Music

Friday night acts to light up Black Swamp festival stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival has prided itself on its eclectic musical offerings. While the wide Americana music umbrella covers many of the performers, there have been plenty who reside outside that catch-all term. Think of the European, Caribbean, and African bands that have graced the festival’s stages. While the festival may have a global reach, the performing arts committee has also consistently tapped into the roots of American music. That’s certainly the case on Friday, Sept. 7. Ohio rocker Drew Joseph opens at 5 p.m. The acts that follow tap into the reverberations from Brooklyn, New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, and Michigan. Here’s what’s in store under the Friday night lights on the Main Stage Two Tons of Steel: Revving up the rockabilly sound Named for a 1956 Coupe de Ville that served as the band’s “van,” Two Tons of Steel hails from San Antonio, Texas. We can thank a local connection, though, for their appearance. Alex Hann, the long-time site and logistic chair for the festival, has been a fan since first hearing Two Tons at one of their regular gigs in the iconic Austin venues the Gruene Music Hall. He was impressed by the band’s energy which had the dance floor packed from the first note, and their combination of styles. Two Tons of Steel has its roots in rockabilly and Texas swing. Perfect for the festival. Conversations ensued, and Two Tons of Steel is now motoring into Ohio, virgin territory for the band. “It’s like being on a first date,” said leader Kevin Geil, in a recent telephone interview. He grew up in Austin listening to rockabilly. “You could play those three chords and play a song. … It was simple and smooth, just great music. That’s where we started and that’s the foundation of how our songs are still written and performed.” In 1992 in San Antonio, Geil started the band as a traditional three-piece rockabilly outfit with acoustic upright bass and guitars backing the vocals. Back then the music was a novelty, and Two…

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Black Swamp Festival ready to party with a cornucopia of musical acts

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For a touring musician like JT Nero festivals offer a benefit beyond a paying gig. Nero and his band, Birds of Chicago ,will be returning to the Black Swamp Arts Festival this year, and he remembers his 2017 visit fondly. “We had a hell of a time, an amazing time. They really curate interesting and eclectic slate of bands,” Nero, who grew up in Toledo, said. “It’s fun not just to come and play but to hang out and hear the other music. From what I’ve been able to tell, they’ve always done that.” Touring musicians often miss out on hearing what other performers are up to. At a festival like Black Swamp “we plug in and see where our peers are at and see as much music as we can.” The Black Swamp Arts Festival aims to please, musicians and listeners alike, so a mix of performers in a cornucopia of styles will again grace the Main Stage this year, Friday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept. 9. Schedules for the festival’s other two stages will be forthcoming later this summer with some Main Stage acts playing second shows at those venues. Headliners include Karl Denson, the saxophonist from the Rolling Stones’ touring band, and a New York funk band with a beat that matches its eye-catching name, Pimps of Joytime. The focus, said Cole Christensen, who co-chairs the festival’s performing arts committee, is fun. Last year with high expectations as the festival celebrated its 25th year, the committee rolled out some heavy-hitters, including the Blind Boys of Alabama. This year, Christensen and co-chair Tim Concannon, wondered: “How could we have a more fun party atmosphere? How could we have a combination of really enjoyable acts that would appeal to a lot of people and would have a really good fan base?” Drawing on some recommendations from friends near and far, Christensen thinks they’ve achieved that goal. Friday’s headliners feature bluegrass performer Billy Strings. “He’ll bring it fast, hot and furious,” Christensen said of the guitar picker from Kalamazoo,…


The Iguanas deeply rooted music connects with pro-migrant cause

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When it comes to music, the fundamental things still apply. “The thing that’s always compelling is bands playing music together,” said Rene Coman, of the New Orleans-based roots band The Iguanas. “That’s the human part. That’s the exciting part that’s not dictated by a machine.” The Iguanas, who played the Black Swamp Arts Festival back in 2001, will play a benefit show for La Conexion de Wood County, Monday, June 18, at 7 p.m., at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. Suggested donation is $10. The cause of supporting immigrants is one the band can get behind, Coman said.  The band’s lead singers, Joe Cabral and Rod Hodges, have grandparents who came to the United States from Mexico. “We definitely see ourselves as kindred spirits in that line of migration,” he said. “People are trying to improve their lives and find opportunities for their children. How can you fault anyone for that?” That’s not surprising for a band that embraces its American roots including those that extend south of the border or into the Louisiana swamp homes of the French Arcadians. “One of the things that makes the band work and that contributes to our longevity is we’re all into different kinds of music with a lot of intersections,” Coman said in a recent telephone interview. Cabral, saxophone and bajo sexton, and Hodges, guitar and accordion, were drawn to New Orleans by the city’s tradition of rock ‘n’ roll. That’s where they formed The Iguanas in 1989. Early on they had a shifting team of rhythm players. Coman joined on bass and keyboards in 1990. A year later he enlisted Doug Harrison, a former bandmate with Alex Chilton’s group, to take over the drum chair. The band has been a quintet at times, with another horn, but they’ve settle in as a quartet. “We’re perfectly comfortable swimming in that big open space.” Coman, who is from New Orleans, said the city sees itself linked culturally to the Caribbean. That musical tradition resonates throughout the sounds that…


Art in the Park shines even under cloudy skies

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of the fourth Art in the Park Friday at Simpson Garden Park. It did deter some, but not all, plein air artists. But others came out in force to entertain the attendees, who grew in number as the two-hour event progressed. The rain that arrived mid-afternoon was receding just as folks arrived. So a trio of musicians were heading out to the gazebo. Alice Calderonello, of the BG Arts Council which staged the event with the city Parks and Recreation Department, said the performers took the changes necessitated by the weather in good spirits, even if it meant they were playing in odd corners, and for a shorter period of time. Still by the time the event was wrapping up, musicians had ventured outdoors, and some visitors had wandered off into the garden to admire the garden’s blooms, which are delayed a bit by the cool, wet spring. Phil Hollenbaugh, the volunteer who tends the extensive hosta garden, was on hand checking the plants. Mayor Dick Edwards said that Bowling Green is second only to Dubuque, Iowa, in the number of hosta varieties in its municipal garden. Hollenbaugh said he has 50 more varieties to plant. But he laughed off any competition between the two cities. He’s always happy when people come into the garden to enjoy the plants. Painter Kim Sockman, one of the three artists to arrive to paint outside in the garden, was as close to the outside as she could be while still being inside. The retired art teacher was near the doorway to the Children’s Discovery Garden. With an eye on the weather Thursday, she came out and snapped a photo of the wooden arch in the area. She worked from that image as well as glancing out at the scene. It was good she got a head start on her work because so many people, including her former art students, stopped to chat she wasn’t get a lot of work done. “This is Bowling Green,” she said. “It’s…


Elder Mountain man Corky Laing at a new stage in long career

Last December 23 music fans at Howard’s Club H helped Corky Laing celebrate his 70th birthday. What they were also witnessing, the veteran rock drummer said, was something more. “Basically I was born again.’ Magic happened on that stage. Laing was playing the music made famous by his former band Mountain. He was playing with a couple new musical collaborators, Chris Shutters on guitar and flute, and Mark Mikel, a multi-instrumentalist playing bass, on a stage that evokes everything a rock club should be. Laing felt revitalized. Corky Laing Plays Mountain returns to Howard’s Club H in downtown Bowling Green tonight (Saturday, June 9) at 9 p.m. The show comes as Laing is pulling together touring for 2018 through 2019 for the trio, which he said doesn’t really have a name yet. Corky Laing Plays Mountain is a place holder moniker. The trio has also kicked around the idea of calling itself Pompeii. That name is pulled from a little known release that Laing and singer Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople recorded back in 1976-1978 with a rotating all-star cast. The recording was little known, subtitled “The Secret Sessions,” but when it was released on vinyl by Rouge Records it sold out both pressings. Even though harking back to the old days, Laing wanted it to reflect the present. So the vinyl included a computer card that allowed the purchaser to download four songs by Laing’s Toledo band, including the original “Knock Me Over.”. The trio started when Corky Laing needed a guitar player for a tour. Fellow drummer Kofi Baker recommended Shutters. Laing who has played with “the best of the best” – Eric Clapton and Dickey Betts appear on “Pompeii” – heard a “first division” musician in Shutters. Last year Shutters invited Laing to come visit him in Toledo, and Laing loved what he discovered – a vibrant music scene that had clubs rocking with music. Laing felt he needed a new bass player, so Shutters introduced him to the multitalented Mikel, formerly of the Pillbugs. The drummer was “blown away” by…


Airing out the arts in Simpson Garden Park

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Art in the Park allows the arts to blossom right along with the flowers in Simpson Garden. For the fourth year, the festival of arts will take place at the garden, at the intersection of Conneaut and Wintergarden, Friday, June 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. The event packs in a lot of activity into a two-hour span. It features plein air art – artists working in the open air, as well as strolling musicians, theater, at every turn, and children’s activities in the Simpson Building. That’s where performances will happen if the rain comes. But Alice Calderonello, of the Bowling Green Arts Council, urged people not to give up on the weather. Last year the rain threatened all afternoon, but then the skies cleared just in time for art walk. “For some reason heaven smiles on us,” she said. This year, said her husband, John Calderonello, there are more performers than ever. They will be spread from the upper healing garden where strolling performers from the university’s doctorate in contemporary music will do their musical version of plein air art, improvising to suit the mood. Also, new to the event will by the vocal ensemble Inside Voices, also near the healing garden. Down the way in the peace garden the Kaze No Daichi Taiko drum ensemble will perform. In stages closer to the building singer Tom Gorman, the old time ensemble Root Cellar Band, Irish tunes by Toraigh an Sonas, and the Black Swamp Drum Circle will entertain. In the amphitheater, Horizon Youth Theater will stage a preview of its summer musical, “Dorothy in Wonderland,” at 5:15 and 6:30 and in between the Black Swamp Players will read a section of Scott Regan’s original play “Peanuts and Crackerjacks.” The play will be part of the Players’ 51st season. Spread throughout the garden will be artists at work, though not so intently that they won’t take a time to chat with guests. Last year eight artists took part, but organizers are always hoping for more. Jules Webster of Art…


Operatic ‘Big Bad Wolf’ starts summer reading program on a high note

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maria Simon, the children’s librarian at the Wood County District Public Library, wanted to get the musically inclined summer reading program off on a high note. So, of course, she brought in a soprano. And the soprano rolled in with a mezzo-soprano, a pianist, and a bass to play the bad guy. Libraries Rock! The summer reading program got under way with a visit by Toledo Opera on Wheels. The four-member troupe had enough scenery and hand puppets, not mention musical talent, to bring to life a couple of classic fairy tales. “Who’s Afraid of the Big Band Wolf?” blends the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. The original script was set to music from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni.” This is what the public library is all about, said Joy Torres, who was there with her four children age 3 to 10. “It introduces us to a lot of new things, we wouldn’t have a chance to experience if it wasn’t here. They always seem to bring in something new and exciting.” One year it was a magician, she said, and this year the opera. Later this year a local rock band, Mindless Matters, will play a show in the library on June 27 at 7 p.m. Crystal Swaisgood, a mother of three who like Torres home schools her kids, said she’s at the library all the time taking advantage of the diversity of activities offered. This summer Lubrizol will present a STEM Sound Lab and young local musicians will come in play what they’ve been practicing and serve as reading buddies. The full schedule of activities is available in the library’s Connect Family Magazine. Click for more details. “It helps keep the excitement of learning alive,” Torres said of the summer reading program. The young musicians in the Opera on Wheels program hope that their 30-minute opera will spawn future opera listeners and maybe performers. Janani Sridhar, the soprano who sang the part of Little Red Riding Hood, said with the arts being…