Black Swamp Arts Festival

Here’s that rainy day, & night, theme for Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News This is what legends are made of — blues star Samantha Fish laying down the blues to a packed Howard’s Club H for closing set of the rain-soaked Black Swamp Arts Festival.  She delivered assertive blues with no holds-bar vocals and searing electric guitar to listeners happy not to standing outside in the rain. From the time her festival appearance was announced in June, fans have buzzing about Fish’s appearance. She delivered. Fish delivered more than a powerful set, she delivered a lift to a festival bedeviled by constant rain. The weather, though, never got as severe as expected. That forecast of heavy rain and a series of thunderstorms, led the festival’s organizers on Friday afternoon to cancel the outdoor activities for Sunday. The music was moved inside at Howard’s and Grounds for Thought to salvage most of the music. Bill Donnelly, chair of the festival, stood by the decision Monday. It was made with the safety of everyone involved — patrons, visual artists, performers, and volunteers.  The festival committee had been watching the weather, and consulted with the Wood County Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service. On Friday, there was a 70 percent chance of heavy rain, strong wings, and lightning on Sunday. “Probability is probability.” That led the committee after meeting with fire, police and public works officials to cancel all outdoor activities on Sunday. He praised the site and logistics team, chaired by Alex Hann, site and logistics team for being “responsive, flexible and focused on protecting the safety of everybody” as well as the festival’s marketing committee for keeping the public informed throughout the weekend.  Cutting the art show short meant the tents in downtown disappeared Saturday evening, leaving Main Street feeling haunted and bleak on Sunday. Donnelly noted that even before the decision was made, artists were contacting the festival saying they would not come because of the weather. About 20 artists scheduled did not show up, he said, though how many because of the weather is not known. Others asked about the possibility of leaving on Saturday, Donnelly said. Having a scattershot exit of artists would have been  logistical nightmare. Though they lost a day of sales, most artists on Saturday were understanding. They appreciated the decision being made earlier enough so they…

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Local favorite Tim Tegge stepping up to the Main Stage at Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When singer-songwriter Tim Tegge first played the Black Swamp Arts Festival 10 years ago, he was so nervous that the day before he went to check out the stage. He looked at the atrium at the former Huntington Bank (now the Four Corners Center) and noticed how the pillars went up and formed two Ts, as in his initials. That was a good omen. That show, he said recently, was the first time he’d played an hour-long set. Before then he’d just played a few songs at a time at open mic sessions. He’s been back to perform at the festival since then. This year will mark another first. Tim Tegge and the Black Swamp Boys will perform on the Main Stage Sunday at 11 a.m. “I still can’t believe I’m on the Main Stage.” Tegge’s been writing songs in earnest for 15 years now, though his first one, “Fishing Hole,” was written 25 years ago. After that initial effort, marriage to his wife, Jayne, and parenthood, and the usual ebb and flow of life intervened.  It was the death his friend Lloyd Shelton that helped steer him back to songwriting. In preparing Shelton’s eulogy, he realized it’d been a long time since he’d played his guitar. There was a song he was meaning to write, so he picked up the instrument again. “It’s just like the dam broke open,” he said. He now felt like he wasn’t imitating his heroes such as John Denver and James Taylor. “Something came alive.” For the last 15 years he’s been dedicated to writing songs.  Now playing a three-hour gig at a winery doesn’t faze him, not with 130 songs in his book. Those songs touch on familiar, every day concerns, of a 50-something guy. “Why Can’t We Go Back?” is a comic lament about the gentrification of the simple cup of coffee. The song has been turned into a video produced by Jack O’Hare featuring a cast of characters as former tough guys who now drink sugary lattes.  He’s also penned a tribute to the mothers and other women who end up spending “Christmas in the Kitchen.”  He also penned “Showdown in Pull Town” for the Natoal Tractor Pulling Championships. He draws from life, jotting down phrases he hears, remembering stories…


Friends, old & new, grace Black Swamp fest’s Main Stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News   Birds of Chicago feel at home It’s always nice to come home. That’s the way JT Nero feels about the Birds of Chicago’s return to the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Nero, who grew up in Toledo, was certainly at home during last year’s show. The Birds even played a set on the Family Stage, just a few feet from Howard’s Club H. Some of his first live shows as a musician were at Howard’s. And it was fun to share it with his wife and musical collaborator Allison Russell. “She had a blast.” He was quick to credit the festival volunteer personnel for their hospitality. “They take care of you.” The Birds of Chicago are back to play a primetime Main Stage set at 6:15 p.m., Saturday, followed by a late night set at Stone’s Throw. Since last year the Americana quintet has released both an EP, “American Flowers,” and a full-length album “Love in Wartime.” The EP, Nero said, was inspired from growing up in Toledo. The Islamic Center of Toledo serves as a central image in the title track. “That image is as American as it gets for me,” Nero said. The album strives to better reflect the Birds of Chicago live show. “We wanted to make a little bit more of a rock ‘n’ roll album. … With all the malaise hanging over the country, we wanted to make something that felt like a joyous document of life on earth. For me a rock ‘n’ roll album is the best way to do that.” The band will be selling that album in both CD and vinyl. That’s still part of the business model, though, as streaming takes a toll on sales of physical recordings. “I’m OK streaming as long as people go out and support the band, buying tickets to the show, buying t-shirts. Find a way to support the music.” Nero added: “We have to keep fighting the good fight and taking care that streaming services are more responsible in what they’re paying.” Still the Birds of Chicago are essentially a live act. Performing at festivals has a particular allure, especially if they get to settle in for a couple days. “Music festivals are where we plug in and see where our peers are…


Volunteers’ sweat equity makes Black Swamp Arts Festival possible

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Thousands of people enjoy all that the Black Swamp Arts Festival has to offer — the food and beverages, the music, the art, the youth activities. Hundreds more turn their love of the festival into action. The Black Swamp Arts Festival, Sept. 7-9 in downtown Bowling Green, relies on the sweat equity of those 900 volunteers. Just like neighbors getting together to raise a barn, these people help bring the festival to life. They help with setting up stages, serving beer, monitoring where the beer goes to keep the festival on the right side of the liquor regulations. They help kids create their own art. They deliver needed snacks to artists, and sell merchandise. “The whole festival relies on volunteers,” said Wynn Perry, who chairs the volunteer committee. The board that stages the festival is made up of volunteers. They meet throughout the year raising the $180,000 it costs to put on the festival. They book musical acts and enlist visual artists from near and far. They design posters and make sure people know about the event.  And come festival weekend, they may even pick up trash and plug in other holes as they occur. Why join this effort? Perry said “because it does make them part of the community. It’s a real strong community, and we have a strong community because people take that action.” That applies to the festival and Bowling Green as a whole. And, she added, “it’s fun.” Working as a beer garden monitor people get to greet their friends as well as meet new people.This year the monitors will have umbrella covered chairs to sit on. At this point, about a week before the festival begins, just over 50 percent of the volunteer spots are full. Those interested can sign up on the festival’s website. Areas of particular need are people to monitor the beer garden to make sure people don’t carry beer or wine out of the designated areas. Also people to check identifications for people wanting to buy alcoholic beverages and to sell the tickets needed to buy those beverages. There’s an special need for those wanting to work the late shifts. Also needed are people to work on the Dawn Patrol. That’s the crew that shows up before the break of…


Friday night acts to light up Black Swamp festival stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival has prided itself on its eclectic musical offerings. While the wide Americana music umbrella covers many of the performers, there have been plenty who reside outside that catch-all term. Think of the European, Caribbean, and African bands that have graced the festival’s stages. While the festival may have a global reach, the performing arts committee has also consistently tapped into the roots of American music. That’s certainly the case on Friday, Sept. 7. Ohio rocker Drew Joseph opens at 5 p.m. The acts that follow tap into the reverberations from Brooklyn, New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, and Michigan. Here’s what’s in store under the Friday night lights on the Main Stage Two Tons of Steel: Revving up the rockabilly sound Named for a 1956 Coupe de Ville that served as the band’s “van,” Two Tons of Steel hails from San Antonio, Texas. We can thank a local connection, though, for their appearance. Alex Hann, the long-time site and logistic chair for the festival, has been a fan since first hearing Two Tons at one of their regular gigs in the iconic Austin venues the Gruene Music Hall. He was impressed by the band’s energy which had the dance floor packed from the first note, and their combination of styles. Two Tons of Steel has its roots in rockabilly and Texas swing. Perfect for the festival. Conversations ensued, and Two Tons of Steel is now motoring into Ohio, virgin territory for the band. “It’s like being on a first date,” said leader Kevin Geil, in a recent telephone interview. He grew up in Austin listening to rockabilly. “You could play those three chords and play a song. … It was simple and smooth, just great music. That’s where we started and that’s the foundation of how our songs are still written and performed.” In 1992 in San Antonio, Geil started the band as a traditional three-piece rockabilly outfit with acoustic upright bass and guitars backing the vocals. Back then the music was a novelty, and Two Tons of Steel took off. Billboard magazine wrote about them. The band appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. A few of their songs were heard on “B” movie soundtracks. As Geil started featuring songs he’d…


Imaginations run wild in Black Swamp fest’s youth art village

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival’s Youth Arts Committee has one job – keep more than 1,000 children entertained over the two days of the festival. For Katie Beigel, committee co-chair in her second year, that means bringing her diverse interests and training to bear – art, art education, and event planning. “We’re planning for about 1,500. … I’d rather have a little too much than not enough,” she said. Working with Matt and Heidi Reger, she is organizing activities at the Kiwanis Youth Village with a mix of old favorites and new twists. Last year a survey conducted of the festival found that youth arts was highly popular, rated 3.4 out of a possible 4 – the only thing ranked higher was the festival as a whole with a 3.7. The survey found visitors spend on average one to two hours in the village. And it’s clear from the survey that the youth activities make it more likely that families will attend the festival. Beigel said she heard plenty of praise because the activities appealed to all ages and abilities. Most kids do more than one activity, the survey found. Given that, it’s not surprising that people wanted bags to carry home all those treasures. So Beigel put out a call for t-shirts, and with stacks of them on hand, kids will be able to make bags from them. And they’ll be able to stencil them with pictures made up of words at the poetry table. The sleeves of the shorts will be cut off and sent over the area where children will make decorations for their hats. In the past, the festival purchased flowers for decorations. But last year they ran out, and people were disappointed, Beigel said. This year they decided to let the kids apply their own fashion sense and make decorations. “It’s important to be teaching kids that art can come from anywhere you don’t need to go and buy a bunch of stuff to be creative,” Beigel said. That fits with an emphasis on reuse, recycling and repurposing. “We’re showing that arts can have a function more than just something you put on the fridge,” Beigel said. “There’s so many things that can be used to make new projects. The festival is a cool place to do that. There’s no lesson plans, no state standards to meet, their only goal is to have so much fun…


Shinyribs ready to take Black Swamp fest audience on a fantastic musical voyage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kevin Russell has a fertile imagination. Just ask him how the name Shinyribs originated. Sometimes it involves giving a homeless woman some ribs. Or maybe as he also says it was just a meaningless moniker given to him by a bunch of derelicts he used to hang out with in northern Louisiana. Or maybe it’s from his toddler running around declaring “It’s shiny time!” “It was his mantra,” Russell said. And about that time Russell was thinking a lot about the creation story involving Adam’s rib and thinking that the rib lives its life in darkness, and yet it’s close to the heart. Then Russell laughs. He’s laughter punctuated each of these creation stories. He’s a guy who likes to have a good time, and likes to encourage others to have a good time. That really is what Shinyribs stands for. The Austin-based octet will be the closer for Saturday night on the Main Stage of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Russell said he’s looking forward to the gig. “As soon as I saw the name, I said ‘I want to play the Black Swamp.’” Russell’s music is rooted in joy. Growing up in Beaumont, he said: “We heard of tons of 45s, everything, The Sylvers, Billy Preston, Glen Campbell, Ray Stevens, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Monkees, Jerry Reed, Waylon. That’s how we listened to music. We listened to everything. We didn’t care what kind of music it was. It was wide open. Me and my sisters would dance to that music. Great time.” That no-styles barred approach continues to be the Shinyribs mission statement. From the time Russell was a child, he’d tried to get his friends to form a band, but it wasn’t until he was 14 when his father asked if he wanted to learn to play the guitar that his career as a musician lifted off. At first he woodshedded behind closed doors. Then he played for his school friends and at talent shows. “I got the bug and kind of kept doing it.” That involved playing, but especially songwriting. Russell said his songs, “a flood of songs,” are his diary, his autobiography. Some have found their way into the repertoire of the bands he played with including The Gourds, which for 20…