Nowhere Else Festival

Recap: Nowhere Else Festival (May 27-29, Nowhere Farm, OH)

IMG_7597I half-joked this morning to my good friend Josh Hurst that Nowhere Else Fest might better be described as a backyard barbecue that got a little out of hand, rather than a music festival in any familiar sense of the term.  Perhaps more generally, one might just call it a celebration of community.

To longtime Over The Rhine fans, particularly those based in and around the band’s home base of southwest Ohio, this community is quite tangible.  As Nowhere Farm and adjacent Nowhere Else continue to take shape, OtR have given this community – along with their loyal brothers and sisters, dispersed throughout the world – a place to gather, eat, drink, listen, converse, sing, dance and celebrate.  This year marked the first time that Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler expanded the scope of this gathering to include many of their friends, who happen also to be some of the most extraordinary artists in the world.

Among this community, I am a bit late to the game, having been a fan for only about half of their quarter century career.  But I was very much a supporter long before their paths crossed that of Joe Henry.  It was a thrill for me when they sought him out to produce The Long Surrender (and re-enlisted him for the follow-up Meet Me At The Edge Of The World), but it has been incredibly gratifying to witness the bond that they have forged in the past few years.  There were many connected dots at Nowhere Else Fest, and many of those connections could be traced back to Joe Henry as much as Over The Rhine.

I am not being coy when I tell you that a thorough daily breakdown would be far too daunting (and potentially boring) to undertake here.  The festival essentially began Friday night with a VIP event that included food, drink and an insanely intimate performance by OtR.  They were, as they were all weekend, joined by The Band Of Sweethearts, which includes Jay Bellerose on drums, Brad Meinerding on guitars, Eric Heywood on pedal steel and Jennifer Condos on bass.  Many of these astounding musicians pulled double-duty by joining The Comet Bluegrass All-Stars (in Brad’s case) and Joe Henry (in Eric, Jen and Jay’s case).  The festival-proper kicked off, bright and early, around 10am on Saturday with a number of events, which included a seminar with master photographer Michael Wilson and nature painter Rebecca Weller, not to mention an emotional reading by Barry Moser from his memoir We Were Brothers.  We were then treated to a lovely kickoff set by OtR, which set the stage for all kinds of incredible musical moments, which would simply threaten to eclipse one another throughout the weekend.  Here are only a few…

IMG_7598Joe Henry:  Acoustic set on Saturday, joined by Levon Henry for most of it.  What more could a JH fan ask for?  How about a Sunday morning songwriting seminar that stretched nearly two hours?  I’m sure I have mentioned many times how generous Joe Henry is with him time, but it was a rare treat indeed to hear his philosophy on songwriting (and life?) in such an incredible setting, nestled as we were in the loft of OtR’s barn, future home to intimate performances, recordings and who-knows-what-else.

Then came his Sunday set, effectively opening for The Blind Boys of Alabama.  Josh and I agreed that perhaps it was the best show we’ve ever seen by Joe – loose, wild, intense and exuberant.  He was joined by Jen, Jay, Levon, and, for a few numbers, by Eric Heywood on pedal steel (“Plainspeak” was revealed to be a loping honky-tonk number).  Then to cap it off, he invited JT and Allison from Birds of Chicago to join him for a smoking rendition of John Prine’s “Storm Windows.”  Who else, but Joe Henry, could reimagine “Storm Windows” as a semi-gospel rave-up, not the least bit unlike the many versions of The Band’s “The Weight” that you’ve heard so many times?  It was, very possibly, the musical highlight of a weekend completely jam-packed with them.

But, of course, there was…

IMG_7601 (1)Birds of Chicago:  You will not speak to a soul at Nowhere Else Fest who will fail to rant, rave and tug at your coattail with tales of wonder and revelation, served from the altar of Birds of Chicago.  I will wager that they came into this festival as the relative unknown and left as the band on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  Their Saturday set was a reminder that live performance can aspire to something approaching a tent revival, assuming you believe that music is but one of many ways that the Divine reveals Himself to our eyes and ears.  But even if you don’t… Birds of Chicago were simply a force of nature.  Look at it this way:  they have released arguably the best record of the year (Real Midnight, produced by Joe Henry), and easily my favorite song of 2016 (“Remember Wild Horses”), and, yet, I was wholly unprepared for how powerful the band would be in a live setting.  Birds of Chicago are getting ready to hit the summer folk festival circuit, and they will spend most of the summer re-printing t-shirts and CD’s.

But, of course, there was…

IMG_7566Over The Rhine:  What.  A.  Vision.  The journey to this festival has been an act of sheer will on the part of Karin and Linford.  One can hardly imagine what they were thinking years ago when this journey began, but the rest of us are the beneficiaries of their foresight, which appreciated their community perhaps more than anyone else.  They played set after set, stunning their seasoned audience each time.  But, of course, OtR fans have come to expect nothing less.  Did I mention that Levon Henry repeatedly joined the band on saxophone and seemed to take his playing to new heights each time?

Over The Rhine have ventured into uncharted territory with this music and arts festival, and I don’t envy them their task for next year: somehow conceive an event that matches the power of this year’s Nowhere Else Fest without wholly repeating it.

Or just repeat it – please, just do.

IMG_7508(And, yet, I have failed to mention: workshops with Michael Wilson and Barry Moser, a lovely set by Lily & Madeleine, the always-charming Lucy Wainwright Roche, Levon Henry’s revelatory solo set, the stunning art of Melanie Ciccone.  The candid and touching discussion of music and healing, featuring Jeffrey A. Ward.  And the many lovely family and fans that I met this weekend.)

It was all there at Nowhere Else Fest — see you next year!

 

 

Joe Henry Odds N Ends: Late Spring Edition

It’ll hit 90 degrees in Houston this week, so I figured time was running out to post any Late Spring JH news…

  • As previously mentioned, JH will appear at Over The Rhine’s Nowhere Else Festival over Memorial Day weekend.  You can get a clearer picture of what to expect at the festival’s website.
  • In addition to the new Allen Toussaint record (due June 10), there are several new production projects due in 2016:
    • Chely Wright’s new album I Am The Rain will be released in September.
    • Canadian singer-songwriter Rose Cousins has recorded a new record with JH and will be released later this year (you can pre-order the record from her website to receive it sometime prior the official release).
    • JH’s own website lists a new production from Austrian band Son of the Velvet Rat.
  • Stefan has a terrific new interview with Birds of Chicago, conducted while they were on tour in Europe.
  • JH will appear with Rosanne Cash on June 20 in Los Angeles at an event called Composed: The Intersection of Poetry and Song.  Reservations are closed but you can stand-by for admission on the day of the event.
  • JH will open for Rhiannon Giddens at her date this summer at Prospect Park Bandshell as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! series (announcement on May 10).
    (UPDATE:  Sorry, this was from 2015 – my mistake.  But if you are going to be in the NYC area in July, why not check this out?)
  • There is an amazing interview with engineer Ryan Freeland, conducted by Steve Dawson for his Music Makers and Soul Shakers Podcast.  Dawson has also interviewed Bill Frisell, Mary Gauthier and, most recently, Marc Ribot.  (Also available on iTunes)
  • And speaking of Ribot, as you may recall, he and JH performed as a duo at the recent Big Ears Festival in Knoxville (read Josh Hurst’s review of the show here).  You can watch much of the performance on YouTube in four parts (see below).

Big thanks to Stefan Vandenberghe for keeping us updated when I am sometimes slacking off!

Joe Henry to appear at Over The Rhine’s Nowhere Else Festival in May

Following last year’s inaugural Nowhere Else Festival at their home, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of Over The Rhine have expanded the format of this year’s festival to include several guest artists.  I wasn’t able to find the contents of their latest email update online, so I’ve just reproduced it here.  Joe Henry will appear at the festival this year, alongside several other noteworthy artists, including Levon Henry.  A festival FAQ link and ticket link can be found at the bottom of the update…

Dear barn swallows, barn owls, barn raisers, blue jean sky dreamers, hayloft guitars, barn dance beauties…

Last May we gathered on the beautiful piece of unpaved earth we have come to call home for special barn-raising concerts. It was truly the weekend of a lifetime for Karin and I as we began taking real steps toward the next chapter for our music and life’s work. Saving and restoring a 140-year-old barn was something we could never have done on our own. Just like in years long past, it still takes a community and extended family.

This year we are growing.

Hopefully you’ve heard by now that Karin and I are hosting our first Music and Arts Festival on the farm this Memorial Day Wknd, May 28 & 29. (There is a special gathering on the 27th as well.)

What fun it has been to invite some of the songwriters, visual artists and writers who have shared the journey – people who have not only inspired our work, but who have kindled in us the desire to be better people.

We started by asking three of our most important, treasured teachers – and dear friends. Imagine our joy when they all said yes!

Perhaps you’ll tolerate our excitement if we write just a few personal reflections on a few of them. (We’ll announce the full line-up and festival schedule soon – some artists and writers are still being confirmed.)

So without further ado, here is a first taste of some of our favorite people – some of those who will be joining us this Memorial Day Weekend at Nowhere Else Festival 2016! We truly hope you can be a part of it.

Rivers and oceans,

Linford and Karin

First, we invited Michael Wilson. Michael is one of the great photographers and picture-makers of our generation and has been a faithful friend since we met in 1988. He probably doesn’t think of himself as having helped mentor Karin and I but that’s exactly what he did. Over the years he has made beautiful portraits of many of our songwriting peers and heroes.  He was the first person to spin a Tom Waits record for us late one night. He has contributed photographs to over 20 of our recording projects, and his beautiful work undoubtedly made the songs more resonant than they would have been on their own.

We can’t host our first music and arts festival without Michael and his work. Michael will present some of his photographs in the barn, talk about his work and some of the pictures that made him want to be a photographer. You’ll also have the opportunity to follow Michael and his camera on a photo ramble through nearby Wilmington, Ohio, and make pictures alongside a true master of the craft.

Check out some of Michael’s photographs here: michaelwilson.pictures

Joe Henry was our next call. Joe is a multiple Grammy-award winning songwriter, record producer, writer, espresso connoisseur and so much more. At a turning point in our career, Joe helped Karin and I blow the seams out of our songs and record The Long Surrender and Meet Me At The Edge Of The World – records that were funded by our extended musical family, and therefore collaborative efforts at art making.

As a brother and kindred spirit, Joe has opened and nurtured an ongoing conversation with us that has continued to billow our sails. Meeting and working with Joe is one of the reasons that Karin can even now say with full conviction, There is still so much music left to be made.

Joe introduced us to the incredible musicians who eventually became The Band of Sweethearts, and of course they will be present at the festival as well.

Joe and his band will be performing at the festival but we’ll also find opportunities for Joe to perform solo and talk about his life’s work and discoveries as a songwriter, record producer, author and consummate student of life. Don’t miss this unique chance to lean fully into his sway.

BARRY MOSER has illustrated over 300 books. In addition to being an illustrator, he is also a printer, painter, printmaker, designer, author, essayist and teacher. (Not to mention dog lover.) He has won far too many awards to list.

His illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland won him a National Book Award for design and illustration. His illustrations for Moby Dick confirmed his world-class stature as one of the great engravers and printmakers of our generation.

Barry’s work is represented in numerous collections, museums and libraries in the United States and abroad, including the National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum, The British Museum, The Library of Congress, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge et cetera.

One rewarding thing about being a songwriter is you never quite know where the path will lead. Meeting and befriending Barry has been one of the great, good, unexpected gifts of this life. And Barry has taught us so much as we have shared a thousand laughs…

Barry was the first person we heard announce to any artist within earshot: “Talent is as common as house dust, and about as useful as teats on a boar hog…”

To Barry, it’s not about talent, it’s about doing the work.

Barry encourages all of his students not to call themselves “artists” but rather to call themselves by the work they do: songwriter, painter, writer, pianist, photographer… Barry says, let someone else decide if it’s art. Keep your focus on the work at hand, the craft. Make it about doing your best work.

Barry was the only 20th Century artist to profusely illustrate the King James Bible. There are only a few of these treasures still available – The Pennyroyal Caxton primary edition was limited to 450 copies. (Most were snatched up by the world’s great art museums and libraries…) Barry has donated one of these few remaining editions to our barn raising effort. It will be made available for bid at Nowhere Else Festival, and someone will take home a timeless work of art that can be passed down for many generations to come.

At the festival, Barry will be reading from his fine new memoir, We Were Brothers, and offering a number of workshops. You may well have occasion to meet and draw with one of the great artists – we said it – of our time.

So there you have it. It’s not an overstatement to say that Karin and I would have likely hung up our songwriting hats along the way had we not met these three unique, gifted artists and fellow-travelers. We can’t wait to share them with you.

Briefly, allow us to mention a few other gifted folks who will be descending on the farm with all manner of goodness to share:

We asked five-time Grammy Award winners THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA to have the last word this year. After all, we’re putting up a big, beautiful tent, why not close the festival with a tent-meeting revival of sorts. We’re going to let the Blind Boys’ soulful harmonies baptize the farm with roiling joy. Lift a glass, shed a few tears. What a coup.

We asked Rebecca Weller to discuss and display some of the beautiful paintings she’s been making of Ohio’s native songbirds ~ the birds we see most everyday on Nowhere Farm/Nowhere Else.

We asked Levon Henry to share some of the songs he’s been writing, and to bring his saxophone and sit in on some of the songs that he has recorded with us – There’s A Bluebird In My Heart, All My Favorite People… He’ll be performing with his father Joe’s band as well. Can’t wait for the sound of his voice and horn to put our world on notice.

Songwriter and story-teller extraordinaire Lucy Wainwright Roche will be on the scene, offering her songs and spring-water clear voice.

Cincinnati musical institution, The Comet Bluegrass Allstars, will pull from their 1000 song repertoire and grace our place with their virtuosity and humor.

And of course Over the Rhine and the Band of Sweethearts will offer concerts each day of the festival. It’s our party and we’ll cry (and laugh) if we want to…

There is more to come! We will announce the full festival line-up and schedule soon. There are additional workshops tba, and I’m planning a little nature walk on the farm with gifted nature photographer Kent Burgess and naturalist Kent Mitchell – we’ll ramble around, talk trees, songbirds, wildflowers, wild edges – and call them by name.

As we continue to reinvent and re-imagine what it means to have a music career in 2016, we hope you will join us on the farm for what’s shaping up to be a truly amazing weekend. Please share and help us spread the word.

Nowhere Else Festival tickets available here:
http://stores.portmerch.com/overtherhine/nowhere-else-festival.html

FAQ available here:
http://portmerch.com/downloads/2016_Festival_FAQ.pdf

Peace like a river, love like an ocean,

Linford and Karin