Every year you’re bound to catch a smattering of local music at the Philadelphia Folk Festival – from the Helen Leicht-curated WXPN Philly Local Stage (which we’ll preview tomorrow) to the Folksong Society’s Philadelphia Music Co-Op (which has given rise to Cheers Elephant and Toy Soldiers). The 2014 festival, however, is particularly strong in highlighting the music of the Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania region. Here are six local artists to make sure you catch as you’re making your way around the Folk Fest grounds this weekend.
1. Kicking Down Doors | Dulcimer Grove Stage, Saturday and Sunday at noon / Front Porch Stage, Sunday at 3 p.m. – This three-piece hails from the western Philly suburbs and is one of the organizing forces behind the annual Winter Doldrums Festival at World Cafe Live, a benefit and musical celebration that pulls together a cross-section of bands and singer-songwriters from underneath the region’s broad-spanning “folk” umbrella. The project of co-songwriters Ernie Tokay (guitar and vocals) and Autumn Walden (vocals) as well as bassist Michelle Lynn, Kicking Down Doors blends a warm and inviting country sound with personal, introspective lyrics about perseverance, hope and the human spirit. Their debut LP is due out this fall.
2. The Wallace Brothers Band | Main Stage, Friday at 3:15 p.m. – Their name undeniably evokes The Allman Brothers, and their sound is appropriately southern-fried and uppity. The Wallace Brothers Band made a splash last year at Folk Fest’s front porch stage inside the campground area, spinning catchy and comical tales about bad boys and outlaws to their skronky bayou guitar licks. This year, they graduate to the main stage to warm up the Friday afternoon crowd.
3. Katie Frank and the Pheromones | Main Stage, Friday at 4 p.m. - If ever there were local rockstars on the rise at Philly Folk Fest, these faves of The Key might just be them. More than just a reason to stick around the mainstage after the Wallace boys wrap up, Katie Frank and the Pheromones are a band we’ve seen grow from a understated singer-songwriter project to a rock and roll powerhouse of Grace Potter proportions. Earlier this year I interviewed frontwoman Frank and songwriting parter Josh Werblun for our Unlocked series, and found out a lot about the evolution of the band and its strong ties to the Philadelphia music community; check out the story here. This year the band released its debut LP Counting Your Curses, and it smokes so hard you’ll want to proceed directly to the society sales tent after their set to pick up a copy.
4. Black Horse Motel | Lobby Stage, Friday at 3 p.m. – This band emerged around the same time indie music was experiencing its post-Mumford fascination with folk. But then they stuck around; rather than jumping trends as tastes changed, they remained true to their blend of traditional instrumentation, a rock and roll spirit and pop hooks, refining it into what you hear on their solid debut LP Red Summer Spirit, produced at Oreland’s Forge Recording and released last year. Black Horse Motel the live band is high energy and spunky, from frontman David Richardson’s grizzled bravado to drummer Megan Manning’s percussive asskickery. The wooden floor of the lobby stage will doubtless be rattling when they play on Friday.
5. Jake Lewis and the Clergy | Front Porch Stage, Saturday at 1 p.m. – This Lancaster crew’s sound is dialed in almost exactly on the breezy folk / country melancholia of late 2002, and it’s all the awesomer for it. You’ll hear undeniable notes of Sea Change and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in Jake Lewis and the Clergy‘s three releases – which most recently include 2013′s Gossip – though the dreamy singalong vibe isn’t entirely pinned to those records. It’s also an experience shared by hundreds of Folk Fest attendees gathered around campfire embers until early in the morning – which makes it totally appropriate that the band will be at the campground’s Front Porch Stage on Saturday afternoon.
6. Kalob Griffin Band | Lobby Stage, Friday at 2 p.m. – These rootsy favorites of the regional college scene are making their Folk Fest debut as part of the Co-Op showcase, and we expect they’ll win over a whole new section of fans. Kalob Griffin Band is a five-piece of very talented musicians whose rocked-up instrumental jams and hard-hitting playing will draw you in, but their tasteful inclusion of acoustic guitar and mandolin will give the set a breezy feeling that will drift nicely across the field of Old Pool Farm. The band has a new EP in the works for the fall, and their Key Studio Session releases next month. Below, check out “Ricky Tick Tack.”
Philadelphia Folk Festival begins Thursday night, August 14th, at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville, and runs through Sunday, August 17th. For complete information, head to their website.
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