It is my deeply held belief, after growing up in Ohio and living much of my adult life in Massachusetts, that New Englanders and Midwesterners have a lot more in common than they realize. Maybe the populations of each respective state go in opposite directions at the voting booth (somebody has to vote for the other guy, right?) or fail to place quite the same premium on organic food, or the same premium on going to church, or…well, you get the picture. But what most of us fail to understand is that most Midwesterners are just New Englanders at heart, a few generations removed. My people, for instance, came from New Hampshire, just over the Massachusetts border, and my own grandfather was as Yankee as it is possible to be, cardigans and all — even though he was, technically-speaking, a born and bred Ohioan. As Midwesterners, our puritanical ways are your puritanical ways, only without the sophisticated veneer that people in New England have developed over the last hundred years or so, a polish on what used to be a hard way of life that involved livestock and growing food and a lot of Bible-reading, the things that occupied yesterday’s New Englanders every bit as much as they are perceived to occupy today’s Ohioans.
So when I go back to Ohio to participate in some sort of down-home activity, like hosting a local music festival, I don’t feel all that far removed from my life in Massachusetts. Everyone in New England loves the banjo as much as anybody back in Ohio — even if they’ve forgotten this fact. Making music, especially making music with acoustic instruments, takes all of us, every one of us, back to another time — a time when we had much more in common than we seem to have now. I realize this sounds overly simplistic, and no doubt it is, but there is an unmistakable ring of truth to it, especially when you feel the power of music in a setting that brings people together of different ages, political persuasions and even musical tastes — which is what happened at the festival in Ohio.
The 2011 Madden Road MusicFest took place on September 3rd in a little crossroads of a town called Mutual. We had a great time hanging out with old friends and strangers who came to make music. A few country touches (sunflowers and straw bales for seats) along with a building that served as a music hall in the perfect state of dereliction — somewhere between poetic and unsafe — made the day feel like it was supposed to feel: a community made of up individuals, usually cocooned inside their houses watching TV, coming together to make music, hang out, and eat grilled cheese sandwiches made with homemade bread, Amish cheese, and garden-fresh tomatoes and basil. And the tomatoes and basil were organic of course. See how much we have in common?
For a great summary of the day, check out this lovely post from the blog Champaign Uncorked.
Madden Road MusicFest photos courtesy of Allison Marie Photography, Adam Caouette and Tiffany Eckhardt.