Ursäkta mig! Time to Talk Steelpan

Ursäkta mig! Time to Talk Steelpan

Potts & Pans frequently gets invited to cultural events. We’ve been known to play at general cultural fairs and parades, frequently have performed at Caribbean festivals, and have even found our way into repeated Oktoberfest events. Yesterday, we were thrilled to be part of the Swedish Cultural Society of Chicago’s October Meeting.

After club organizer Per-Hugo Kristenssen saw us perform at the Park Ridge Library, he contacted Matt and was excited to have us play for the Society. Matt and I had the plan together for our regular Potts & Pans duo performance, but as we so often do, realized a way to make the performance even better for our client. Anna “Cammie” Howell, member of our community band who you may remember from GLSF15 performing “Song of Sunrise” with the P&P Professional group, is half Swedish! She also happens to be a rather accomplished uker. All in all, Anna was the perfect way for us to fill out a trio for the Swedish Society. So, as Matt and I were heading out to our various performances on Saturday (Matt had a wedding, and I was playing Timpani in Libertyville), I called Anna and asked if she would be available for a performance with Matt and I the next day. An hour later, she stepped up and said she was good to go – Three cheers for Cammie!IMG_7914

That being said, there’s a reason one of our Community Band hashtags is #cammiefreaksout. When she first arrived to the shop in the morning, Matt and I were bombarded with a long and exaggerated explanation of why she chose black skirt over black pants for the performance. We were able to calm her down and discussed instrumentation options. Anna would stay on Uke, while Matt and I traded sets between Cajon & Seconds. And although it remains that #cammiefreaksout, she did an excellent job jumping in on all of our music in a single rehearsal.

And off to Chicago we went! The Swedish Cultural Society meets monthly at the Irving Park Lutheran Church. This church was absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows and an elaborate marble carving made standing in the sanctuary a stunning experience. Upstairs in the reception room, we set up for our performance, while the Society set up for their meeting. Amongst their set up stood a full size United States flag, next to the Swedish flag. Per-Hugo knew the history of these particular flags and told us how that US flag had been flown over the capital building in Washington, and the Swedish flag was personally delivered to the Society by the King of Sweden!

IMG_7912Before our performance, the Society held their monthly meeting, going over financial details and discussing future events. The meeting was flavored with historical stories that Per-Hugo was well versed in. It quickly became clear that he was quite educated in both US and Swedish history, along with most countries that have interacted with either nation! It’s not every gig that comes with a free history lesson – anyone wanting to learn some should check out the Swedish Cultural Society’s next meeting on November 1st!

Once it was time for our performance, we brought in a few history lessons of our own. The Society was thrilled to hear how the steelpan came to its invention in Trinidad & Tobago, and how the instruments are built and tuned. We played calypsos, socas, american rock, jazz standards and bossa charts. We set up my Cajon from TheBoxKit, along with both our sets of seconds with the uke inbetween. The members asked us questions throughout, and were pleasantly interested in the information we had to share, as well as pleased with the music we had to play. Per-Hugo shared more about the countries he’s studied or the stories he’s heard, and then Anna taught Matt and I a few words in Swedish!

The performance ended and we enjoyed coffee and light Swedish fare while getting to talk with the members a bit more about our music as well as the dealings in the Swedish Cultural Society. Overall this performance was a wonderful trade in knowledge, and having such an attentive audience who enjoyed our music so much made it even better.

10.4 Swedish Gig

On the way home we stopped at Olive Garden, a band favorite due to Matt and my own love of endless breadsticks, and grabbed dinner for the three of us. Excellent performance finished, we were again reminded how #cammiefreaksout, only this time we witnessed her go into an endless stream of helpless laughter! Regardless, dinner was a delicious end to a wonderful performance. We went home, and are looking forward to our next adventure. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss all the action!

Until next time,


Cold Weather – Great Vibes!

Cold Weather – Great Vibes!

CMS1November was a fantastic month! Facebook Likes have grown, Twitter Followers are increasing (you should follow too!), and the shows were an absolute blast! First, Potts & Pans brought a quartet out to Cool Music Stop in Harvard, IL. I played vibes, with Matt and Christina on pan, and the show was a blast. The night was cold, but the heat was cranked and we brought some Caribbean jazz up to northern IL. I really love playing vibes with these guys, not only do pan and vibes sound beautiful together, but when you spend so much time with the same guys, it’s so much easier to communicate musically! The solos this night were killin’ (even though I maybe quoted the same Andy Narell lick over and over… became one of those jokes only the three of us up on stage were laughing about!)


Next up was #PASIC14! Matt and I spent a few days preparing over 100 pairs of mallets, and a few other odds and ends to take out to the show with The Steelpan Store. This year in Indianapolis was awesome. We sold a pan, lots of mallets, a few other things, and made a huge amount of connections. The pan presence at #PASIC14 was incredible. Kyle Dunleavy and Alan Coyle were both there with artists Sherwin Thwaits and Tracy Thorton. Matt and I got to spend time playing pan, talking pan (selling pan) and even enjoyed a fantastic meet and greet dinner arranged  by Brandon Haskett with all the steelband directors in attendance. We also got to talk with one of my favorite vibists, Arthur Lipner – a loyal customer of The Steelpan Store! We were also thrilled to hear all the hype that was out there around the Great Lakes Steelpan Festival!

clfolFor those in town – Potts & Pans closed the month with Crystal Lake’s Festival of Lights parade. I was on lead pan for this one (using Potts & Pans 9B7-wd-rd mallets available here). Not only did Matt get some electricity in #TheLady, but we used that to light up both the inside of the bus, and the entire trailer (it was an awesomely excellent musical italian bistro on wheels!) We performed Destra’s State of Mind, and Matt’s arrangement of Jingle Bells (Soca Style :P) The crowd loved it, and we are looking to make this one an annual event. We even got some wonderful photos from J Nanez Photography!

I was able to bring some Jazz Vibes over to the Presbyterian Church of Palatine this past Sunday. I was invited to provide special music during their service, and a couple of standards fit the bill. The members of the church were all very receptive to the music, and many had great compliments afterwards – it looks like I’ll be back there soon! I have known the pastor, Teri, for sometime, and it was great getting to see her new church. We also sang together on a tune at the end of the service 😀 This was a wonderful environment for the vibraphone. A smaller place requiring no amplification, allowing the instrument to sing brightly throughout the hall. One hard of hearing member even commented “Your music was the only thing I could hear during service, and it was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.” Compliments like that are about as good as they get!


Next up – Toys for Tots Benefit Concert! If you’re in Crystal Lake, or anywhere near, you won’t want to miss this one. Simply bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate, and you get a wonderful concert. Featuring our community steelband, as well as the professional P&P crew, we have socas, calypsos, holiday favorites, flute trios, and some vibes features! See you December 7th, at 4:00!

That’s all for now,