Black Swamp Arts Festival

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 opening with a local band on the Main Stage. Kicking off the festival and reviving the practice of having a top local act as openers will be the Matt Truman Ego Trip. The band has a psychedelic punk rock mix. Truman will return later for an acoustic show. On Saturday the BiG Band BG, the Bowling Green Area Community Bands’ swing group, will open the show. Concannon said he liked what he heard during a recent concert at the Pemberville Opera House. Following them will be Bobby G with Curtis Grant and the Midnight Rockers. The Toledo singer absorbed the sound of the blues will growing up in the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta. As a teenager he moved to Toledo and brought his love of the blues with him. He was performing in Toledo clubs in the 1970s before taking time off to raise his family. He came back on the scene about a decade ago after retiring. John Henry, a local blues impresario, says he’s “the real deal” and has recorded him on his Third Street Cigar label. (Bobby G and the band will perform July 15 at Howard’s Club H.) On Sunday Tom Gorman and Tom Del Greco will warm up the Main Stage. Gorman has the distinction of having played at every festival on one stage or another. Though not on the Main Stage, young fiddler extraordinaire Grant Flick will make the trip down from Ann Arbor where he studies at the University of Michigan. He’ll be joined by bassist Jacob Warren for a set on the Community Stage. The festival has also benefited from recommendations by local music fans. “There are a lot of people passionate about music and getting their feedback is valuable,”…


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 much better response. People want to participate and want to be there.” The festivals’ posters have received numerous awards from Sunshine Artist, the leading journal for the art fair scene. “It’s an art festival,” Holmberg said. “It makes perfect sense to make a well-designed, thoughtful piece of promotional material at the forefront.”This year’s poster for the festival’s 25th year is being designed by Amy Karlovec, who designed the festival postersmwith her husband, Matt, for about a decade before taking a break the past three years.


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 culture and the nature. And they hatched an idea. Why not buy a place in Ireland, with everyone having a stake, where they could visit? A second home in the ancestral homeland. They even considered opening a bed and breakfast. When McLaughlin returned home, he had more immediate concerns. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer, and his time was occupied caring for Tom Jr. The idea of the Irish homestead seemed to fade. Then came the November election, McLaughlin said his son, Bill, a fire chief in Colorado, and McLaughlin’s three daughters, Colleen, Maureen, and Pegeen, came home for Thanksgiving. Bill, McLaughlin said, “couldn’t understand how Trump got elected.” Now was the time to realize the dream. So McLaughlin and his son flew over in March and found a place, and Tom Sr. negotiated to buy it with the furnishings for no extra costs. McLaughlin needed to get a visa as “a retired person of independent means.” That meant passing a health assessment. “They don’t want you to be a burden on society.” Doctors found no sign of either the colon cancer or the melanoma. He was required to show he has an income of at least 50,000 euros a years, or about $50,000. He had to sign up for the national health care, which has no restrictions for preexisting conditions. His police record came back clean. Now McLaughlin is wrapping up his life in Bowling Green. On June 2, 3 and 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, an estate sale will be held for the contents of his house at 877 Pearl St. The sale is being run by Shelly Zavaleta of Mainstreet Antiques. He’s already packed the 44-inch cube he’s allowed to ship over….


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 years later Cillian was born. “I grew up in this house full of instruments. Several days a week some kind of musical activity was going on.” He started on the tin whistle, then graduated to the pipes. He tried the fiddle “but it felt alien to me.” As a teenager he drifted away a bit. He was active in sports. He played flute in orchestra and saxophone in school combos. “But I always loved the music.” Still “it was down my list of priorities.” It was in his late teens “when I started getting really addicted to it.” “Once you get more into it, it’s amazing music. I just wanted to play it all the time,” he said. While having a push from the family helped, in the end “you have to do it on your own.” He has four siblings two of whom, Caoimhin and Niall, who joins him in Lunasa, became professional musicians. In his 20s, he said, “I’d go out to bars play every night” A bar would typically hire a couple more accomplished players to keep the session grounded. These sessions, Vallely noted, are a fairly recent development. Typically before the 1950s, musicians would mostly play solo and for dancing. Now he doesn’t get out as much with family and other responsibilities back home in New York. But he expects to do some jamming during the current Midwest swing that will bring the duo to Bowling Green. The music he and Crawford play as a duet is simpler than on their Lunasa gigs. Their sets are filled with traditional tunes, as well as contemporary tunes. Both of them also write original music for Lunasa. What Vallely writes for the quintet “would be slightly more contemporary sounding…


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 said: “I don’t know that there’s this big thing happening for 25th, but there will be a lot of fun things through merchandise and special performances.” Through its future of the festival committee, organizers are looking toward securing the event’s future for the next 25 years. The committee has quietly launched a drive to set up an endowment with a goal of raising $25,000 in its 25th year. The endowment is through the Bowling Green Community Foundation. The endowment campaign builds on its tradition of relying on a broad base of community donors. “Part of what’s great about the festival is it’s all volunteer,” he said. “People really get involved. We have 800 to 1,000 volunteers a year that help put on the festival. It takes a community effort.” This is not the first time the festival has been honored by the magazine. The festival was voted into the top spot in 2014. The juried art show has also been regularly listed as one of the top art shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine. This year the juried exhibit ranked 70th on the Top 100 Classic and Contemporary Show. The Black Swamp Arts Festival has grown steadily since it was first presented in 1993. With the help of several downtown businesses, it weathered its inaugural year when it was almost washed away in a deluge. Now it attracts Grammy winners and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees to its stages as well as top regional artists and crafters. It draws an estimated 60,000 visitors to downtown Bowling Green each year. A couple other area spots also found favor with Ohio Magazine readers: the Toledo Museum of Art as…


“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 bright future on the national scene, including a couple strong originals. One had the trio shifting smoothly through odd time signatures. I saw both bands at the community stage where their music could be heard across the way in Isaac Smith’s booth. Isaac, a product of Bowling Green High School’s art program, won best of show. The Black Swamp Arts Festival continues to be a place were younger artists or those new to the circuit get a boost. Next year…


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 niche sound, and is excited at its potential. This is not the kind of country music you often hear on the radio. It is not the sound that’s been co-opted by pop and modern country, and it is certainly not a caricature of small-town life that just does not exist anymore. “When we first started doing this, there wasn’t an audience for it, and people didn’t understand what we were trying to do,” he said. “What is this exactly? This…


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 what shows an artist will exhibit at, such niceties do put the Black Swamp fest in a good light. Over the years, Lily hasn’t just worked. She’s enjoyed the extensive Youth Arts area, and after her shifts she’s listened to the musical acts. This year she will be on a team of artists from Bowling Green High School participating in the Chalk-Walk competition. In the future, she interested in volunteering on as many committees as possible. She even likes picking…


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 because “we just clicked on a personal level and musically our voices matched perfectly. That’s hard to find.” Given the importance of vocal harmonies in mariachi that was a key element. Fiol’s guitar playing was “very rhythmic,” Ramos said, so she knew she’d lock right into the groove. They started out as a trio with a harpist. But the harpist left. They played as a duo, then a quartet, quintet, expanding the ranks to as many as 10 with multiple…


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 notes with his voices using his version of throat singing. It took him five years of practice, mostly while driving around in his car, to bring the technique to the point he would share it with listeners. His lyrics lately have emerged from his yelling nonsense syllables, which he then translates into the quirky stories. “The words have a found quality,” Lorenz said. “There is a certain freedom allowed when you don’t see the words as precious or you don’t…


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 any of the other competitors. While that may seem quite an achievement for a band that had only been gigging for a couple months at that point, Naftaly noted that the background as his band and then the hours and hours of work put in after dissolving that outfit have allowed Southern Avenue to take the fast lane. The musicians have taken their foot off the gas since then. Naftaly and Tierinii Jackson get together one day a week to…