Reviews and photographs by Stanley Johnson
Last Saturday I found myself faced with a list of no less than eight events, most of them involving low-cost or free entertainment. You can’t be everywhere, but you can run around and try to hit up as much as possible. The winters around here are so miserable, that when the weather is hot with no serious storm threat, I decided to wring every last drop of fun out of the day. Or at least that was the plan.
I started out not far from home at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction on the banks of the Mohawk River. (The river theme was essential on a 90-degree day). The Mabee House and the Franchere Center were hosting the Two Row Wampum Festival and visitors were coming by way of a lot of varied means, including a bicycle rally and by canoe. The Six Nations paddlers were scheduled to arrive to welcoming drums along the Mohawk, as part of an official ceremony along with many hands-on displays and activites at the farm. There were workshops and teaching lectures, such as “Creation Stories” by Kay Olan of the Mohawk Wolf Clan and “On Water Drums” by Dawn Standing Woman of the Mohawk Turtle Clan. We listened to the drum circle, watched a yarn spinning demonstration and learned about snapping turtles.
Inside the Dutch Barn was a full schedule of performers and storytellers, including Everest Rising, who we saw at the Rhythm On the Ridge Fest a few weeks ago, as well as George Ward, Roots of Change, Three Quarter North, Gil Payette and Alden Joe Doolittle.
Maybe it was because of the proximity of the Bad Pig Roadhouse down the road, but we had pig on our minds, so after hearing a nice set of Celtic music and songs of the sea from John Roberts, we were back on the road. Maybe we should have stayed longer, but we were on a mission.
We got to the Troy Pig Out at Riverfront Park in the early afternoon and began to eat continuously. There were more ways to eat a pig than I could imagine, as well as lectures and demonstrations from Larry Sheppici of Jack’s Oyster House, Yono Purnomo of Yono’s Restaurant and Jackie Baldwin, RPI Executive Chef, among others.
Smokers were everywhere, and the atmosphere was absolutely mouthwatering. Many of the Bacon Alley vendors I recognized from last year’s Bacon Fest in Hudson. I had to get another deep-fried bacon-wrapped hot dog, smothered in onions and pineapple from Pippy’s Hot Dog Truck. We had roast pig, bacon on a stick, a bacon-and-mint-chocolate-milk shake, all washed down with a bottomless mug of root beer. We got so stuffed that we couldn’t stand in the enormous line for the People’s Choice Rib Taste-Off, waiting for their one dollar samples.
We ate sitting on the new sort-of-amphitheater steps and listened to the Twang Busters (featuring Kevin Maul on electric steel guitar) and Stellar Young (who I remembered from last year’s Tulip Fest).
Once again, we probably should have stayed for blues guitarslinger Albert Cummings, but too much salted pork and no shade – the main drawback of the otherwise beautiful new park on the Hudson River – pointed us back on the road all the way west to Amsterdam.
When I finally got to Riverlink Park on the other side of the Mohawk River from the Mabee Farm, I got to kick back to the sounds of Lucky Tubb & the Modern Day Troubadours. Tubb, a descedent (grand-nephew I think he said) of Texas Swing King Ernest Tubb, described himself as “the John Dillinger of Honky Tonk.”
Indeed, Lucky and his band – Edward Blake Salomon on stand-up bass, Cole Sheldon on guitar and Billy McDow on drums – played two smokin’ sets of juke-joint-jumpin’ western swing, honky tonkin’ boogie and real roots rock-a-billy. (Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” is straight out of the Texas swing tradition.) I took a lot of notes, mostly fragments of lyrics and song titles, such as: “I Could Waltz Across Texas With You,” “When I Get Down to the Bottom of the Bottle I’m Drinking,” “Hillbilly Fever,” “Cowtown Boogie,” “Take That Hard Earned Money That You Stole,” “I Should Have Never Fell in Love With You” and so on.
Lucky played at least one Ernest Tubb song I recognized, “Thanks a Lot,” another song I hadn’t heard since I was about eight years old called, I think, “Hey Howalina,” as well as a number of orginals from the band’s newest CDs, Hillbilly Fever and Del Gaucho, their third and fourth releases. “That how it is when you’re in the business,” Lucky sang in a low drawl, “You’re a honky tonkin’ man.”
I headed home with twilight in the sky, pork in my belly and some great music buzzing in my head. But I’m contemplating leaving the running shoes at home next time and sticking to one event per day for the rest of the summer. There’s just too much fun around here sometimes…