Black Swamp Arts Festival

Black Swamp Arts Festival art show taking shape

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News The final touches are being applied to the visual art shows at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. The shows, both the Juried Art Show on Main Street in downtown Bowling Green and the Wood County Invitational in the lot at the corner of Clough and South Main streets, will feature a mix of new and familiar artists. The festival gets underway Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. with music on the Main Stage. The art shows run during the day Sept. 10 and 11. About 20 percent of the 108 artists in the juried show are new this year, said Brenda Baker, who chairs the festival’s visual arts committee. That’s down a bit from previous years, she said. Notably some regular vendors missed the April 1 application deadline. This year 245 artists applied for the juried show which has space for 108 artists. Since award winners from the previous year are automatically accepted, that means they are vying for 100 spots. The majority of the applicants “heard about the festival through word of mouth,” Baker said. “That shows we have a strong reputation in the artistic community.” While artists often rave about how they are treated in Bowling Green, the key element to attracting them to the festival is sales. They want to be assured there’s a market for their wares. Those sales at the Black Swamp fest have rebounded to about $2,600 since the depths of the recession. That’s good enough for the festival to place 67th in Sunshine Artist magazine’s ranking of fine arts and crafts shows in the country. While other area shows dropped off the list in the lean years, the Black Swamp fest has help steady. Bringing in new artists is important, Baker said, because it gives something fresh for festivalgoers to buy. “People appreciate new things to buy for Christmas,” said Linda Lentz, a member of the visual arts committee. Also, Baker noted, many artists on the art fair circuit are getting older. A number of them have already…


Teen musician Grant Flick having fun fiddling around the country

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Musician Grant Flick, 17, has gone from being the talk of the town to earning plaudits in national roots music circles. A few years back he was jamming with guitarist Frank Vignola, when the New York-based jazz recording artist, was playing a show at Grounds for Thought. This spring when Vignola brought together his favorite young guitarists for a showcase in Salt Lake City, he made sure Flick and his violin was on the bill as well. Flick, who also plays mandolin and tenor guitar, continues to gig locally with Acoustic Penguin and as a duo with his father, Don Flick. He’s also spreading his wings with his own trio of fellow string prodigies Ethan Setiawan on mandolin and Jacob Warren on bass. The trio, billed as New Branch, with vocalist Sadie Gustafson-Zook, will perform at the Red Wing Roots Festival this summer. Local audiences will get a chance to get a taste of Flick’s trio when the band plays the Black Swamp Arts Festival. That trio will have string wizard Josh Turner on subbing for Setiawan who will be off studying in Valencia, Spain, at the time. For all the whirlwind activity of his career one thing remains constant for Flick: “I still do it for fun. That’s the main reason I do it. I wasn’t going after this as a career; I was going after it because it was fun. And that’s still the reason I do it. I enjoy it.” Flick met Turner, Setiawan and Warren at the American String Symposium, a select gathering of the best roots music strings players under 22, hosted by the Savannah Music Festival. At the event players have time to collaborate and work on original music. The trio, Flick said, plays all their own tunes. Flick has expanded his musical arsenal. He often plays a five-string violin, which extends the range of the fiddle down into the viola register. He also plays the mandolin and, more recently, the tenor guitar. That instrument, like the mandolin,…


Black Swamp Arts Festival music acts don’t skip a beat in time of change (Updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival will feature a mix of new and familiar acts. That’s not unusual. That they feature veterans and newcomers is also par for the course. That those act will come on the wings of critical plaudits, well that goes without saying. Probably the biggest change on the festival’s music scene is one most people may not notice, and that’s as it should be. Kelly Wicks, one of the festival’s founders, is stepping down from his role as chair of the performing arts committee. Taking on that key role are Cole Christensen and Tim Concannon, two long-time festival volunteers who’ve worked with Wicks. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Christensen said. “It’s about preserving the great traditions of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. We’ll continue to feature local regional national and international talent and also to give people acts people don’t get to see. The festival has reputation for having great music, and we’re going to keep that.” That means performers whom festivalgoers have never heard of before will be their favorites after the second weekend in September. After a few months of learning the ropes (with Wicks offering some advice), most of the main stage slots are booked for the festival that kicks off Friday, Sept. 9, at 5 p.m. and closes Sunday, Sept. 11, at 5 p.m. It’s been bookended by the blues. The festival opens with the Tony Godsey band, a regional blues band that’s set to release its aptly title “Black Swamp Territory,” a collection of 10 original tunes. Closing will be an old friend, Michael Katon, the Boogieman from Hell (Michigan, that is). At one point, Katon had played Howard’s Club H more than any other performer. He was a regular at Christmastime, playing Christmas Eve, the blues equivalent of the Magi. In the past decade, though, he’s mostly been booked across the pond. Christensen said that Katon is excited to be returning to Bowling Green. On Saturday night he’ll return to his old haunts with a…


Skip McDonald Sings the Blues and So Much More

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Skip McDonald may be the featured artist at “The Blues, The Hines Farm Blues Club and Beyond and 21st Century Blues with Skip McDonald AKA Little Axe” on campus, just don’t pin him down to performing what you may consider “the blues.” When he walks on stage listeners can “expect blues, expect some funk, expect some gospel, expect some jazz, expect a good time,” he said. McDonald will play during the event which will run Thursday from 4 to 5:15 p.m. at Bowling Green State University’s Student Union Theater and then Friday 7 to 10 p.m. at Oak Openings Metropark Lodge, 5230 Wilkins Road, Whitehouse. “I’m an in-the-moment kind of guy,” he said. He doesn’t decide what to wear until the last minute, or what to play until he hits the stage. “That makes it exciting for me.” Otherwise it just becomes “run of the mill.” He wants to be true to himself and the moment. “I don’t want to be the person who imitates me, I want to be me.” McDonald doesn’t care much for labels. All these different genres, he said, are just for marketing. “You call it something so you can sell it.” At various times he’s been  a folk musician and a jazz musician. He was a session player for Sugarhill Records and played on early rap records, including those by Grandmaster Flash. Disco, rock, house, folk, blues, jazz, the labels don’t matter. ”When it comes down to it, there are only two kinds of music – music you like, and music you don’t.” Growing up in Dayton, McDonald, 67, was surrounded by music of all types. His father was a guitar player, and he tagged along. Dayton was awash in music: touring acts such as B.B. King or Motown stars, and homegrown talent like guitar legend Robert Ward. “There was always a community of people who played together and jammed together,” McDonald said. McDonald believes he was destined to be a musician. “I had nothing to do with that decision….


Suitcase Junket delivers bone-rattling sounds at Grounds for Thought

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The suitcases for musical act The Suitcase Junket are mostly empty. Matt Lorenz, the sole human member of the ensemble, doesn’t need that much luggage to haul his personal belongings. He does share the stage with two old suitcases. A large one that he beats with a pedal operated by his right heel serves as his bass. Another smaller valise props up an old gas can which he strikes with another pedal with a baby shoe attached. Lorenz told the audience at Grounds for Thought Friday night that he’d worn that baby shoe, and his sister had as well. Sharing this familial detail is intended to make the device less creepy. Doesn’t really though. The creepy and the wistful, the otherworldly and mundane, meet in the music of The Suitcase Junket. Among the other members of the band (as Lorenz thinks of them) are a circular saw blade, a bones and bottle caps shaker, a hi-hat cymbal. He plays a guitar that he found on the river bank. It was moldy, he said. No good reason to throw out a guitar. He’s fitted out his musical set up with rescues from the junk shop and dump. And they repay his devotion though during one number Lorenz said his guitar acts up sometimes just to remind him it was “garbage.” Still that acting up, the odd, incidental vibrations and buzzes, all contribute to the “Swamp Yankee” textures of The Suitcase Junket. Lorenz is just as resourceful with his voice, he growls, even croons, on occasion. He does a version of Tibetan throat singing, where he manipulates his voice so tones split to create an eerie, whistling sound. Lorenz also plays a mean mouth trumpet. All this goes into the performance of songs that often have longing at their heart. Old blues about modern relationships. He can rock out like a blues rock band, or be tender. “Wherever I wake up I’ll call my home,” he sings with gentle ambiguity. Will that strange place be his…