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Photos: Wrapping up Philly Folk Fest on Sunday with David Bromberg, Rev. Peyton and a fire drill

Gathered in the Dulcimer Grove, waiting out the fire evacuation | Photo by John Vettese
Gathered in the Dulcimer Grove, waiting out the fire evacuation | Photo by John Vettese

The Sunday lineup is typically the quiet denouement of Philly Folk Fest, but this year was jam-packed with happenings, including a rootsy wakeup set on the Camp Stage by Spirit Family Reunion; an impressive showing on the Tank Stage by Philly’s Up the Chain; a capella gospel harmonies from Como Mamas; and what MC Gene Shay later dubbed “a fire drill.”

A small fire broke out in the food vending area at the top of the hill on the main concert grounds, and the crowd was quietly rounded up by security and ushered off to either the craft area of Dulcimer Grove while the Upper Salford Fire Company was called in to dispense with the blaze. Meanwhile, impromptu performances by guitar-carrying Fest volunteers popped up in the grove while the crowd waited for a little over a half hour. (Evidently, Carolina Chocolate Drops also played an impromptu acoustic set while stuck backstage.)

A banjo lick from the CCD’s signaled that it was safe for everybody to return to the festival grounds, and the night wrapped up with sets from The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, David Bromberg and Asleep at the Wheel. Check out photos of the day in the gallery below, and don’t miss our week of festival coverage in The Key’s Week of Folk.

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Faces and places at the 52nd Folk Festival

Photo by Abi Reimold | AbiReimoldPhoto.com
Photo by Abi Reimold | AbiReimoldPhoto.com

All photos by Abi Reimold | AbiReimoldPhoto.com

There is more to the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival than simply folk music. The four-day event in Upper Salford also showcases crafts, culinary delights and a world of culture; a diverse crowd of thousands takes it in every year. In the gallery below, photographer Abi Reimold captures faces, places and events from around the festival. Some of the sights you’ll see include a group cooling off in the Perkiomen Creek, a decades-long Fest attendee whose hat contains many of his badges from the years; a ukulele workshop with The Rev. T.J. McGlinchy; a performance by the Give and Take Jugglers with the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and much more.

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Richard Thompson, Ursula Rucker, The Lawsuits are Friday’s highlights

Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese
Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese

The Friday lineup at the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival was eclectic and exciting, beginning with a cluster of Philadelphia music scene staples and wrapping up with electrifying and impressive performance from folk scene mainstay Richard Thompson.

The Lawsuits kicked off the day on the main stage with an assortment of songs from their forthcoming LP Cool Cool Cool; they were poppy, they were country, they were classic rock, with songwriter Brian Dale Allen Strouse stepping behind the Steinway for a snappy take on “Onion” and singer Vanessa Winters owning “Long Drive Home” with a twangy vocal.

Lancaster trio The Stray Birds performed an assortment of songs from the as-yet-untitled album they just finished recording last week, Marc Silver rocked out some songs from his new story-centered album A Miner’s Tale, andToy Soldiers tore across a lively set of bluesy rockabilly from their forthcoming sophomore LP The Maybe Boys, due out September 10th.

Poet Ursula Rucker’s collaborative set with Philly guitar wizard Tim Motzer was easily the day’s highlight. While she read (and occasionally sang) pieces addressing social justice, racial prejudice,. gender and identity (among other topics), Motzer played a hypnotic guitar backing. Her performance of “Philadelphia Child” was particularly moving, as was the concluding call-and-response of “Super Sista.”

After an enjoyable performance from Philly-area celtic crew Runa, Richard Thompson took the stage to a thinning (but devoted) crowd. Thompson has played the fest several times as a solo artist; this time he was with his electric trio, which began on a jarringly funky note, but quickly settled into a groove that let Thompson’s guitar skills shine through. His nimble guitar shredding was impressive, “Shoot Out The Lights” backed by the band packed a punch that the song lacks when Thompson plays it solo. And his solo stab at “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” while not unexpected, didn’t disappoint either. Check out photos from the day in the gallery below.

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The Key’s Week of Folk: A World Cafe campground spectacular with Star & Micey and more

Star and Micey | Photo by John Vettese
Star and Micey | Photo by John Vettese
Last night the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival kicked off as it always does – with a live taping of XPN’s World Cafe with David Dye.

This year, David’s featured guest was Nashville four-piece Luella and the Sun. The honky-tonk blues four-piece was fronted by the stylish and charismatic Melissa Mathes, aka Luella, who had a tremendous stage presence, a voice straight out of gospel and a dress assembled from plastic six-pack rings.

Their performance left a positive impression on the crowd, many of whom were on their feet and dancing by the close. New England gypsy swing band Caravan of Thieves also played an enjoyable opening set, though it wasn’t as warmly received by the trickling-in audience (many of whom were still staking their tents when the band went on.)

The undeniable stars of the show, though, were eclectic Memphis four-piece Star & Micey. They were impossible to pin down to a style; their set started with a cappella ’round-the-drumset riff on Dylan, then launched into boisterous indie-pop (“Love”), twangy nods to Hank Williams (“So Much Pain”), bootstomp blues (“I Can’t Wait”) and probably three or four other genres in between.

Best of all was their energy; guitarist Nick Redmond cracked “my grandma warned me never to do this” before taking a backflip into the crowd. Meanwhile the whole band descended into the audience to play their encore off-mic. The revved-up vibe of the night-time campground show lent itself well to the band’s vivaciousness, but we expect they’d be this much of a blast anywhere; can’t wait till the next time. Meantime, check out photos of the showcase in the gallery below.

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The Key’s Week of Folk: John Hartford’s classic 1971Aereo-Plain to get the full album tribute treatment at #PFF2013

left to right: John Hartford, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor
left to right: John Hartford, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor

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 now through this Sunday at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville.

In 1971, folk/country/bluegrass singer-songwriter John Hartford released his groundbreaking Aereo-Plain album on Warner Brothers Records. For many, it become the blueprint (a very early one at that) for “newgrass.” No Depression, who says Hartford put the “American in Americana,” assembled a band of virtuoso players and acoustic music legends: Norman Blake, Vassar Clements, Tut Taylor, Randy Scruggs (son of bluegrass / country legend Earl Scruggs). The album was produced by David Bromberg. Old timey, eccentric, often tender yet equally as bizarre, Aereo-Plain was richly steeped in folk tradition. The album has some of Hartford’s most memorable songs on it including “Boogie,” “Turn The Radio On,” and “First Girl I Loved.” All this from the same musician who wrote the classic mainstream Grammy award winning pop hit “Gentle On My Mind.”

aereoplain

Tomorrow at the Philly Folk Festival (2:30PM at the Craft Stage), Hartford’s Aereo-Plane gets the album tribute treatment by a group of Philly’s most talented players: Phil D’Agostino, Brad Hinton, Jay Ansill and Michael Beaky. John Vettese of The Key reached out via e-mail to Phil and Brad to hear more about the project and to get their perspective on the importance of the album. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Week Of Folk: Folkadelphia’s Fred Knittel on bridging the old-time, new-time, and all-time at #PFF2013

frank-fairfield-recordThe 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. For this installment, we turned to one of our in-house folk music authorities for tips.

Folk music festivals, especially the Philadelphia Folk Festival, have always interested me in the way they bring together history and modernity. More so than other large music events, they really go ahead and just smash the two worlds together. And that’s what folk music is all about, drawing from the past, introducing (or re-introducing) in the present, and looking forward to what the future holds.

I spend a lot of time with my Singer-Songwriter (on XPN2) radio show Folkadelphia preaching about the malleability of the term “folk music” and what it means today; how it’s use to describe an artist doesn’t necessarily signal a particular sound.

This year at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, there are a number of acts and exhibitions that bridge the gap between the new and the old, and the traditional and the contemporary. Let these events shake up your preconceptions:

Frank Fairfield (Sat. at 1p Lobby Stage)
Fairfield looks and sounds like he just stepped out of a timewarp to the late 19th century. His music is steeped in tradition, yet I can’t help but notice a certain brash energy and playing that feels fresh.

Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Marc Silver

While common ground beneath the “folk” umbrella can often be elusive, one trait that comes back around again and again is storytelling. Philadelphia singer-songwriter Marc Silver has this in spades. His latest record, A Miner’s Town, started off as an exploration of the Pennsylvania shale mining industry, but it led him down variety of paths, spinning tales of industry versus ecology, of racial intolerance and homophobia by civic leaders. The album’s “historical fiction” collection of musical vignettes is thought-provoking, and Silver will bring it to the Philadelphia Folk Festival stage with a band of players assembled specifically for this project: Matt Scarano on drums, Mike Hlatky on bass, Jaron Olevsky on keys, Brad Hinton on guitar, Isaac Stanford on pedal steel, and Ryan Williams and Meg Moyer on backing vocals.  They perform at the Festival’s lobby stage on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Below, stream and download their performance for the Key Studio Sessions, and watch a video of the band performing “Priest.”

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Ursula Rucker, and four other artists you didn’t realize are playing #PFF2013

RuckerThe 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. This installment highlights a handful of artists we didn’t even were realize were playing – so it’s possible you didn’t know either.

On Monday we talked about what a daunting task navigating a festival lineup can be. Between sheer volume of names, late lineup additions and lag time between initial announcements and the actual show, I find myself at festivals – any festival – saying at least once “oh, woah, they’re playing!” (Confession: it even happens at our own XPoNential Music Festival.)

For this installment of The Key’s Week of Folk, we’ll highlight a handful of don’t-miss you-almost-missed-thems, beginning with the one and only Ursula Rucker. Her’s is a name that Roots aficionados should know well; the Philadelphia poet first came to prominence closing the group’s first several albums with spoken word pieces (and appearing throughout the mix on 2003′s Phrenology). Sometimes tender, sometimes shocking, but always marked by beauty and eloquence, Rucker’s collaborations with The Roots – as well as with Bahamadia and King Britt – ultimately paved the way for a solo career that notably includes 2001′s Super Sista, 2006′s Ma’at Mama and most recently, 2011′s She Said. Along with writing, Rucker is an educator and activist, and recently has been combining her words with the stylish guitar of fellow Philadelphian Tim Motzer. The two will perform together at the Cultural Tent on August 16th at 7 p.m. Below, watch a video of Rucker and Motzer on the 1k Sessions, and listen to Rucker’s contribution to The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, “Return to Innocence Lost.”

Tim Motzer & Ursula Rucker – 1k Sessions, Episode 11 Preview from Dejha Ti on Vimeo.

Continue reading →

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Gene Shay on what it’s like to be an MC

GeneThe 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 talk with festival host Gene Shay about the art of MCing.

Gene Shay has always had his wittiness about him. His wits might be another story, especially presented with images like the one above – an actual calling card from his days as an advertising exec.

But having a clever and irreverent persona comes in handy for the founding MC of Philadelphia Folk Fest – and longtime host of The Folk Show on WXPN – especially when you’re the anchor onstage, guiding a field of thousands through a bustling concert. It might look seamless from the audience, but it’s actually wildly unpredictable.

“That’s where I came up with the idea of telling jokes,” Shay says, talking about one of his trademark devices to ease the transitions onstage. “Cornball jokes, getting groans, anything to lighten up the moment. Sometimes the crowd is out there in the cold, sometimes in the rain, sometimes waiting much too long for a stage set to get changed up.”

So Shay, 78, resorts to something that’s always been a passion – humor. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Musical workshops and history in the Cultural Tent

Ain’t In It For My Health, a documentary on Levon Helm, will screen in the PFF2013 Cultural Tent

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.

Continue reading →

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