Black Swamp Arts Festival

“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 race. Most artists said their sales were good. Amy Craft Ahrens, co-chair of the concessions committee, said that sales in the beer garden were up dramatically on Friday, and just a little off on Saturday night. Speaking just as the festival was closing down, she said she was optimistic about Sunday given the length of the lines. Certainly the crowds seemed larger than usual for Sunday, which is not surprising, since it was a break, not just from Saturday’s showers, but the oppressive humidity late last week. It was a great day to be outdoors, noshing, looking at and buying art and taking in some great sounds. Homegrown talent was evident more than ever this year. Two Bowling Green musicians made their Main Stage debuts, Corey Baum with his country band from Austin, Texas, Croy and the Boys and Grant Flick playing with his buddies, Josh Turner, guitar, and Jacob Warren, bass. Baum’s band added a wry approach to classic country with originals that held their own next to covers of songs by artists such as George Jones. Having heard Flick before with his dad in Acoustic Penguin, his set on the Community Stage, demonstrated why he has such a…


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 anymore,” he explained. Baum took his sound from acoustic-folk to full on, honky-tonk country. He began playing under his given name, and when he felt ready to have a band behind him, he adopted the nickname “Croy” to form Croy and the Boys. Croy and The Boys will play Black Swamp Arts Festival on Sunday at the Main Stage, 11 a.m., and the Community Stage at 2 p.m. The band features Baum on vocals and guitar, Amy Hawthorne on Bass, Steve Carlson on lead guitar, and Felipe Granados on drums. Baum is eager to share this new sound with his hometown. “I’ve never been up with a full band in Bowling Green,” he said. “I’m really, really excited to do that.” His homecoming is part of a Midwest tour supporting the release of Croy and the Boys’ debut album titled Hey, Come Back. Baum described this album as “the record of his dreams,” crafted with a band he loves and guided by his favorite producer. The festival crowd will have the chance to purchase the album before its official release on October 28th. While change has been a constant for his musical self, Baum feels like he has found a…


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 possible.”  So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the festival.  


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 to stage the annual event. The festival depends on people to assist with every aspect. Those wishing to volunteer should visit: http://www.blackswampfest.org/volunteer/ How much will Lily work festival weekend, Sept. 9-11? “Probably as much as I can, as much as they need me.” She expects on Friday she’ll head out with Donnelly to do shopping to stock the hospitality area for artists with fruit and baked goods. Then at 5 a.m. Saturday she’ll join the Dawn Patrol, those volunteers up before dawn to transform Main Street in downtown Bowling Green into an art show and youth arts area. Artists start showing up right away for a little caffeine and sustenance to help fuel their efforts to set up shop on the street. Then throughout the weekend Lily will help coordinate the delivery of water to artists. Lily remembers her early forays delivering water with her buddy Gretchen Shope. They were shy at first, neither wanting to be the one to approach the artists. In time both wanted to be the one talking to the exhibitors. This hospitality is much appreciated by those who show their work. Artists frequently comment on how much they appreciate the hospitality services. While sales determine…


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 a violinist didn’t start performing the music herself until she moved to New York City to study 15 years ago. The first gig she landed was with a mariachi band. “It was quite an experience,” she said. “I came from Puerto Rico, played with Mexicans and learned a lot about the music and lot about the culture.” What she didn’t see was other women playing mariachi. She decided that having an all-female band, especially one from New York with it burgeoning Mexican population “would be a cool thing.” So in 2008, taking a name from an intoxicating flower, she founded Mariachi Flor de Toloache. The first call she made was to her friend and collaborator Shae Fiol, a singer-songwriter and guitarist. Fiol remembers thinking: “Wow, I’ve never played mariachi.” But she was game, learning the vihuela, a five-string instrument that predates its cousin the guitar. Using a video and instruction from Ramos she tried “to dissect it little by little.” Having her own album just out, her attention was still divided but the more she played with the fledgling Flor de Toloache, the more committed she became. “We being together was really spectacular.” Ramos said she reached out to Fiol…


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 those skills, so they were very supportive.” He attended Hampshire College in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley from 2000 to 2004 and studied experimental composition and adaptive music design. For one project he and another student designed a pulley system that allowed a drummer who’d had his right leg amputated continue to play the bass drum on his kit. They expanded on that to develop a system to allow a double amputee to play drum set. In 2005, he and his sister started a band, and when their drummer quit, he decided to put all his moving around on stage to use and provide the percussion for their group. Those levers and pulleys come in to good use with Suitcase Junket. That project started when he rescued an old moldy guitar and started “pulling songs from it.” “Nobody knows where songs come from or how we come up with them,” Lorenz said. “Sometimes I find myself crediting the instrument.” He rigs out his kit with those suitcases, brake drums, pots and pans, and other found objects. He even employs a baby shoe that both he and his sister wore. He sings into his guitar drawing odd resonances from it, and creates multiple…


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 he decided to return the following summer. It was an expensive proposition getting a visa and settling in Memphis, and he knew he had three years to establish himself or his artist’s visa would not be renewed. He toured with his own band, but he said he never liked being out front. He went through six different singers, because “you don’t want to hear me sing.” Then another musician in Memphis told him about Tierinii Jackson. She was singing around Memphis, but didn’t have the chance to sing her own music. He fell in love with everything about her presentation. And Tierinii told him about her sister the drummer. “These girls were so dynamic and so much fun,” he said. They finished out the dates already schedule for the Ori Naftaly Band, then decided they needed a break from that entity. They retained only a few songs that the Jackson sisters liked from that band’s repertoire and then with Mckee set about woodshedding and writing a new book. They kept a low profile, playing once at a favorite club. They emerged at the International Blues Competition in January. The band made it to the finals and sold more CDs than…


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 their fans to get the full experience. Benedetti said he recalls being disappointed in hearing some classic reggae outfits who replaced their horns with “cheesy keyboard sounds” for some live shows. That full experience also means traveling with their own front of the house engineer. “He’s a part of the band,” Benedetti said. That means the band can deliver the full sonic experience heard on the records in live performance. “We always bring the full experience,” he said. That sound went through a major change when Kinsella left the band in 2006, and Martin assumed the lyric writing duties. “Elliot has a more futuristic, more cutting edge,” approach Benedetti said. “The band evolved into a little heavier, kind of edgier vibe. … It’s a lot more dubbed, heavy on the drums and bass. The rhythm is a little more complex, and each individual part is more thought out. The sonic palette draws on more beats, more sounds. We don’t have to adhere to the typical reggae beat, the typical reggae lyrics.” Along the line, Benedetti said, they dubbed the term “future roots.” “We’ll always have one foot dipped in the puddle of the greats, but it’s our duty as musicians…


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 shops, and younger buyers. As a music fan, Plummer enjoys the acts at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. In 2007, his first visit to the Black Swamp fest, he discovered Alejandro Escovedo and has been a fan ever since. This year he’s looking forward to seeing Pokey LaFarge live. His booth in the center of the show gives him a front row seat for those performing on the Community Stage. Plummer didn’t set out to sell work on the art fair circuit. In fact, after working for an artist who did the circuit, he saw how much work it was and told himself that was not the path for him. Then in 2001, a couple year after graduating from the University of Northern Kentucky, he exhibited at a fair. Plummer won an award and he decided this was a way he could realize his goal of earning a living through his art. The Black Swamp Arts Festival has been a main stay on his schedule. Plummer expects his work will continue to evolve. He’d planned to focus on the monoprints for a while and then return to the woodcuts. The technique for monoprints yields only one print with each taking…


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 Kremer, keyboards and guitar; Dylan Fitch, guitar; Supica, bass; and Vincent Williams, drums – all bring their own stylistic predilections to the Delta Saints mix. Ringel brings a background listening to the blues and playing in jam bands while co-founder Supica was more into soul and funk. Williams came up playing gospel and hip-hop. Fitch and Kremer have a diversity of influences ranging from the Allman Brothers to the Beatles. All these ingredients get mixed in as the band gathers for writing sessions. A song may start with the line of lyric or a bass groove, or inspiration from another band’s song, and grow from there. With “everyone coming at it from different directions” blending is not always smooth. The members may differ on what the final feel of the song will be. “We’re always working to find that sweet spot,” Ringel. As the band works on material for its next album – they’re heading into the studio in October – the band is taking a new tack with songwriting. Before the groove was paramount with the lyrics set atop the churning beat. Now, Ringel said, they are using the music to frame the story and the mood. “The results so…


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 to hear new stories, learn new things, hear new sounds, and “just keep an open mind.” And being on the road fuels that curiosity. “I’m still traveling more than ever.” His artistic longings first poured out onto the page when he was a kid growing up in central Illinois. He was interested in literature and started writing stories, and then some of those stories took wing in song. LaFarge wanted to go beyond the music spoon-fed by mass media. So he picked up the thread of the blues and followed it. “I wanted to get under the surface and find out more where things come from. That’s a large network of music.” He hungered for the authentic, organic, acoustic sounds, music rooted in a place, whether the Delta, or West Africa or Jamaica. He searched the library. “When I was in high school, the Dewey Decimal System was my friend.” He’s still searching. “Now the internet is my friend. It’s amazing what you’ll find.” That includes at events like the Black Swamp Arts Festival where he gets to showcase his music as well as soak in the sounds of other acts. LaFarge is still kneading all those influences into his…


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.


The Sheepdogs: Rain or shine rockers

DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Sheepdogs proved their rock ‘n’ roll mettle at last year’s Black Swamp Arts Festival. They took the stage as the closing act Friday night in a downpour that would have scared off many other artists. The Canadian quintet rocked out in the rain for a hard core crowd of several hundred that danced in the front of the stage, seeking refuge from the storm in the unrelenting backbeat and driving guitars. That’s just part of the deal when you’re a traveling rock ‘n’ roll band, said Ewan Currie, the lead singer and songwriter. “There’s a lot of sweat equity, a lot of travel, a lot of sucking it up… playing 10 shows in 10 days in unpredictable weather. That’s the price you pay for following the dream and playing in a rock ’n’ roll band.” The Sheepdogs will return to the festival this year as the Saturday night closing headliner. Currie hopes for better weather, but is ready to deliver “a good dose of rock ’n’ roll.” “We’ll come out with guns blazing,” he said. The festival runs Friday, Sept. 9. through Sunday, Sept. 11, in downtown Bowling Green. The band hasn’t had any off time since it last passed through Bowling Green. The Sheepdogs have been logging the miles in a tour to promote its latest album “Future Nostalgia.” The BG stop was at the beginning of a tour that will extend into November. That’s running close to 300 shows. “That’s missing a lot of weddings and other mundane life things,” Currie said. That’s being a rock ’n’ roll band. “The touring rock ’n’ roll band in 2016, we’re like the blue collar, working class musicians in a way,” he said. The music gets hardly any air play or coverage. “We’re almost like a boutique commodity.” But this is what Currie, his brother Shamus Currie, who plays keyboards and trombone, and bassist Ryan Gullen nd drummer Sam Corbett dreamed of growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They ditched their school band instruments, and learned rock listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Beatles, The Kinks and other 1970s groups popular in their parents’ youth. Starting as teenagers they wrote their own songs, but also played a lot of covers to learn all the tricks and turns of the trade. Those attempts at imitation morphed into their own sound. Blending two bands, The Sheep and The Dogs, The Sheepdogs hit the road, first conquering their native Canada. They have a collection of Juno Awards – the Canadian Grammys – as testament to their success. Now The Sheepdogs are reaching out to the world. Currie was speaking by telephone while on a boat in the Netherlands before playing a show as part of a tour that also took the band to France and Switzerland. Hard work has…