Music

Toledo Symphony, Toledo Ballet to merge

From TOLEDO ALLIANCE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet today announced plans to merge the area’s oldest performing arts institutions. The Toledo Symphony, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is recognized as one of the finest regional orchestras in the country. The Toledo Ballet, celebrating its 78th season, is recognized as one of America’s finest pre-professional dance programs. By joining forces, the Symphony and Ballet will build on an accumulated 153 years of performing arts history to present the finest performing arts in the region and reaffirm their shared focus upon education. The merged organization will be known as the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts, or T.A.P.A. The new non-profit is expected to form effective January 1, 2019. The Symphony and Ballet will continue to operate as sibling brands under the T.A.P.A. umbrella. Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony will become CEO of the combined organization. The Toledo Ballet has operated for several months without an Executive Director. “This partnership is a natural one,” says Vassar, “The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet have worked together for over 70 years, with the Symphony serving as the Ballet’s pit orchestra. Our archives are rich with collaborations, and we have a great history of working together to entertain and inspire this community.” The Toledo Symphony first performed with the Toledo Ballet in the 1949 performance of the Nutcracker. The orchestra has supported the Ballet in every Nutcrackersince, celebrating the nation’s longest-running production of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. Additionally, the Symphony has presented dancers from Toledo Ballet in many of its series performances, including the Rite of Springin 2015. “Marie Vogt choreographed several special performances for the Toledo Symphony in the 1950s under then-Music Director Wolfgang Streseman,” recalls Robert Bell, President Emeritus of the Toledo Symphony. “There were special performances of music by Copland and Enescu at the Paramount and Rivoli theaters, too. The Ballet’s dancers beautifully enhanced each program with fresh choreography.” During this formative period of the Toledo Ballet under Marie’s passionate and unwavering commitment to the art, the Symphony retained the Ballet for a variety of educational concerts as well imaginatively staged productions of the Nutcracker Suite. Besides presenting memorable performances, the Symphony and Ballet have common roots in education. The Toledo Symphony, through the Toledo Symphony School of Music and three Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras, provides music instruction to nearly 350 student performers each year….


BGSU Arts Events through Oct. 3

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATION Through Oct. 21 – Bowling Green State University’s School of Art announces the opening of “So Much More: Ohio’s African-American Artists.” Over the course of its planning, the exhibition has evolved from a tribute to the legacy of athlete, actor, visual artist and BGSU alumnus Bernie Casey, and other African-American alumni to a broader intergenerational conversation among alumni, current students and invited African-American artists from Ohio addressing the intersection of racial identity and personal expression.  The exhibition, in the Willard Wankelman Gallery in the Fine Arts Center, runs through Oct. 21. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Through Sept. 29 – BGSU is part of the collaborative “ScupltureX – Igniting Change: Teaching Artists and Social Practice” with the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Toledo Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Toledo. The BGSU exhibition, sponsored by David and Myrna Bryan and curated by Saul Ostrow, features the work of regional sculpture faculty. BGSU also will host a series of presentations, including talks by Ostrow and Mel Chin, on campus Sept. 29.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Sept. 17 – The Grammy-winning choral ensemble Conspirare presents “Considering Matthew Shepard” as part of the McMaster Residency in the College of Musical Arts. Under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson, the group will perform the three-part oratorio, an evocative and compassionate musical response to the murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a young, gay college student at the University of Wyoming who in October 1998 was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a lonely field under a blanket of stars. The performance begins at 7 p.m. in Kobacker Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. A talkback with BGSU panelists and Johnson will follow the performance at 9 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. Admission is free for all BGSU faculty, staff and students with ID at the door. Advance tickets for community members are $7 for adults and $3 for students and children. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Call the BGSU Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171 or purchase online at www.bgsu.edu/arts. Sept. 18 – Tuesdays at the Gish presents “The Florida Project” (2017, U.S., 115 minutes, directed by Sean Baker), with an…


Toledo Symphony welcomes Trudel as music director, kicks off 75th anniversary season

From TOLEDO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The Toledo Symphony Orchestra welcomes new Music Director Alain Trudel to Toledo for its first ProMedica Masterworks series concert for a community celebration featuring local composer Christopher Dietz from Bowling Green State University and dancers from Toledo Ballet. Two performances of Trudel’s Debut will take place Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 8 p.m. at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater. “This weekend kicks off our 75th Birthday celebration. It was September 1943 when what is now the Toledo Symphony gave its inaugural performance,” said Zak Vassar, President and CEO of the Toledo Symphony. “We will spend a lot of this season looking back over the past 75 years and where the orchestra has been in our community. With Alain’s arrival, this season represents a great moment of artistic change for our organization, but it also represents a great opportunity to raise a glass to where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.” “I am so excited for our season opener and my official debut as Toledo Symphony Music Director. I’m looking forward to bringing some of my new ideas to the table in the 2018-2019 season. Each concert will feature music you know and love and something new for audiences to discover. We hope you can join us to experience the power of live music,” said Alain Trudel, Music Director of the Toledo Symphony. The programs on Friday and Saturday evening open with one of the most recognizable themes in all of music from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The opening four-note motif has been featured in movies, television commercials, and popular culture for decades, such as The Breakfast Club (1985), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), and The PeanutsThe Toledo Symphony Orchestra welcomes new Music Director Alain Trudel to Toledo for its first ProMedica Masterworks series concert for a community celebration featuring local composer Christopher Dietz from Bowling Green State University and dancers from Toledo Ballet. Two performances of Trudel’s Debut will take place Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 8 PM at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater. “This weekend kicks off our 75th Birthday celebration. It was September 1943 when what is now the Toledo Symphony gave its inaugural performance,” said Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony. “We will spend a lot of this season looking back over the past 75 years and where…


Eric Steckel puts the pedal to the metal when he plays the blues

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News If you’re a fan of bluesman Eric Steckel, you can thank his Uncle Dave. Steckel, who grew up in Pennsylvania, didn’t have instruments around this house. He did hear the soundtrack of his parents’ vinyl collection. His mother and father bonded over their taste for Deep Purple and the Allman Brothers. Then on a trip to visit his uncle and aunt in Stowe, Vermont, the family visited music store. Young Steckel lit up. “I completely changed. I was at home,” the now 28-year-old said in a telephone interview this week. So his uncle suggested he and Steckel’s dad split the cost of a Stratocaster for the youngster, a guitar he’s only recently retired. Three years later Speckel recorded his first blues record, music influenced by the records his parents spun around the house. Steckel hasn’t stopped playing or developing since then. He now calls his style blues metal, a term coined in jest, that has stuck, became a hashtag, and serves as an apt description for what listeners hear in his performances. Steckel will appear tonight (Friday, Sept. 14) at 9:30 p.m. Howard’s Club H. Cover is $5. He explained blues metal as a style derived from “my heroes,” the Kings of the blues — Albert, Freddie, and B.B. — with “a big massive sound, almost a heavy metal sonically.” He said it took him years and years of playing to find his own voice within the tradition. “It’s this natural beautiful thing that happens. Every night you’re developing.” Everyone he encounters, everything he hears, everything that comes out of his guitar “comes  together into this big pot stew, and that becomes your recipe.” He said as a young musician he got a lot advice from people who wanted him to stay true to the traditional blues sound. “I had this sound, this vision, in my head that wasn’t translating. At a certain point, I said I was going to throw out the rule book and find what I heard in my head. It took a  lot of trial and error, and I found it.” That was about six years ago. Steckel is buoyed by the sales of his most recent album “Polyphonic Prayer,” which is outpacing any of his previous recordings. Like his other recordings, he financed this one himself. He’s rejected deals from record companies including Universal’s European wing. They offer “360”…


Choral ensemble brings contemporary Passion inspired by the murder of ‘the boy next door’ to BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Craig Hella Johnson first heard the story of Matthew Shepard, he knew he wanted to compose a piece of music about it. Maybe, he thought,  a song. Johnson, the music director and founder of the chamber choir Conspirare, ended up writing a three-movement oratorio. Conspirare will perform “Considering Matthew Shepard” at Bowling Green State University Monday Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in Kobacker Hall. The performance is part of a two-day residency by Johnson and Conspirare. (See details of residency here.) The performance will be followed by a talk back in Bryan Recital Hall. Advance tickets for community members are $7 and $3 for students and children. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Call 419-372-8171 or purchase online at www.bgsu.edu/arts. Johnson remembers it was a singer in the ensemble who first told him about Shepard’s death. The story of the young gay man’s torture and death in Laramie, Wyoming, outraged the nation. It captivated Johnson for the same reason.  “He just looked like the boy next door,” Johnson said.  “It was quite extraordinary that this could happen to him. … It could have been me.” One section of “Considering Matthew Shepard” is “Ordinary Boy.” “That’s the crux of it,” the composer said.  People hear about hate crimes, but “he put a face on it.” He added: “Hate crimes are spiking again, I’m sad to report. We don’t hear about most of them.” And the way Shepard died, tortured and left tied to a fence barely alive had symbolic resonance.  Coming up with a musical response to Shepard’s death took a long period to germinate.  “It grew over time,” Johnson said. He has often performed Bach’s Passions and realized this was the form he needed to use. From “maybe a song” the idea bloomed into more than 100 minutes of music. In an age of listening to music on shuffle, few people are composing long-form works. Johnson said: “I know we have the capacity for these larger arcs, and I’m interested in continuing to experience that.” Johnson didn’t want to compose something that only appealed to classical music lovers. “I wanted a broad range of people to come and appreciate it,” he said. Bach used chorales based on familiar hymn tunes as a way of connecting his audience to the story. Johnson aspired “to have a lot of friendly entry points.” “Certainly…


BGSU Arts Events through Sept. 29

Sept. 5-29 – BGSU is part of the collaborative “ScupltureX – Igniting Change: Teaching Artists and Social Practice” with the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Toledo Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Toledo. The BGSU exhibition, sponsored by David and Myrna Bryan and curated by Saul Ostrow, features the work of regional sculpture faculty. BGSU also will host a series of presentations, including talks by Ostrow and Mel Chin, on campus Sept. 29.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Sept. 5 – The Faculty Artist Series presents Charles Saenz on trumpet. As a professor and coordinator of the College of Musical Arts’ brass area, Saenz has performed with numerous ensembles, released a solo recording, “Eloquentia,” in 2015 and is a member of the Tower Brass Quintet. His recital starts at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. The performance will also be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/user/bgsumusic/live. Free Sept. 6 – The Prout Chapel Reading Series, hosted by the BGSU Creative Writing program, presents poet Tony Lograsso, a teaching associate in the Department of English, and fiction writer Anne Carney. The readings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Prout Chapel. Free Sept. 11 – Tuesdays at the Gish presents “The Glass Castle” (2017, U.S., 127 minutes, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton), with an introduction by Mariia Spirina (cq), doctoral student in American culture studies. The film follows Jeannette (Brie Larson) and her wildly eccentric parents (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts). Based on journalist Jeannette Wall’s bestselling memoir, the film intertwines events from her unpredictable nomadic childhood with scenes of Wall as a young writer who comes to terms with her parents. The screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. in 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union (Theater). Free Sept. 11 – The Guest Artist Series presents pianist Heather Lanners. Lanners, a Canadian pianist, has performed extensively throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe as an active soloist and chamber musician. Her recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. Free Sept. 12 – The Faculty Artist Series presents horn soloist Andrew Pelletier. Pelletier is a brass/percussion professor, a Grammy Award-winning chamber musician and president of the International Horn Society. His recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. Free Sept. 12 – “So Much More: Ohio’s African-American…


Here’s that rainy day, & night, theme for Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News This is what legends are made of — blues star Samantha Fish laying down the blues to a packed Howard’s Club H for closing set of the rain-soaked Black Swamp Arts Festival.  She delivered assertive blues with no holds-bar vocals and searing electric guitar to listeners happy not to standing outside in the rain. From the time her festival appearance was announced in June, fans have buzzing about Fish’s appearance. She delivered. Fish delivered more than a powerful set, she delivered a lift to a festival bedeviled by constant rain. The weather, though, never got as severe as expected. That forecast of heavy rain and a series of thunderstorms, led the festival’s organizers on Friday afternoon to cancel the outdoor activities for Sunday. The music was moved inside at Howard’s and Grounds for Thought to salvage most of the music. Bill Donnelly, chair of the festival, stood by the decision Monday. It was made with the safety of everyone involved — patrons, visual artists, performers, and volunteers.  The festival committee had been watching the weather, and consulted with the Wood County Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service. On Friday, there was a 70 percent chance of heavy rain, strong wings, and lightning on Sunday. “Probability is probability.” That led the committee after meeting with fire, police and public works officials to cancel all outdoor activities on Sunday. He praised the site and logistics team, chaired by Alex Hann, site and logistics team for being “responsive, flexible and focused on protecting the safety of everybody” as well as the festival’s marketing committee for keeping the public informed throughout the weekend.  Cutting the art show short meant the tents in downtown disappeared Saturday evening, leaving Main Street feeling haunted and bleak on Sunday. Donnelly noted that even before the decision was made, artists were contacting the festival saying they would not come because of the weather. About 20 artists scheduled did not show up, he said, though how many because of the weather is not known. Others asked about the possibility of leaving on Saturday, Donnelly said. Having a scattershot exit of artists would have been  logistical nightmare. Though they lost a day of sales, most artists on Saturday were understanding. They appreciated the decision being made earlier enough so they could plan accordingly. One woman whose husband is an artist said that he has lost…


Music washes away concerns about weather on opening night of Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News On Friday night the music came through at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. For organizers, the day had been tense one as a forecast for severe weather with high winds and a series thunderstorms threatened to wipe out Sunday’s show. It was a day of consultations with emergency management officials, public works and public safety officials, city administrators, and the musicians, artists and vendors who make the show possible. In the end the committee salvaged what it could by moving most musical acts indoors.  The art show and youth activities for Sunday had to be canceled… and the logistics of helping more than 200 artists pack up and leave on Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon had to be confronted.  All this while volunteers hustled to get the stages up and vendors in place for a 5 p.m. opening.  Then festival opener Drew Joseph took the stage. Shortly before during a final soundcheck, he sang “tonight’s the night.” Rain was in the air, but as the night proceeded, that proved prescient. Tonight was the night that despite lingering light showers, the music washed that all away. Band after band pumped the air full of energy. Rock at first with Joseph, and then exuberant rockabilly with Two Tons of Steel. Then high powered, psychedelic bluegrass with Billy Strings hit with relentless virtuosity that tore at the seams of the genre. The show ended with the shimmering funk grooves of Pimps of Joytime.  And festival goers were in the swing as well. They  danced to the music, munched on the varied delectables from vendors, sipping beer, undeterred by the few rain drops that were falling. Bill Donnelly, who chairs the all-volunteer board that stages the event, was pleased with the energy the music brought. “The crowd was as big as any Friday night we’ve had,” he said early Saturday morning while artists were setting up for today’s art show. Organizers, he said, will have to keep an eye on the weather, but plans are for all events to go on as scheduled. Sunday will be a different story. The forecast from Brad Gilbert, the county EMA director, are dismal with storms that are threatening. The decision to close out all outdoor activities on Sunday and move music into inside was made out of concern for artists, visitors, and volunteers. That forecast, he said Friday, was consistent…


Tree No Leaves has plenty to celebrate with multiple shows at Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Tree No Leaves has lots to celebrate at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and the Bowling Green band will have plenty of opportunities to celebrate. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the planting of the seed that’s sprouted into a band that’s a staple of the local music scene. Saturday at noon on the Main Stage they’ll unveil a new session “Prophet Holographic,” a vinyl record issued by the Grounds for Thought Records. “It’s really a milestone for us,” said Dustin Galish, the band’s founder. “Just seeing our name on the same poster as those other (festival) artists is an honor.” The spotlight gig comes at a time when Tree No Leaves is now looking to extend its reach beyond the Black Swamp into some of the nation’s musical hot beds Brooklyn, Detroit, New Orleans, and Austin, Texas. He describes the band’s style as hard psychedelic soul. “That’s an undercurrent of what I brought to it, the soul element,” he said. For him psychedelic involves the “dissolving of genres.” That sound has evolved in the band’s decade of existence. The seed was planted in early 2008 with sound experiments conducted by Galish and his then girlfriend and now wife Sarah Smith. She is a trained musician, who sings, writes, and plays keyboards and performed as Aquatic Fox. For his part, Galish was a self-taught. He grew up in a home without instruments in the house. A baseball player in high school, he came to Bowling Green State University to study graphic design in the Visual Communications Technology program. He always loved music, and collaborating with musicians as a graphic designer. So he tried his hand on keyboards and guitar. Those early experiments led to live gigs with shifting personnel, including Smith. Those first few years the music was an expansion on the abstract explorations, moody pieces in minor keys. But in the last five years the style has evolved. “The last four records have some pop sensibilities,” he said. The songs have shifted into verse and chorus structures, though there’s still elements of improvisation. “There’s a lot more funk, soul and dance. It’s more upbeat,” Galish said of the band’s brighter sound. Before the shows were “more intense.” “You almost had to take a break after you heard us.” Now he said :“It’s a more positive experience. It’s a dance party. And it’s…


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 he’s been told. When he started writing, his music was drawn from his own life….


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 at and see as much music as we can.” The Black Swamp Arts Festival certainly…


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 they are, aligned with the spirit.” Franklin also learned about being involved in social justice…


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 the right balance, leaving plenty of room to roam. “When you start bringing more members…


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 written, he decided to expand by adding a drummer. Later came along steel guitar, though…


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 years was a staple of the bustling Austin, Texas music scene. Others he’s played solo,…