Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ironweed on Youtube

p.s. Here is how you can view Ironweed on Youtube...

there is a video at the Tsingtao Beer Festival and a video of us with the Daoist monks...

Just go to and in the search box type in:

ironweed at the tsingtao beer festival

.... and/or

ironweed and daoist monks

Thank-you to Rory for making this happen...

The October Ironweed Patch

Howdy there Ironweed family,

Well, October is half over and Ironweed is still trying to catch their/our breath.

This month has proved to be as extremely busy as September. We have had a bunch of great gigs and more comin' at us.

We gave a slide presentation of our trip to China at the Columbia Friends of China Dumpling Festival on Friday, October 12th. Dierik worked really hard on this project and it was overwhelming to revisit our newly loved country through the many photos and music melting in the background.

We have a few tweaks on our slide production but our plans are to make the presentation available to libraries, schools, etc. Our hope is for it to be entertaining, educational and a bit mystical with the blend of bluegrass music, the Chinese culture's first impression of this foreign sound and our visit with the Taoist monks.

We also plan on putting a great photo slideshow on discs and making them available to the public at our gigs.

And more .....what about a new Ironweed cd music release?? We quickly went to the studio to put together a recording of Dierik and I with our new Weeds before we left for China. We self-produced this and gave away around 200 copies in China. We are presently taking time to tweak some of our songs on the recording and hope to have it available to our Ironweed family before Christmas.

Comin' at us...Hsiao-Mei, the president of the Columbia Friends of China has heard back from the Directors in the Province of Shandong. They expressed a true love for Ironweed and the music we brought to their culture. They are now discussing with Hsiao-Mei the possibility of Ironweed returning to do a university tour throughout the Province since the schools were not in session while we were recently there. Ironweed is whole-heartedly hoping this will happen. We are already "homesick" to go back. Hsiao-Mei and Mary Jo Herde are presently in China discussing this as I write..yipppee!...Dierik and I personally think we need to take Professor Bentley with us on this next tour....

More comin' at us....My "other" job is Entertainment Director of the First Night Festival on New Year's Eve in downtown Columbia and the Stephens Campus..and also for...Art in the Park, the first weekend in June.

For First Night, December 31st, 2008, Hsiao-Mei and I are working closely with Director Wang in Laoshan to bring the Taoist Monk Musicians we met and played with, to perform for Columbia. Director Wang is very excited and hopes to see this cultural exchange happen. Hsiao-Mei is presently speaking with the Director while she is in China. I will keep everyone posted on this great possibility..

In the meanwhile......we love being home with family and friends..we had a great day yesterday, in spite of the rain, nested in great white tents, at the Chestnut Festival in New Franklin. It was a cozy setting smelling the incredible fragrances of roasting chestnuts, tasting the lavender honey green tea and singing our hearts out to warm-hearted friends.

Other Weeds in the patch....I will soon be posting some information on our website about the "other Weeds in our patch". You may have seen them on our Ironweed stage this month. Jake Clayton is our main fiddler and if he is called away on a contracted journey...we have some top notch instrumental musicians ready to step in...Kelly Jones and Nathan Redelfs...more on these amazing guys, later..

All for now..thank-you for letting me go on and on...and yes, it is sometimes overwhelming with our performance and personal schedules..we wouldn't have it any other way.

your Ironweeds...jane, dierik, jake, alan

Thursday, September 27, 2007

September Ironweeds still a'growin

Hey there friends, this is the first Ironweed post since our return from China..
What a month of re-adjustment and hard work! We hit the ground running with fourteen gigs awaiting us...

I will give a quick run-down on what we have been up to and what we have planned in the upcoming months.

Dierik-back to teaching his awesome students and bragging on all of them...he has currently invented a new instrument in his head..needs to get it patented and farmed out to a trustworthy luthier/instrument maker.

Jake-currently in California doing a gig with Tanya Tucker, what else can we say? He will be back on Monday..

Alan-recovering from a very rough virus after getting stuck with every needle the Dr. owned and tested for every virus and disease known to civilization.. slowing getting better and back on the Ironweed and Fried Crawdaddies stages..had a great visit from his incredible, artistic mom from Santa Fe and lovely sister, Jenny, and her sweetheart, John.

Jane-promptly jumped on another plane a week and a half after returning from China. She flew to San Franciso with her two youngin's, Isabel and Augustine to meet her dear friend Sherri and hang out in Golden Gate park for the 40th reunion of the "Summer of Love" festival featuring Country Joe McDonald, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Canned Heat, etc. etc. Had a great day in Haight-Ashbury. Her teaching studio opened again thanks to all of her awesome, patient students for waiting on their renegade teacher to come home.

The next several months:
Lots of gigs on the calendar..check out our website calendar
We are especially excited for October 12th when the Columbia Friends of China will host their Dumpling Festival and we will do a presentation on our China trip.

I (jane) will be approaching some European agents in hopes of planning a tour in the near future. I will also be submitting applications/promo packs to several national festivals. We are thrilled at the opportunity to be flexible with our new Ironweeds as far as travel and touring goes..this should open up some new, great paths for us...however, always remember, there is no place like home and our dear friends and families in Columbia and Boone County..

We would like to continue to post blogs..please send us your ideas on what you would like to hear from us i.e. technical/band info, personal info, performance info..etc. etc..
I hope to get each Weed to post some great info from their patch...

All for now...jane and the weeds

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A last, sweet hurrah

While we were doing a sound check for our last performance in Laiyang , I noticed this little girl staring at the band. She had walked into an area in front of the stage that had been roped off to keep the audience at a distance from the stage but somehow managed to elude her parents and the stage directors.

Unnoticed for a few minutes in this forbidden area, she stood motionless, oblivious to all of her surroundings except the band. One can only imagine what was going through her mind when she saw us foreigners trying out our microphones.

Somehow this little girl struck my heartstrings and became the symbol of why we came to China. To me she represented the roots of the Chinese people, the common people, the same people that made Bluegrass music popular in the United States.

After those few minutes of staring, the girl was moved out of that area by one of the stage directors. She then stood in the front of the crowd watching the performance with many other children and their parents who were equally perplexed by what they saw. During the first half of our performance the audience remained somewhat quiet, but by the time we finished the show everyone had fallen in love with the music.

We have been so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to come here and share this music.

Dierik Leonhard

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A sweet goodbye to China

We are now in flight somewhere over the Pacific ocean headed home to Columbia. I will recall the last two days in Laiyang.

We spent Sunday having lunch and dinner with the Directors and waiting to be called to our sound check. While waiting, we ventured onto the streets with the usual stares and waves from the curious folks. We left Linda behind, napping. With a bit of prideful, ignorant confidence, we wandered without her. We stumbled upon some line dancers dancing to pop music in a parking lot. We were quickly escorted into a small tent and told to sit down as they began showing us photo albums of beautiful brides. We then realized it was all a promotion for a wedding photography company. We politely declined and continued our walk.

We happened upon a small music store owned by a local young musician. We were looking for Epiphone guitars since Gibson now has a factory in Shandong Province and were curious about the prices. I had hoped to buy one for my son Anthony and for Jonas, my guitar student, but the store didn’t carry them. I couldn’t find them anywhere in our travels. I suspect the company is just building them and shipping directly to the U.S.

We had a great visit with the music store folks. We gave them our business card written in Chinese so they could see we were a band. I then ask to see his computer and pulled up our website. They were really excited. The owner couldn’t speak English but he had one of his young students with him and he knew enough phrases to get us through a decent conversation. We asked the store owner to play us some music. He sang a pop song he had written and then gave us one of his demo CD’s. We told them we had a concert that night and we would call him back with the details when we returned to our translator. The owner and his student said they would be there for sure. We took some photos and returned to our hotel just in time for sound check.

The concert was to be held in a parking lot in the downtown district on a large stage they had erected for us. There were already lots of folks gathering at the sound check.

The concert was awesome. The parking lot was packed. The sound and stage techs worked really hard to place every mike exactly the way we wanted them and the lights were angled with perfection. I have been really impressed with the efforts of our techs on this trip. They know little about our instruments but are eager to learn and work very hard with the little knowledge they have about us.

When we kicked off Foggy Mountain breakdown, we encountered the same looks of confusion, delight and desire to respond in some sort of way. They just have trouble sorting through their emotions as they experience personal, unrecognizable responses to a new music. As in our other performances, they quickly figure out that this is a music to move to, to clap to and to smile at. They are unsure if they should just want to listen to the music or stare at the four strange aliens on the stage. They figure they will just do both.

The children love the music, they immediately started dancing just like in Columbia but the directors quickly moved them back into the audience area. We were really disappointed but didn’t want to question their routine and start a Chinese kid riot.

This particular night, we had an opera star from Beijing on the concert bill with us and performed during our break. I think this has been of our most entertaining aspects of the trip, watching to see who will be on the bill with us. Remember, so far, we have had a post-punk band, karaoke pop-stars, break dancers and a pop-rock band … why not an opera star?

The evening finished with amazing applause, lots of photos and autographs. The television station televised the whole gig and will send a copy to us.

We spent our last day in this beautiful country on a tour planned by the Tourism Director. The band, Linda, one of the Directors and his son, and our lovely tour guide took off for a destination that should have been only one hour away. To put it gently, our driver was quite a colorful character and we ended up taking a four hour route that wasn’t exactly planned and finally arrived after driving down a bumpy, dirt, goat path with lots of horn honking. More on this later.

We visited temples at the coastal city of Penglai. We were once again delighted to be seeing so much of this great Province. The sea was a setting for the legend of eight friends that had become so intoxicated they decided to go out to sea and when they returned they were immortal.

We then traveled to Qixia. It is now apple harvest time throughout the countryside making it quite the festive route. We passed through farmlands and small towns bustling with markets and miles of baskets and boxes anticipating the harvest of the day. This backwoods route turned out to be one our favorite excursions. Watching the people work amidst the livestock and the endless rows of fruit trees, gardens and vineyards gave us a rich piece of Chinese life we had hoped to taste. This country is a photographer’s heaven.

We ended our tour by visiting an ancient manor belonging to the family of Mou. After reading The Good Earth, all of the pieces of this great novel came alive. The manor was a small, self-contained village with various living quarters for the rich land owner, his many concubines and workers. It was complete with gardens and courtyards, a mill, a winemaking room, a root cellar, a medical pharmacy, a carved wooden performance stage and an office for the accountants.

We returned in time to take a quick shower, eat and head to the stage for our last night and last performance in China.

Many of the same people returned from the previous night. Rows of children were with their parents. The Directors had to rope off the first several feet to keep the stage area clear.

Our last concert was a warm reminder of why the Columbia Friends of China had sent us on this mission. We taught a culture about a music they had never heard before. We taught a culture about this great roots Bluegrass music of Midwestern America. We made many friends. We pleased Directors. We extended ourselves to China in hopes of exchanging many cultural ideas in the days to come. We ourselves, have been richly blessed.

I awakened this morning to find a note on my computer that simply said, “Mommy, come home”. I knew it was time to come home…

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A little help from our friend . . .

Hi, everyone out there!
When I was informed that I've got a chance to be the partner of Ironweed, I was very excited but nervous at the same time. How would they be like?

Actually I was not worried any more after several hours we met. They are friendly,easy-going and patient. I have learned a lot from them during the whole trip, and I began to realise how important it is to know the English names of all kinds of vegetables.

I hope that I can do a better job next time they come to China.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gambei from Alan

Gambei, my Columbia friends! Here is a look at what it is like to be treated like a star in China. Go to our photo gallery for even more pictures.

Our hosts treated us to a typical "rock star" dinner gathering with the endless table of food – which of course included "gambei," which is a "bottom's up toast." You can see more photos of the festivities at our photo gallery.

The Chinese believe that food and drink bind friendships together, and so they do. It's not uncommon for there to be 10-20 toasts at dinner; these folks can out drink Dierik the German!

Our TV show was amazing. The people are this excited to see us everywhere we go, really, it's amazing.

The sound tech for our performance at the Tsingdao ceremonies runs the biggest nightclub in Jinan, "Cinderella." It's huge and broken into theme rooms: karaoke, band stage, a disco, a "girls dancing stage" picture girls in go go boots dancing to 60's music...a "boy and girl meet room" that is a big oval table where single guys are outside, girls are on the inside...the Chinese version of "speed dating. The "house band" was a great group from Beijing doing a three-month stint of 7 nights a week there.

Clubs stay open till at least 4 am. These guys had a great repertoire of modern Chinese rock, some of their own arrangements of traditional Chinese poetic lyrics mixed into their own music, and even traditional Chinese Beijing Opera libretto over their own modern rock compositions.

Outside, I love watching the Trike Trucks. They s are typical heavy load transportation here; motorcycle front ends with one-ton axles and cary loads certainly bigger than that. The 1500cc single cylinder engines sound like a 1930's John Deere tractor with a 600 rpm redline..."pop-pop-pop," very slow.

I took a photo of Linda-Xu Hsaio Tien -- our translator – on a stone tiger at a National Park near Langgu. The park is to commemorate a hero from 600 years ago who killed a tiger that had been killing villagers there for some time. He came to town, drank 18 bowls of "wine," went to sleep on a big flat rock ... the tiger woke him, and he hit it with his walking stick, then killed it by hand. We got to try the "wine," which was made from local corn, certainly 100 proof or better -- think Moonshine, not wine as we know it.

We also had dinner the Cultural and Tourism Board Bureau heads from Langgu, and some heads of the hotel staff, who cooperatively arranged a big show for us that night. This is typical of how we're treated here...huge dinners with important people, many courses of great food typical of each area we've visited. The shot of me and the National Park Director toasted is "gambei."

The Chinese that food and drink bind a friendship forever, and it's typical to have 10-20 gambei toasts at a meal... In our gallery, you can see photos of us on stage with the life size photos from the hotel show that night You can see the effort they went to to make the shot look and sound great. They had those same photos running on big screen TV's in the hotel lobby advertising the show, all week. Amazing.

This is all typical of the kindness, friendliness, and lengths that folks here have gone to to treat us so very well during our whole stay here. Columbia will have to work very hard to reach the high bar set by our hosts here when it's our turn to host the return end of this cultural exchange.

I'm very grateful to have the chhnce to represent Columbia and America; this is a great opporutnity for us to help open doors between our two countries, and I think all four of us are taking this responsibility very seriously.

On a "what a small world note," Jake and I were in the hotel bar here relaxing a bit last night, and started up conversation with the great pianist playing turns out her uncle moved to our very own Columbia, Missouri, 10 years ago. I'm sure our friends of China group must know him. This is not the first time we've met someone on this trip who had ties to our hometown, or knew someone who lived there, had studied there, or planned to.

How cool is that?