The Key’s Week Of Folk: Entering into the world of Philly Folk Fest with At Fest


Welcome to Week of Folk, a 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. We begin with our thoughts on one documentary filmmaker’s attempt to sum up Philly Folk in the 90-something minutes.

You know you’re with a devoted audience when the movie screening has cheering sections.

As soon as Lee Theis, chair of the Philadelphia Folk Festival “Groundz” committee (and an utterly recognizable face at the festival every year), appeared on the big screen, a roar emerged from the right rear of the theater. Or more like a burst of applause and a swell of voices hollering “Groundz!” Later on, members of the recycling committee made their first appearance on screen, and a similar enthused, “go team” reaction emerged from the front row.

It happened when longtime folks-about-Fest were interviewed, it happened when popular scenes of campground absurdity (like the annual water balloon fight) appeared onscreen. It was clear that this was an amongst-friends audience, and that the film – James Wallaces’ At Fest, which made its world premiere at The Trocadero last Wednesday night – was on a certain level a film about festies, by festies, for festies. But it was also a great introduction for the uninitiated, an explanation of this long-running regional event and the culture surrounding it (albeit through a G-rated lens).

AtFestCrowdTo underscore the night’s homey atmosphere – and to presage the dwellings that much of the festival-attending crowd will call home for the coming weekend – the At Fest crew set up a decorated tent next to a crepe-paper campfire towards the back of the theater. The first five to ten minutes of the film is a montage of soundbites from ateendees who all share a common refrain. “I met my husband / wife here. I grew up here. This is my family.”

“Here” refers not only to Folk Fest in general, but to its sprawling campground in specific, and the community housed within. This is an element of Folk Fest that the day-trippers – the crowd who just comes in for the afternoon, watches whatever headliner, and heads home – completely miss out on. It’s unshowered and often muddy; it can be a bit dysfunctional at times; but it’s also utterly filled with joy. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Dice Raw at City Hall, Kalob Griffin Band at Penn Museum, Prefuse 73 / Spaceship Aloha at Morgan’s Pier, At Fest at the Troc

dice raw

Philly hip hop artist Dice Raw will be performing for free at City Hall tonight as part of the City Hall Presents concert series. His newest album, Jimmy’s Back, is available. The album’s is based on The New Jim Crow, a bestselling book by Michele Alexander. Along with the LP, Dice Raw is releasing a short documentary that explores mass incarceration and the prison system, especially in Philadelphia. The concert will run from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall courtyard. Listen to Dice Raw’s new track, “Animal,” below.

Continue reading →


The Week So Far: 10 must-read stories on The Key (incl. David Wax Museum, Pill Friends, At Fest)


This week’s show announcements include The Last Bison and David Wax Museum at World Cafe Live, Hop Along and The Sidekicks at The First Unitarian Church, Man Man at Union Transfer [linklink and link]

Stream and download Laura Stevenson‘s Folkadelphia Session [link]

You gotta hear “Find a Way” by Elastic Bond this week [link]

Get a free download of Wild Ones‘ bubbly “Curse Over Me” from their debut LP [link]

Local dream-poppers Lockets share b-side “Girl” from their upcoming single release [link]

Steady Hands release new video, free download for “I Swear Like a Sailor” [link]

Get inside the studio with Jesse Baker Band in the video for “We’re Gonna Make It” [link]

Stream two new tracks from Pill Friends‘ new LP Blessed Suffering [link]

The Trocadero will screen the world premiere of Philadelphia Folk Festival documentary At Fest on 8/7 [link]

Explore Alex Savoth’s new direction with The New Black [link]


The Trocadero will screen the world premiere of Philadelphia Folk Festival documentary At Fest on 8/7


In 2011 independent production company Mastodon Films packed up their gear and trekked out to Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville, PA to get the scoop on a festival tradition older than Woodstock.  The 50th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival was underway, with 20,000 music fans from across the country gathered together for three days of music, art and camping.

Now on the eve of this year’s 52nd annual festival, Mastodon Films presents At Fest – a look at the inner-workings of the festival and its 2,500 volunteers, countless hours of live music and dedicated attendees.  With a soundtrack by Folk Fest bands including Hoots & Hellmouth, David Wax Museum and US Rails, At Fest is a true-to-life time capsule of a most-important and beloved Philadelphia music tradition.

The premiere screening of At Fest will happen at The Trocadero on August 7th; tickets and information can be found here.  The 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival takes place August 15-17; more information can be found on the XPN Concert Calendar.  Watch the trailer for the documentary below.