The Livingston County News

By Ben Beagle
September 21, 2015

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Soggy Bottom Boys: Despite rain, Fiddlers Fair delivers toe-tappin’ fun.

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Benny Haravitch sang of “pouring rain” and a storm with flashes of lightning he had never seen before. The song seemed appropriate for Haravitch’s trio, The Brothers Blue, who were performing under a driving rain a couple of hours in to the seventh annual Springwater Fiddlers Fair and American Craft Show at Punky Hollow Farm, Wayland, on Saturday.

The steady rain, while not as epic as the storm described in The Brothers Blue song, “Canadice Lake,” had people huddling under tents and umbrellas as they watched the musicians on the main stage, or gathering around the grounds for informal jam sessions.

The rain didn’t dampen the spirit of fiddle fans, however.

“The weather is poor, but it’s still a good atmosphere,” said Jonathan Staley of Mount Morris, who was attending with his son, Isaac, 6.

The Staleys, who came to the festival with friends, were making ark boats and stick people in the children’s activity area, but were looking forward to the full-day of music performances.

“I like folk music. It’s good for the soul. It’s soul music,” said Staley, a first-time festival goer.

A number of first-timers traveled from across Western New York and beyond — far from the interstate along meandering country roads deep in to the woods around Punky Hollow.

The setting offered a barn that housed about a half-dozen crafters, a covered main stage where professional acts performed through the day, several tents for musicians to gather to jam or lead workshops, food and other vendors and a series of nature trails that beckoned musicians and hikers alike.

“I like the outdoor venue and being able to walk around,” said Wayne Jarvis of Brockport, who was attending the festival on his birthday. “I have always loved fiddle music. It makes you want to dance.”

The main stage highlighted more than a dozen performers, including SUNY Geneseo music professor Jim Kimball, Knives & Forks, featuring Colleen Liggett; Greybeard’s Fancy, Howie Lester & Cathy McGrath, The String Chickens and Southwinds.

In one of the tents erected in the field behind the main stage, Jon Gaines, who traveled from Springfield, Mass., with a mandolin he had purchased from Craigslist a month earlier, met up with The Brothers Blue.

“I had tortured the guitar for years. I needed a new instrument to try,” said Gaines.

The mandolin, he said, “is very portable. It has a nice voice and is pretty easy to learn. It’s very cheerful.”

The Brothers Blue, recent winners of the Golden Lake Folk Festival’s New Voices Competition welcomed Gaines under the tent for their impromptu jam session. They started with a slow song, and then picked up the tempo, encouraging Gaines along the way.

“I come mostly to see the performers,” said Haravitch, who plays banjo with The Brothers Blue and was at his second Fiddlers Fair. “I enjoy the culture of fiddle music and love the strong community of folk players.”

The Brothers Blue — the surname they adopted for the group — also includes Charlie Coughlin on fiddle and Matthew Sperber on guitar. Coughling and Sperber were both first-time festival goers.

“Each song is like a history that has been played for generations and generations,” Haravitch said. “We’re still trying to play each song as it has been for generations, but putting or own feeling into it.”

Rain kept many away from the nature trails until early afternoon when amateur musicians Greg Heimburger of Canadaigua, a guitarist, and his friend Matt Robarge of Naples, a fiddler wearing the familiar red felt hat of the festival’s musicians and supporters, ventured out to find a quiet place to “fiddle” around. But after a few notes, they were joined by three other musicians: Gaines, and the more experienced players of fiddler Sam Sherer, who deftly danced her bow across her instruments strings, and Bruce “Rosko” Homquist of Webster, who has performed at six Fiddlers’ Fairs.

“I like that it brings a lot of local musicians together,” said Sherer, who used to play professional but said she is now more of a hobbyist musician. “This festival showcases some professionals, and then those who don’t want to go up on stage and play before a lot of people can come into the woods to find a spot.”

The group worked together on “Old Joe Black” and then Robarge, noticing how nimbly Sherer moved her fingers across the strings at the neck of her fiddle, sought out her secrets. As she showed him where she placed her fingers, he followed along and together they played.

Soon, they were drawing an audience of their own as more than a dozen passed by, many stopping for a song or two and tapping a foot in time with the rhythm.

“I love live music. I like artists,” said Cathy Gilbert of Honeoye Falls, who was attracted to the festival after seeing a promotional poster featuring a bearded fiddler in a red hat. “I know some musicians, folk musicians, and that picture just drew me in.”

Karen Oun, a first-time attendee from Williamsville, was liking everything she saw, especially the music on the trail.

“This is a great experience,” she said. “We’ll definitely be back.”