Mood Indigo

Friday night changed the way we look at things.

We had been feeling excited and lucky to be opening for Indigo Girls and The Shadowboxers at the Vetter Stone Amphitheater. Our friends helped us make a big deal of it and a lot of you reading this assured us it would be fine, fun and great. But in the back of our heads, we had no idea how it was going to go.

We’re talking semis, national touring people, millions of dollars of equipment and … two voices, one guitar. Would we sound tiny? Or worse, tinny? Would we annoy stage managers? Audience members? Would I remember to bring the damned capo?

Fast-forward to being in the little makeshift greenroom and being told by the sound tech: “You’re on in three minutes.”

Three minutes later, we walked on.

And something clicked.

Now that it’s over, we’re ready to do it again as soon as possible. Thanks to the Indigo audience – likely the largest we’ve played for – we know we can pull it off, “it” being holding our own on the stage ahead of a respected and fiercely good national act. So I believe we’ll be taking future steps with a changed view of things, of us. A stronger view. The view that says this is for real, this feels right and who can we play with next?

Oh, and:

Ann and the Girls.


Friday, Wine Café, Mankato.

There was peppery Greek red from Linda, bluesy harmonica from Billy on a J.J. Cale song, a big turnout (and Sam the sharp-dressed staffer afterward suggesting why — “you didn’t suck”), a request for a photo (never mind there was some joke behind it, it felt cool to be asked), Dan playing great stuff on the overhead when we finished (was it Dylan’s “Tell Tale Signs?” or were we just talking about that one again?), Carl cruising in on the last song and missing “Hydraulic” in which we name-drop Tune Town in the chorus, Jim sharing his pizza with me when we finished, the greatest slice of pizza ever. And again wondering how two hours feels like 15 minutes.

Returned later that night to catch a bit of Kit Kildahl’s CD release party. Got to enjoy a chat with Kit, who’s always been a kind and supportive guy, which is a rare trait among the super-talented. We talked loud and briefly about the honor it is to do music, the food it provides the soul and the value of staying positive.

Enjoyed watching Drew Lyon rightfully accept congratulations on his Free Press piece on Kit and Stevie “Boom Boom” Vonderharr, and got wowed by Steve Murphy joining the boys and sizzling away on blues guitar.

Saturday, Grand Kabaret, New Ulm.

We arrived to be greeted not only by a sound tech who remedied a buzzing acoustic amp pronto, but the Mankato Area Frye Percussion Collective already in place. These are friends who make the trek from Kato every time we play in New Ulm. And there were others, Curt, Suzanne and even former landlords of mine as well as some who caught us for the first time the night before and trekked to New Ulm to do it again.

All the ingredients that have made our previous shows at the Grand actually grand were there, namely the legendary attentiveness of the Grand’s audience and the pride Cassie, Topher and the rest of the staff have in working the place. Performance- wise there were challenges including the unease and then exhilaration of finger-picking “Vincent Black Lightening” and deciding to honor a request for “Blackbird” before recalling if I remembered the whole thing.

And then there was Ann’s beautiful reading of “Diamonds and Rust,” easily a highlight of the night if judged by a large group of people suddenly going completely quiet and rapt. We had a blast explaining the extraction of “Fish” from our name and then following it with what was probably our best-ever version of “Fish Fry.”

And, ultimately, the best part: Finishing three hours and realizing we’d used the Grand’s sound system. Meaning there was no PA and speakers etc. for us to tear down and haul into the pickup.

So we’ll consider that our vacation, with more “work” coming Thursday at Savoy and Saturday at Pub 500.

Saturday night

Eddie Money didn’t stroll in for a post-concert stint with a local band, but fortunately a lot of other people were with us from beginning to end at the Wine Café Saturday. This is getting to be a common complaint of mine, but it went by too fast.

A sore throat kept my prairie yelps and back-alley falsettos to a minimum, but the middle ground wound up blending nicely with what Ann was doing, which was taking control and saving our sound.

We recorded the first few tunes of the night, but the recorder clunked out somewhere during “Hydraulic,” and it’s a shame because we played a few led by Ann that we haven’t done in a while – “Favorite Ache,” “Blue” and “If Only.” Three songs from Konsbruck, recorded WWWSFF (When We Were Still Fish Frye).

And they were great. I’m not sure what I was thinking going with “Ohio” with a bummer throat, but it worked OK. Wish I could say the same for “Jackson.”  Funny how a bad throat will not affect a Neil Young tune but can seriously threaten Johnny Cash.


Six years ago, when we were playing Tuesday nights at McGoff’s, writer and poet Ron Gower and his wife Anne would drop by to see us on an almost-regular basis. And sometimes they were the audience. Anne enjoyed requesting songs – she really liked “Cardboard Boxes.” The encouragement we got from Anne and Ron helped us feel like we actually knew what we were doing, as though we could someday get people to come see us on a Saturday night.

Early in the evening last night, Ron came into the Wine Cafe and sat at a little table near us. He had a bottle of beer and took in about four or five songs before heading out. We’d all said goodbye to Anne in May of this year, at a celebration of her life that involved stories and songs. It was unforgettable, and we were touched to be invited and proud to provide a couple of tunes we hoped she’d like.

So last night we were of course proud that Ron dropped by. And we remain thankful.

New name, big gig.

For starters, the name changed.

We are now formally, officially The Frye. It feels great, much more suited to what we’re doing these days. Which is playing a lot, not plunging cod into Crisco. We’ve had fun with the old name but as we enter our seventh year, we’re going for something a little less novelty-sounding. This is, after all, serious business.

And I can’t help but think club owners will breathe a little easier posting The Frye to their entertainment rosters rather than a menu item they might not be able to provide. It’s happened.

We had named ourselves Fish Frye because we’d just written the song and were crazy about it. We added the “e” and away we went.

Which brings us to The Frye of today, which is happy to announce we’ll be at the Vetter Stone Amphitheater Friday Sept. 7 as the opening act for Indigo Girls and The Shadowboxers. Tickets are available at the Verizon Wireless Civic Center or Ticketmaster, but get them at the Civic Center box office and avoid the extra charges.

See, we’re already picking a fight with Ticketmaster. Told you it was serious.

Weekend Update

It was a fast, fast weekend, one that had us giving performances Friday afternoon, Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I’m sitting here Sunday night feeling as though I haven’t even sat down for a meal yet. Can it really be time for bed?

Nah. One more run-through.

Friday was for the after-work brethren and sisteren (?) of the Wine Cafe for happy hour. We opened with Loudon Wainwright’s “Unhappy Anniversary” and proceeded with an array of happy songs about crummy relationships until, 15 minutes later, two hours had gone by.

Saturday night we were honored to play for a 70th birthday party for Patty, who we hadn’t met until that night and … wow. Let’s just say we had a fun three hours and after packing and loading everything up we noticed Patty and friends and family were still going strong. Judging by the “toast and roast” that took place during a break, it sounds like those gathered have been going strong for a long time.

We also tried out “Diamonds and Rust” which Ann delivered so beautifully it put chills on the regular chills I get when I hear that one. Call it an extra-chill night, whatever that means.

This morning, Sunday, we played the early show at Pub 500 where former Blue Velveata songstress and now star of stage and screen Zillah Langsjoen was kind enough to watch and take notes. She’s helping us with sound and staging and other stuff. So like any raging narcissist I loved the opportunity to shamelessly play for the note-taker and of course hope that her notes turn into a report that’s a complimentary love fest. At the same time, “Joe’s guitar and voice need to be quieter” is maybe the tough love I need.

Speaking of guitar, there were no hand issues this weekend and no medication, either. So who knows? Maybe that’s gone. Which is a relief. Because more and more that guitar is dropping me into some good places.

Those include Savoy Thursday and Indian Island Winery Friday.



The Sting

News from the doctor’s office: A reality TV star is ready to begin a new life after a quick divorce and Dr. Benson says my hand is fine – a little carpal tunnel, little tendonitis but nothing serious. Keep the wrist straight when you can, he said, give it some rest but play guitar all you want.

It was about two months ago that the ring finger of my left hand started seizing up — hurting like hell — when hitting certain bar chords. I’d hoped it was something weird that first night, but it still felt tentative and tender over the next few weeks of playing. Fish Frye, of course, made do. I dumbed-down those chords and on some nights just ruled out certain tunes (till next time, “New Wave Girl.”) Sometimes it wasn’t pain but numbness, either in the hand or up and down the entire arm. Sometimes it was absolutely fine.

So in an experiment with being preventative, I spent hours of web-based research that amounted to watching lots of Leo Kottke. Further research suggested I should just go see the doctor, who today took my hands and pushed, pulled, twisted, tapped, jabbed, turned and squeezed and concluded it isn’t a blood flow issue or anything novel. It is, in fact, common – a result of over-use. It’s irritation that’s not going to do any damage if I keep playing during painful stretches. It’s just going to piss off my nerves, he said.

Tonight I can play like a champ, painlessly. And this past weekend all went fine at a winery, two wedding parties and a trucking company party. So with a confident smile from the doc, I’m choosing not to worry about it. But can you really do that with something you love? Just not worry?

It’s hard to tell, it’s hard to tell.  Maybe the daylight hour gigs will be the suspenseful ones. And wouldn’t you know there’s one coming up this Sunday at Pub 500, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Oh, and do catch us Friday at 5 p.m. at the Wine Café.