MuSic for MS Roots Festival slated for Hartwood Acres

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Like multiple sclerosis — a disease with varied symptoms — “roots” music defies a simple definition.

“It's like Bob Dylan on speed. … You can move to it,” said guitarist Mike “Mitch” Arnold, 50, of Hampton, lead singer of Cue Ball, an Irish music and blues band.

Arnold likened roots music to driving folk music.

“It's twangy, typically,” said Tim Wolfson, 56, the music-loving, Hampton lawyer who booked nearly all of the acts set to perform at the MuSic for MS Roots Music Festival on Aug. 16 at Hartwood Acres.

Michele Michaels of 102.5 WDVE-FM will emcee sets by Humming House of Nashville; The Town Pants of Vancouver, Canada; and Pittsburgh area artists Bill Deasy, the Weedrags and City Dwelling Nature Singers.

Singer songwriter Maddie Arnold, 22, of Hampton also will perform. She's a recent graduate of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

The Town Pants play “West Coast Celtic music,” Wolfson said. “It's fast and it's bouncy and it's fun.”

Humming House will close the music festival.

“They are more of an obvious ‘Americana' band, although they describe their music as ‘Irish porch stomp,'” Wolfson said. “They are very melodic. They have very thoughtful lyrics and great harmonies. … Their music is just exuberant.”

Such roots groups often include amplified, acoustic instruments such as an upright bass, a fiddle or an accordion, a banjo and a mandolin, Wolfson said.

Roots music also includes “lots of songs about heartbreak” and “happy songs about sad stuff,” Wolfson said.

The MuSic for MS Roots Music Festival, an inaugural event, grew out of conversations between Wolfson, a shareholder in Babst Calland, the downtown Pittsburgh law firm, and Arnold, chief facilities officer for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“We kept running into each other at different events,” said Wolfson, who books a number of artists for performances at the Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip District.

“The festival was entirely his (Arnold's) idea, and he asked me to get involved with rounding up some talent,” Wolfson said.

Both Arnold and Wolfson also know about the multiple faces of multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Arnold's sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after experiencing numbness in her extremities.

Wolfson's nephew was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after going blind on the verge of deployment with the Marines.

“We're raising money for a good cause,” Wolfson said.

In addition to food, beer and wine trucks, the MuSic for MS Roots Music Festival will offer two cooling tents for people with the disease, who tend to struggle with heat, Arnold said.

“This is something people with MS can come to be a part of, and not feel isolated, because they can't bike or run,” Arnold said about the festival. Tickets are $20 in advance. Rain or shine, gates will open at 3 p.m. Aug. 16 on Middle Road Performance Field at Hartwood Acres. For more information and tickets, visit the festival's online site at

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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