I grew up in Ohio, one of six kids (number five, for those of you who believe birth order holds significance). My family sang together. At home, in the car, at church. These days my siblings are scattered from Mumbai, India to Mutual, Ohio — with a brother in Berlin along the way — so opportunities to make music together are few and far between. A few members of my family decided to put together the Madden Road MusicFest over the Labor Day weekend, giving the rest of us a little musical incentive to come home again. My brother, along with his band (composed of my nephews and niece) are the family members making music these days. So it makes sense that they host the festival, headlining the evening with their set of folk and Americana tunes, all of which were original songs written by my brother, except for his cover of Paradise County, a John Prine song that still makes me want to cry no matter how many times I hear it. The rest of the music at the festival was provided by a roster of talented singer-songwriters and bands, with a lineup that ranged from bluegrass to delta blues to indie rock to gospel.
We say that the Madden Road MusicFest is a micro-festival. It’s not intended to be a big operation — the Music Hall above my mom’s antique shop, the site of the festival, can only hold 120 people or so — and it’s not intended to be slick and polished. Madden Road MusicFest is designed to be a family gathering at heart, with an open invitation for likeminded souls to join us for a day of good food and good music. Not to sound overly sentimental, but the plan for creating a music-centered extended family reunion worked, with cousins from Virginia, Chicago and Washington D.C. making the trek to our little shindig. Even our 96-year-old grandma stopped by for a few songs and a piece of apple pie from the Screen Door Bakery. Which was the name we gave to the old screen door we used as a backdrop for a vintage bakery rack (stolen from my mom’s antiques shop) packed with homemade cookies and pie. There was other food on offer as well, provided by my sister Amy and her family, who ran the Madden Road MusicFest food booth, serving up homemade grilled pizzas topped with vegetables that Amy grew on the family farm, just a mile up the road. And Amy also managed to put together a produce stand with her butternut squash, zucchini and pumpkins with MRMF in raised letters, carved right into the surface.
The day was long, and hot — if the intermittent rain didn’t get you wet, the sweat making rivulets down your face would do the job — but no one complained. Everyone was too busy recalling just how good it is to pry ourselves from our screens and earphones and take some time to eat real food while listening to real people make music, all of us part of the same family, if only for a day.
All photos courtesy of Adam Caouette.
For more on the bands pictured — Daniel Dye & the Miller Road Band, Todd the Fox & Lisa Bunny, William the Accountant — along with the rest of the festival musicians, check out the links on the festival website: www.maddenroadmusic.com.