other band members during our dinner together, I got to see firsthand why these intelligent, articulate, funny people have so much fun making music together and enjoy each othera€™s company off stage as well.
Tom Socol is a good guitarist who had played in a lot of bands but hadna€™t played out for a long time.
A good friend of theirs, Steve, a professional bassist, a much more serious musician, joined the group for gigs. One of the places that the band began to play on a steady basis was the Hastings Farmera€™s Market. Another piece fell into place when, similar to what happened with Tom and Ellen, Lou Gesera€™s wife mentioned to Mark that Lou, needing an outlet, played drums. John Neidhart, the bassist, had started off in folk and blues and had gone through a long rock a€™na€™ roll period. When Tom couldna€™t attend all of the 2010 NERFA Conference, John suggested that Rik fill in at the remaining showcases and jams.
John Neidhart, theA  bassist, had started off in folk and blues and had gone through a longA  rock a€™na€™ roll period. The annual Friday afternoon Emerging Artists Showcase, always eagerly anticipated, ran into rough weather.
The author, having gotten drenched twice while dealing with canopy leaks, disgustedly waited it out inside his car, trying to dry off.
Tom, the guitarist, and John, the bassist, remained behind me, helping to drive the song on its merry way. Many months later, I would sit down to dinner with the group and learn how they formed and grew together.
She also got involved in musical theater which led to studying and teaching theater, and later, a career in creative education. One exchange captures the disconnect between where he was and what the world was offering: a€?I got one call back from a high school teaching position in religion that did not require a mastera€™s.


Although he says it was a a€?horrible job,a€? it gave him access to the very first personal computer-based digital audio editing system. When he got there, he got hired by Digidesign, the developer of Protools, to support their sales team.
Mark needed something steadier with benefits, so he worked in house first at Sega of America and then at Crystal Dynamics. At a concert at The House of Blues, Mark and Beth saw David Lindley playing a€?lap slide reggae on somethinga€¦ it had eight strings.a€? It sounded amazing and they were both mesmerized. When Mark got home from work and saw it, he thought, a€?God thata€™s wonderful!a€¦ Now I have to learn how to play this thing.a€? He picked up a copy of Rise Up Singing. One frequent visitor to the market was Jim Meigs, editor for Popular Mechanics and a blues harpist.
He was playing in a cover band and, as a change of pace, was looking for a country band to play with.
That went well, and when the banda€™s second CD New Amsterdam was almost done (the first was an EP called In Spite of the Devil), and something was missing, John suggested that Rik come and add some lap steel. Beth sums up the banda€™s spirit in her own terms: a€?Filling our home with music and singing alongside my husband has been a beautiful gift, enriching our relationship tenfold.
The annual Friday afternoon Emerging Artists Showcase, always eagerly anticipated, ran into rough weather.A  Torrential downpours almost completely washed the audience off the hill. Although he says it was a a€?horrible job,a€?A  it gave him access to the very first personal computer-based digital audio editing system.
Mark had gotten burned out on music during his time in the digital game business and didna€™t go near it for a long time. Spuyten Duyvil, our first Acoustic Live showcase act of the day, had been one of those acts in Fridaya€™s Emerging Artists Showcase. As the last strains of the blues harp finished the song, Mark swung back into the canopy to change his instrument for the next song.
As soon as he saw Digidesigna€™s 24-track recording studio sitting empty all night, he quit his pre-med classes and ended up running their tech support department through the launch of Protools. He became chairman of the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group and helped in the development of standards for a whole lot of digital stuff that, described in a€?Markspeak,a€? is not easily translatable in this publication. For a while it was just the four of them, on the porch, playing traditional songs and Marka€™s originals.
Mark had gotten to know Lou, and knew that he wouldna€™t join unless he could a€?cut it.a€? Loua€™s ability to soften the sound to fit the banda€™s concept added the perfect touch. Doing overdubs, without previous accompaniment on that instrument, Mark recalled, a€?he tore up this material.a€? Mark recalled saying, with a Cheshire cat grin, a€?This CD just got a whole lot better!a€? Along with Jima€™s Chicago blues harp, it helped to define what the band is about. Later that evening, the Friday night a€?Most Wanted Song Swapa€? was canceled due to wind-driven sheets of rain. As Beth explains it: a€?It wasna€™t until years laterA that we began to circle back to music again.
A band known for its boisterous spirit, theya€™d played before the remaining dozen or so diehards standing in the rain. Nevertheless, it was a joy making music with my soon-to-be husband.a€? While still living in California, Mark and Beth got married, with the ceremony taking place back in Brooklyn.
However, the industry needed no translation and he received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Game Audio Guild. I learned how to play it and Beth and I did a lot of singing together.a€? Additionally, Mark found that playing the old traditional music in the book unlocked something in him and he started to write his own music.


After Steve left for California, Mark wanted to find another bassist, happened to be perusing the site and saw Johna€™s information and extended an invitation. I was fearful that the clouds signaled a trend, but Spuyten Duyvil had some magic up its sleeve. Wea€™ve uploaded a video of the song to YouTube, that shows the band playing for Alternate Root TV.
He studied ethno-musicology and comparative religions but spent most of his time in the electronic music studio recording songs with his band, music for films and music for modern dance. He recalled that, a€?I had written hundreds of pieces of incidental music and two or three lame attempts at pop music while I was in college. These guys are really good!a€? Then, a€?Hey, they could really use harp on that song!a€? Then, a€?Wow!
Six of the seven players took shelter in the front end of the 20-foot space created by our two adjoining canopies. Some part of playing all that old-timey stuff flipped a switch and caused me to start writing stuff that had some meaning.a€? Beth was surprised because she was the one who had gotten into folk music at a young age and never expected Mark to get into the folky stuff. Although both couples were great friends, Tom was apprehensive at first because hea€™d been through some really bad musical matchups and knew there was a potential for a vast difference in their musical tastes and styles. They could really use harp on ALL their songs!a€? Mark remembered that a€?this guy would show up with his tweed case of harmonicas.a€? Jim would strike up conversations with Mark and casually drop hints about his musical involvement. Although both couples were great friends, Tom was apprehensive at first because hea€™d been through some really bad musical matchupsA  and knew there was a potential for a vast difference in their musical tastes and styles. She saw a a€?sexy, tortured musician guy who was anything BUT boyfriend material,a€? but was drawn to him nevertheless. As Beth described it, a€?The more inspired he became to play and write, the more inspired I became to sing again.a€? Mark drew upon the history of the area for the banda€™s name and for inspiration in his writing.
However, when he heard gospel-tinged songs and saw no beer being consumed during rehearsal, he became afraid that the band was comprised of Bible-thumping fundamentalists. Several bars into the song, a€?Halfway Free,a€? it became apparent that the skies were benign, under the spell of a benevolent spirit.
It wasna€™t until the band lugged a big batch of a€?crafta€? microbrewed beer (a band staple) to a campsite at Falcon Ridge that he relaxed and told them of his misperception.
It wasna€™t until the band lugged a big batch ofA  a€?crafta€? microbrewed beer (a band staple) to a campsite at Falcon Ridge that he relaxed and told them of his misperception. Beth remembers, a€?That one time was crazy but so fun!!a€? That would be the last time theya€™d play together for many years. He also introduced them to the next member, Rik Mercaldi, who he thought would be a good fit with the band. The bandleader, Mark, and the lead singer, Beth, cautiously walked out into the sunshine, joining their drummer, Lou, who tastefully played a marching band snare with brushes. That would be me [the pet].a€? He was joyfully surprised to discover that he enjoyed what Mark was playing. Mark played a small tenor guitar in a crisply strummed attack and sang and led the group through a sharp uptempo rhythm with tightly executed starts and stops. Beth did what she always does, belting out each stanza with the ferocity and abandon of a gospel rave-up.




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