After their show-stopping set in the Pastures of Plenty at last year’s WoodyFest, the Woody Guthrie Coalition is thrilled to begin this year’s festival with a special benefit presentation of Joel Rafael with John Trudell’s Bad Dog. This noteworthy performance will take place on Wednesday, July 11 at the historic Crystal Theatre in Okemah to kick off the 21st annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival and the performances of more than 90 musicians over the three day music festival.
Joel Rafael, a longtime student of Woody Guthrie, has composed the music to five Guthrie lyrics and released two albums of new and familiar Guthrie songs. His return to Okemah this summer will mark his 21st performance at WoodyFest. Besides bringing his own songs to the stage, Rafael has teamed up with Bad Dog, the seminal band and alter ego of John Trudell. Trudell, a spoken word activist, helped lead the Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 and was chairman of American Indian Movement from 1973-79.
After hearing John Trudell speak at Peace Sunday, in 1982, Rafael became an advocate for Indigenous Rights, sharing John’s words and following his trail for over 20 years until the two began regularly performing and eventually writing together. After John’s transition to the spirit world in December 2015, John Trudell’s band, Bad Dog asked Joel to carry on Trudell’s work by performing with them. Bad Dog is Mark Shark on lead guitar and vocals, Ricky Eckstein on keyboards and bass, Billy Watts on electric guitar and vocals, Debra Dobkin on percussion and drums, Quilt Sahme and son Tewahnee on vocals, and Joel Rafael, spoken word.
John Trudell did not set out to be a poet. He took that road primarily through a series of detours, and his poetic and political sensibilities were forged by the remarkable, sometimes horrifying circumstances of his life, including the deaths of his three children, his wife and unborn child, and his wife’s mother, which sent him into a state of wandering and despair. His “lines,” as he called them, are thought-provoking pathways to greater thinking and appreciation of ourselves, and our relationship to the earth, and the stars. To carry on his lines, the members of Bad Dog walk away from their various bands and artistic pursuits to bring John’s words to the stage.
Tickets for the Wednesday night show will be $40 and go on sale Friday, June 1st. Doors will open at 7:30 pm for the 8:00 pm show. All seats are general admission. If available, tickets will be sold at the door for $45. All proceeds support the Woody Guthrie Coalition and their efforts to preserve Guthrie’s legacy and to bring the best music to WoodyFest. The Crystal Theatre is located at 401 W Broadway St, Okemah, OK 74859.