Best Bets for Folk Fest
What not to miss at Philly Folk Festival this weekend.
At this year’s Folk Alliance International, The Hillbenders’ bluegrass rendering of Tommy (yes, The Who’s rock opera) was so popular that throngs of us were huddled around the conference’s closed circuit TVs. They’ll play it again Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
After PhillyBloco’s (see Mary Armstrong’s interview) main stage performance, look for a pied-piper trail up the hill to the Culture Tent, where all comers get a chance to learn rhythm patterns and feel what it’s like to be part of that pulsing machine. If you are more of a hands-on, old-school folkie, the Culture Tent should be your hang, guaranteed to have audience involvement. Except for late at night, when films like A Mighty Wind (who says folkies can’t laugh at themselves?) and Alice’s Restaurant will screen. Arlo Guthrie, who wrote the song of the same name, will be on the main stage Friday night.
French Louisiana is well represented by Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band in the Lobby Tent, the one with the big dance floor, at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys come on right after them at 3 p.m., with a set fit for two-steps and waltzes. For the sedentary Cajun fans, Riley and company take the main stage around 6:30. They will follow Tom Paxton. Ask him to explain all the inside jokes in A Mighty Wind. As one of the Folk Revival’s most beloved song spinners, he witnessed it all. Paxton has declared this his farewell tour, so don’t miss it.
Bluegrass purists love Della Mae (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.). Everybody loves Lyle Lovett, from songwriting buffs to swing dancers. His Large Band will stir up the Saturday night crowd.
If you want a good cross section of local talent, try the “Folk Roots of the Grateful Dead” theme with Chris Kasper, No Good Sister, John Francis and Rootology, among the baker’s dozen performing that tribute (Friday, 4:30 p.m.). Kicking off the festival at the Front Porch Stage, 11 a.m. Friday, is local songwriter Aaron Nathans and cello-playing partner Michael G. Ronstadt.
Philadelphia Folk Festival, Thu.-Sun., Aug. 13-16, Old Pool Farm, Upper Salford Township, Pa., 215-247-1300, pfs.org/folk-festival.