The battle lines have been drawn.
For some years now the town of Oak Bluffs has hosted an annual Monster Shark Tournament during a weekend in July. The event is well attended by both fishermen and spectators. But it is also protested regularly.
This year musicians Joyce and Steve Maxner of West Tisbury, who count themselves in the latter camp, formed a group called Vineyarders Against Shark Tournaments (VAST). Mr. Maxner called on a roster of Island songwriters to compose and perform songs at a concert held last Sunday evening at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.
William Waterway set the tone with his Native American flutes and Allie and Noah Maxner’s cello and ukulele with bowed bells evoked the mysteries of the deep blue sea. Niki Patton singing a country-and-western style song, Betting on Sharks, reminded one of Janis Joplin.
Daniel Waters composed two shark songs, For The Stray and Estranged and All For The Killing. Michael West debuted a tune loaded with satirical lyrics, including “They’re loading beer by case-lots into coolers / Don’t you know the boys just want to have some fun.”
Mr. Maxner, playing guitar, mandolin and banjo, composed the songs, Hang ‘Em High, The Last Shark and Hold On, We’re Comin,’ the title of a CD created for the concert.
Kenny Lockwood contributed Day of Days and Rico Holley, home due to an appendicitis attack, wrote Shark Hunt.
Poet and musician Nancy Jephcote began her song, Truth, with an admitted antipathy to sharks, but called for a cessation of the tournament in her refrain, “I can’t stand by in silence / By the salty rolling tide / Oh mercy! . . . Oh mercy! . . . Oh mercy!”
Paul Thurlow played bass, Greg Harcourt engineered the sound, and Al Schackman roamed from keyboard to numerous guitars, to harmonica, then an electronic sitar and finally a synthesized cello. Talk about a feeding frenzy of instruments.
The concert as a whole seemed to evoke the spirit of Woody Guthrie, turning the Katharine Cornell Theatre into a Greenwich Village coffee shop. Perhaps even creating a new twist to the Oklahoma balladeer’s iconic song, This Sea Was Made for You and Me.