Music

Local favorite Tim Tegge stepping up to the Main Stage at Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When singer-songwriter Tim Tegge first played the Black Swamp Arts Festival 10 years ago, he was so nervous that the day before he went to check out the stage. He looked at the atrium at the former Huntington Bank (now the Four Corners Center) and noticed how the pillars went up and formed two Ts, as in his initials. That was a good omen. That show, he said recently, was the first time he’d played an hour-long set. Before then he’d just played a few songs at a time at open mic sessions. He’s been back to perform at the festival since then. This year will mark another first. Tim Tegge and the Black Swamp Boys will perform on the Main Stage Sunday at 11 a.m. “I still can’t believe I’m on the Main Stage.” Tegge’s been writing songs in earnest for 15 years now, though his first one, “Fishing Hole,” was written 25 years ago. After that initial effort, marriage to his wife, Jayne, and parenthood, and the usual ebb and flow of life intervened.  It was the death his friend Lloyd Shelton that helped steer him back to songwriting. In preparing Shelton’s eulogy, he realized it’d been a long time since he’d played his guitar. There was a song he was meaning to write, so he picked up the instrument again. “It’s just like the dam broke open,” he said. He now felt like he wasn’t imitating his heroes such as John Denver and James Taylor. “Something came alive.” For the last 15 years he’s been dedicated to writing songs.  Now playing a three-hour gig at a winery doesn’t faze him, not with 130 songs in his book. Those songs touch on familiar, every day concerns, of a 50-something guy. “Why Can’t We Go Back?” is a comic lament about the gentrification of the simple cup of coffee. The song has been turned into a video produced by Jack O’Hare featuring a cast of characters as former tough guys who now drink sugary lattes.  He’s also penned a tribute to the mothers and other women who end up spending “Christmas in the Kitchen.”  He also penned “Showdown in Pull Town” for the Natoal Tractor Pulling Championships. He draws from life, jotting down phrases he hears, remembering stories…


Friends, old & new, grace Black Swamp fest’s Main Stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News   Birds of Chicago feel at home It’s always nice to come home. That’s the way JT Nero feels about the Birds of Chicago’s return to the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Nero, who grew up in Toledo, was certainly at home during last year’s show. The Birds even played a set on the Family Stage, just a few feet from Howard’s Club H. Some of his first live shows as a musician were at Howard’s. And it was fun to share it with his wife and musical collaborator Allison Russell. “She had a blast.” He was quick to credit the festival volunteer personnel for their hospitality. “They take care of you.” The Birds of Chicago are back to play a primetime Main Stage set at 6:15 p.m., Saturday, followed by a late night set at Stone’s Throw. Since last year the Americana quintet has released both an EP, “American Flowers,” and a full-length album “Love in Wartime.” The EP, Nero said, was inspired from growing up in Toledo. The Islamic Center of Toledo serves as a central image in the title track. “That image is as American as it gets for me,” Nero said. The album strives to better reflect the Birds of Chicago live show. “We wanted to make a little bit more of a rock ‘n’ roll album. … With all the malaise hanging over the country, we wanted to make something that felt like a joyous document of life on earth. For me a rock ‘n’ roll album is the best way to do that.” The band will be selling that album in both CD and vinyl. That’s still part of the business model, though, as streaming takes a toll on sales of physical recordings. “I’m OK streaming as long as people go out and support the band, buying tickets to the show, buying t-shirts. Find a way to support the music.” Nero added: “We have to keep fighting the good fight and taking care that streaming services are more responsible in what they’re paying.” Still the Birds of Chicago are essentially a live act. Performing at festivals has a particular allure, especially if they get to settle in for a couple days. “Music festivals are where we plug in and see where our peers are…


Aretha Franklin’s spirit resonates throughout American culture

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Aretha Franklin was there to sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” The singer, who died Thursday of pancreatic cancer in her hometown of Detroit, had to be part of the celebration of the first African-American to become president. “She’s of a generation that knows a time when that seems like that would never come true, and it has come true,” said Angela Nelson who chairs the Ethnic Studies Department at Bowling Green State University. “She was there to sing and be part of this thing we thought would never happen and has happened.” Franklin was born in 1942, the same year as Nelson’s mother. Franklin had a bond with Obama. She could move him to sing as he did during a campaign stop in Detroit or move him to tears as she did during her version of “Natural Woman,” during the Kennedy Center Honors concert honoring the songwriter Carole King. Her music was so embedded in the culture, Nelson said, she’s not sure when she first heard her, probably on the radio. But what made an impression on Nelson was “Amazing Grace,” a 1972 album that returned Franklin to her gospel roots even including preaching by her father C.L. Franklin. Nelson remembers hearing this album growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s in her maternal grandparents’ South Carolina home while her mother was in graduate school. These gospel roots, Nelson, whose first degree was in vocal performance, said, served the singer well throughout her career, as they did others with big voices who crossed over into the world of pop. “Singing is like breathing for them.” Few retained the link to gospel as much as Franklin did. “She maintained that connection.” Coming up in her father’s Detroit church, she started young. That was not unusual, said Nelson, who studies female gospel singers. If youngster showed ability that talent was put to use in the church. “God-gifted her so you use that gift.” “For people who grew up in the church, their training is almost unmatched,” Nelson said. “There are all these opportunities for immediate feedback. If you have a hallelujah going on or crying going on or hands lifted, you have feedback from the audience that you’re aligned with where…


Kofi Baker to bring Cream Experience to Howard’s Club H

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kofi Baker doesn’t play the music of Cream as a tribute to the 1960s super group. And he doesn’t play it because that’s what his father, Ginger Baker, the drummer with Cream and later Blind Faith, played it Baker, who’s been a drummer longer than he can remember, performs the music associated with Cream and Blind Faith because that’s the style that allows him to express who he is as a musician, freewheeling and genre defying. “The Cream stuff is all improvised,” Baker said in a recent telephone interview. “That’s why I like playing it.” Baker will bring his Cream Experience featuring guitarist Chris Shutters and bassist Frankie May to Howard’s Club H Friday, Aug. 24. The band starts a little after 9 p.m. “The music I play has nothing to do with my dad,” he said. “It’s a style I was brought up in, and I really like it.” (This interview was conducted in December before a Howard’s show that was cancelled.) The trio is not a “cover band” that listens to the records and tries to replicate them. They play the melodies of the songs, flipping their grooves as the mood suits them and then launch into their own exploration. “It’s been a challenge my whole life to play in a project that allows me the freedom to play differently every night.” Baker said. This band allows him to do just that. He launched the Cream Experience after hearing his father, Eric Clapton, and Jack Bruce, who died in 2014, during their 2005 reunion tour. This was the sound imbedded in his soul since infancy. His father was his primary teacher. Baker realized this was the sound that gave him the freedom he desired. “That’s why this is kind of the perfect thing. Why I’ve fallen into it and really enjoy it,” he said. “Every night it’s a completely different ball of wax. … It’s always different every night because we come to it with a different attitude.” Audience interaction can help shape those improvisations. If the band hits a groove, quotes the melody from another song, and the crowd cheers “then we may move into different things. It really depends on the vibe that night, how the stars align.” The guitar, bass, and drums trio provides…


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 Tons of Steel took off. Billboard magazine wrote about them. The band appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. A few of their songs were heard on “B” movie soundtracks. As Geil started featuring songs he’d…


Shinyribs ready to take Black Swamp fest audience on a fantastic musical voyage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kevin Russell has a fertile imagination. Just ask him how the name Shinyribs originated. Sometimes it involves giving a homeless woman some ribs. Or maybe as he also says it was just a meaningless moniker given to him by a bunch of derelicts he used to hang out with in northern Louisiana. Or maybe it’s from his toddler running around declaring “It’s shiny time!” “It was his mantra,” Russell said. And about that time Russell was thinking a lot about the creation story involving Adam’s rib and thinking that the rib lives its life in darkness, and yet it’s close to the heart. Then Russell laughs. He’s laughter punctuated each of these creation stories. He’s a guy who likes to have a good time, and likes to encourage others to have a good time. That really is what Shinyribs stands for. The Austin-based octet will be the closer for Saturday night on the Main Stage of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Russell said he’s looking forward to the gig. “As soon as I saw the name, I said ‘I want to play the Black Swamp.’” Russell’s music is rooted in joy. Growing up in Beaumont, he said: “We heard of tons of 45s, everything, The Sylvers, Billy Preston, Glen Campbell, Ray Stevens, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Monkees, Jerry Reed, Waylon. That’s how we listened to music. We listened to everything. We didn’t care what kind of music it was. It was wide open. Me and my sisters would dance to that music. Great time.” That no-styles barred approach continues to be the Shinyribs mission statement. From the time Russell was a child, he’d tried to get his friends to form a band, but it wasn’t until he was 14 when his father asked if he wanted to learn to play the guitar that his career as a musician lifted off. At first he woodshedded behind closed doors. Then he played for his school friends and at talent shows. “I got the bug and kind of kept doing it.” That involved playing, but especially songwriting. Russell said his songs, “a flood of songs,” are his diary, his autobiography. Some have found their way into the repertoire of the bands he played with including The Gourds, which for 20…


From Rolling Stones to Black Swamp fest, saxophonist Karl Denson is always ready to start a party

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Some nights saxophonist Karl Denson will play for 87,000 people. Another night he might play for 87. Some nights his meaty, soulful sound is blowing in the spotlight with the Rolling Stones. Other nights he’s “getting away with murder” playing jazz tunes in a rock club. On Saturday Sept. 8, at 8 p.m. Denson will present his amalgamation of funk and pop with a heart of jazz on the Main Stage of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. “It’s interesting to see how I’m perceived,” he said. Playing 150 shows a year, “you change the sound from time to time.” “Sometimes it’s more funk and sometimes gets a little jazzier,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s a dance band. At the end of the day, whatever angle I’m taking, I really want people to be dancing and having fun.” This is in the spirit of those jazz players who came before him. “It was a party when Louis Armstrong played,” or for that matter, he added, when hip hop DJs started spinning turntables and scratching records. That’s the spirit he wants to bring to Bowling Green. Denson’s been playing for good times since he was a teen. Growing up in southern California, he started on saxophone in seventh grade. It was just something to do, he said. By high school he was working in funk bands and Mexican wedding bands. Denson went to Fullerton College with the intentions of being a veterinarian. In high school he’d worked in an animal clinic, including assisting in the operating room. But he found himself taking more music classes each semester, so he switched his major. He moved on to Cal State Long Beach. At that time he aspired to be an avant garde jazz saxophonist inspired by the likes of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor, and Anthony Braxton. This was a golden age of jazz with all its variety of styles, including early fusion, before it got smooth, he said. “I feel fortunate to have live through that,” he said. “Now I’m definitely using that as a reference. … I’m a jazz guy at heart. My stuff is going to lean back into that improvised kind of music. … It hangs in that sixties, seventies vein.” And younger players,…


Music is what matters to high school folk-rock trio

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The rock band Mindless Matters has now played on both sides of the street just north of the intersection of Main Street and Court Street in downtown Bowling Green. In the two years that Kameron Frankart, guitar and vocals, Joey Craig, drums, and Allan Landgraf, fretless electric bass, have been a working band, they’ve appeared on the iconic stage at Howard’s Club H. Wednesday night the trio of Bowling Green High School seniors, played across the street at the Wood County District Public Library, on the site where Howard’s was originally located. Mindless Matters did a set to support the Libraries Rock summer reading program. They performed a mix of classic rock tunes, a couple songs by Bob Dylan, and a number of originals. They also urged those in attendance to head out to the Civic Music Club at 135 S. Byrne in Toledo to cheer them on Friday night (July 20) when they compete in the finals of the venue’s Battle of the Bands. The show starts at 7, but the band isn’t sure when they’ll hit. The competition started weeks ago with 40 bands playing over the course of a number of nights. Now it’s down to eight bands that will appear Friday and Saturday. Mindless Matters stems from a time when Frankart and Craig jammed with another young musician they knew from school. When that trio didn’t work out, Craig suggested they recruit Landgraf whom he knew from the high school jazz band. The new combination clicked, but then Landgraf left town to spend a year in Austria with his family. As soon as he got back, though, Mindless Matters started playing shows. That was two years ago. They’ve made the rounds of venues, including Grounds for Thought where they launched their four-song EP, the Black Swamp Arts Festival, where they will play again this year, and the aforementioned Howard’s Club H. They also have a single making the rounds. “We all love playing music together,” Landgraf said. Recently they’ve been entertaining at friends’ graduation parties as an acoustic trio. That was the format at the library. Afterward, though, Frankart said the acoustic trio was a work in progress. They prefer plugging in. “It’s nice to have some power behind you,” the vocalist said. They all draw on…


Toledo Opera casts Shawn Mathey in ‘Magic Flute’

Bowling Green native Shawn Mathey will perform of Tamino, the prince in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” with the Toledo Opera, Oct. 5 and 7 in the Valentine Theatre. Mathey, who has performed in lead roles with major companies around the world, has returned to Bowling Green. He earned his Master of Music from Bowling Green State University, where his wife Sujin Lee teaches, in December. He appeared in “Cavalleria Rusticana” in February, 2016 on campus. With the Toledo Opera he has performed lead roles in “Madama Butterfly” and “Faust.”  


Rising blues star Samantha Fish ready to connect with Black Swamp Arts Festival audiences

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When the Main Stage acts for the 2018 Black Swamp Arts Festival were first posted, a number of music fans lit up social media at the sight of Samantha Fish’s name as the festival closer. Two months from now, on Sunday afternoon, rising blues star Fish will take the Main Stage to round out the weekend’s performances. The 26th Black Swamp Arts Festival runs from Sept. 7 through 9 in downtown Bowling Green. Since the Kansas City, Missouri -based artist emerged on the blues scene about 10 years ago, she’s caught the eye and ear of blues lovers. Last year she released her fifth solo album on Ruf Records. Those records are important, she said in a recent telephone interview, even in today’s changing music business landscape. “An album is a marker of growth. It’s a legacy …. People need something to take home to listen to.” But a recording can only capture so much. The real connection between listener and performer comes in person. “There’s something about seeing someone live,” Fish said. “You see the passion. These guys sweating it out, really living in the moment, and delivering a song that connects to your life. You don’t get that from listening to a record.” Hearing live shows, whether at a festival in Arkansas where she first heard the rawer version of Delta blues or a Kansas City club, where she heard the legends of the music, is what hooked Fish on the music. That was when she was in her late teens. “I was looking for something real, and I found it there.” Fish said she’d also had her eye on doing something in the entertainment business since she was a child. To those around her dancing and theater were “pipe dreams.” She started playing drums at 13, and then picked up guitar at 15. Later she started going to jam sessions to hone her craft. “I didn’t know how to go from wanting to do something to making it happen,” Fish said. “In those clubs, I saw that music was happening all over, not only Los Angeles. … It just gave me some hope I could write my songs and sing and play guitar and make a decent living out of it.” She got a band together,…


Farewell to “The Chief” – BGSU community celebrates life of long-time band director Mark Kelly

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News If a stranger happened into the memorial for Mark Kelly Saturday morning in Kobacker Hall not knowing anything about the person’s whose life was being celebrated, that person would have been enlightened about the late Bowling Green State University band director, and why he was called the Chief. It would be clear why more than 100 musicians were assembled on stage to play some of Kelly’s favorite music, and why several hundred more gathered in the hall, where The Chief had directed so many concerts, to hear the music and words honoring him. That stranger would come away with a clear picture of a man who valued tradition, integrity and excellence. Kelly thought of himself as “just a band director from Iowa” yet left a legacy that has touched untold thousands, both directly and through the ripple effect of the students of his students. A Celebration of Mark S. Kelly was held Saturday morning on campus. Kelly, band director at BGSU from 1966-1994, died at age 91 on Nov. 20. Those gathered for the celebration of life included a Pulitzer Prize winning composer and just as important people whose lives have taken them away from music yet still remember lessons learned from The Chief. Mark Zimmerman, a 1979 BGSU graduate, was drum major for the Falcon Marching Band under Kelly. He said that Kelly’s voice resonates with them as they stand at the kitchen sink, or walk down Wall Street or through a slum in Kenya. It doesn’t matter if they had careers in music or not. “I’ve heard that voice in my mind for 43 years and it’s never going to leave me,” he said. That voice resounded in the words of the speakers. It was heard in the pet sayings – “plan your work then work your plan,” recalled John Deal, his assistant from1975-1979. And in the stories told. Jay Jackson, as a newly hired assistant director in 1986, recalled questioning whether he needed to wear a uniform. Maybe a sport coat, he suggested, during an increasingly chilly discussion. That’s what the grad assistants wear, Kelly told him. So when Jackson made his debut on the sidelines, he was sporting the “Funky Winkerbean” look. Kelly had his say about what transpired during the memorial. His daughter Karen…


Former students to gather to honor legacy of late BGSU band director Mark Kelly

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATION They called him “The Chief,” and at 10:30 a.m. June 23, 101 of his former students will play at Bowling Green State University’s Kobacker Hall in his memory. Mark Kelly, who directed the BGSU bands from 1966 to 1994, died in November 2017 at the age of 91. The BGSU College of Musical Arts will host the memorial service Saturday. His daughter, Karen Kelly, brought together dozens of alumni and former students of her father to perform together as a band at the service. Capt. Ryan Nowlin, assistant director of the “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, will conduct the band during its performance. Karen Kelly ’75, ’82 is touched that so many alumni are coming back to the University to pay their respects to her father. “It speaks to the interest Dad maintained in the life and careers of the students, whether they continued in music, or completely different careers, away from music,” said Kelly, who was the band director at Van Wert (Ohio) High School for 34 years. “Outside of music, the careers included Air Force pilots, business entrepreneurs and scientists. His leadership was not music education specific.” Before Mark Kelly came to BGSU, he taught high school band at his alma mater in Centerville, Iowa, for several years. Three of his students from that time period will play in the memorial concert. Others are traveling from Washington D.C., Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and Texas. Alumni performing Saturday include Lisa Welling Baker ’84, flute, a retired Shelby (Ohio) High School band director whose daughter is a twirler with the Falcon Marching Band; George Edge ’79, oboe, retired Grove City (Ohio) band director; Roger Kantner ’88, bassoon retired member of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band; Patty Ruckman ’90, clarinet, New Bremen (Ohio) choirs; Stan George ’80, alto sax, Perrysburg (Ohio) Schools; Ray Novak ’83, trumpet, retired (Toledo) Whitmer High School band director; Amy Horn ’89, French horn, retired member of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band; Dale Laukhuf ’67, trombone, retired Bath (Ohio) Local Schools; and Jeff Macomber ’75, euphonium, Missouri State Southern University. “To say that Mark Kelly made a meaningful contribution to BGSU as director of bands is an understatement,” said William B. Mathis, College of Musical Arts dean. “His influence and…


Toledo Zoo to host symphony & swing concerts

From TOLEDO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The Mercy Health Music Under the Stars at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater will begin Sunday, July 8. Unwind on a warm Sunday evening and enjoy great music performed by the Toledo Symphony Concert Band, Toledo Symphony Chamber Players, Toledo Jazz Orchestra, and more. This year, each show will feature a fun musical theme aimed at family enjoyment. Each performance will be held at the Toledo Zoo’s Amphitheatre at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. July 8 – Stars, Stripes, and Sousa with the Toledo Symphony Concert Band July 15 – Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars: The Music of John Williams with the Toledo Symphony Concert Band July 22 – Christmas in July with the Toledo Symphony Chamber Players July 29 – Swing, Swing, Swing: Music of the Big Band Stars with the Toledo Jazz Orchestra. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) will be offering its Music Under the Stars Shuttle once again for those wishing to participate in the Park-N-Ride Service. Music Under the Stars Shuttle Park-N-Ride locations are: Maumee – St. Luke’s Hospital (5901 Monclova Road) Sylvania – Centennial Terrace (main parking lot, 5773 Centennial Road) Toledo – Franklin Park Mall (parking lot behind Old Navy; pick up at shelters on Royer Road) Toledo – Miracle Mile Shopping Center (near the shelter, 1727 West Laskey Road) Waterville – Kroger (8730 Waterville Swanton Road) Patrons are to arrive at any TARTA Music Under the Stars Shuttle Park-N-Ride location at 6:30 PM for a direct round trip ride to the Toledo Zoo’s Broadway entrance. Bus fare is $1.25 per person each way (60 cents for Seniors 65+ and Medicare cardholders) and is payable before each trip from the Toledo Zoo’s Amphitheatre aboard shuttle. Return trips will leave 20 minutes after the end of each concert.


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, Michigan. Setting the stage for him will be the San Antonio, Texas-based rockabilly band Two Tons of Steel. Alex Hann, who chairs the festival’s site and logistics committee, recommended booking the band. Closing Friday will be Pimps of Joytime. The…


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 took shape in the Big Easy. So much of it has “that rolling clave feel,” he said. “At the same time we’re all fans of country music, and of course, rock ‘n’ roll. We’re huge fans of all these different…