Blogging the DBU Paideia Conference – Part 1

Last year’s conference was a tough act to follow, particularly in the area of music. After hearing Jon Foreman, Jordan Lawheed, and the venerable Charlie Peacock (see photos of last year’s event here) in concert, it seemed like the conference had reached it’s apex. I was pleasantly surprised when this year’s concert was just as enjoyable.

The night began with the music of the charming April Geesbreght. Her songs were beautiful and engaging, as well as enlightening. She normally plays with a band but we were treated to an intimate acoustic session which went very well.

April Geesbreght explains her next song while adjusting her capo.
Scott and Lindsy Shiffer, along with their baby maren, watch April’s show.

The main performer of the evening was Pierce Pettis who, as the saying goes, “doesn’t write music, he writes literature.” I can’t think of a better way to describe his lyrics. He is a well known folk musician who often writes songs for other people, including Garth Brooks and the wonderful Sarah Groves. On his own, he is an amazing performer. I have rarely seen such virtuosic guitar playing (his approach to the acoustic is similar to that of Lindsey Buckingham) come from such a brilliant songwriter. His lyrics encouraged me and made me think, while his playing blew my mind. A rare experience. (He’s also a darned good harmonica player.)

In the wings, Pierce Pettis tunes his guitars up waiting for his turn.

Pierce plays these two guitars that were hand-made in Ireland from different companies. He told me that he waited all of his life to have then and they sounded amazing all night. (He also told people that they were made by leprechauns.)

On a break, Pierce was nice enough to chat with me while he tuned his guitars. He plays through a direct box with a tube that gives his guitars a lot of presence without too much compression. It sounded amazing.

After the show, Pierce hung around and talked to his fans, the new ones he had just made and the ones who have known him for a long time. He talked about his exceptional career and confused the musicians by explaining his bizarre but effective alternate tunings. (Open c-minor with a dominant 7 + suspension? Something like that.) I bought one of his CD’s and have been happy with it, if you’re into singer/songwriter stuff you might consider it. (I don’t work for him, this is a genuine recommendation.)

The opening act of the Paideia Conference was a rousing success. Look for two more blog posts this week to see how the rest of the 12th Annual DBU Paideia conference went.

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