The Key’s Week of Folk is our series of interviews, reviews, artist spotlights, playlistings and general ephemera to get you ready for the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, happening August 16th to August 18th at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville. In this installment, we peek inside a new addition to the Festival this year: the Cultural Tent.
Between sets by The Stray Birds, Black Prairie and Carolina Chocolate Drops on the Philadelphia Folk Festival‘s various outdoor stages, the indoor Cultural Tent has a jam-packed schedule of wide-ranging presentations, seminars and documentary screenings to help you cool off during the four-day event.
Following Thursday evening’s kick-off festivities, the Cultural Tent will start each morning with an open sing led by Delaware Valley folkmaster Mike Miller and a kid-friendly open jam with John Fuhr. Aspiring musicians will be able to get beginner Ukulele lessons from Rev. TJ McGlinchey in the afternoon, while seasoned guitarists can try their hand at the Martin Guitar-sponsored Vintage Instruments Guitar Competition. And before heading over to the Main Stage for headling sets by Richard Thompson, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars and Asleep at the Wheel, check out the Backstage Sessions, featuring performances by Ali Wadsworth, members of Hogmaw and John Francis.
In addition to the recurring workshops above, The Cultural Tent also has a line-up of historically-minded presentations. On Friday, gypsy folk act Sweetbriar Rose will join Celtic quartet Burning Bridget Cleary and Dani Mari for Lizzie Borden Played Her Axe, an exploration of the role of women in murder ballads. Saturday’s topic is Secrets and Lies: Tales from Philly’s Best Storytellers, hosted by local journalist Shawn Proctor. A national trailblazer and his Philadelphia protege will be celebrated on Saturday with From John Fahey to Jack Rose: Primitive Guitar Tribute, featuring local acoustic guitarists Matt Sowell and Jerry Hionis.
The evening Cultural Tent crowd will be treated to a series of documentaries exploring the lives of Folk Fest performers past and present. Friday offers a preview of Jake Shimabukro’s Main Stage set with Life on Four Strings. The late Levon Helm (who performed at the 2011 Folk Fest) will be remembered with a screening of Ain’t In It For My Health on Saturday while Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker closes out the Cultural Tent programming on Sunday.