By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent Media
In celebrating its 25th year, the Black Swamp Arts Festival is putting local talent center stage.
Each day this weekend, a local act will open up on the Main Stage. Opening up the festival on Friday (Sept. 8) will be Matt Truman Ego Trip with a show at 5 p.m. Saturday, the BiGBand BG kicks things off at noon followed by Toledo bluesman Bobby G at 1:20. (Read profile. ). And Tom Gorman returns for his 25th year on Sunday.
Truman’s no stranger to the festival. In recent years it’s been his children who have been involved, including performing with the Horizon Youth Theatre. “The kids love it.”
But in the festival’s early years, a teen-aged Truman performed. In 1995 it was with the Jinkies on the Community Commons Stage, and then a couple years later he was on the Main Stage with Jackie-O.
The details of those long-ago gigs are faint, except he remembers with Jackie-O playing with the sun in their faces. Not a common situation for a bar band.
Truman is a veteran of the local music scene. Growing up outside of Pemberville he and his brother Ted were involved in various groups that played on the Bowling Green scene. Truman started playing saxophone in fifth grade band and guitar about the same time.
Early on they played in various garage bands. They even had a dual-well cassette player which they used to record. “That’s when you realize it’s easier to be an original band than a cover band,” he said “That way you don’t have to play things above your ability.”
He’s stuck to original music ever since.
Music just came easily to him. “I just always had an affinity for it. It seemed easier to me than anything else.”
Truman started playing all-ages shows at Good Times, then moves to Howard’s Club H.
He left town for a few years, first to Cleveland and then to California. He never really hooked up with the music scenes there. Everyone was too serious about it, he said. Sick and tired of everything being hard, he came back home.
He remembers coming to the festival soon after he got back to Bowling Green. A favorite band Tom Tom Club was headlining.
One of the side benefits of returning to the area was reconnecting with music, first with the T-Shirts and now with Matt Truman Ego Trip. He’s joined in the band by his brother, Zak Durst, bass, Dan Johnson, guitar, Kaela Thomas, keyboards, and Derek Wright, drums.
“Most people think we’re kind of hard rock,” he said. But also funk, and there’s elements of hippie jam bands.
“Melting pot rock ’n’ roll,” is how he described it. “I guess we’ve toned it down enough to play in the middle of town in the middle of the day.”
Truman said he wants to set a party mood for the festival. “We do have a subliminally political element but we want people to dance to the message. … We want to be an inclusive and positive force.”
On Saturday Truman, his brother, and Thomas will play a set at 1:15 on the Acoustic Stage. “We play a lot in the living room,” he said, “so we’re just bringing the living room to the festival. Just sit back and sing along if you know the words.”
On Sunday, Tom Gorman, who has played on one festival stage or another since the beginning, will open the Main Stage with his close musically collaborator Tom DelGreco.
Gorman said he plans to bring back a few songs from his very first festival show in 1993, as well as numbers from a new CD. “In the early years, I made a point of having something new.”
He recalls the harsh weather of the first festival, which was held later in September than it is now. It was cold, he said, and damp. Photos from the time show everyone bundled up. He played a set of his own, and then with a saxophone player. That set was interrupted by the rain that plagued the entire weekend and almost washed out the event for good.
The festival survived, and Gorman was always on hand to play, either under his own name, with his band Parallax View, or in groups with DelGreco and other singers. He often played with friends, including the late Djisovi Eason on drums. “Those are good memories to have.”
Gorman has also shared the stage with his three children, Ben, Joe, and Anna, starting from when they were young and they would join him on the stage in the youth arts area.
This year his daughter Anna will back. “The absolute epitome of any music I’ve done is to be able to sing with my children,” Gorman said.
He will also play a set later in the day on the acoustic stage at 1:15 p.m.
He’s particularly fond of that space. “For an outdoor venue it’s very intimate. You’ll have 40 or 50 people gather in tightly to listen.”
He hasn’t played the Main Stage since 2002. “The festival has grown so much. Now it’s a major concert venue.”
Still it retains its hometown feel. “It’s a friendly environment,” Gorman said. “I like playing for people I know.”