Progressive Media, Music, Art and Events Blog Near near Salem, Oregon

How to Crash a Family Reunion.

with 3 comments

Waterfall has been playing acoustic music together for roughly 15 years now.

We’ve played all kinds of coffee houses, weddings, funerals and have done some busking on the pier in Newport, Oregon. Some of our most exciting performance experiences have happened when we play for free.

Casey Applen, Mandolin, Harmonica Bodran. Louie Hubbard, vocals and guitar.

Casey Applen, Mandolin, Harmonica Bodran. Louie Hubbard, vocals and guitar.

Listen to Louie and I play music here

For several years Louie and I theorized jokingly that it would be great fun to crash a family reunion by providing musical entertainment. The concept was simple enough. Every family desperately wants to believe there is somebody in a family that is talented.

Besides, families are so fragmented these days that quite often they hardly really know each other. This is especially true with second-time-around blended familiy reunions.

We laughed about serveral hilarious senarios about embedding ourselves into an unsuspecting family reunion. The goal would be to get some free food, and gain a fresh set of new friends; hopefully without being found to be merely musicians. We laughed for years about the concept. It came to a point where we dared each other to try it out.


First thing you have to do is find the Key Event Organizer.

Every family reunion has a person who is organized, looks a bit over-tired and probably one hell of a diplomat to get all these people together. This is because often with family reunions, (much like Thanksgiving) there are many among the party who really don’t want to be there.

Introduce yourself to the organizer. Offer to play some music. Reason: this is the probably the person who knows everybody who is at the reunion. If you don’t introduce yourself the whole idea could crash and burn. These people live for organization and structure, but even more importantly, participation.

Talking to People You Really Don’t Know

While theorizing on hilarious conversation scenarios we decided there are certain things you can say at family reunions without being established as a party crasher:

  • “How’s the knee?” To be used on older persons. If they don’t have a problem with it now..chances are excellent they did at some point, if that doesn’t spur a conversation, then say “or was that your ankle you had a problem with a while back?” This is much safer than asking or declaring somebody had surgery which gets too personal. Joint problems or aches are almost always a hit with the veterans.
  • “Last time I saw you…you were about yeah big!” This is to be used on younger folk. Chances are they will believe they were too young to remember you.
  • “Let’s see…aren’t you related to, ..John?” (John is the most common name in the English language. Worst case scenario: you can feign confusion with another part of the family. Or use somebody’s name you have already discovered. People love at the very least to be remembered.
  • “I’m a friend of the family” Often renunion attendees will bring a close friend to introduce around. This is a good default if family tree questions come up.
  • “I wonder if somebody brought potato salad?” More often than not, somebody did. With big reunions, chances are extraordinarily good that too many people did. Those that brought Potato Salad will be relieved to hear that you are interested in the dish, and hungry for their makings.

After daring each other for several years…this is a stunt we actually pulled off!

We decided to pull off the stunt in Oregon’s number one spot for family reunions: Champoeg State Park. We picked a family that was most likely to have been “blended” over time. Also we picked a group that seemd to have sufficient number of geographically distant visiting members, which would allow us to become seemingly homogeneous attendees. We were actually invited to join the family in dinner.

We knew we had won our goal when we heard…”You guys have been playing so long, better get someting to eat!”

By the day’s end we felt like part of another family. We exchanged email address with the Key Event Organizer, as they wanted to make sure we came back next year!

Waterfall is now booking events for Christmas.


Written by gettheconcept

July 20, 2008 at 5:17 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Great approach–how to tap family reunion assets and strum (subversively) for food. Way more fun than plinking by the bus stop with an open guitar case at your feet…especially if you like tater salad.


    March 18, 2009 at 3:27 pm

  2. Very true. Much more fun. On the other hand we have had some amazing experiences on the pier in Newport, Oregon. It is difficult for us thought to compete against the fishing boats when they come in though.

    People have this sort of Draconian excitement about watching fish heads being cut off after their arrival.

    Often, our only defense then is to start singing the “fish heads” song.


    March 20, 2009 at 5:24 am

  3. Shows your range as musical artists. 😉 Enjoyed this, thanks.


    March 20, 2009 at 4:14 pm

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