Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

Home · Articles · News · Music · Tracking the Bliss Train to...
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Tracking the Bliss Train to Petoskey

Kristi Kates - February 7th, 2011
Songs by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Eagles... country, folk, blues... guitars, banjos, harmonicas, and mandolins. All of the above have made “appearances” at the Bliss Train Coffee House, the quietly-progressive open mic that takes over Petoskey’s Grain Train cafe every Sunday afternoon - and that’s been around a lot longer than you might expect.
“The idea for the Bliss Train Coffee House was developed at the program committee of the Blissfest Music Organization,” Bob Fawcett explains, “Jim Gillespie (executive director of Blissfest) came up with the name. At that time, around 2003, I was treasurer of BMO, a board member, and part of the program committee, as were Jim, Kirby, and Mitch Weber.”
Initially, Fawcett says, the group’s newbie jam sessions were held at the old Blissfest office on Lake Street in Petoskey. But it wasn’t long before more space was needed.
“As it grew, the venue was moved to a coffee house on Howard Street in Petoskey,” Fawcett recollects, “When that coffee house closed, we moved to the Grain Train four or five years ago.”

CIRCLE OF TUNES
Currently held as a circle-based “jam session” with each performer doing one song and then moving on to the next person, the Bliss Train meets regularly on Sundays from 1:30 to 4 p.m., welcoming musicians of all levels and going on with the show no matter how many people arrive.
“Sometimes only two or three people show up, other times a dozen,” Fawcett says, “but we try to be encouraging and instructive to beginners.”
While some people play their own original songs on their own, others welcome a more group-based jam, with the other musicians in attendance picking up the chord progressions and joining in. Roots and folk music “classics,” as Fawcett calls them, are often played as well, in which everyone is encouraged to sing along or pick up an instrument.
“In the past, I or others acted as a host,” Fawcett says, “but the Bliss Train has taken on a life of its own, so the format is informally explained to new folks by those who have previously played. Now there is no formal host.”

ECLECTIC ROSTER
Host or not, the Bliss Train Coffee House is a regular stop for many local roots/folk music fans - and a welcome diversion for those who may happen to wander into the Grain Train on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon in Petoskey’s downtown.
“We have appreciative patrons who sit down and listen for a while,” Fawcett says, “and we have a few who come in regularly to hear us.”
In addition to the audience regulars, there are regular performers, too, an eclectic range of recurring musicians who show up more often than not.
“We have had some great Northern Michigan musicians join us at various times,” Fawcett says, “like Jim Gillespie, or John Richey on fiddle. As far as fairly regular standout performers, I would mention John Hoaglund who also works at the Grain Train - he plays guitar and likes to sing old country blues songs, like Jimmy Rodgers hits. Laren Corie is a multi-instrumentalist who currently plays in a duet - he plays guitar, a giant mandolin-like instrument, and harmonica, and he likes folk rock songs as well as his own originals. Melissa Welke is a talented lady, a nurse at Northern Michigan Regional Hospital, who sings her own original songs and plays guitar. And Gordon Howie is a retired gentleman with a great voice who plays a tenor guitar or a baritone ukelele to accompany himself.”

ROOTSY DIVERSITY
All of this diversity and dedication plays well for the Bliss Train, which Fawcett says will continue through the near future in its present format, taking a break once spring arrives (“in May,” Fawcett confirms), and starting up again around October.
“The Grain Train gets busier in the summer, so the space we occupy gets used by people having an on-site snack,” he explains, “last year the group continued to have some summer gatherings in parks or other spots.”
But overall, Fawcett says, the Bliss Train Coffee House will stay on track, taking its place in the off-season as one of the few steadily continuing open mics in Northern Michigan, and as a place for musicians both new and accomplished to show off their skills.
“The Bliss Train is a great format in which to learn a repertoire of tunes, and to learn to jam and improvise on an instrument,” Fawcett says, “it’s also a great venue to become comfortable playing in public, playing with other musicians and learning the acceptable boundaries of being an accompanist. My role has been as one of the originators of the Bliss Train, one of the most consistent and persistent attendees through its existence, and someone who is glad to welcome newcomers.”

The Bliss Train pulls into Petoskey’s Grain Train (220 East Mitchell St.) every Sunday from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. For more information, call the Grain Train at 231-347-2381.
 
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