Black Swamp Arts Festival

Rising blues star Samantha Fish ready to connect with Black Swamp Arts Festival audiences

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When the Main Stage acts for the 2018 Black Swamp Arts Festival were first posted, a number of music fans lit up social media at the sight of Samantha Fish’s name as the festival closer. Two months from now, on Sunday afternoon, rising blues star Fish will take the Main Stage to round out the weekend’s performances. The 26th Black Swamp Arts Festival runs from Sept. 7 through 9 in downtown Bowling Green. Since the Kansas City, Missouri -based artist emerged on the blues scene about 10 years ago, she’s caught the eye and ear of blues lovers. Last year she released her fifth solo album on Ruf Records. Those records are important, she said in a recent telephone interview, even in today’s changing music business landscape. “An album is a marker of growth. It’s a legacy …. People need something to take home to listen to.” But a recording can only capture so much. The real connection between listener and performer comes in person. “There’s something about seeing someone live,” Fish said. “You see the passion. These guys sweating it out, really living in the moment, and delivering a song that connects to your life. You don’t get that from listening to a record.” Hearing live shows, whether at a festival in Arkansas where she first heard the rawer version of Delta blues or a Kansas City club, where she heard the legends of the music, is what hooked Fish on the music. That was when she was in her late teens. “I was looking for something real, and I found it there.” Fish said she’d also had her eye on doing something in the entertainment business since she was a child. To those around her dancing and theater were “pipe dreams.” She started playing drums at 13, and then picked up guitar at 15. Later she started going to jam sessions to hone her craft. “I didn’t know how to go from wanting to do something to making it happen,” Fish said. “In those clubs, I saw that music was happening all over, not only Los Angeles. … It just gave me some hope I could write my songs and sing and play guitar and make a decent living out of it.” She got a band together, and started making calls. It was like being “a telemarketer,” she said. The band landed some gigs, and that earned her some fans. It got her recognized as the Best New Artist at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. A…

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BG’s Main Street transformed into art show

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Hardly five hours after the sound of Dwayne Dopsie’s accordion stopped reverbing around the Main Stage area, and throughout the city, dozens of volunteers were back downtown getting ready for the opening of the art show, and the second day of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. The Dawn Patrol, so dubbed by the late Bill Hann, a retired Air Force officer, had reported for duty. Their mission was to transform Main Street into a vibrant arts village. This begins well before dawn and continues until the art shows are ready to open at 10 a.m. There’s an air of anticipation as the metal framework of tents go up, top with roofs, and the sides. Stacked among these are carefully packed arts and crafts, just waiting to be displayed. It’s an art in and of itself the way the exhibitors packed their vehicles, knowing what they need to have out and up, before boxes are removed. It’s a puzzle that must be disassembled and then put together again in an entirely different form. There are numerous details to take care of – where to park when the unpacking is done, where to get coffee, where to find a rest room. Volunteers are there to show the way, intent on maintaining the festival’s reputation for treating artists well. Coffee was being delivered. Roaming through the art show in progress, I find many familiar faces from previous shows. Always happy to see them back, and to stop and briefly chat before they set back to the task at hand. A street that’s empty at 5, by 6 is a bustle of activity, and by 8 the outline has been largely filled in. Jewelry, jackets, pottery, woodwork, now appear on the shelves and on the fabric walls. Some of the artists have other things on their minds. Several from Florida were concerned about their homes and family as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the Sunshine State. Brenda Baker, who chairs the visual arts committee, said Friday morning on WGGU-FM’s “The Morning Show with Clint Corpe” that the festival had several last minute cancellations related both to the impending storm as well as Hurricane Harvey which devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana. Certainly a hurricane puts the minor discomfort of temperatures in the upper 40s in perspective. The festival hosts three distinct art shows. The juried art show has 108 artists from around the country. The Wood County Invitational has 50 booths. The invitational was created to insure there’s a place for local…


Hot time as the 25th Black Swamp Arts Festival opens

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Taking the stage, zydeco royalty Dwayne Dopsie made the audience at the 25th Black Swamp Arts Festival take a pledge. “I’m not here to complain,” he said leading the crowd in the pledge. “I’m not here to be cold.” No, he told them, they were there to dance, have fun, and party. If anyone had a reason to complain about temperatures that dipped into the crisp 50s, it was a tank-top-clad son of the Bayou who only had tattoos to cover his arms. But Dopsie had other things on his mind and that was entertaining the crowd with a hard driving set of music. He pushed along his band the Zydeco Hellraisers with the antic virtuosity of his accordion over the vigorous rhythm of washboard player Paul Lafleur. Dopsie, carrying an umbrella, even left the stage to lead a conga line of fans through the full house of listeners. Dopsie and the Hellraisers capped off a night of music that was intense in different ways. The show opened at 5 with the Matt Truman Ego Trip. The wise-cracking, hard rocking bar band’s tight sound held up well in the unaccustomed light of day. Frontman Matt Truman said they were honored to open what is for them a neighborhood festival, especially given it was the event’s 25th year. “We’re from around the corner,” he said. “You probably call the cops on us when we practice.” The local rockers gave way to the mellower, though lyrically dark, rockers from Cincinnati, The Hiders. Then the show pivoted to Ireland. The quintet Lunasa is full of champion players. From the get-go they had audience members on their feet dancing. One woman impressed fiddler Sean Smyth so much, he awarded her a free CD. But the music wasn’t the only attraction. Mantek Singh Bhatia, a graduate student from Indian, said he and his friends came for the music and the food. Yes, they stood and listened to the bands, though, he didn’t know their names. He liked their music. But in time the scent from the food called. It’s a rarity to have food trucks here in Bowling Green, he said, as he munched on barbecue. Allison Freeman, of Bowling Green, has been attending the festival since its inception 25 years ago. She remembers the feeling of freedom, hanging out downtown as a teenager. Now she shares it with her husband, Ben, and their three young children. Their twins, now 2, came when they were just a month old. They enjoy everything about it….


Local acts at home on art festival’s Main Stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent Media In celebrating its 25th year, the Black Swamp Arts Festival is putting local talent center stage. Each day this weekend, a local act will open up on the Main Stage. Opening up the festival on Friday (Sept. 8) will be Matt Truman Ego Trip with a show at 5 p.m. Saturday, the BiGBand BG kicks things off at noon followed by Toledo bluesman Bobby G at 1:20. (Read profile. ). And Tom Gorman returns for his 25th year on Sunday. Truman’s no stranger to the festival. In recent years it’s been his children who have been involved, including performing with the Horizon Youth Theatre. “The kids love it.” But in the festival’s early years, a teen-aged Truman performed. In 1995 it was with the Jinkies on the Community Commons Stage, and then a couple years later he was on the Main Stage with Jackie-O. The details of those long-ago gigs are faint, except he remembers with Jackie-O playing with the sun in their faces. Not a common situation for a bar band. Truman is a veteran of the local music scene. Growing up outside of Pemberville he and his brother Ted were involved in various groups that played on the Bowling Green scene. Truman started playing saxophone in fifth grade band and guitar about the same time. Early on they played in various garage bands. They even had a dual-well cassette player which they used to record. “That’s when you realize it’s easier to be an original band than a cover band,” he said “That way you don’t have to play things above your ability.” He’s stuck to original music ever since. Music just came easily to him. “I just always had an affinity for it. It seemed easier to me than anything else.” Truman started playing all-ages shows at Good Times, then moves to Howard’s Club H. He left town for a few years, first to Cleveland and then to California. He never really hooked up with the music scenes there. Everyone was too serious about it, he said. Sick and tired of everything being hard, he came back home. He remembers coming to the festival soon after he got back to Bowling Green. A favorite band Tom Tom Club was headlining. One of the side benefits of returning to the area was reconnecting with music, first with the T-Shirts and now with Matt Truman Ego Trip. He’s joined in the band by his brother, Zak Durst, bass, Dan Johnson, guitar, Kaela Thomas, keyboards, and Derek Wright, drums….


Pizza sales at Black Swamp Fest benefit Humane Society

From WOOD COUNTY HUMANE SOCIETY For anyone who enjoys the arts, pizza, and animals there is a perfect opportunity to engage in all three this coming weekend. September 8th – 10th Wood County Humane Society will be running the Pisanello’s Pizza booth at the Black Swamp Arts Festival in downtown Bowling Green, Ohio. All of the proceeds will benefit Wood County Humane Society. The Black Swamp Arts Festival (BSAF) is an annual, top rated event that showcases art and music. There are over 150 booths selected by a juried panel. As with most festivals and fairs food and drink bring the experience full circle. The BSAF focuses on this portion with a food and beer garden. The Pisanello’s Pizza Booth will be in this area located near the center stage. Please join us in this fun event, grab a bit to eat, listen to the live entertainment, and help our animals. The WCHS, located in Bowling Green, Ohio, is a private, non-profit managed admission shelter providing care for homeless and abused pets and investigating cruelty complaints in Wood County. The organization receives no funding from government organizations, The United Way, or national humane organizations, instead relying on earned revenue and the generosity of individual donors and businesses to fund our programs such as Safe Haven and food assistance programs, spay/neuter transport, and educational presentations. The WCHS provides care for hundreds of animals each year—from dogs and cats, to horses, goats, and pocket pets. All animals admitted into our adoption program are housed and cared for as long as it takes to find their fur-ever home. For more information on adopting and/or volunteering, see: http://www.woodcountyhumanesociety.org.


After year of photographic success, Bell sidelined

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival played a pivotal role in launching Jan Bell’s photographic career. In 2003, the long-time graphic designer for WBGU-TV had returned to photography. He had accumulated enough work that he decided to apply to enter the juried show. Bell was accepted, and then on the festival weekend, the judges returned and awarded him best of show honors. It was his first art fair. Since then he’s put up his tent, assembled his street gallery, greeted customers, taken it all down and moved on, on dozens of times. More importantly, he’s traveled thousands of miles on photographic adventures to national and provincial parks here and in Canada living in a camper, hiking with 40 pounds of equipment, and waiting for days for the right light on the right subject. When he won the top award so early in his career, one woman warned him about the dangers of such early success. Bell has not rested on his laurels. His work has been accepted in many shows and received numerous honors, and has continued to evolve. These past 12 months have been especially notable. One photograph, “Distant Island,” an image from Lake Superior was juried into nine exhibitions. “That’s crazy wild,” he said. Then it won first place in one of those shows the Allegany National Photography Exhibition in Cumberland, Maryland, as well as an honorable mention at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, Michigan in April. Then three works were included in a photo exhibit highlighting images of National Parks at the same gallery. The exhibit was being held in conjunction with a show of photographs by Ansel Adams, Bell’s idol. “Three Sea Stacks” won best of show and “Agave” won an honorable mention. Bell also got to work with Alan Ross, the only person with permission to print from a select set of Adams’ negatives. “Three Sea Stacks” came from what turned out to be a three-month residency at Olympic National Park in Washington. He ended up waiting out a spell of historically bad weather that closed the park for four days. For four days he waited out the storm in a recreational vehicle storage unit. Those four days were the worst, but the weather was consistently bad. “I was in rain all day long.” Still he worked. He trekked along the Pacific Coast in search of images that he could turn into striking art with a depth of emotion. His stay was funded by a M. Reichmann Luminous Landscape grant. Bell learned right…


Nikki Hill ready to rock the Black Swamp Arts Festival to the end

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Nikki Hill is no stranger to Bowling Green. Since she and her husband, guitarist Matt Hill, first hit the road as a duo in 2012, they’ve stopped here twice. Once for a show at Grounds for Thought, just as they were pulling their band together and then in 2014 in prime time Friday on the Main Stage at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Unfortunately, the festival audience just got a taste of her sound, as she was upstaged by a storm. What listeners missed was a sound that mixes soul with hard rock and taste of classic rhythm ‘n’ blues, all built on a gospel foundation. Hill got her start as a child in North Carolina singing in church choir. “That’s about the best training you can get. It’s a great place to develop your voice,” she said before her 2014 festival performance. She also experimented with punk and even old-time music. She didn’t intend to become a professional musician. She was working as a physical trainer. But her husband a professional musician heard something special in her voice, something they could share with a broader audience. That’s exactly what they’ve endeavored to do since 2012. Since her festival show, Hill has released her second recording “Heavy Heart, Hard Fists” in 2015. The recording is another stop on Hill’s evolution as a songwriter. That’ll be on display when Hill closes out the festival on the Main Stage Sunday, Sept. 10, at 3:30 p.m. Cole Christensen who co-chairs the festival’s Performing Arts committee said they were happy to book her. ”We always like to end with a bang.” BG Independent connected with Hill through email to get an update on what’s been shaking in her career since that rainy night in 2014. Do you have any memories of your performance at the Black Swamp Arts Festal in 2014?  What was your impression of the event? All I really remember is the rain! Our set was cut super short, which was a bummer. Everyone was so kind and seemed excited to hear us. I’m hoping we’re luckier with the weather this time. We have played in Bowling Green before and I remember everyone being cool and the vibe being relaxed and very interested and enthusiastic about the bands that come through. How has your music evolved over the past three years? Can you talk a bit about your process? What inspires your songs? I’m hoping I’m becoming a better songwriter. I started to steer away on my second record of writing…