Original music at Palatine Park brings spirit of Appalachia | Local News

todayJuly 30, 2023 2

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FAIRMONT — Funk, jazz, soul and other musical genres sounded good to music lovers Saturday at Palatine Park.

The Sounds Good Festival showcased Appalachia’s rich music heritage, letting the audience vibe to the rhythm while they enjoyed screen printing, hula hooping or more.

“There’s a special place in my heart for people who want to hear the sounds that the people in their community are making and communities all over West Virginia,” folk musician Annie Neely said. “I mean, these guys are from everywhere, all over the state. And I think that’s really important.“

Five acts played at the festival encompassing a wide variety of musical styles. Along with Neely was Shelem, Habatat, the Heavy Hitters and Aristotle Jones, the Appalachian Soul Man.

Jones conceived the festival with the help of Joel Dugan, a Fairmont State University professor who teaches art. Unleashing inner creativity was at the heart of what Dugan and Jones wanted to create. Dugan said that unfortunately, artists in the state sometimes are evaluated within the tight boundaries of folk or other niche perceptions of what West Virginian art is.

“I think creativity exceeds the boundaries of any one craft fair,” Dugan said. “It is in many ways, a way of thinking about the motive for which we live and how we expect to impact our fellow citizens.”

Creativity is what allows a person to find a sense of place and belonging where they reside. The emphasis on it is what attracted artists like Neeley to perform at the festival. She considers it a celebration of all the creatives present, not just ones performing on stage.

Neely is a seventh-generation native of West Virginia. The state and its history inspires a lot of her music, and even though she’s lived in other places she’s returned frequently, all the way from the age of 17. Citing the late R&B legend Bill Withers, she said one can leave the state, but the mountains will always get up and follow.

“I think this place epitomizes the full range of human struggle and celebration,” Neeley said. “I feel that when I’m here, I felt that when I was away. It’s a place that is beautiful and damned and I think there’s a lot of room to move in those realms.”

Creativity can also find expression in movement. Michelle Stover, owner of Appalachian Fiber Flow makes handmade yarn hula hoops. The business started last year but Stover has made yarn hoops for over a decade. Stover said she sees her hula hooping as an extension of her love for music, allowing her to turn sound into movement. The art is called flow hopping.

“Dance is such an important thing when it comes to music, moving, flowing and expressing yourself and getting in the movement,” Stover said.

The business came out of the need to play the game of permits. She said her desire to do more events required her to go legit and obtain a business license. However, doing so allows her to make and provide tools to other artists and influence what they do and see them in action. That’s the true reason for why the business exists.

The wide form of expression that comes out of the creativity fostered by the event also makes it clear why it is a prominent part of the festival. Diverse exposure to different forms of art acts like a mirror that reveals the creativity lying inside the audience.

“I think that anytime that young people or old, anybody, can see themselves reflected in people creating and making music in their own community, it’s important,” Neeley said. “Maybe they had that spark but they’re like, ‘oh, I don’t know if I can.’ Maybe it’ll push somebody to say, Hey, that girl is playing guitar, or that guy is playing drums. Maybe I can do that.

Zane Hornbeck-Buseman and his partner, Blake Flessas worked on their crochet while hanging out at the festival. Since most concerts at Palatine are usually cover bands, they appreciated original music.

“I think it’s nice to remind people that we have creative people doing great things in the area,” Hornbeck-Buseman said. “You don’t have to go to Pittsburgh to see good original music or DC or whatever.”

Ultimately the festival exists because self expression is what allows people to carve a place out for themselves out of the location they inhabit. The meaning people create for themselves is what forms the rich tapestry of Appalachian culture that the festival, in its wide scope, represents.

“We listen to the history of the place,” Dugan said. “We find an identity of the concurrent systems that make up the people and we try to take all that information and create something that truthfully represents the place that we call home. And that’s real.”

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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