It seems that the Black Swamp Arts Festival is, musically speaking, the most underrated festival in Northwest Ohio. Look at past acts: Railroad Earth, Chuck Prophet, The Infamous Stringdusters, Bernard Allison and, last year's main stage attraction, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. The Festival is always well-attended, but it's still a hidden gem to many. And this year, as usual, is worth the 20 minute drive south. Oh yeah, and it's free. Here are four of the bands we're most excited about.
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Friday at 8pm
She's everything the money-hungry bubblegum pop machine isn't. A raw, distinctive Americana melting pot of folk, blues and jazz with pure, captivating energy, the Portland-based four-piece is a shiny nugget of modern-day roots counterculture. She even takes lyrical swipes at the Justin Biebers of the world, angrily crooning "What have these people done to music?/They just don't care anymore" on Dirty Radio's opener "I Swear." She's a loaded pistol that'll keep you moving.
The Bright Light Social Hour
Friday at 10pm
If you think the self-indulgent, in-your-face guitar solo is a thing of the past, you clearly haven't seen The Bright Light Social Hour. They rock so hard that every time the boys from Texas play at the Village Idiot, the power goes out at least twice. Simply said: They have a big sound, from the thunderous rhythm section to distorted power chords to the monstrous, jock-rock vocals. They're also the first band I've seen that makes a Keytar look cool.
Saturday at 3:15pm
I don't know what's more captivating: her sweet, soulful sound, or the biting power of her sad lyrics. The Queen of the Minor Key has the seductive voice of a sexy lounge singer and the sensibilities of an alt-country powerhouse. Her weary, road-worn vocals effortlessly intertwine with a sound that owes as much to jazz as it does twang. Don't be fooled, the Boise native isn't soft; her cover of Loretta Lynn's "Fist City" has an upfront don't-mess-with-me tone.
Sunday at 12:20pm
The new millennium brought with it the return of the banjo among budding indie-folk bands like this four piece from Yellow Springs, Ohio. With rock & roll rhythms that hang in the air sliced by guitar solos and banjo twang, they're a quintessential roots revival band that play by their own rules. It's bluegrass. It's pop. It's ambient, dreamy hipster, folk rock. And it's good.
The Black Swamp Arts Festival runs from Friday, September 7 – Sunday, September 9 on Main Street in Bowling Green. For more info and full schedule, check out www.blackswamparts.org.