Black Swamp Arts Festival

Molsky’s Mountain Drifters to take the sound of the Appalachians to new heights at Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Bruce Molsky first dug into old-time mountain music, he was a college dropout. He’d gone off to Cornell to be an architect and instead he ended up washing dishes in the bar and grille that hosted old-time music sessions. Having started playing folk music in his native New York, he joined in. “The old-time music really resonated with me,” Molsky said in a recent telephone interview. “It still does.” Some 40 years later, the 62-year-old fiddler, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has formed Molsky’s Mountain Drifters with two musicians half his age, but with the same devotion to that evocative mountain sound. Alisson de Groot, who plays claw hammer banjo, and Stash Wyslouch, guitar, are college graduates. Both attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where Molsky, describes himself as “primarily an ear player,” teaches in the Roots Music Department. Now it’s Molsky’s turn to pass on all he learned from the old-timers he jammed with. Molsky’s Mountain Drifters will play two sets at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Sunday, Sept.10. They’ll perform on the Main Stage at 2 p.m. followed by a 4 p.m. show on the acoustic stage. Molsky said he’s looking forward to coming to Bowling Green. “I like those kind of festivals that have the public walking around going from place to place and enjoying the town.” The social aspect of the music is part of what attracted him. “As a folk musician you better be the kind of person who enjoys meeting new people,” he said. Growing up in…


Antibalas to bring surging rhythms of Afrobeat to the Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Martin Perna, founder of the Afro-beat ensemble Antibalas, likes company. “Community is really important to me,” he said in a recent telephone interview. Whether it’s “connecting people as a leader, a facilitator, or just a participant, what we’re able to achieve together is way bigger than any individual could do.” That holds especially true for Afrobeat, an amalgamation of jazz, soul, psychedelic rock, African highlife, and traditional chants and rhythms. The cast of a dozen musicians allows the songs to expand to 20 to 30 minutes. “It allows for the development of a complex story,” Perna said. A pop song may be a tweet, but an Antibalas song with its surging cross-rhythms and jubilant horns is “an in-depth article,” even a novel. That’s evident on the group’s forthcoming album “Where the Gods Are in Peace,” a throbbing exploration of myths for our time. Antibalas will mark the release of the album, which hits the streets Sept. 15, with a show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 p.m. Percussionist and charter member Duke Amayo said he’s excited about the show and the tour because the album speaks about solutions to some of the problems the world is facing rather than just talking about the problems. The band’s publicity says of the album: “Through its battle cry of resistance against exploitation and displacement, Antibalas’ long-form compositions investigate oppression in 1800s America that eerily mirror the current state of the country. Three explosive original arrangements cultivate an urgent call to heal a…


Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers ready to plug into the energy at the Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News To celebrate the 25th year of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, the performance arts committee wanted to bring back some favorite performers from years past. Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers certainly fill that bill. The band played town several times including sets at the 2010 and 2011 festivals that had listeners buzzing. That feeling is mutual. “I love Bowling Green,” Dopsie said in a telephone interview. “The people, the town, the atmosphere, I mean it’s like New Orleans part 2. It’s awesome.” That’s high praise coming from zydeco royalty. Dopsie is the younger son of zydeco legend Alton Rubin, who performed as Rockin’ Dopsie. His sons have adopted the “Dopsie” moniker as their own. Dwayne Dopsie’s other brothers also perform keeping their father’s old band alive. Dwayne Dopsie literally learned accordion and zydeco at his father’s feet. His father would be at home, having gotten off the road, and would be cleaning his instrument getting ready for the next show. “He always taught me,” Dopsie said. “‘I want you to play it the right way.’ … One thing he always showed me is zydeco is not what you hear, it’s what you feel.” This set him up on his future course.  “This is what I want to do. I wanted to follow my father’s footsteps because I always heard it.” But he doesn’t replicate his father’s music. “I probably have a little more aggressive style.” The young Dopsie had the advantage of hearing not just his father’s music, but that of Clifton Chenier…


Isaac Smith returns to hometown festival as reigning Best of Show winner

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When he was growing up in Bowling Green, Isaac Smith created his share of macaroni masterpieces in the Youth Arts area of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. He also liked wandering through the crowd and visiting the art booths. It didn’t occur to him that the day would come that he’d be one of those artists. That he would be displaying and selling his own highly detailed and realistic pen and ink drawings, and his artwork would named Best of Show. Smith, a 2011 graduate of Bowling Green High School, returns next month to the Black Swamp Arts Festival’s juried art show to be held Sept. 9 and 10 on Main Street in downtown Bowling Green. The festival begins with music on the Main Stage Friday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. Last year was Smith’s second at the festival. He had exhibited in 2015 in the Wood County Invitational Show. In awarding him Best of Show honors, festival juror Brandon Briggs praised the artist’s “penetrating vision” Smith, Briggs said, was able to pick up on subtle details in his subject matter that most other observers would miss. “That takes not only time and patience, but a certain amount of heart. … Most people are willing to go as far as good enough. You’re a real artist if you’re willing to go ‘good enough is not good enough. I’m going to take it farther.’” Smith said f drawing: “I enjoy the long process, and the patience it takes.” Even as a child he spend more…


Blind Boys of Alabama brings sound rooted deep in the American soul to Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Blind Boys of Alabama are ready to pull listeners up by their roots at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. The festival has always celebrated American roots music in its 25 years. But no other act can match the depth of the roots of the Blind Boys of Alabama. The band got its start as the Happy Land Jubilee Singers in 1938 at the Talladega Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Alabama, and has been sharing the uplift of gospel music ever since. They quit school to tour and later were renamed the Five Blind Boys of Alabama as a way to gin up competition with a similar group that was dubbed the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. The band scored its first hit with “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine” in 1948. Starting when he was 9, lead singer Jimmy Carter has been along on the entire journey. (Another founder Clarence Fountain records with the ensemble but is unable to tour.) The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform on the Main Stage of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Saturday, Sept.9, at 8 p.m. Over the years, the rhythms underneath those tight five-part harmonies have evolved, integrating funk, soul, blues, even rap. The vocals, though, have remained true to the band’s roots, said long-time member Ricky McKinnie. “Our voices are what make us the Blind Boys,” he said. “The Blind Boys believe in good harmony. As long as we can keep the harmony as tight as it is, the better off we…


Black Swamp Arts Festival’s juried art show celebrates continued excellence in its 25th year

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For the Black Swamp Arts Festival’s juried art show the 25th year celebration is pretty much business as usual. That means working to maintain its standing in the Sunshine Artist magazine’s listing of top art shows. Last year the festival was ranked 70th on the journal’s Top 100 Classic and Contemporary Show list. That’s about where the festival has ranked in the 15 years or so that, it has broken onto the list. Those rankings are based on artists’ average sales which are something shy of $3,000. The 25th Black Swamp Arts Festival will be presented Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept.10, with the art shows presents Saturday and Sunday. For more details, visit: http://www.blackswampfest.org/. Brenda Baker, who chairs the festival’s visual arts committee, said she would like to think the milestone year has attracted a few more artists to apply. As it was the jurors Kathy Buszkiewicz and Brandon Briggs reviewed 222 applications to fill the 112 booth spaces on Main Street in downtown Bowling Green. Six award winners from last year have committed to returning. That includes best of show winner Isaac Smith. Baker said that 18, or 12.5 percent, of the artists are in their first Black Swamp Arts Festival. “That’s pretty high.” Another 15 percent have been regulars for at least that past five years. The rest are in or out depending on the judgement of the jurors. Buszkiewicz wrote in an email: “Having judged this show in the past, this time I have seen some good returning artists’ applications….


Bobby G brings taste of Delta blues to Howard’s

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Robert Gray first got hooked on the blues listening to sound standing outside the juke joint in his native Winterville, Mississippi. He and his friends didn’t have the money to get in so they absorbed the sounds that wafted from the homespun club. “We just loved what was going on,” he said, “so we would try to sing, just walking down the road singing. That’s when I first got it.” That was years before Robert Gray began Bobby G, the blues singer. Bobby G, now 73, will perform Saturday, July 15, at 7 p.m. at Howard’s Club H in downtown Bowling Green with Curtis Grant Jr. and the Midnight Rockers. Cover charge is $5. Bobby G will also perform Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. The performance celebrates the release of “Still Sanding” on Third Street Cigar Records. This is the bluesman’s first full-length album, and it’s giving the world – it’s charting in Italy, Australia, and elsewhere – its first taste of Bobby G. John Henry, a local blues impesario said, the bluesman is “a treasure.” Because Gray stayed around home, raised two children with his wife, and didn’t go out on the road and experience the hardships and bad habits that so often entails, “he’s well preserved.” His voice is clear, with a sweet high range, though he can growl when the tune demands it. That’s all on display on “Still Standing,” a set of originals written by Johnny Rawls. Before all this could transpire and he could take…


Musical energy comes in lots of flavors at the 2017 Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival will bring back some favorites to the Main Stage to help celebrate its 25th year. Those are favorites from previous festivals including the darlings of 2016 the all-female mariachi ensemble Flor de Toloache and zydeco rabble-rouser Dwayne Dopsie and his Hellraisers. The festival runs from Friday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 10 in downtown Bowling Green. Performing Arts Committee chairs Cole Christensen and Tim Concannon also are confident some of the newcomers, such as Birds of Chicago and Afrobeat veterans Antibalas from the Broadway show “Fela!” are destined to become festivalgoers new favorite bands. The festival has now posted its full Main Stage lineup on http://www.blackswampfest.org/music-1/ with links to the bands’ websites. The schedules for the Community Stage and the Family Stage are still being put together, though as in the past several Main Stage performers will play second sets elsewhere. The lineups include two acts considered the best in their genres. The Irish band Lunasa, called “the hottest Irish band on the planet,” will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and the legendary gospel quintet Blind Boys of Alabama, who date back to 1944, will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday. “They’ve done their thing for 70 years,” Christensen said. The Blind Boys represent the roots of the kaleidoscopic sound now called Americana. “We’re just trying to bring high energy acts from every genre of music,” Christensen said. Those acts can come from across the ocean, or they can come from across the street. Each day of the festival is…


Black Swamp Arts Festival thanks Kroger for donation

To the Editor: The Black Swamp Arts Festival Committee would like to express its appreciation for the $2,000 donated to the festival by Kroger during its grand opening of the Kroger Marketplace in Bowling Green. We are honored to be included along with Wood County Humane Society and The Cocoon. The Kroger donation will help us continue to present high quality entertainment and art to the community. On Sept. 8. 9 and 10 the festival will mark its 25th year with a weekend full of art, music, activities for kids, beverages, and food.   Black Swamp Arts Festival committee


Black Swamp Arts Festival poster is a winner for creativity

From BLACK SWAMPS ARTS FESTIVAL The 2016 Black Swamp Arts Festival poster has been honored as Most Creative in Sunshine Artist magazine’s annual competition. The 2016 Black Swamp Arts Festival poster has been honored as Most Creative in Sunshine Artist magazine’s annual competition.The poster, featuring wildflowers found in the Black Swamp, was designed by Erin Holmberg, of Bowling Green. Holmberg said she was inspired by her local upbringing. Her mother was an avid gardener. “Living here in Bowling Green throughout my childhood, I really started to appreciate the natural beauty around here.”Holmberg noted the past two posters, her own design in 2015 and Will Santino’s poster in 2014, both focused on the downtown scene. “It’s not just an arts festival, it’s the Black Swamp Arts Festival,” Holmberg said. “I wanted to try to tie it back to the local community, the namesake of the festival.”So she decided to focus on the swamp. The colored front has an artful profusion of plant life found in the Black Swamp. Though some of the plants she learned in the process of creating the poster are not native to the area.The back side of the program challenges the viewer to identify the 21 flowers depicted on the front and to identify those not native to the Black Swamp. It also includes factoids about the swamp.Holmberg consulted local naturalists, and even got permission to collect a few samples from Wintergarden Park. The goal is to create “a thoughtful design that really is a homage to the people and places” the festival’s audience knows. “You get…


Tom McLaughlin returning to the land of his ancestors

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Tom McLaughlin was walking in the rain recently. When a driver stopped and asked if he wanted a ride, McLaughlin declined. He was getting ready for Ireland. The 82-year-old native of Bowling Green, who made his career elsewhere before returning to his hometown 25 years ago, is on the move again. At the end of July he’ll begin a long journey, first by train and then by plane, to his new home in Cornamona in Ireland’s County Galway. There he’ll continue his studies in the Irish language, memorize the poetry of William Butler Yeats and soak in the music and dancing. “Wherever they have traditional music, I’ll be there,” he said. For McLaughlin, it’s a return to a land his family left several generations ago. His late wife Kathleen, who had a keen interest in genealogy, located records of a great grandparent in Pennsylvania. McLaughlin’s own grandparents lived in Bowling Green where he was born. When he was just about ready to enter high school his parents moved north to Oregon. (He still gets together for lunch with members of the Bowling Green High Class of 1953.) In September, 2015, McLaughlin, traveled to Ireland with his five grown children. His eldest son, Tom Jr., was suffering from the cancer that would claim him in June, 2016. Tom Jr .had a deep love of Irish music and dancing, and as a naturalist a fascination with the cliffs and the birds that swirled about them. They located the ancestral plot in Northern Ireland. They explored the…


Irish duo to give listeners a taste of what’s coming to Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even though Irish piper Cillian Vallely has performed before audiences of thousands around the world, he’ll still find time after a gig to sit in at a local jam session, or seisiun. The camaraderie of those spontaneous music gatherings have become a huge part of the propagating Irish music. “You can go all over the world and go into an Irish bar and find people playing this music. There’s a common repertoire,” said Vallely, who grew up in Northern Ireland. “A lot people are not taking it up to be a performer or a top player, they take it up because they like the company.” As a member of Lunasa, called “the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet” by the Irish Times, he’s now at the pinnacle of Irish music, but he still likes to sit in. Vallely, on pipes and low whistle, and Lunasa bandmate Kevin Crawford, flute and whistle, will play a free show Friday May 12 at 7 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. The concert, sponsored by local Irish group Toraigh an Sonas, is a preview for the full quintet’s performance at the Black Swamp Arts Festival on Sept. 8. There was a time, Vallely said, when the music was dying out in Northern Ireland. Then in the 1960s folk revival brought it back to public attention. His parents were catalysts in helping bring the music back. Though avocational musicians, they founded Armagh Pipers Club in 1966, taught and went on tour. A few…


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…


“Thanks for making the Festival and BG great” -Dave Shaffer

Please forgive me. With selling and buying a house and the imminent moving me and my menagerie of animals an hour south, I forgot to perform my last duty as Chair of the 2016 Black Swamp Arts Festival, which is to thank you for making it a success. If you’ve read any of my previous letters to the editor (letters to you), you’ll know that I consider success the engagement of the people from this area with their community. It’s getting easier to live in a virtual community and forget the importance of knowing your actual neighbor. If you came to the festival, you did your part in making our corner of the world a better place. Thank you. My move will take me to Harrod, OH where they have a Pork Rind Heritage Festival – How cool is that! I had no idea pork rinds had a heritage, but I’m hoping that my experience with the arts translates well to celebrating the history of that crunchy, salty snack. With the 2017 Chair of The Black Swamp Arts Festival having a record five years in that position, you’re in good hands as we approach our 25th year of bringing the arts to Bowling Green. Expect great things as we approach our silver anniversary and if you’ve ever wanted to be a part of the Festival, this would be the perfect year to join in. Again, thanks for making the Festival and BG great. Dave Shaffer Bowling Green


Black Swamp Arts Festival Update: Closing time

By BG INDEPENDENT NEWS (This is  the last of our blog posts about the Black Swamp Arts Festival. See you next year.) Every year I get that wistful feeling when Main Street in downtown Bowling Green reverts to its workaday self after the two and a half days of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. It’s like seeing the first discarded Christmas tree on the curb. The festival came off well. All those weather worries proved for naught. Saturday had intermittent showers, and late in the afternoon there were sudden hard gusts of wind, that had artists and helpers scurrying to better secure their booths. But that passed. If they gave a best of show honors for weather, Sunday would certainly be a top contender. One thing artists have consistently noted is that when it rains at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, the crowds seek cover in shops and booths and then return as soon as the rain stops. They don’t just go away. The result was Saturday wasn’t a bad day for art sales, and Sunday was far better. Ceramicist Jan Bostwick said she and her partner were “clicking our heels” over the amount of pottery she moved, and fabric artist Becca Levenson gleefully compressed her remaining stock into less than two feet of rack space. Now they’ll be back to work, producing more merchandise for their next fairs. Others didn’t fare as well. Jeweler Amy Beeler said hers were all right. That’s been true the entire season. She’d been told by veteran exhibitors that sales always get slow during…