The spice of Autumn Salt
Rockland — In the midst of this year’s typically crammed-with-events summer, a most unusual evening took place at the Lincoln Street Center. The strictly pre-sale ticketed “Salt Stage Live” brought together film, performing and visual arts, artisanal food and craft drinks … and sold out the auditorium of the former city school.
The new series continues Sunday, Oct. 23, with an Autumn Salt program. Doors, the art show/craft vendor show, craft drink bar and parking lot food trucks open at 6 p.m.; the two acts of entertainment are set to start at 7 and at 8:30 p.m., broken up by an intermission. Tickets are $22, again pre-sale only via saltstage.com or in person at FOG Bar & Café on Main Street.
“Salt Stage Live” is the brainchild of Jason Elon Goodman, who has called the city’s South End home for going on three years. He premiered the concept in Portland, where he landed after a seven-year “wild ride” in New York. But the Midcoast has been his destination since he was a kid, growing up in Boston but spending time in Maine, more so after his parents bought a place in Friendship.
“It became a huge part of my life. I always enjoyed the beauty and the people and the craftsmanship,” Goodman said earlier this month. “I wanted to make this the ‘real world’ for myself, after going all around, East Coast to West Coast.”
What kept Goodman on the road — and still does, to a certain extent — is commercial photography and video work for such clients as Gucci, Vanity Fair and Discovery. What keeps him going on a personal level is the side project that evolved from contact with performers, visual artists and writers. Goodman creates short, intimate films about these people and their passions, work that appears on Vimeo and, as an online series, at saltstage.com.
“The idea of the Salt Stage came out of the idea of portraiture, first and foremost. The idea of distilling something down to a crystal — the simplicity of it,” said Goodman.
Portraiture is what Goodman calls his short films whose subjects range from National Endowment for the Arts jazz masters to local baristas.
“I make portraits of them doing what their flow or their artistic strength is,” said Goodman.
It’s not a new concept, he said, pointing to the old footage of John Coltrane and others that one can find online, “but I think it’s important to have someone doing that right now.”
Some of his Salt Stage films have gotten more than a million views, others, just a few. He’s happy either way, he said. He makes these films for the people they will connect with … and that connection might not happen for years.
“Sometimes, it’s better at 50 years out to check in with what someone was doing when they were 20. In their 50s, they’re really solid, but at 20, there’s such a pure passion,” he said.
Response to the online series has grown, and Goodman said he was having so much fun shooting the films, he wanted to share some of them by screening them to a live audience. The first “Salt Stage Live” events interspersed his portraiture films with performances.
“I’ve worked with a lot of these artists for so many years and I’ve helped them a lot, and they’re very giving in return, sometimes performing in trade for photos and video,” he said.
The Autumn Salt edition goes even further, dropping the films altogether and just offering live entertainment of all kinds.
“This one I’m not going to do any film works, because I want the whole event to be live,” Goodman said. “But I was still trying to connect my film project to this event in a stronger way; all these people, I’ve done films on.”
Salt Stage is all about connections, he said, and “I’m hoping that people feel connected to these artists, whom they normally might not meet, by seeing the films.”
The people attendees will see live are a varied lot, offering a true mix of acts. Planning for the program began when Juanito Pascual, a flamenco guitarist who has worked with Heartwood Theater, told Goodman he was coming back to the East Coast.
“He’s a good friend, and he’s bringing a great dancer up, Nelie Tirado. He’s in L.A., but on tour in Boston and because he had a free night, this whole thing happened,” Goodman said.
Pascual and his New Flamenco Trio will anchor one of the evening’s two acts of entertainment; centering the other will be Stephane Wrembel and his band.
“He composes for Woody Allen movies and he’s a major guitarist, Gypsy-jazz-Django-world-rock, that kind of thing,” said Goodman. “Those two guys are guitar gods, really.”
Both guitarists are part of an upcoming festival at Carnegie Hall. Despite their divine status, Pascual and Wrembel have never played together, something Goodman is hoping they will do. During this summer’s “Salt Stage Live,” the featured musicians ended up improv-ing to the other performers, and that’s likely to happen again. He’s asked Edith & Bennett — the farming and musical duo of Edith Gawler and Bennett Konesni from Belfast — to do something out of their usual practice, as well.
“I said, 'Hey, you guys usually do traditional work songs, would you ever consider bringing a log up on stage and actually chop the wood and get the crowd singing?' So they’re going to do a really cool thing,” Goodman said.
Upping the cool ante will be Brooklyn-based physical comedian and sexy slapstick purveyor Amy G, a cheeky comic actress who blends rollerskating, ukulele playing, singing, standup and amazing feats into a cabaret act like no other. And those who attended this summer’s edition — and those who just heard about it — will be glad to know that Miss Ekaterina is back, by popular demand. The Russian-born contortionist (and former Miss Coney Island) will bring her patented blend of circus and burlesque to the Lincoln Street stage.
Said stage is going to be beautiful, promised Goodman, thanks to “real energetic” black-and-white stage art by Josh Cardosa, suspended vintage lightbulbs and artist Andrew White’s handcrafted microphone stands.
“I said, 'Man, microphone stands are so ugly, can you redesign them?' And he took old knife-making techniques and built beautiful microphone stands,” said Goodman, who has some woodworking cred himself, thanks to a stint at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.
Also crafted for the occasion will be libations by FOG, which last time came up with a signature drink inspired in equal part by Avena Botanicals' Rose Petal Elixir and the finale burlesque number to “Ruby Red.” In the parking lot, Uproot Pie Co. will be wood-firing pies; and tea, coffee and desserts will be offered by Morning Cock Granola. Across the hall from the auditorium, local community artist Alexis Iammarino is pulling together circus-inspired work for the art room, which also will have jewelry makers and artist merchandise on site. Her husband, Scott Sell, and local farmer/artist Jacinda Martinez are working with Goodman to produce the evening.
“The last time, I did everything solo and had three hours of set-up and had to have this place swept up by sunrise, so I didn’t get to see or feel the event. This time, there are three people doing my job,” Goodman said.
Other “great people” on board are Glen DuBois and Bill Giordano on sound; and Daniels Stephens and Quintanilla helping with filming.
“We archive each performance, so it’s like live portraiture. I have two videos up from the last one and am hoping to get another one up before the show,” Goodman said.
The filming is for more than memorabilia. Now on his 100th episode of Salt Stage, Goodman is applying for different grants, from the Kindling Fund to looking into some NEA grants, to support the portraiture films, which he likens to the documentary work of Alan Lomas.
“It’s been all funded from my own commercial work, and I’m really trying to make an archive of what we’re doing right now — the artistry, all these people,” he said. “I’d love to leave my commercial work behind and rock this for 40 years and then pass the torch to someone young and hungry, that would be a fun life!”
In the meantime, Goodman is having a lively time creating the Autumn Salt program.
“I’ve brought up light, fun, feminine-energy acts to help the ‘serious guys’ balance out, so it should be fun. And we’re working hard on finding some great surprise guest, maybe get some national attention on here,” he said. “I feel there’s a good potential for this project to take flight.”
A corps of volunteers has come forward as they did for this summer’s Midcoast premiere — Goodman surprised them by paying them, with the goal of “good karma all round” — and he came out even. But that was summer, so the pressure is on a bit this time. He said he needs to do at least as well as last time to make ends meet.
“My goal is to sell it out. We’ll put some seats down here [on the floor], some lounge areas with vintage couches — we’re working with Rockland Marketplace. I think we’re going to be around 450,” he said.
The summer “Salt Stage Live” had a Nashville theme, while this one is more along the latitude of Spain and France, he said. An overall theme for “Salt Stage Live” reflects the city it takes place in, where many a seagoing schooner was built.
“The idea of a sea captain who goes out and maybe brings back textiles and saffron and all these things that aren’t here back to port,” Goodman said. “I want to keep that idea going: the town owns the vessel, but we’re bringing in the spices!”