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…


“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 presidential election years, especially when there’s no incumbent in the…


The musical evolution of Corey Baum

By LUDMILA POLYAKOVA For BG Independent News Corey Baum picked up his guitar in second grade and has yet to set it down. Baum has been creating music as long as he can remember, from first taking guitar lessons to playing the upright bass in the Kenwood Elementary Orchestra—that’s right, he’s a Bowling Green native—which eventually led to a music scholarship to Bowling Green State University. Along the way, Baum has had a rap persona (The Suave Farmer) and a hip-hop group (IDB Rangers), played drums for a punk outfit (Bullet Teeth), and was the front man for two indie rock bands (The Press Gang, Stop Don’t Stop). And that’s just to name a few. In 2007, Baum started a new project and called himself Taber Maine. “That’s when I started to get serious about myself as a songwriter.” Baum had been writing songs that were hard to categorize, and began to channel a southern, Appalachian sound. Taber Maine inspired Baum to move to Austin, Texas, where the vibrant, progressive country music scene has helped him grow into the artist he is today. “In Ohio I was an observer of it,” he said. “Moving down here, I became a direct participant. My joke is always that I moved to Austin calling myself a country artist, but I was actually a folk artist.” Taber Maine was a character; he played rough cowboy-sounding songs fueled by late nights and whisky. But like the many iterations of Baum, it led him to the next phase. “Coming down here, I just felt like my songwriting became more honest, so I didn’t need that persona…


Festival etiquette: Little things that make it better for all of us

From DAVE SHAFFER Chair, Black Swamp Arts Festival   Of course Bowling Green and the Black Swamp Arts Festival welcome you wholeheartedly to the festival coming up this weekend.  We are so enthusiastic about making you all feel welcome that I would like to take a little of your time to discuss what it takes to do just that (make everyone feel welcome). The classic advice to never discuss politics or religions is maybe going a bit too far.  Civil, considerate discussion amongst consenting adults is fine, yelling at people to think like you, no matter how important the cause, is best done elsewhere.  Come to enrich yourself: enjoy the art, the food, the music and the people watching.  How we each interpret and present ourselves to the world is an art we bring to our own lives and the best thing about people watching is that the people you watch are different than you.  Open yourself up to the differences. Personally, I love to see dogs at the festival and if you do want to bring your “best friend,” it would be best to do it earlier when the crowds are fewer and the pavement is cooler.  People will pet your dogs.  Some will ask and some won’t.  You and they should be ok with that. One of my favorite movies, A Blast from the Past, summed it up well: “good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them.” and “…a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as…


Lily Parker blossoms as Black Swamp Arts Festival volunteer

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When a 9-year-old Lily Parker first showed up to volunteer at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Bill Donnelly, who coordinates artist hospitality, sent her out with an adult to deliver water to exhibitors. Twenty minutes later, he said, she was back. “I was glad she had lasted that long.” Little did he know that this was just the start. The 14-year-old Bowling Green High School freshman has continued to volunteer at the festival – and for other community events. Donnelly said that first year: “At Lily’s suggestion, they loaded coffee vats, PB&J, bread and silverware onto the … delivery wagon and rolled back out with their hospitality upgrade. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. … Lily has been a go-to volunteer for me for six years. I admire her initiative and hard work, her character, and her passion for the festival.” That passion has been passed down to her through her family. Her grandfather Tom McLaughlin Sr. exhibited in the first show and chaired the visual arts committee during the early years. Both her mother, Penny Parker, and her father, Tom McLaughlin Jr., were volunteers. Her father, who died earlier this year, was a stalwart on the performing arts committee, and a regular presence backstage. Lily said it will be hard this year without him there. She shows a photo on her phone with her and her father and music legend Richie Havens backstage in 2006. Lily’s stepfather, Dave Shaffer, chairs the festival committee. “This is something I always really liked doing,” she said. She’s one of about 1,000 volunteers it takes…


BG streets closed, parking restricted during BSAF weekend

In conjunction with the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival scheduled for September 9, 10, and 11, certain street closures and parking restrictions will be imposed in downtown Bowling Green. Beginning at 6:00 am on Thursday, September 8, the eastern portion of City Parking Lot 2 will be closed. The entire lot will be closed beginning Friday, September 9 at 6:00 am. At 3:00 am on Saturday, September 10, on-street parking will be prohibited in the following locations: Main Street between Clay and Pearl; Prospect between East Wooster and Clough; Clay between Main and Grove; and Clough between Main and S. Prospect. Any vehicle parked in these restricted areas after 3:00 am on Saturday will be towed at the owner’s expense. At 4:00 am on Saturday, September 10, Main Street, between Clay and Pearl, will be closed to vehicular traffic. While Main Street is closed, no through traffic will be permitted on Oak, Court, Clough and Washington Streets. Wooster Street will remain open for east and westbound traffic throughout the festival. During the Main Street closing, detour routes for local and truck traffic will be posted. Throughout the event, shuttle buses will pick up visitors at the Bowling Green High School, Wood County Fairgrounds, Meijer, and Bowling Green State University. The buses will drop visitors off downtown at the Frontier Communications building as well as the Bowling Green Police Division. All streets will reopen and parking will be reinstated on Sunday evening.


Mariachi Flor de Toloache skirts tradition with intoxicating Latin mix

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Mariachi Flor de Toloache has ruffled some feathers as the all-female ensemble has taken flight on the Latin and alternative music scenes. Though rooted in the mariachi tradition, founder Mireya Ramos is not afraid to tweak that tradition by incorporating music from outside its boundaries and jazzing up its presentation. In a recent telephone interview, Ramos said that after a CNN segment on Flor de Toloache, some of the comments posted on line were “nasty.” “It is a tradition passed on through generations,” she said. “You have families that are all mariachi, and we’re women. We don’t wear skirts. We have caused some controversy.” But those criticisms are more than balanced out by the plaudits. Ramos said she was especially pleased with the reaction from fans in Los Angeles. “They really love it,” she said. “They say, ‘oh, great, this is something new!’” And the band has caught the attention of rock crowds as Flor de Toloache has toured with Black Keys’ singer Dan Auerbach’s new band, The Arcs. Auerbach’s fans may not know exactly what to make of them at first but are captivated in the end. Local mariachi aficionados and other music fans will have their own chance to weigh in when Mariachi Flor de Toloache performs a Main Stage set at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6:15 p.m. Earlier that day they will play on the Community Stage at 1 p.m. and then the Family Stage at 2:45p.m. Ramos grew up in Puerto Rico. Her father who is Mexican (her mother is Dominican) played mariachi, but Ramos…


Music finds Suitcase Junket’s Matt Lorenz in the oddest places

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Music has a way of finding its way into Matt Lorenz’ life. The creator of the eclectic one-man band Suitcase Junket started his musical adventure when his music-loving parents adopted an old piano. Lorenz also found the guitar that gave birth to Suitcase Junket. He found his own version of throat singing after taking a South Indian cooking class. He finds the suitcases that give the band its name and serve as percussion instruments at yard sales. He finds his lyrics in nonsense syllables he shouts while practicing. From these rescues from the world’s musical dog pound, Lorenz creates his Swamp Yankee sound, a space age take on roots music. Suitcase Junket will perform at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Sunday, Sept. 11, on the Main Stage at 12:30 p.m. and on the Family Stage 2:45 p.m. Lorenz oddball approach to music making comes in part from his childhood fascination with how things work. He remembers once convincing a babysitter to let him disassemble the telephone. Both his parents were teachers – his mother homeschooled his sister and him – and were “pretty good sports.” “My parents started taking me to the dump so I could bring home random things to take apart,” Lorenz said. His parents also brought home a free piano. His sister, Kate, who is a few years older started getting lessons. “I couldn’t stay away from it,” Lorenz said. So he started taking lessons. “My parents never played, but were huge music lovers and the house was always full of music. They were into the idea of us picking up…


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.