WRITERS WHO PLAY: A Brief History--and a Reprise

Brief paragraph to say that WRITERS WHO PLAY has once more risen from the dead and will ride again at the 2023 AWP conference on Sunday, March 12 in Tacoma--this link has all the information!--and that's a mere three years and a week after our Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 8 pm-11 pm event where Ken Waldman found a friendly venue in San Antonio, Lowcountry, a half mile from the convention center. Jim Clark won't make it this year, but as of February 19th, along with Ken Waldman, we have confirmed Nathan Brown, Brian Laidlaw, Jeff Talmadge, Mong-Lan, Mike Branch, and Alison Moore (along with her special guest accompanists, Phil Lancaster and Steve Wood). We'll keep the list of writers/musicians updated. The club is at 318 Martinez Street. See you there! (Just learned that March 4 is also National Waltz Day--after all, the date can be written as 3/4--so I'll try to remember to kick off this year's edition with a waltz.) And today, as of 10:20 am, Wednesday, March 4, we're still on. Brian Laidlaw won't make it because of virus concerns, but I believe most everybody else be there, and we're always hopeful of a surprise guest or two.

Ah, the beginning of the pandemic time--is anyone feeling nostalgic? What a time it's been, and continues to be. 

Below, a history of this event.

In 2005 at AWP in Vancouver, Ken Waldman and Jim Clark found a music club within walking distance of the conference hotel, invited some musicians, provided food, and WRITERS WHO PLAY was born. We think it might have been the fine Seattle poet and multi-instrumentalist, Molly Tenenbaum, who gave it the name, which has stuck.

Over the years, in conjunction with the conference, Ken Waldman and Jim Clark produced similar events in Austin, Atlanta, New York City, twice in Chicago (at Buddy Guy's club), and in Seattle. The events were always within walking distance of the main conference hotel, and over the years have included regulars such as Marck Beggs, Mike Dockins, Craig Wright, Will Jennings, Greg Spatz & Caridwen Irvine-Spatz, Art Homer, and Brandon Cesmat, occasionals such as Jeff Talmadge, Garry Craig Powell, and Ben & Bernadette Greene, and others such as Doug Van Gundy, Rus Bradburd, M.L. Liebler, Mike Shay, Bob Bradley, Paul Allen, Molly Tenenbaum, Chris Tarry, Sarah Green, Bruce Piephoff, Kim Addonizio, Dick Harrington, Sands Hall, Phil Brady, and Jen McClung. It's hazy at this point, but before the Vancouver conference inaugural, there were Saturday-night off-site musical expeditions at prior AWPs. We seem to recall a Chicago conference that took us all the way to a concert in Evanston--and in Baltimore a cross-town drive to the old home of Creative Alliance. Those helped give rise to this series.

Most all the participants have both CDs and books, and musical credits include major festival appearances and prestigious concert series stages such as A Prairie Home Companion, The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Oregon Country Fair, Ozark Folk Center, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, and Vancouver Folk Festival. Over the years, WRITERS WHO PLAY have had a table at the bookfair, and were AWP conference sponsors. One year they sponsored a program on one of the bookfair stages.

In 2019, Ken and Jim will be producing another--and they're saying "final"--edition of the event.

7 pm, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, WRITERS WHO PLAY will gather at the historic White Eagle Saloon in North Portland's industrial neighborhood, an easy walk and even easier light rail ride from the Oregon Convention Center. As of March 7, 2019, already confirmed are a mix of regulars--Ken Waldman, Jim Clark, Marck Beggs, Jeff Talmadge, Greg Spatz (who'll come with his wife, Caridwen Irvine Spatz), Will Jennings, Craig Wright--and seven newcomers to the event: Brian Laidlaw, Willi Carlisle, Kim Stafford, Evan Morgan Williams, Jeanie Murphy, Cathy Heslin, and Kate Power. The latter three have never been to an AWP conference before. With this Wednesday off-site evening, they'll get their AWP experience off to a flying start. We'll be going on stage until approximately 12:30 AM..

We'll continue to update the list of participants, and expect to have at least 15-20 musicians take the stage in Portland at the White Eagle Saloon. (The White Eagle now has a page for the event.)