More South Shore Surprises

We followed the next car in the caravan, dirt road dust at times obscuring cars and road. East of Cornucopia and south of Bayfield, we twisted through Happy Hollow’s fields and forests. I knew I’d need a guide to get back out, and was lucky to have on board young Ursula, who was practicing cornet as we drove. She brought a tambourine for me.

I would never have been on this adventure, except my thirteen-year-old granddaughter and Ursula’s friend, asked me to follow her dad into the hinterlands. We drove deep into the Settlement to join 100’s of campers for the 33rd Annual Baystock Festival, always held in early September.

The headliners this fourth and last day of Baystock did not disappoint. World music band, Irie Sol, played till we dropped. “Irie”, a Rastafarian word meaning positive feelings and peaceful vibrations is a popular response when you’re asked about your well being in Jamaica: “Irie, mon”.

Three singers anchored the band: Chris Junior Williams from Jamaica via Providence RI and Eau Claire; Joel Pace (pronounced the Italisn way: Pa-che’) from Providence via Oxford UK, then Eau Claire, and Lars Nelson, whose grandpa and grandma O’Leary I taught with years ago at Ashland’s WITC. Rasta man Williams and hip hopper Pace bandied original verse, uniquely layering rap and reggae. Add funk, jazz, soul, rock, dancehall and you get a feel for where they took us.

Irie Sol is a big band. A bunch play trumpet. There was a woman on sax, varieties of drums and guitars and keys. Band members popped up in the audience, who joined in, including strawberry-blonde Ursula on cornet and myself, shakin’ that tambourine. For a song featuring a soaring Spanish trumpet, Ursula was invited up to flamenco the night away. 

The group originally formed in Eau Claire, playing shows with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, with No Bird Sing, Natty Nation and Dred I Dread. They’re proud of their roots: Sicilian, Jamaican, Persian, African, Irish, Scandihoovian, with other global ancestries and influences.
Currently Twin Cities-based, the band recently recorded their second album, this on vinyl, “Live in Nashville”. Done in one take at Chris Mara’s Welcome to 1979 Studio, it includes a version of my grandson’s favorite, “Fur Elise”, titled “Beethoven’s 420th.
Not only musically versatile, members of Irie Sol offer a gamut of educational opportunities including seminars on reggae, hip hop, jazz and funk history; presentations on diversity, civil rights and music; creative lyric writing workshops; seminars on music comp, production and sound engineering; and participation-based classes on percussion, improvisation and DJing.
If you missed Baystock or their recent gig at Corny’s Village Inn, check out Who knows? Maybe one of these days you’ll get to groove with them at Duluth’s Reggae/World Music Festival.

More From the South Shore

Versatile Teatro Zuccone recently teamed with South Shore arts and community “sweet spot”, StageNorth, to produce playwright Liz Woodworth’s “Type”. I met Liz a couple decades ago, when I mc’ed an Open Mouth Poetry night at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua. It was her first time to read her poems publicly, and I recall them as startlingly wrenching.
These last ten years, Liz has been writing, directing and performing at both StageNorth and Big Top Chautauqua. Her one woman show, “The Habits of 7 Highly Offensive People” played Minneapolis’ FringeFest this summer.
“Type” is a tale of 3 persons. Josh and Emma are lovers. The third party is an invention of Josh’s that saved him as a child. It’s a voice he long-ago created that allowed him to weather crises and traumas he otherwise may not have pulled through. Unfortunately, his ‘voice’ continues to ‘protect’ him, in reality sabotaging his life. The writing is spot-on. We see our own relationships, our foibles, the very blocks that can keep us from our hearts’ desire.
Remembering Liz’ poems from long ago, stories of agonizing childhood experiences, I can only conjecture that when Josh rids himself of his old voice of fear, this may be the playwright’s release of her now-antiquated ‘protector’. “Type” prompts us to ask if we aren’t living with some old ‘protector’ that now only gets in our way.
Too bad “Type” was only here for two nights. Be on the look-out for more from South Shore playwright, Liz Woodworth. Washburn’s StageNorth Theater will present “Church Basement Ladies” throughout October. Call 715-373-1194.