The Chilmark Potluck Jam has been an Island community tradition for eight years. Last Saturday, families, friends, artists, musicians, friendly fishermen, and hospitable chefs once again gathered at the Chilmark Community Center to share song, story, and fare. The potluck jams are known for cool people and cold local shellfish, warmed with candlelight and hugs, friendly conversation, and a little libation to accompany the rhythms and melodies that unite hearts in song.
The diverse performances ranged from some of the very first chants ever discovered to rocking modern classics. With sound by Steve Mack, fresh quahogs by the Cap, and Alex Karalekas handling every aspect of the event from planning to stage management, the audience was comfortable and well taken care of. Karalekas also performed with the coolness you would expect from a dude known for surfing during snowstorms.
Saturday’s potluck jam was full of amazing performers, all with unique and seasoned performances. Isaac Taylor performed a peaceful meditative mantra with a unique squeezebox-type instrument he got in the Bargain Box. John Gonzalez and his daughter Jessica performed their rendition of the classic Buffalo Springfield song “Stop Children, What’s That Sound,” which lead to an impromptu singalong. Brian Weiland took the stage just after dark with his sons Aiden and Liam, and reminded everyone how even when he is not teaching music to the children of the Oak Bluffs School, he and his family keep learning and sharing increasingly awesome music. Jemima James treated the audience to one of the many excellent songs written by her son, Willy Mason. Nina Violet and Elisha Wiesner played amazing songs, and Mike Kerr, who is touring hard all over the world these days, reminded everyone why he is the Island’s favorite metal shredder.
As Tisbury selectman and musician Tristan Israel performed an original composition lampooning a radio talk show host, many began clapping and stomping along. Young Tash Nagi, age 7, and his assistant Annie Cook emceed professionally, introducing the acts with style and fun. Musica Sky ended the night with two epic piano pieces.
Recent potluck events have been in tune with and in support of the indigenous people at Standing Rock in North Dakota. The placement of an oil pipeline on sacred land has struck a chord with many on the Island, including the Wampanoag population. Musicians and activists on-Island and off are turning to the eternally constructive nature of collaborative artistic resistance. The roots of music are not always explored with song alone, but often with active opposition to certain political and monetary forces in the world.
Carole Vandal played a drum and flute piece with respect to ancient traditions, and reminded everyone that still today, with the sweet waters of Tashmoo on their tongues, voices become truth when people practice the timeless art of the story that holds friends and families together through the generations.
The next potluck will be held around Thanksgiving. It will be an opportunity for everyone to continue to give thanks for this sacred little spot of earth in the middle of the water.