Chilmark Potluck Jam – What locals do in the winter

Chilmark Community Center Potluck Jam - Summer Style organizer Alex Karalekas on the stage recently at Dreamland. — File photo by Susan Safford

Chilmark Community Center Potluck Jam – Summer Style is on tap for tomorrow evening, August 3, at 6 pm.

If there are questions about what Islanders do during the winter, this is one of the answers. There are more than 20 local musicians scheduled to play. The playlist is a who’s who of Island musicians. A bring-your-own-beverage-and-food to share event, it is free and open to people of all ages, thanks to the town of Chilmark, which makes the building available and to the efforts of principal organizer Alex Karalekas.

Mr. Karalekas a young Island shingler, carpenter, fisherman, and guitarist-songwriter, has been organizing the Potluck Jams on a regular basis since 2008, although the first was much earlier. He said that after 9/11 he thought he should try to do something that would lift the Island’s spirits. So he rented the Community Center and invited some of his Island musician friends who wanted to “share some songs. There were a lot of heavy feelings.” He projected some surfing videos on the back wall and invited the community in for music. About 15 people showed up.

It wasn’t until 2008 that he tried it again as a potluck. The idea was to have musicians play two or three songs each, and in lieu of admission the audience would bring food. It was a huge success. Mr. Karalekas said he thinks there have been about 15 since, all very popular, but this is only the second he has organized during summer.

His interests in the event are varied. In the winter he said he likes to give local musicians a forum for their songwriting in a relaxed atmosphere. He said it is a time when Islanders have a little more time to work together on their music. In the summer the potluck can give summer people a chance to learn about some of the local Island talent.

There are many talented musicians on the Island, he pointed out, and a few that have had success off Island, but he chooses to give everyone equal billing. He said Ben Taylor, a popular singer from the Island who could be the headliner, said that he just wanted to play with other musicians and didn’t want it to be a “Ben Taylor Show.” Among the musicians performing will be DCLA, Phil DaRosa, Nina Violet, Marciana Jones, Jemima James, Adam Lipsky, Joe Keenan, and Kevin Keady.

While talking about the potluck and his history with the event, Mr. Karalekas was intently creating a poster on a cedar shingle. It takes him hours to meticulously inscribe each letter of the 22 musicians’ names. He uses multiple strokes from his pencil to create the deep grooves that give him the look he prefers. He has the shingle photocopied and printed at his own expense. The process results in a unique poster.

Mr. Karalekas said, “I like the idea of community socialization, without money, just food and music, with local musicians and song writers.” He is, however, mulling over the idea of putting out a donation cup to help pay for the posters.

Chilmark Community Center Potluck Jam – Summer Style, Friday, August 3, 6 pm, free; bring food and drinks.