Black Swamp Arts Festival

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 here to take it and put our own stamp on it.” That includes the world view of Martin’s lyrics. They retain an awareness expected of a band that takes its name from a radical 19th century abolitionist. “He does touch on topical stuff, political stuff to be sure, fairness and inequality.” And he writes about historical events, like the song “Dust Bowl.” While Benedetti said he’s reluctant to speak too much of Martin’s intent, he does know “he doesn’t like…


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 about three hours to complete. With woodcuts he can work on a print over several weeks and produce editions of multiple prints. Already he has experimented with doing graphite rubbing on some old prints as a way of adding texture. “With monoprints it’s all about texture,” he said. He’s created a woodprint “trying to mimic look of monoprints,” Plummer said. Still he’s not sure what the next stage of work will look like. “It’ll definitely be different.”  


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 far are songs we would have never written.” Any songs must pass yet another, all-important test – live performance. “An audience is pretty honest,” Ringel said.  “If you play a chorus they can’t relate to, they can’t sing it, people won’t react positively. They’re not there to stroke your ego. It’s such a valuable experience. I’d prefer 100-fold to have that experience than to release it and have people listen to the record once and go ‘that’s not for me.’”…


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 music, and said he hopes his next recording – he’s headed into the studio in October – will be a breakthrough. Maybe the band will give a hint of that when they play in Bowling Green. Even a peripatetic soul, though, needs to be settled for some tasks. It’s not until he gets home and unwinds that he can really pull his songs together. He writes constantly, he said, poems, isolated lines, bits of stories. “It’s not until a melody…


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 been part of their story since the beginning. “We really take being a rock band seriously, and we work really hard at getting better.” Referencing the concept that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft, Currie said they’ve put in 15,000 hours. The festival audience will hear a band that’s even tighter than the quintet they heard last year in the rain. Part of that is the band has brought in a new lead guitarist, Jimmy Bowskill….


Festival’s other stages offer return of Hutchison & other musical delights (Updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival listeners will have one more chance to enjoy Barbara Bailey Hutchison, a singer-songwriter and entertainer extraordinaire. The festival’s performance committee has posted lineups for the festival’s Community and Youth Arts stages for Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11. The festival gets underway with music on the Main Stage and concessions, Friday, Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. Hutchison, a veteran performer, said last year that she was going to stop touring this year. She was leaving the stage to spend more time as an artist and arts educator. Hutchison played two well-received sets on the Family Stage. Those sets included her original songs – humorous and touching reflections on life, family and religion, covers of other alternative folk songwriters tunes, and a medley of her greatest hits – the jingles she sang for TV ads for Hallmark, McDonald’s and other corporations. The Grammy-winning artist also displayed a ready wit and ability in integrate what was happening on the street in the moment into her performance. Hutchison will play a 11L30 a.m. set Saturday on the Family stage and a noon set Sunday on the Community Stage. The Family Stage will also present Grammy-winning and Emmy-nominated artist Tim Kubart. He’s a YouTube sensation as the “Tambourine Guy” on the Postmodern Jukebox. As in the past, festivalgoers will get second, even third, chances to hear Main Stage acts on the more intimate Community and Family stage settings. Top local acts from a ukuleles, Uilleann pipes,  to Japanese taiko drums also are set to perform. Teen fiddler Grant Flick’s trio is both a Main Stage act and a top local performer. He’ll perform on the Community Stage 4 p.m. Saturday following a noon set on the Main Stage earlier in the day. The lineup for the Community Stage, which is located in the atrium of Four Corners Center, is: SATURDAY 11 a.m., Toraigh an Sonas. Noon, Grand Ukulelists of the Black Swamp. 1 p.m., Mariachi Flor de Toloache. 2 p.m., The Rhythm Future Quartet. 3 p.m., Joe Baker Band. 4 p.m., Flick, Turner & Warren. 5 p.m. The Downtown Country Band. SUNDAY Noon, Barbara Bailey Hutchison. 1 p.m., Corduroy Road. 2 p.m., Croy and the Boys. 4 p.m., Ginkgoa. The lineup for the Family Stage, located in front of the Wood County District Public Library, is: SATURDAY 10:30 a.m., The Downtown Country Band. 11:30 a.m., Barbara Bailey Hutchison. 12;30 p.m., Tim Kubart.. 1:45 p.m., Flick, Turner, and Warren. 2:45 p.m., Mariachi Flor de Toloache. 4 p.m., Pokey La Farge. SUNDAY 11:30 a.m., Tim Kubart. 12:30 p.m., The Rhythm Future Quartet. 1:30 p.m., Little Axe. 2:45 p.m., The Suitcase Junket. 4 p.m., Kazenodaichi Taiko. For more festival coverage see: http://bgindependentmedia.org/black-swamp-arts-festival-music-acts-dont-skip-a-beat-in-time-of-change/ http://bgindependentmedia.org/black-swamp-arts-festival-art-show-taking-shape/ http://bgindependentmedia.org/teen-musician-grant-flick-having-fun-fiddling-around-the-country/    


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 retired from other careers. Now they are doing fewer shows or dropping off the circuit all together. “We’re starting to see younger people coming to the festival,” she said. “Some have come in and been award winners.” That includes Kentucky-based woodcut printmaker Chris Plummer and area jeweler Amy Beeler, from Oregon. Plummer won Best of Show honors last year and in 2013. Beeler won the top award in 2014. The festival hands out more than $5,300 in juried prizes. Having returning artists is also important, Baker said. Often people will start by buying lower priced items from an artist, and as they develop a relationship, buy more expensive pieces. Those returning artists develop a strong rapport with their customers, she said. The Wood Count Invitational Art Show is open to exhibitors living within 30 miles of Bowling Green. This year, 68 artists applied for the 50 spots, said Andrew McPherson, who coordinates the show. “We have a large number of return applications,” he said, “so we’ll have the crowd favorites.” But, McPherson added, “we’re looking to mix in some new people, too.” He said that given all the visitors coming in from out of town, it’s important to give local artists exposure. “It wouldn’t be the same without local representation.”…


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, has the same tuning as violin. He recently taught at a national tenor guitar workshop. These instruments provide different colors when playing with the trio or in a duo with his father. Having a Main Stage show with his band at the festival is a special treat for him. He’s played the festival’s acoustic stage several times with Acoustic Penguin. More memorable were the chances to hear and meet those he admires. Just a couple years after he took up violin, he got a chance to hear the renowned Cajun band BeauSoleil and meet the band’s fiddler and founder Michael Doucet, one of the pioneers of the roots music scene. Last September he got to hang out with the members of the Rhythm Future Quartet. He went to all the band’s shows including a late night bar gig. Rhythm Future is returning to the festival this year. Flick started playing violin in fifth grade orchestra at Conneaut. About a week after his introduction to the instrument, his father, a guitarist, taught him a few blues scales and some basic bluegrass tunes, including “Boil That Cabbage Down.” “He just took off on his own,” Flick said. And he hasn’t slowed down. He studied with several teachers and still takes lessons when…


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 free show at Howard’s. In between Godsey and the man from Hell, there’ll be more blues, reggae, bluegrass and all sounds Americana. Christensen is especially excited about Mariachi Flor de Toloache, an all-female mariachi band out of New York City. The Latin Grammy nominees add a contemporary touch to the venerable Mexican genre while staying true to the ache and passion of the music. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is a booster of the Flor de Toloache. The mariachi band has toured with him, serving both as an opening act and augmenting his own backup band. Mariachi Flor de Toloache will play the Saturday dinner set at the festival. The festival will also welcome home-grown talent to the Main Stage, when Grant Flick and a trio assembled for the occasion kicks off the music on Saturday noon. Flick, 17, from Bowling Green, has been setting the Americana and swing scene on fire with his fiddle and tenor guitar work. He’ll be joined by another teen string virtuoso Josh Turner from New York City and bassist Jacob Warren from Ann Arbor. And opening Sunday’s show will be another homegrown talent when Corey Baum brings his band Croy and the Boys  from Austin, Texas to perform. String virtuosity will be well represented. Another…


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. That decision was made for me, and I’m happy about it.” At about age 8 he started playing with a gospel group. He’s been an active performer since. About 30 years ago, he moved to England, when Bush was elected, he joked, suggesting the reviewer could join him if Donald Trump is elected president. The move, though, wasn’t prompted by politics; it was prompted by business. He finds more work over there. “They don’t like old people in America. You’ve got to be young and cute.” In Europe there’s still a strong live music scene. From his home in England, McDonald can cross the channel for gigs in France, Spain and Germany. While he usually performs solo, he collaborates with a number of other musicians. That includes performers from around the world, including Mali, Peru, and China. “We make good music and have fun.” The music scene has changed now, he said. People used to play together, now musicians are expected to do everything themselves. “I call it bedroom music,” McDonald said. “It’s the death of the band, the death of social interaction.” Those bygone days are part of what’s being celebrated the blues event. Hines Farm was a concert venue and music club where people gathered to have a…


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 home, or will he call home from that place? The uncertainty adds to the sadness. Then there’s his “Frankenstein lullaby” to a bone which he wants to give wings. Snatching a title from a Buddy Bolden setlist, he makes the existential blues question his own: “If You Don’t Like My Potatoes Why Do You Dig So Deep?” Lorenz fills in the spaces of his songs with anecdotes and observations as amusing as the songs. He talked about how he imagined as a toddler that he was not his parents’ child but rather came from the planet Wobbly. Years later he saw a book about the Wobblies, and was stunned. Could it be? No, the Wobblies were a labor organization. Once he met a woman who had been a Wobbly, and being small and gray, it was easy to imagine her as an alien. The sounds Lorenz produces for The Suitcase Junket make it easy to imagine that his toddler self was onto something. This is the folk music of that distant planet, and this music is the closest we’ll ever get to it.