Steam Train Music Fest honors Toledo’s Americana rootsWritten by Brian Bohnert | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Six of Northwest Ohio’s most prominent Americana, folk and blues bands are poised to take the stage in honor of Toledo’s old-time music roots later this month.
The Steam Train Roots Music Festival will take place Aug. 25 at The Village Idiot in Maumee. The multiband festival begins at 4:30 p.m. and lasts well into the midnight hour, with each act paying tribute to Toledo’s music history.
“The concept is like the roots of a tree,” said Larry Meyer, co-founder of the event. “It’s what other music stems from. Whether it’s traditional blues, delta blues, folk or string bands, they were the forerunners of modern music.”
Meyer said the goal of the festival is not only to pay tribute to the Americana forefathers like Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan, but also to honor the local musicians who keep the historical sounds alive in Northwest Ohio.
“People are a part of this history. It’s not an antiquated music style,” Meyer said. “It’s a niche deal, but people who are already fans of Americana will love it. And anyone who just wants to listen to a collection of good Americana music, boom. Here it is under one roof.”
Meyer’s band, Old State Line, will kick off the concert, followed by Dooley Wilson, Meaghan Roberts, Andrew Ellis and Lucky Lemont, The Blowing Grains and local rock-a-billy favorite, Kentucky Chrome as the closing act at 10 p.m.
Meyer is the drummer and percussionist for Old State Line, an acoustic Americana band that also features Rayna Zacharias (bass), Cindy Lipman (fiddle, vocals) and Ramsey Abu-Absi (guitar, mandolin and vocals). Heavily inspired by Steve Earle, Old Crow Medicine Show and Townes Van Zandt, Old State Line grew out of a pick-up jam session in Toledo’s historic Old West End.
“We’re too country to be rock and too rock to be country,” Meyer said.
Before the group opens the Steam Train Music Fest, Old State Line with kick off the first set at the Blissfield Bluegrass on the River, just hours before taking the stage in Maumee.
Meyer co-founded the festival with fellow musician and bassist for local bluegrass favorite Blowing Grains, Ben Langlois. Over months of planning, Meyer and Langlois scanned the area looking for the best, most versatile collection of Americana bands in Toledo.
Despite being familiar with numerous folk, blues and bluegrass-influenced groups in the area, Meyer said he and Langlois chose the other groups based on their extensive musical repertoires and past experiences seeing the bands live.
“We realized we know these cats,” Meyer said. “We knew that, with these guys, we’d get great music. We wanted it to be like, if we weren’t playing in the event, we’d want to attend; we’d want to show up and listen.”
Langlois will join Meyer in the festival, plucking the strings on his bass with his band, Blowing Grains. Touring the area with the current lineup for nearly three years, The Blowing Grains is a five to six-person group with a heavy focus on acoustic guitars, banjo, fiddle and an electric bass.
“We’ve always got some guitar, mandolin, fiddle … it’s pretty straight-ahead stuff, traditional bluegrass,” Langlois said. “We’ve got a bunch of talented musicians with a solid repertoire of work. Great players, great instruments, great music, all together.”
The title of the event is a subtle nod to the late Steam Train Maury (Maurice W. Graham), a legendary, five-time “King of the Hobos” who rode the rails during the Great Depression before returning to the Glass City and starting a successful career as a cement mason in the late 1930s.
While gracing the festival with Graham’s name was Meyer’s initial idea, it was Langlois who gave the decision a deeper meaning. As a child, Langlois had the opportunity to meet the legendary “hobo king” during a sobering trip with his father to the bearded old man’s house after his own grandfather’s death.
“He and my grandfather were close. They both belonged to the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Maury had a small plot of land he farmed on my grandfather’s land,” Langlois said. “I was super intimidated and super fascinated by him because he was blind and, like, 90 years older than me, and he was old, crouched over and he had that beard. I remember hearing that he was the ‘King of the Hobos’ and I imagined it as ‘King of the Hobbits’ because my older sisters were reading the Tolkien books at the time.”
Graham died in 2006 at the age of 89. The Steam Train Music Festival serves as a small tribute to “Steam Train Maury” and the life he led as a fabled vagabond.
The Village Idiot is located at 309 Conant St. in Uptown Maumee. Tickets to the event are $5 at the door and each ticket is good for all six sets.
Tags: Andrew Ellis and Lucky Lemont, Ben Langlois, Blissfield Bluegrass on the River, Dooley Wilson, Kentucky Chrome, Larry Meyer, Meaghan Roberts, Old State Line, Steam Train Roots Music Festival, The Blowing Grains, The Village Idiot