Thursday, August 27, 2015

Home again, home again, jiggity jig, I went to the market to buy a phat...hey!!!

Friends, I am home.... it has been months..... I came home last week actually, but I had a show in NY and didn't actually return to my home til a couple days ago. Been getting settled, cleaning house, doing laundry, getting reacquainted with my dog, Mr. Pumpkinseed, cooking for the Amoeba....

The last 10 days of my journey were spent in the UK. I went to Scotland, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was glorious. 3000 shows happening simultaneously in a gorgeous city with incredible people, culture, food and architecture. There was a Game of Thrones musical (sold out every night), I saw "Ecce Homo" a drag cabaret performer surviving over 30 years with HIV/AIDS....and I saw "Le Gateau Chocolat" and "Tshwame Gospel Choir" from South Africa, Dandy Darkly a rhinestone clownboy storyteller from Georgia via NYC.....I personally performed with Chaz Royal and Betty D'Light's nightly presentation "Best of Burlesque" at the Spiegeltent Columbino, part of Assembly Fest. This was an excellent show, with some the best burlesque and variety performers working at the top of their game right now. It was wonderful to be part of this exceptional crew.  Here is a nice pic of some of us on my last day there with Chaz Royal, Betty D"Light, CeCe Sinclair, Whisky Falls and Eliza Delight:
While I was in Edinburgh, I fell in love with a show called "Church of Malcolm", became their backup singer and dancer, and we were selected to perform at the "Best of the Fest" showcase here is a pic from us from backstage, me with Malcolm Doherty and his son Callum McQuattie:
My sweet Amoeba had joined me for this leg of the journey.... we made it through the looking glass and back again.... here's a nice shot of him with Malcolm backstage as well...
And then, after an incredibly informative and delightful run of magnificent shows, with tears on me cheeks, we boarded a train to London to perform at the oldest gay pub in London town, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern:
It was a delightful evening that included trans hostess who sang like angel from Detroit, an opera singer from Italy, local live LBGTQ community news, the stars that night were Smokin' McQueen, his  kookaburra puppet and me!  The lady who booked us, Inge, is a force in the community and her event "Bar Wotever" has been going on for years and I was honored beyond words to complete my journey at this incredible and legacied venue. It was a journey.... 12 countries, 15 cities.....I am home now..... the footage is on 2 harddrives, we are beginning the process of editing now and I am getting back to my gigs and performances.

I ask you can mark the calendar for my next one, October 2, 2015, I am singing for the first time ever with my group at the James Street Gastropub, on the 3rd floor, in the newly restored ballroom. This venue is incredible, it housed the first ever racially integrated dances in Pittsburgh, and their history of showcasing the best in local jazz continues today. It closed briefly but reopened in 2011, so please do come out, see me there, support this venue and their work. They have great food, great cocktails and beer selection, and most importantly, they maintain stages featuring live music. It's becoming a rare thing, stages that regularly support live music, and it won't stick around if we don't support it. It's only $5 and I am singing all night, with Donna Davis, the High Priestess of Soul on piano, Tony DePaolis on bass, JT "Smitty" Smith on drums and Reggie Watkins on the trombone. Here is a link to the facebook event page, please share it, if I do well, they will have me back, I have waited a LOOOOOONG time to get into this venue, please come out and celebrate with me!

So, last year, you may remember that I had a dream, a dream to show the world how awesome our music scene in Pittsburgh was, and I went about this dream by studying video at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and did my internship at Mr Small's Theatre as part of their Creative.Life.Support program..... I shot a bunch of video....and I learned that filmmaking is not a solo mission. It can be, if you want to spend 25 years doing one thing, but if you want to get the work out in a timely fashion and not lose your sh*t, you should work in a group, which I did, to shoot it.... but I thought I could edit it, but my schedule is nuts. Like all the time. I am starting to get a handle on things, but I always overbook before I went to Europe, I began working with a recent graduate of Filmmaker's intensive program, Andrew Klein, and while Alistair McQueen and I were off shooting new video, he started in on editing my old video. And I am so happy he did.... I just uploaded my first concert from my Sunday Phunday series today, there is more to come, trust me, but these musicians mean so much to me.... Terry Griffith, Irish Balladeer and his grandaughter, Grannia Griffith, have been like family to me since I was but a wee Phat Man Dee....(I'm working on my brogue....I definitely left a piece of my heart in  Leith....) actually, before I was "Phat Man Dee", Terry's son Damon aka "The Big Daddy Bull Seal!" and I had a poetry troupe for a decade before I even started singing with a band.... and his daughter Grannia I have known before she was even out her mama Mary Crow's belly...... so, to see her all grown up and a lovely young woman and songwriter in her own right is an amazing miracle to me.... I hope you like this first episode of "Sunday Phunday with Phat Man Dee and Phriends, featuring Terry Griffith and the Grannia Griffith Story": Link:

It should be noted that one of our camera operators, Ms. Nancy Evelyn Gold, passed away recently, while I was in Scotland. I am so sorry to see her leave us, she was far too young.... she was special for many reasons, a wonderful friend, and her work was so important. She shone her cameras on communities who rarely are given voice, the LBGTQ youth, the cast always, the gender dancers and trans people in our lives who too often go unheard. Please check out her work and remember her fondly, I know I will miss her terribly.
There is a service and memory walk planned for her if you knew her, or want to get to know her friends. 

Love, respect, and may music unite you with the family you never knew you had, it did for me,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dearest friends and supporters! I am currently in Scotland, at the Edinburgh Fringe, it is a festival unlike any I have ever attended. The city is filled with artists and performers from all over the world. 3000 shows are happening right now, and there are industry professionals who book, manage, produce performances of every genre and medium imaginable, all looking for new projects to work with. It is wildly exciting. I have so many ideas for what I am going to bring here next year and the people I am working with now are performers at the top of their game. I am honored to be among them. My companion and videographer Alistair McQueen has been working really hard to capture all of our experiences and put some of them up for your enjoyment. Most of the editing will be done after we get back and can actually watch the hundreds of hours of footage logged and piece it together in a sensible format. A tv producer is coming to our show tonight at "Best of Burlesque" and who knows if it will actually lead to "Take it to the Bridge" to be picked up or not? But hope is a good thing..... Another good thing is clicks, likes, and shares.... social media is the currency and Nielsen ratings of the modern age, so please check out the youtube channel where we have been posting the videos and share them.

The most recent video was made this week, at the Fringe, with members of the 2 shows I am performing with. I mentioned "Chaz Royal and Betty D'Light's Best of Burlesque" (the cast of whom are some of the best burlesque and variety performers working in Europe right now, truly talented and dedicated performers) with whom I have been appearing every night at the Spiegeltent Columbino, I have 2 more shows with them, one tonight and tomorrow and I also have appearances with another show I have made friends with a singer and composer Malcolm Doherty, and his show "The Church of Malcolm" is truly delightful. I adore his music and his message. Please check out our video we made this week, I am singing a song with the Church of Malcolm on the Blue Bridge, Leith docks, Edinburgh, Scotland. We have a dancer named Whisky Falls from Best of Burlesque with us, the song is "Beauty Comes from Within":

And we put one up earlier this week as well, it's my collaboration with 2 wonderful jazz musicians in Hamburg, Germany, Helmar Marczinski and Jan-Phillip Meyer, and our version of "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans"

 Please, like, share and help me get these videos out there! World wide social media is what will help me win this game of art and life! @phatmandee @churchofmalcolm @bestofburlsque @mswhiskyfalls @smokinmcqueen @edfringe @assemblyfest are all great twitter and instagram handles to mention....let the world know! Phat Man Dee and Friends are coming with music and song!

My next hit after the Fringe is in London, England, at Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a historic gay pub, with Smokin' McQueen and the event is "Bar Wotever" if you have any friends in London, let them know! Facebook event page:

Love, respect, gratitude, I am yours, Mandee

Thursday, August 6, 2015

So It's 2 am and I am in London Gatwick Airport......

Somehow I guess I thought my arrival into England would include Mary Poppins and Doctor Who greeting me at the border with a blue box, a bumbershoot and some charming chimney sweep with a terrible cockney accent.... that's not what happened..... what happened was I had to wrestle 50 tourists at Termini train station for 2 seats on the bus to Rome's FCO airport, spend about 45 minutes wandering around the most confusing airport I have ever been in, though I did manage to locate the plane after 2 gate changes, all in a rush for the privelege of sitting at a coffee shop on the other side of the security gate all night in suburban London....But it's all ok though, cuz just before I left Rome, I carbo loaded at Mama Angela's with a burlesque dancer named Wonderful Ginger, and that's something I could have never predicted, after I sang for her on a bridge, she stuffed me full of pasta, panna cotta, tirimisu and bruschetta...... and then on the plane I sat next to a delightful choir master and conductor and we chatted for hours about music, art, debauchery, who was our favorite Doctor (Who) and the social merits of fist mastication whilst flying the friendly skies.... And, really, the last several weeks have been a kind of blur.... we documented everything, so it's all on tape, and we will edit it and get it into a movie form when we get home.... but really, we have been changing locations every 3 or 4 days and it's just long enough to make a couple friends, or re ceonnect with old ones, sing on some bridges, go to jam sessions, make plans for future ventures and I am deep down tired and  exhausted through every bone and fiber....I think I am on my 27th wind right now..... I have been trying to post pictures and videos on my facebook page..... I have two now.... the one I have always had for my music which is and my new one, for this video documentary project which is I hope you will "Like" it and "Share" it.

Some random recent memories.....
Squeezing into a basement with 111 new best friends for a marathon 4 hour long poetry reading extravaganza led by an Italian in a French basement in the Oberkampf in a club called "Le Chat Noir" with Pittsburgh born, Paris based jazz poet Moe Seager, and getting a standing ovation for my poem "Jim Crow is Alive and Well" with cries of "Viva La Resistance" and "Black Lives Matter" resonating through the stone walls....and somehow it not feeling rediculous.

Reconnecting with a Swedish bagpiper named Steffanos di Panoptico, whose music I fell in love with 15 years ago and singing with him on the Oberbaumbrucke in Berlin, Germany.....standing on the former border of East and West Germany, we sang "Herr Mannelig" a Sweidsh folk song about how one is not always open to seeing the beauty which lies within the one before you. Berlin also included a phenomenally delightful evening set up by a 7 foot high professional Blue Bunny named Scottie who I used to tour with in Bindlestiff Family Circus....

And the jazz clubs....such beautiful jazz basements, in marble, in caves, in Prague, Hamburg, Berlin, Amsterdam, Venice, Belgium, Rome.....with truly beautiful players....from all over the world..... making music together in an international language of standards and community. Even though we didn't always speak the same language, we spoke music....and we connected in song.... this music which started in America, derived from the African American experience and fused with European instrumentation and international rythyms and traditions..... its resonating all over the world.....

Bridges.... sometimes I got some musicians to join me on the bridges.... sometimes I didn't. In Malta I sang alone before the "Azure Window"..... a natrual land bridge with a window looking out on the sea and sky. In Rome I sang on Ponte Fabricius, built in 64 AD with an accordionist named Daniele Mutino, who I met in San Francisco when we both performed in "How to Survive the Apocalypse a Burning Opera" and then I sang on "Ponte della Musica" for a dancer I had just met the night before named "Wonderful Ginger". In Ghent I performed with Nik Phelps, a brilliant composer who scores animations and played on every Tom Waits album for over 10 years..... we played "Lush Life" on a bridge in Ghent and he made me a "Prarie Chicken" in his Western Swing band and we played at Gentse Feeste...For the rcord, Belgians LOVE to dance.... in Hamburg I played with a 65 year old saxophonist named Helmarr and a 19 year old drummer named Jan-Phillip on a bridge and we jammed it over "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans"..... in Prague I sang on a 1000 year old bridge with 3 cellists with whom I only had in common one song, "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley......In Paris I interviewed Chrisopher Henderson, a drummer who played in Sun Ra's Arkestra then I jammed on some poetry on a bridge over Canal St Martin with Moe Seager..... In Austria I sang at the World Body Painting Festival with an 18 year old wind player who is just starting his studys at conservatory in Vienna, but who plays like he's 4 times that age.... his daddy is a super hot Jewish trucker from Georgia who runs Body Art America..... In Malta I sang on Sister Mable's Magic Terrace and witnessed my cousin marry into a beautiful family from Iran.

It's a weird, beautiful, artistic and musical world...... I am so grateful to be having this expereince..... it's rounding the bend....but not quite done. In 5 hours I will fly to Edinburgh, sing at one of the world's biggest festivals....if you know anyone in Edinburgh or London, let them know Phat Man Dee is coming..... here are the deets for those shows, feel free to spread the news.....

August 8 - 16, 2015 I am singing in Chaz Royal's Best of Burlesque and vareirty cabaret show at the Spiegeltent Columbino! Show time is 11:30 pm, it is 16 pounds to attend, and patrons must be 16 years old or above. The show lasts an hour and I will be there with Tommy Amoeba and Smokin' McQueen as well as some of the best performers currently working in Burlesque from all over the world! Linkety link link link:

August 18, 2015 I make my London, England debut at Royal Vauxhall Tavern at a delightful event called "Bar Wotever" a "Royal Queer Variety Show" hosted by Virgin Xtravaganza and Mzz Kimberly!!  Linkety link link link:

On Aug 19 I come home....

There is one thing I am very sad to miss, and if you could check it out, it would make me happy....and you too, cuz it's awesome.... my friends Ed Pinto and Mike Mangiafico are brilliant artists, working in glass and wood..... they have a major display of their work at Touchstone Center for Crafts and the opening is this Saturday August 8 at 5 pm - 7 pm. It will be up for some time, if you can't go to the opening, you shuold go check it while it's up. The work is incredible. There are 4 people in the world who know how to make glass casts of honeycomb. Only 2 of them can make 2 sided honeycomb. That's Eddie and Mike. I can't truly explain how beautiful their work is, if I were in town, I would definitely be singing at this opening. Check it:

So, there we's now 3 am and in 4 and a half hours I shall fly to to Scotland. I shall board a local bus and ride to town, for one of the biggest festivals in the world. Will anyone see me? Will anyone like my music? I think so.... will it lead to something bigger? Probably.....but even if it doesn't..... even if this goes no where past what I am experiencing RIGHT NOW..... so long as the video we make is seen and heard and enjoyed.... then we win....I feel like I won every present under the Channukah Bush and even though it seems from over here like my country is going off the damn rails.....For example, is Trump REALLY being considered seriously??? And  what in the world is going on, when Sandra Bland and Samuel Dubose are the latest victims in a centuries old hunt of Black people by the authorities, and how many more innocents have to die before the world stands up and demands justice and release from the madness????? I am grateful for this opportunity but I must admit I am having a hard time looking for international jazz musicians, which is a form of music started by Black people and right now my own country seems to be having open hunting season on the very people who gave it to us...... but I digress..... or do I??? Music is born of heartache and struggle, but I beseech the world, I would like to write music born out of a sense of security..... not fear. I leave you with this..... tell someone who you care for that you love them. Our art, our music, our communinty is a blessing, and when we share it with one another we create a better world than the one we had yesterday. Tomorrow is not promised to us, and today is now.

Love, respect,