From bluegrass to blues, Mike Joseph has assembled another diverse batch of performers for the Naples Grape Festival
Mike Joseph is a Naples civic leader, the co-owner of the Mitchell-Joseph Insurance Agency — and a music guy. A singer-songwriter who hosts multiple open-mics in Naples, Joseph can often be found haunting music venues throughout the region checking out bands and performers of many a genre.
That serves him well when it comes time to take on one of his volunteer tasks in the community — putting together the live-music schedule for the Naples Grape Festival. The longtime voluntary chairman of the festival — Donna Scott is executive director — Joseph books a two-day lineup of music-makers of diverse genres, styles and sounds, with an emphasis on artists performing original material.
"That's the way I've rolled for probably about 10 years," Joseph said. That doesn't mean fest-goers won't hear the occasional familiar tune, of course: "Any band has their favorite covers," he said, "but there aren't many venues of this scale who are focusing on original music."
Joseph figures that focus is in keeping with the quality and calibre of the Grape Festival itself. The two-day celebration of the area's most prominent of crops — and the many delectables that feature it in the starring role, especially wines and pies — includes a juried art show, a tasting tent featuring the offerings of Finger Lakes wineries (plus a brewery and cidery) for a $15 admission, a diverse lineup of food vendors; and, of course, the World's Greatest Grape Pie Contest. Sponsored by Naples Rotary, this year's festival is this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Main and Monier streets — in and around the grounds of the Naples Memorial Town Hall and, across Main Street, Naples Central School. Many locals up and down Main Street and the vicinity get in the spirit of the festival with lawn sales, food and drink and such, though the festival notes that they aren't officially sanctioned vendors.
The live-music lineup this year consists of eight acts that have come to Joseph's notice and made an impact — some through demos they've sent, some through his seeing them live: "People submit links to be a part of it, and I go to see music — sometimes you see somebody that strikes you like, 'WOW, that was great.'" That's what happened when he heard the blues/funk/roots band Freightrain at Fanatics Pub in Lima — he thinks he pretty much booked them for the festival on the spot. Or when he heard roots rocker Alison Pipitone, a fixture in the Buffalo music scene, playing Abilene Bar & Lounge in Rochester: She had a style Joseph found reminiscent of critically acclaimed alt-country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, and it resonated with him.
Over the years Joseph has learned a lot about planning out the flow of music — such as starting off with a softer, more reflective act in the morning before rocking out later in the day. He looks back at one of his first experiences booking the music, when he neglected to leave time between sets for stage take-down and set-up, let alone tuning, which bumped everybody off schedule — his own band, booked for the final slot, ended up playing when the festival was over and all but a few die-hards had gone home. Live and learn — he's had a lot more experience both playing and planning, and laughs at it now.
This year's lineup is a mix of longtime local performers like the Rochester area's Brian Lindsay Band (one of only two acts Joseph recalls ever booking twice, in his zeal to expose as many acts as possible), local rising stars like Naples bluegrasser Aaron Lipp (who's also put in time playing reggae, blues and more with such big-name acts as Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Robert Randolph & The Family Band), and folks who just caught Joseph's attention, like Freightrain. Many a genre is represented: country, blues, roots, bluegrass, rock and roll, and the harp/guitar stylines of Rhythm Flow that draw from mutiple traditions. There's also a number of Buffalo performers this year — it just kind of worked out that way, Joseph noted.
The performance area is located behind the Memorial Town Hall. The music lineup is as follows:
Saturday, 10:45-11:45 a.m.: Sarah Parker, a Buffalo-based singer-songwriter who draws from country, folk, rock and gospel streams, recently released her debut album "Strawberry Moon" (produced by husband Robert "Freightrain" Parker, next on the bill).
Saturday, 12:25-1:30 p.m.: Freightrain, a blues/funk/roots band, is led by bassist and Buffalo Music Hall of Famer Robert "Freightrain" Parker, whose music is also informed by his Indigenous (Seneca) heritage.
Saturday, 2-3:15 p.m.: Alison Pipitone Band plays American alt-rock with elements of punk, country, blues and folk. It's lef by Pipitone, a 22-year veteran of the Western New York music scene.
Saturday, 3:45-5 p.m.: Brian Lindsay Band is a Rochester-based Americana/roots band that fans of Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen or John Hiatt would likely appreciate. Lindsay has often turned his songwriter's gaze on this region — note the title of one of his discs, "Esperanza."
Sunday, 10:45-11:45 a.m.: Rhythm Flow is the partnership of harpist Mary Monroe, a longtime area performer (folk, ambient, rock) and guiarist Nate Coffey. Their music is informed by classical, New Age, folk, rock, jazz and blues, including arrangements of ambient music from medieval to contemporary.
Sunday, 12:25-1:30 p.m.: Alan Murphy, frontman for Rochester area rock band The Mighty High and Dry, plays a solo set on guitar and piano.
Sunday, 2-3:15 p.m.: Miller & The Other Sinners, Buffalo-based roots rockers led by Dave Miller, play music with elements of gospel, R&B, electric blues and singer-songwriter folk.
3:45-5 p.m.: Multi-instrumentalists Aaron Lipp and Bobby Henrie join forces for the festival's closing set. Lipp, from Naples has played all sorts of music but has found his home in recent years in bluegrass and old-time music. The Middlesex-based Henrie is in a number of projects: Bobby Henrie & The Goners, The Henrie Brothers String Band, The Djangoners and more. Expect to hear ... just about anything.