Black Swamp Arts Festival

Black Swamp Arts Festival voted best in the state in magazine poll

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival received an early gift as preparations get underway  for the 25th festival next September. The readers of Ohio Magazine have voted the Bowling Green festival as Best Art/Fair Festival in the state of Ohio. The results of the readers poll appear in the January issue of the magazine. “It’s great that it’s a reader appreciation award, a community-based reaction, to what we’ve done,” said Todd Ahrens, who chairs the committee that works year-round to stage the festival. “It’s good for the committee to have validation that the work we do as volunteers has meaning to the community. Bringing arts and the community together – that’s what the festival has been about since the beginning.” The 2017 festival will be staged in downtown Bowling Green Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept.  10. The festival features musicians from around the world, more than 200 exhibitors in three art shows, arts activities for children, and a range of food and beverage offerings. That diversity of offerings is what sets the festival apart, Ahrens said. “We offer visual and performing arts… and then have this youth arts area that blows people away.” The Chalk Walk competition for high school students was started as a way to engage teenagers.  “We continue to find ways to make it something for everybody,” he said. The festival also features a beer garden and a variety of food vendors. “People enjoy the beer garden in particular and being able to enjoy free music with their friends and have a nice community party.” Looking forward to next September, Ahrens…

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Southern Avenue is Israeli bluesman’s street of dreams

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Growing up in Israel, blues guitarist Ori Naftaly dreamed of Memphis. He’d listen to the LPs. He decorated his room with the images. He read the stories. Now when he performs with his band Southern Avenue and looks over at his bandmates, he realizes he’s living that dream. In Tierinii Jackson he has found a true “church girl” whose soulful vocals “give me goosebumps.” In her sister Tikyra Jackson he has the drummer of his dream who delivers a soulful groove. In Daniel Mckee, he has bass player rooted in the fertile musical soil of Memphis. So on the bandstand sometimes he wonders: “How did I get here? This is pretty amazing.” Southern Avenue will bring its Memphis-based soul and blues sound to the Black Swamp Arts Festival for a Friday, Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m. Main Stage set. Naftaly’s journey started with his father, an avid music fan. His father had a large record collection. He had a friend at a record store and though him got the latest music magazines. In Israel, Naftaly explained, only American hits are available. His father dug deeper into the roots, and shared that knowledge with his guitar playing on. Naftaly had a following in his native land. He was “an ambassador” for the blues, he said. Then he had the opportunity to be an ambassador for his country, representing Israel in the International Blues Competition in Memphis. He was “weeded out,” Naftaly said. He was up against 50-year-olds who grew up on the music. But the experience was invaluable. The reception he received was good enough that…


John Brown’s Body celebrates reggae’s roots & future

  By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The reggae band John Brown’s Body has hardly been molderin’ since its last appearance at the Black Swamp Arts Festival in 2003. The band delivered a percolating set of reggae that had the crowd on its feet and dancing, and then the band’s horns joined the closing act Chubby Carrier for a raucous jam that had members of the audience dancing on the stage. In the intervening years, says drummer Tommy Benedetti, the band has continued to evolve. “Any good band is on a journey,” Benedetti said in a recent telephone interview. John Brown’s Body will perform on the Main Stage, Friday, Sept.9 at the festival. For John Brown’s Body that evolution starts back in Ithaca, New York, with a band called The Tribulations, founded by Kevin Kinsella and Elliot Martin. Benedetti first heard them when he was a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston and became a fan. He then took over the drum chair in the band’s last year and a half. About 20 years ago, John Brown’s Body emerged from the remains of The Troubadours. The band took a “rootsier” approach. Kinsella was the main songwriter at that point. He wrote what Benedetti called “almost country reggae.” Tunes with strong harmonies and bridges that could easily be played just on guitar. But he also added the horn lines that are part of John Brown’s Body’s signature sound. Those horns are and were an integral part of the band, Benedetti said. European promoters have approached JBB about touring with a smaller ensemble, but the band isn’t interested. They want…


Black Swamp Arts Festival has been music to the ears of Best of Show winner Chris Plummer

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For Kentucky printmaker Chris Plummer, a change of scenery shifted his gaze to the landscape. About two years ago Plummer quit his job at the Kroger bakery and moved with his family from the outskirts of Cincinnati to a more rural part of Kentucky. “I do a lot fields and barns because that’s what I see around me now.” Before he focused on woodprints that depicted slices of stories that reflected the angst of folks on the edge between the country and suburbs. Now he creates colorful monoprints, abstracted color landscapes, all inspired by scenes within a few miles of his home. “With woodcuts, for whatever reason, I tend to focus on what is wrong, and with monoprints what I’m looking at is the beauty around me.” Plummer had started to experiment with monoprints, as well as painting, before he moved. Now that has taken hold. Those prints were praised by the jurors at the 2015 Black Swamp Arts Festival when he won Best of Show honors. He also took the top prize at the festival in 2013. Plummer said he’s heard a lot of positive reactions to the newer work, though some people have said they prefer his older work. Still others noted that they like that he’s continuing to change as an artist. “I know a lot of people find what works and stick to that,” he said. “To me that would be boring.” Though he’s done as many as 20 shows a year, Plummer has settled into doing about a dozen. He particularly likes college towns with their bookstores and coffee…


Delta Saints to bless arts festival with healthy dose of rock ‘n’ roll

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News What does it take to bring a rock ‘n’ roll band from dorm room sessions to the stages of the world? About a 1,000 shows and just as much bourbon. That’s what Ben Ringel attributes the success of The Delta Saints to. When the band plays the 10 p.m. set for the Friday show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Sept.9, he wants the audience to come away with one impression: “I’d love it if people left and said ‘we really saw this great rock ’n’ roll band.’” Not that he feels the Delta Saints have reached perfection. It’s a continuing learning process, he said. “We try to learn something every night,” he said. “Three-quarters of the lessons we learn are ‘don’t do that the next time.’” That sense of lifelong learning is not surprising for a band that got its start at a college, Belmont University in Nashville. In 2007, Ringel and several other students who had transferred into the college bonded together.  They shared a bit of an outsider attitude, coming from different schools and parts of the country. Ringel was born in Louisiana, but lived in Seattle, before going to Nashville. Bassist David Supica came from Kansas. They and a couple other guys were “all pursuing music, both in school and as a passion.” “We needed an outlet for it, needed friends to drink beer with. It really took off from there.” They wrote songs together, and then with enough for a setlist, they started playing the first of those more than 1,000 shows. The band’s members – Ringel, vocals, guitar; Nate…


Pokey LaFarge travels the byways of American music

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Pokey LaFarge is a traveling man. Has been since his teens when he left his Illinois home, where his name was Andrew Heissler, to head west. He had his mandolin and his stories with him. He also took with him a love of music and history first nurtured by his grandfathers and put that together into songs he sang on the streets. He ate from trash cans. He slept where he could. Now leading his own six-piece band, he travels by bus and plane and eats good food. Still, he agreed, that this was busking in grand fashion. “Traveling has always been the essence, the heart, of what I do,” he said in a recent interview. LaFarge’s wandering ways will bring him and his band to the Black Swamp Arts Festival where he’ll perform a Main Stage show, Saturday, Sept. 10, at 8 p.m. He’ll also perform on the Youth Arts Stage at 4 p.m. that day. His music is rooted in the music of the American heartland and in a time when jazz, country, blues, ragtime and vaudeville shared a cradle. And the stories his music tells are, too, reflecting the way we’re pulled into the future, sometimes reluctantly, but never able to surrender our past. Certainly things have changed, said LaFarge, who now calls St. Louis home. “A professional musician has a lot more responsibility, a lot more work,” he said. “But it’s better than sleeping in the ditch.” Some things haven’t changed. “My sense of curiosity that led me out into the world has not waned at all.” He’s still curious…


Black Swamp Arts Festival poster has wild look

The posters for the 2016 Black Swamp Arts Festival have arrived. They should start popping up around town. They are also available at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. The poster features a full color front featuring the flowers and plants of the Black Swamp. The back features a quiz about the plants depicted as well as information about the area. The poster was designed by Erin Holmberg. Festival opens Friday, Sept.9, with music on the Main Stage continuing Saturday, Sept.10, and Sunday, Sept.11 with art shows, music and kids activities throughout downtown.