“Listen Local” might be the theme of the evening on Monday, July 18. That’s when Jemima James hosts her third annual Variety Show at Featherstone Center for the Arts, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The show is part of Featherstone’s Musical Mondays concert series.
Quickly gaining renown as a Vineyard midsummer tradition, the Variety Show takes place in one of the Island’s most idyllic settings. Families are invited to bring picnics, blankets and chairs to set up among the grassy hills and shady oaks of Featherstone Center for the Arts. Here, on a hand-carpentered outdoor stage, a multigenerational lineup of Island-grown musicians put on a lively show of original folk music as the day draws to a close.
“The Variety Show grew from my living room, where my sons [Sam and Willy Mason] brought their talented friends to play music,” says Ms. James. Sons and friends are now young adults, and they include Nina Violet, Marciana Jones, Milo Silva, Lexie Roth and Sofi Thanhauser. It’s a tight-knit group full of eclectic pursuits and cross-pollination. Nina Violet is putting the final touches on her third album. Milo Silva has spent years in Mongolia, mastering the two-stringed horsehead fiddle known as the morin khuur. Willy Mason has released many albums and tours frequently in Europe and the U.K.
With her warm, truth-telling voice and her 60s-era Gibson Hummingbird guitar, singer-songwriter Jemima James is a cornerstone of the Vineyard folk-music scene. Before moving to Martha’s Vineyard to raise her family, she played in clubs in Greenwich Village, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she appeared regularly at the Troubadour and the Hollywood Canteen. Over the decades she has collaborated with generations of renowned musicians and has made numerous recordings.
Sharing the stage with Ms. James will be West Tisbury poet/songwriter Dan Waters, jazz guitarist Al Schackman, bassist Tauras Biskis, firedancer Martinka Fajkusova, and surprise guests.
Admission is $7, or $5 with Island Club Card, on the grounds at the arts center on Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs.