The Story Behind The Band Swahoogie And The Upcoming Pleasantville Music Festival

Saneteachers’ Barb Harvey-Knowles is thrilled to land an interview with Swahoogie, a New York City area rock band who will be performing at the upcoming Pleasantville Music Festival.

SWAHOOGIE

As music fans from around the tri-state area are looking forward to the 15th Pleasantville Music Festival on July 13th, I’d like to highlight the band Swahoogie, and the talent behind the music. So join me in welcoming singer Tom Krouskoff, guitarist Scott Kubrin, and keyboardist Larry Gardner from the Rock ‘n Roll band Swahoogie.

BHK: What can you share not only with your fans, but also with this broader audience about the Pleasantville Music Festival?

You can see Swahoogie at the Pleasantville Music Festival on July 13th.

Tom: It is a mind-blowing honor for us to be part of the Pleasantville Music Festival on the same bill as Everclear, Soul Asylum, Aimee Mann and Matthew Sweet!! This is the 15th year of the festival and each year they do an awesome job of keeping the music and good times going all day long. When the lineup was announced last month I received messages from people I hadn’t seen in years who were surprised Swahoogie was still playing, let alone performing at PMF. It’s an incredible opportunity for us. Every summer Pleasantville puts on a great concert with artists I have listened to on the radio for years. It’s a special day for sure. All the people involved with organizing it do a fantastic job.

BHK: If you had to sum up what Swahoogie is about, how would you define it?

ScottWe constantly joke around about the “Swahoogian” way of life. When in reality since we got together after many years of not playing, the sole focus was to go out and have a great time together. We recently played a show and someone posted on social media how they heard someone say “look how much fun these guys are having together” and that really stuck with me.

Tom: I agree with Scott that we are having a lot of fun. Every time we play I feel like I am a teenager again getting that one opportunity to hang with my friends and do  what we love. Swahoogie has always been about connection with friends and people you love.  There is a lot of laughter, but also playing together has helped us through hard times.

Scott:  To give you an example, in 2015 my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was a professional musician and used to come see me play with Tom when I was a teenager. A few months after we got Swahoogie back together my dad flew up from Florida even though he was in pretty rough shape.  That night was one I will always remember. There were a lot of friends there that he had known since I was young, and he had the chance to see me play live for the first time in more than twenty years. Swahoogie became very therapeutic for me during that time.

BHK: I understand, Scott, that you had to face another personal crisis and that being in Swahoogie had a powerful effect on you. Can you share a little of that story?

Scott: Sure. Five months after my father passed, I was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. The band shut down while I had months of treatment and moved into the hospital for a stem cell transplant. On April 7, 2017 we  played the “Scotty Kidd Ain’t Dead Yet” show. The turnout was unreal. More love in the room than one man deserves and it was a pivotal moment for me where I saw what we offer to people and how much it comes back to us. There is a real family vibe and we all look forward to seeing each other and having an amazing time together.  

BHK: That sounds like a wonderful night. How are you feeling now?

Scott: Thanks to daily Swahoogicilian infusions and the help of great doctors my cancer is now undetectable.

BHK: That’s great. Another awesome impact of Swahoogie!

BHK: How do you choose the songs that you wish to perform at your various venues?

Scott: In addition to a steady flow of music that Tom brings to the band there are other musicians and guests that are part of a constant expanding group of friends. Along with that, we try to integrate covers into what is mostly a setlist based on original music.  So we will learn new songs and rotate them within a set list. We generally will not make major adjustments based on venue. Our crowd is extremely loyal and we know who we are playing to.

Tom: And of course, everyone loves when Gabi, Nancy and Terry come up and join us at different times during the night.

BHK: You mentioned “a steady flow of music.” How has Swahoogie evolved over the years?

Scott:  Strangely enough the music has always been a constant work in progress.  Songs Tom wrote that we worked on 25 years ago are still a part of our setlists. I think the delivery is what has changed. I’ve known Tom since I was 17 and his style in writing and who influences him hasn’t really gone in different directions. We generally share the same opinion on song structure and what’s appropriate. What has changed is the way a person in their 20s presents it compared to someone in their 50s. With age and wisdom we have learned to appreciate the art of “less is more” so we tend to take a little more time to keep songs stripped down which helps us focus on how the song should be structured. That or maybe we are just old and patient.

BHK: Swahoogie has a hard core fan base that has been following the band for years. And now you also have a core of new fans attending your concerts, listening to your music and buying your CDs. To what do you attribute this?

Tom: There was a long stretch when Swahoogie shows were very rare. We would get a version of the band together every four or five years. When Swahoogie re-formed in 2015 everything just fell into place. Things have just been building since then. We have friends who remember us from the earlier days, and we now have a whole new Swahoogie family who enjoy what we are doing and are hearing our songs for the first time.    We are so grateful to everyone who comes out to a show, buys our songs, or shares Swahoogie with friends. It’s an incredible feeling hearing people singing along when we play.

BHK: It seems like Port Chester, NY is now your home base for most shows.

Tom:  It’s funny because in the 90s in addition to playing in Manhattan we often played Marty’s in Port Chester with Uncle Swahoogie. Now when we play Garcia’s or Rye House all these years later I feel our Port Chester roots.

BHK: I realize people don’t buy music from the record store like we used to. Do you sell a lot of music online?

Tom: Because of streaming services, we are able to get our music out to a much wider audience than I ever could have imagined.  There are people streaming Swahoogie in Canada, Denmark and Australia! Unfortunately, the royalties from streaming don’t cover the cost of recording, but it’s still wild to think someone on the other side of the world is grooving to our songs.

BHK: Larry, you joined Swahoogie last year as their new keyboardist. As someone who is a more recent addition to the band, what is it like being in Swahoogie?

Larry: I have played numerous genres including jazz, blues, fusion, big band, rock and R&B and I can say that it’s not musical complexity that makes a great band but the energy and emotion delivered to an audience.  This is where Swahoogie shines. The good vibes of all of the band’s musicians deliver a feel good experience which is addictive. That is a recipe for a good band and I’m honored to be a contributing part of this.

BHK: I have been a fan for a few years and it is wonderful to speak with you and hear your backstory. I can’t wait to hear Swahoogie at the Pleasantville Festival.

 

Swahoogie will be performing at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre this Thursday, June 6, 2019 and on the main stage at the Pleasantville Music Festival July 13, 2019 at 1:40 PM. For more information about the Pleasantville Music Festival click here

You can also visit Swahoogie at http://www.swahoogie.com

 

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Annoying Expressions

When I was a teenager/young adult, a common expression when one was astounded or upset with news was “You’re kidding me!” Meaning, that’s crazy or horrible or wow, I can’t believe that happened. I used it all the time.

It drove my father crazy. Even given the fact that my father was very literal, what drove me crazy was that he just didn’t understand the saying. Or perhaps was throwing it back in my face because he thought it was a ridiculous expression.

Every time his response yelled in anger was “Why would I joke about something like that!” He could have been speaking about Watergate and I would say “You’re kidding me!” Obviously, I didn’t think he would make that up. But the expression was that of my generation and it just became part of my cultural DNA.

Now the roles are reversed. I’m of the “older” generation and there are two responses that teenagers and millennials use now that make me want to punch a wall annoy me every time I hear them. Which is daily.

Annoying expression #1:  No worries.

Here’s an example. At the grocery store, when I give the cashier money or use my credit card and am ready to leave, I automatically say “Thank you” and usually add “Have a nice day.” And the response is invariably “No worries.” I want to scream “WHY IN THE WORLD DO YOU THINK I’M WORRIED? I DON’T KNOW YOU BUT AM BEING POLITE!” Plus there is an implied compliment that I think they were doing their job well by thanking them, even if they appear to be counting down the nanoseconds until their shift is over and don’t make eye contact with their customers. But I’m not worried about their shift. I assume they can handle it.

Annoying expression #2:  No problem.

And here’s an example for this one. I am walking towards a building and arrive at the door simultaneously with a younger person. We both reach for the door and the other person beats me to it and holds it open for me. I tell them “thank you” or “thank you so much.” They respond with…wait for it….”no problem.” Really? If they were carrying a bundle of bricks, then it would be a problem for them and it would be nutty for them not to allow me to hold the door. If I got to the door first I would have held it open, and it would not have even remotely been a problem for me. If the other person was polite, I could have expected a thank you and my response would have been you’re welcome.

But a problem? Are we at the point in society that a different generation has to assure us that we didn’t cause them a problem? Did they make a decision that to politely open the door for someone and use up two seconds of their day might be a problem? Do they think that I thought it was a problem for them? And that I would be worried about it?

I’ve turned into my father.

 

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How Old Are You?

I would give credit where credit is due, if I knew who started this on social media. But I don’t know. It’s fun though.

I am aspergum years old.

I am had the measles and chickenpox but not mumps years old.

I’m wore white gloves to church every Sunday years old.

I am Chatty Cathy years old.

 

How old are you?

 

 

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Deenie And The Problem With Names

When working on memoir essays, I frequently change names to protect people’s privacy. Except my own, of course, which if I did, would probably mean that I was turning my essay into fiction. I’m sure that many of you change names as well.

How do you pick your names? When I was first writing, I thought it would be easy. Choose a name I think the person is like. What? I mean if someone looks like a Devon, for example, I would name him Devon. But is that how you spell Devon? What difference does it make? I’M MAKING UP THE NAME. But now I’m obsessing about how to spell Devon.  A made-up name. I don’t even know anyone named Devon. A friend of mine’s son is named Devon but I haven’t seen him in years and I don’t remember how she spells his name. And was Devon a name someone that age would have?

Concern over which name to pick definitely ruins my stride.

Popular names change. Take mine, for instance. Barbara used to be a common name for girls my age. In my second grade class I think there were five Barbara’s out of 25 or 30 students. I was named for an aunt, but Barbara was also a common name in her generation. There were a few famous actresses named Barbara as well, which added to the popularity of the name.

Now it’s unheard of. Last week a student of mine said “That’s a grandmother’s name.” Well, I am a grandmother, so there’s some truth there.

Recently, for a memoir that I’m working on, I chose to pick different names for some people in my life, realizing that specific names, like Barbara, are very specific to different decades.

I was stumped. The important thing about the memoir was telling my truth, my story, and here I was taking an inordinate amount of time changing names.

Here’s an example. I changed a college friend’s name to Paul. But I knew a lot of Paul’s and have cousins named Paul. So changing a name to Paul would just mean that anyone I knew named Paul would think it was him.

Then there are nicknames. Richard’s were often Rich, Rick, Dick or Ricky. Were boys born in the 70’s called Rick or Ricky? Now I have to research popular names and nicknames by decades that aren’t names of actual people I am writing about.

Really? It became a monumental task.

An editor was reading some chapters I had written and said that I had done a good job of fleshing out Tommy. Who’s Tommy?  Okay, now I have to keep a spreadsheet of real people and the new names I have given them.

But the most difficult task of all was writing about my early childhood in Washington, DC. There weren’t kids in our neighborhood to play with and I wasn’t yet in kindergarten. The most important young person in my life was my imaginary friend, Deenie.

Wait. Was it Deanie or Deenie or Deeny or Deany?

When my imaginary friend Deenie entered my life, I didn’t know how to read yet. Why was writing about her a problem?

She was my best friend before I knew how to spell.

My imaginary friend Deenie

 

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Tell, Don’t Show

 

CW: Sexual assault, non-graphic

It sounds a little callous to say I heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s heart-wrenching testimony in front of the Senate committee and the nation, and immediately thought about my writing. But I related to her testimony, and put myself in her emotions—not that my experience was identical, but that my details are also fuzzy.

My memories of similar incidents compel me to write. Yet I don’t remember every detail—only those part of the trauma of the memory.

We all know “show, don’t tell.”  Avoid summary, the Writing Clinic advises, because “a story will engage the reader if it is dramatised in a scene, like a film, in real time with action and dialogue.” But I find it unnatural to write in scene.

Read the complete article at Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction

 

 

 

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On Finding My Grandfather

100 years ago this month, the world saw the end of the Great War.

This day has special meaning for my family. While my father, two brothers, two uncles, and one nephew served in our military, some as career officers, the person who makes the Armistice that was reached on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 so important to my family is my grandfather.

Seven weeks and five days before the end of World War I, my grandfather, Major Harry Aloysius Harvey, was KIA in France, where he was buried until his body was re-interred in the cemetery at the USMA at West Point.

And this is about all I knew of him growing up. Just facts.

1.He was born on January 9, 1890 and grew up in McComb, Mississippi.

2.He was from a large family.

3.He graduated from West Point in 1915.

4.He died in France on September 12, 1918.

5.My grandmother remarried.

6.We never met any relatives from that side of the family.

7.He was rarely spoken of.

He was a dream, a shadowy figure from our past, a hero about whom we didn’t speak often, but of whom we were proud.

Then on Memorial Day weekend, 2018, C-Span aired a special program commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, and focusing on the battlefields of France. My ex-husband, also a veteran, happened to see the program and texted me. I was shocked to see a portion of my grandfather’s funeral service in this clip.

I sobbed.

What are the chances that the Army Signal Corps would have been on hand to film in St. Mihiel, France at that time? What are the chances that they would have included the funeral of my grandfather? What are the chances that C-Span would include that clip? What are the chances that my ex-husband would watch it, recognize it, and contact me?

The next day, two things happened. I emailed C-Span, taking a leap of faith that out of the kazillion emails they receive they would read mine. And I made a decision to get to know this man whose grave I visit on Memorial Day. This man who graduated in the most famous class of United States Military Academy, the Class of 1915, the Class The Stars Fell On but was a stranger to me. This man whose life gave me life. Whose DNA courses through my body. I was determined to find out who this idol of mine really was.

Incredibly, C-Span contacted me the next day and sent me the Army Signal Corps film clip showing the entire funeral, which is available on YouTube from the National Archives. My grandfather’s funeral is at approximately the  7:47 mark at the end of the footage and lasts for one minute.

I googled for hours. I bought and read the book by Michael E. Haskew “West Point 1915: Eisenhower, Bradley, and the Class the Stars Fell On,” looked at memorabilia from our family, and spent hours working with a researcher at the library at West Point.

Cadet Harry A. Harvey and classmate

I read about a man who talked all the time, argued his ideas, didn’t let another person get a word in edge-wise and looked at life with a sense of humor. Then he talked more, and then talked more again. In other words, for anyone who knows me, I found proof that I am more like him than not.

I discovered what it must have been like for a boy who left Mississippi for New York and survived the physical and academic rigors of the USMA to become a man able to lead soldiers and put Duty, Honor, Country first.  I discovered a man who loved life, missed his mother and siblings, who fell in love with a girl from Brooklyn, married and had a son he only knew for 5 months.

This full of life man was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, a feat that is unimaginable to me, surviving one of the war’s most horrific battles for the American Troops, and surviving it against all odds while protecting his men.

Then, after surviving the battles of Chateau-Thierry and the Battle of the Aisne-Marne among others, my grandfather, having been promoted to Major, was killed instantly by a shell while leading a reconnaissance of German lines near St. Mihiel, France.

 

 

 

In June of 1955, the editor of the local paper, The McComb Enterprise-Journal, sent a letter and article to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a classmate of my grandfather, announcing that the American Legion Post in McComb was being named for Harry Harvey. They received back a letter from President Eisenhower, on White House stationery, which was then forwarded to my family.

 

My grandfather is no longer a list of facts to me. He is no longer a man my heart yearns to know. He no longer lives in my heart as someone to idolize from afar.

He is a flesh and blood man. From whom my flesh and blood came, two generations later. He is a man of humor and love. A man of bravery and sacrifice.

As we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the end of the Great War, I celebrate getting to know this man, this extraordinarily normal yet heroic man.  My grandfather.

 

 

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No Horsing Around

 

Spaces or Stalls?

 

Hmmm………ok

 

p.s. There are no horses here.

 

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Catching Fire (The Hunger Games)

Where’s Katniss?

 

 

 

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Can’t Talk Now…I’m Hydrating

Oh boy. I don’t know about you, but I listen to doctors. Take this antibiotic, Barb. Okee dokee, antibiotic it is. Take this heart medicine. I like being alive, so absolutely oh favorite cardiologist of mine, I will take it religiously.

Drink more water, Barb, say my kidney doctor and cardiologist. Ok say I, when I remember to.

I like water, I don’t mind drinking water, I just don’t think about it. I don’t even remember what is recommended for me. I don’t remember what is recommended for the average person. When the nephrologist (kidney specialist) told me to drink a lot of water throughout the day, I was still processing the fact that I have a kidney disease, albeit minor at this point, so I don’t remember exactly what he said. Just drink water, and especially before and after meals in general, and specific foods, well, specifically.

Then a friend of mine in real life as well as blogging life had a serious episode while hiking that has me rethinking my water intake. I owe a debt to Mike at The Zen Hiker for reminding me through his experience about the importance of water. And that I drink about 1/4 of the daily amount I should.

I hope you aren’t getting bored yet, because this is my new crusade and I want you to jump on the bandwagon.

Why should you stay hydrated? Here’s my list.

  1. I like living.
  2. I like having functioning, healthy kidneys. All 3 of mine. Even though they are a little screwed up.
  3. I love my husband.
  4. I love my children.
  5. I love my grandchildren.
  6. I love and need my job.
  7. Did I mention that I like living?
  8. I’ll rephrase. I love living.

What does my future hold? A future.

But I can’t talk now. I’m busy hydrating.

ps. When you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. For real.

 

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Oh, I’m Sorry Thief

I was raised to be polite. To have social skills. Etiquette was a requirement, not an option.

Yes ma’am.

Yes sir.

Excuse me.

Curtsying.

A month or so ago my husband and I were in New York City. We have been there a million times. I feel safe in New York City. I mean I would avoid dark alleys in neighborhoods I’m not familiar with at midnight, but I’m not an idiot.

Grand Central Terminal is iconic and not only does this photo not do it justice, I’ve never seen it so empty. Just sayin’

We had brunch with my son and his fiancee, then had to rush to get to Grand Central in time to catch our train home. We lucked out hailing a cab almost immediately.

God forbid I spend 5 minutes without grabbing my  iPhone to check every app I have and text my son thanks, we had a great time (there goes that etiquette again).

The cab pulls up in front of Grand Central while I’m texting something like “At GCT gotta go.” I shove the phone in the outside pocket of my bag, jump out of the cab, and dash across 42nd Street.

 

Tons of people were doing the NYC combination of rushing by, milling around, taking photos, speaking 400 languages and being lost. Navigating this crowd like a quarterback looking for an opening, I felt someone bump into me.

“Oh I’m sorry.”

We made the train with a few minutes to spare, and I reached for my phone.

No phone.

I searched the pockets of my purse. No phone.

I asked my husband if he had my phone (why on earth would he have my phone?). He gave me that you lose everything look  He said “No, check your bag again.”

Then I remembered being jostled just before I entered Grand Central.

And apologizing to the thief that stole my phone.

Ever polite.

 

 

 

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