Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

I played at two different venues at Vintage Ohio yesterday. The Lake Metroparks Farm Park is a great setting for this event. Multiple stages, all sorts of music, well over ten thousand people for each day of the two day event. My first show was 3-6 at the fine arts tent, and it was a very pleasant setting. Nice spot for people to sit eat lunch and drink their wine. Other than a bit of cross bleed from the bigger stages it was near perfect. Met a bunch of folks and had an enjoyable time. The second venue at the "wine store" check out area was 6-9 and I was in a big rush to get from one place to another so I just threw my stuff up behind the check out tables. I provided ambiance for the folks waiting to process their sales. Passed out 2008 schedules and made several contacts with many new wineries. Hopefully will set the stage for some future performance opportunities. I missed playing at Wertzstock. the big home town bash, but I am sure they had a good time without me. Hopefully I'll make it next year!
I have a number of brothers, three biological brothers and several others that fit that brotherly category. Dave Noble the park systems current director and I have worked together for nearly twenty years and worked on things together for even longer. Dave has biological brothers too, and one day in the office when we were sharing notes about our brothers it dawned on me that he and I have spent more time together as adults than we have spent with our brothers. Sort of an interesting revelation. I have several musical brothers that I have made a lot of music with. Vance Wissinger is one of several. Vance and I have done hundreds of gigs together, seen a lot of things go down and Vance and I can tell a few stories. Some of these associations have come about as a function of time spent together and others have some other sort of “connection”. For example Bob Hollister and I have not played nearly so much together but for whatever reason are still connected. A few years ago I ran into Alex Bevan. I had met Alex at Miami University just in passing, and we got re acquainted some fifteen years later. Alex and I have played a bit a music, worked on a few projects, helped each other out from time to time, and I am happy to say we are pretty good buds. This past week, while I was transferring tunes from disk to the computer, I noticed how Alex had signed the disk he gave me last fall. It is a lovely project called Fall and Angels. It said To Steve a brother in music. Well this weekend Alex came to my rescue like a big brother. I was playing at the Lake House, and the deck was packed. Simply packed. Instead of setting up in the corner, I had to set up on the end. After I had everything set up, I went to pull my PA mixer back a bit and stepped on the mic cable as I was picking it up. As simple as that seems, it was enough to trash the cable. NO big deal, I always have a couple spares in the bag or stashed in the car……not this time. Alex lives down the way so I called him and left a message. After exhausting a few other alternatives, I started to do an instrumental set. Word came that Alex was on his way! In a few minutes, like a big brother to the rescue, Alex came bounding down the stairs cable in hand and said “I was in the shower when you called, I am between gigs, up from Akron and on the way to Eastlake. Here you go.” Of course I said thanks, and also “Ladies and gentlemen, thanks to Alex Bevan, I now can sing.” Which prompted the front table to ask Are you kidding is that Alex Bevan? Sure I said. One guy jumped up and said “Let me get my picture taken with him!” So being the ever-obliging, but ever rushing Grammy winning soul that he is, Alex stopped to pose with this guy. It was quite the buzz for the next few minutes. So like the perfect big bro, he not only saved my butt but graciously added a nice dimension to the show by just being there. Thanks Alex!!
Bass Lake was really nice this week. Perfect weather and a good group of folks showed up. Nice to see Pat and her gang from Akron. A great surprise. And I got to learn about the upcoming Hobo convention in Brit Iowa. Far out! Who knew? Last night I did a pick up gig with Al and Andrew Bonnis and Randy the percussionist at the Chester Tavern. It was a great time to play with a band and by the end of the night we had a pretty good groove happen. Tonight is the Lake House, and then tomorrow is the Little Mnt Heritage Fest. and I'll be a tired old dog. Aint no pup no more!
The summer doldrums was a term that sailors used to describe a windless period that would set in during the middle of the summer. Stuck on a big sailing vessel in the middle of the ocean in the hottest part of the summer doesn't seem like a lot of fun to me. However sailors practiced all sorts of things to while the time away waiting for the weather to change and the wind to return. I thought about this after playing last Saturday at the Old FIre House. It was stifling hot, humid and there wasn't a hint of breeze coming off of the lake. I connected with the crowd on my very first tune but had to stop to adjust the PA a bit, and lost them just that quickly. The remainder of that set and for the next two was touch and go. It was just to hot and humid to be comfortable outside unless you were just sitting still. I really couldn't expect people to get too thrilled about anything I was doing, and just had to hope they were sitting there and enjoying themselves. It's moments like this when you wonder to yourself "What am I doing this for?" And then some one comes up and says, "We Are really enjoying your music." And suddenly it all seems worth it. In the third set percussionist Dave Hunter and his wife Shelly showed up and it was nice to have a familiar face in the crowd. Interestingly I had a hat on that Dave had given me. I just had a hunch they would show up. For the fourth set, the breeze kicked up, the crowd engaged and I finished up feeling pretty good about the day. And sailed away from the summer doldrums.
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It is mid July. One of my friends Bert Carlisle always used to say that after the fourth of July the summer was winding down. For me it is just arriving. It is very hot outside. I was in my late twenties when I realized that July was the hottest month of the year. Up until then I had mistakenly blamed August for my summer misery. Generally speaking I don’t like hot weather, or should I say in my younger years I didn’t like hot weather. My disposition seems to be turning ever so slightly. Due to the day’s hot temperatures it seemed like a good night to cook outside, and it just so happened that I had venison roast thawed in the refrigerator. So after a brief bath in a bit of olive oil and some seasonings, it has made it’s way to the grill and I am killing time while the roast cooks. I simply can’t do a roast on the grill with out thinking of Gary Pack. Gary and Linda were friends of ours when we were down in Greene County Ohio. They split up shortly after we moved to Geauga County and we lost touch. I think Gary spends some time in Costa Rica every year but other than that I haven’t a clue what he is up to now and I don’t know what has become of Linda. Gary had an amazing comprehensive ability. He was one of few people that I have met that can read some thing and then just do it. He had gotten into deer hunting somewhat late in life, and at that point in history the deer population had not yet exploded in the eastern United States. It was a big deal just to see a deer in the early 80’s in Ohio, especially in the southwest part of the state where we lived. Working as a Ranger Naturalist (bar musician) I was never really “fiscally solvent”, and Mj and I were always scavenging just to eat. I really mean it. Before the kids came along, well actually let me rephrase that, when the kids were still little there were times we collected returnable pop bottles for the refund to buy bread and eggs. That is when we coined the term bottle assets. As long as we had returnable pop bottles under the kitchen sink we had “bottle assets”. So yes things were a little tight and I’m sure you get the picture. Whenever I got a deer, it was a wonderful thing, and we were committed to making every meal count. It wasn’t long until Mj and I had both developed some very good approaches to cooking venison I had also learned some very important rules for dealing with venison. First deer fat and marrow tastes bad and goes rancid quickly. Second, when the meat is over cooked it gets tough and tastes gamey, and finally how you butcher a deer is pretty important. We concluded that when prepared properly venison is so delicious that it was really a travesty to grind any meat into burger. Ironically, many people we know think that is the most practical way to prepare a deer because they don’t like the taste of the steaks and the roasts. So they grind the whole thing up and use it in chili and spaghetti sauce. It was early January when Gary stopped by my office to tell me that he had killed his first deer. He had shot it with a muzzle-loading rifle and was on his way to the butcher. I asked him how he was going to have it butchered, and of course he said he was going to have it ground up into burger because he didn’t care for the taste of venison other wise. I told him that was a huge mistake, and that I would bet a pay check that he wouldn’t regret following the directions I was about to tell him. Gary by the way paid more in taxes every year than I grossed in annual income so the bet meant a heck of a lot more to me than it did to him. Much to his chagrin and with a great deal of persuasion on my part, I had convinced him to give the butcher my instructions. A few weeks later Gary and Linda were over at the house for dinner and I knew that Gary’s deer was still at the butcher. Ohio typically has what is called the January thaw and we were enjoying the warm weather we were grilling hamburgers on the grill. Before everyone sat down to eat I slipped back outside and threw a venison roast on the grill and covered it. The charcoal had burnt down and there was a nice, very low even heat. A few hours later I grabbed a saltshaker and a sharp knife and ask Gary to “Come check this out”. It was well past dark by this time and Gary couldn’t see what I was carving on, or how rare the meat was. I will never forget his response, as he tasted it. He couldn’t believe it was venison. So he called for Linda and Mj and the three of us stood in the dark and ate the roast as I carved it into bite size pieces. It is funny how certain memories come to mind from such events. But I am thankful that they do. Yet another reason for me to be grateful for the deer I killed this year and the memories that it has brought back to me tonight as I have prepared it. The roast should be about done.
People that I have played music with. There are a whole lot of folks that I have played music with in various and sundry musical pursuits, and for some time I have thought about listing them. I don’t know why other than a tribute to things that they gave me in the experiences that we had. Some of them no longer play or are no longer with us. There are some I may have omitted. But here is starting with the first Garage Band. These are grouped by bands, some of which I can no longer remember the name, or by era, and some names reappear cause I played with em in several incarnations: West Milton 1969 Jeff Butts Terry Penkal Scott Flowers 1970 Tim Mote JD McKnight 1971 Wissingers’ Palace Steve Penkal Vance Wissinger Rick Gowdy Tim Mote Craig Foreman John Tomlinson Wayne Jackson Dave Everhart Tim Mote Steve Penkal Larry (Murf) Burnette Tim Mote Bob Gross 1974 Doc Holiday Dennis McDowell Larry Taylor Mark Hilt Dave Hilt Joe Rosenbaum Vance Wissinger John Rhoer Kevin Bert Gary Kurvis 1975-78 Oxford Years Rich Scheurmann Kurt Anderson Mark Grieger Kurt Anderson Caroline Quine Vance Wissinger Fred Rice Dave Young Zutty Sekora 1979 @ The Trolly Stop years Vance Wissinger Tim McKenzie Steve Hampton Dan Cel Astrid Socrates Scotty Robinson Greg Hawhee Dougie the Drummer Doug Hoskins Doug Hamilton 1980 Roy Calhoun Band (The Trophy Club Experience) Roy Calhoun Hawse Vance Wissinger Rick Gowdy Roy Calhoun Band second edition Craig Schaffer Chris Bresenski Pat Hailey The Steve Madewell Band Astrid Socrates Bill Baldock Michael Clutter Vance Wissinger Paul North Late As Usual various members Al Bonnis Vance Wissinger Chris Otto Donnie Philips Mark Mutterspah Drew Bonnis The First Pat Dailey Band Pat Dailey Alex Bevan Tommy Dobeck Ron Jarvis The Madewell Brothers Band Jeff Madewell Mike Gross Vance Wissinger Ron Randal Recent efforts and a number of incidental and recording occurrences Todd Blum Billy Lesstock Bill Watson Bob Hollister Caroline Quine And other I just haven’t mentioned.

anotherriverlunchshot.jpgCaroline Quine was in town this week to visit her family in Akron and she and I thought it would be fun to perform together if we could. We were hoping to do a few of the tunes we used to play in college and some of the songs off of Arrow Creek if she could make it up here to one of my shows. I had a Thursday night date at Basslake Tavern that worked perfectly so she and her immediate family Douglas, Hazel and Pearl came up to spend a few nights here in the valley with Mj and I. It was incredibly supportive of Douglas and their two teenage girls to take a few days of summer vacation in order for mom to sing a couple songs with her old buddy Steve. Consequently I was hoping we could do a few things that would provide a good time. Thursday afternoon we went canoeing/kayaking down the wild and scenic Grand River. My buddy Tom who runs Raccoon Run Canoe rentals estimated our trip to be about two to two and a half hours. We got in the water about 1:15 and it seemed that I should have plenty of time to get back to set up for our performance. A length of a river trip depends on several things; skill level, how hard you paddle and on water levels. This time of year the Grand can drop really fast and when that happens a two-hour trip can become a five-hour trip. And that is what happened. We had two canoes and one kayak for the five of us and as we neared the mid way point I knew I was not going to be able to make my schedule. I decided to take the kayak and sprint down the stream for the next 4 or 5 miles to our take out. So I paddled ahead and left everyone to enjoy themselves at a more leisurely pace. Now I spent most of my time on the river between October and May and I almost never get on the river in the warmer months. And Tom is one of my go to guys for finding out what is happening on the river during the summer. He was telling me that it is not too unusual to see bear along the Grand when the berries are ripe, and we know that there are several eagle nests on the river. I didn’t see the eagles this trip but I could hear the juveniles caring on begging for food at one of the nest sites. I came upon a deer drinking at streamside, I glided under a great blue heron, had an oriole fly by and I noticed an otters den. Small-mouth bass were chasing minnows and a host of other wonderful life and death dramas were going on around me. It was really hot and the sun was bright, and it wasn’t long before I noticed I had missed a strip of skin on my right leg with the sunblock. (It amazes me how that stuff works) I started paying attention to the course I was taking down stream looking to take advantage of the shade and at that time I noticed something that made my heart sink. I realized that there was not a single sycamore tree along the river that was fully leafed out. I have several sycamore trees in my yard and knew that there was an anthracnose affecting them. I have been so busy at work and at home that I hadn’t thought about what effect this was having along the river. Sycamores are those big white trees that grow along waterways through out the Midwest, and I wrote about them briefly in an early essay on the wood that we cut into lumber. They are the largest and dominant plant along our streams and are the anchor of that ecosystem. Among other things they shade the stream and keep the water cool, and there are a host of aquatic creatures that depend on moderate water temperatures. As with all things the connectivity factor is often over looked. If rocks are the bones of the river and the water is the blood, then sycamores must be the heart, pumping moisture back into the atmosphere through transporation. My rivers heart appeared to be broken. These have always been one of my favorite trees for so many reasons and to be paddling by mile after mile of them in decline was just emotionally devastating. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the global ecology is rapidly changing, not only from things like climate change but also in the introduction of regional non native plants and animals, the rebounding populations of certain species and the rapid decline of others. I remember when I was a youngster a line of four large American Elm trees dying in our back yard from Dutch Elm blight, and how upset my father was about this. When I got older I heard about the decline of the American Chestnut. Both situations were regarded as such tragedies. The elms lined the streets in many cities and towns across the Midwest, and when they died these tree-lined streets were forever changed. Chestnut was regarded as a remarkable rot resistant wood that was easy to work with. It was regarded as the red wood of the east. In recent years there has been a great deal of awareness about emerald ash borer and the demise of the American ash trees. I have ash flooring in my house. I can’t help but wonder if in years to come it will be regarded as a rare wood. I had no idea, or should I say I hadn’t thought about the impact of this anthracnose on sycamore. But it was like seeing a part of the river dying. I don’t know what the prognosis is. I don’t know if this means certain fatality for these trees or not. I had an unbelievable feeling of helplessness as I kayaked down the river. It was like the times when I have sat and talked with someone I cared for after a break up or a loss. Where I have been trying to reassure myself as well as my friend that they will live through the crisis while knowing they will never quite be the same. Sycamore Anthracnose is a type of fungus and if you want to know more about it you can visit http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/3048.html) P6120002.jpg

The first gig of the year at the Firehouse Winery, I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and Lorry. They like my music and they wanted to know if I was a teacher or had a degree in a philosophy. We started talking and the next thing you know Ken was telling me he was had an apiary. I haven't had any bees in years. Today Ken and lorry stopped in with a hive of beens for me and Yippie Skippie boys I am in business!
Location location location! It would be a rare individual that does not have an idea what bird migration is about, but an even rarer one who completely understands it I suppose to most folks the term bird migration conjures up images of giant flocks of waterfowl or shore birds that they have seen on Nature or Nova or they might recall the image of a flock of geese. To me I have this process similar to the dictionary where I go down a mental checklist of definitions or images. I don’t go too far down the list associated with bird migration until I see or think of warblers. They are these lovely little jewels that fly around in the treetops and sub canopy in the spring. They appear in this part of the world around the 10th of May. There are all sorts of warblers with their own special beak and behavioral adaptations to make the best of where they happened to hang out. And some are exceptionally beautiful. I never really learned warblers. Maybe I didn’t have the time, the mentor or maybe the predisposition. Well let me say I never thoroughly learned them. I knew and still know some of the more common ones, yellow rumped or butter butts as they are called, or the hooded warbler, another very showy bird. I used to see them all the time when I was leading the occasional bird hike back in Greene County. Whatever the reason I always appreciated the ability of bird enthusiast to not only identify what seems to be an endless array of bird by sight but often also by sound or call. Generally you can tell dedicated birders or at least people who hang out with dedicated birders. At the sake of profiling let’s just say when they are in the field they have a certain look. And that is OK cause most enthusiasts do. The majority of outdoor activity surveys I am familiar with have confirmed that wildlife observation is one of the nation’s top, if not the top recreational activity. These are surveys conducted by a whole host of conservation organizations. They lump casual wildlife observation right in there with the die-hard nature geeks. (Don’t worry I haven’t offended anyone, although I don’t fit the bill of a birder, I am enough of a nature geek to get by with using this self descriptive term) Good birders are a dedicated bunch. They will drive miles to see the unusual occurrence of a bird that is out of range. They spend tons of money on gear and clothing, eco tourism and the whole stick, not to mention birdseed, feeder’s houses and so on. A few years ago a fascinating lady left the park system nearly a million bucks to build a bird sanctuary. So I have wanted to go check out a couple Ohio birding hot spots to see what we should try to accomplish. It had been years since I had been over to the Crane Creek Area of Ohio, which is a known birding Mecca, and I jumped at the suggestion that my friend Ann had regarding a birding road-trip. She was in charge of scheduling the next outing for our social/enrichment club. It is called the Society for Intellectual Stimulation. We coordinated our schedules with another of our SIS members Dan and off we went abirding. Not only do Dan and Ann know about birds, they know their bird business and they also know the business of birds. What organization does what for whom and who is better at providing what services. It was very cool to get the inside from a couple pros. I haven’t been on a bird trip in years and it was a gas. First of all the companionship was great, secondly Ann brought all this dark chocolate and double stuffed Oreos! Now granted my sources of indulgences are often from a bottle and not appropriately consumed while driving or early in the morning. Hmmm although there has been a time or two when I have lived out the theme of that great old song that says lord forgive us and protect us we’ve been drinking whiskey for breakfast! Anyway back to birding….wired by chocolate, motivate by good conversation and ramped up on several cups of java we were on the boardwalk armed with binocs and talking our fool heads off. In a matter of minutes we had seen more species than I could keep track of, and seen a half a dozen stalwart of the birding community. Now I have my theories on successional evolution and how resource managers have to think in big historical terms when we are managing resources in Ohio. I wanted to check some things out with regards to the facility design but I was also going to reaffirm the significance of the geology and the geographic location of these birding hotspots. In other words I think we can make a pretty cool area with this donated money but I wanted to see just what we might expect with regards to bird utilization… There is a reason that those places are there. They are located on major flyways that birds have utilized for years, and people took advantage of them for hunting purposes for years, and some decades ago, some people got something’s right and protected some relatively small chunks of property that is incredibly valuable bird real-estate! As the old mantra goes, Location Location Location. And I was seeing it again for the first time in years. We left Crane Creek, stopped in the little visitor center, got lunch, ran up to Ottawa, hit that visitor center, checked out an eagle on the nest with it’s baby and ate more chocolate. Gee what fun! The mission was a success on all fronts, but I couldn’t help but think how bird watching can be like an art form. Wait, before I say this I must also say it can be and is often approached as a science. More people might better appreciate it if it was more like an art form… Let me explain my analogy. An artist is always looking for sources of inspiration, some come as a big flashy spotting, but others have to be looked for and then recognized for what they are. And suddenly there it is a little jewel of color and light flitting, flitting, flitting and then it is gone. And while it can mean so much to the individual, it can mean so much to so many when shared. And even the most common and routine occurrence may have beauty and value for those not quite so accomplished. Keep looking you might spot a warbler.

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