an Online Journal of Sorts

By Alyce Wilson

August 23, 2003 - Folkfest Fun

My sister and I hit the Philadelphia Folk Festival yesterday. I've got to make this quick, because we're heading out for our second day of folk music in the sun.

She got there in the evening and after dinner at a nearby diner, we drove up to beautiful downtown Shwenksville. We didn't know it was in Shwenksville -- don't even know how to spell it — because nothing in any of the information tells you.

"Follow the Folk Fest" signs, the directions say. And so we did.

It had rained a little before we got there, and the grass was damp as some bright-vested volunteers flagged us into a space. They were having a good time waving their arms around. I waved my arms back. It helped that we were listening to "Friday I'm in Love" by the Cure, singing along at the top of our lungs, the words we could remember, that is.

Just as we pulled in, T-Rex's "Jeepster for Your Love" kicked in. "This is already so perfect," I told my sister. She didn't appreciate the moment as much, not knowing the song, even when I turned it up and forced her to listen to it.

To get to the festival proper, we had to take a yellow mini-school bus. "Zoombah!" we said as we got on, "Magic bus." The driver looked like he was sick of people saying that. He was sick of folkie folk in general. He was going to go home and listen to his Frank Sinatra and take 12 showers, we decided.

At the festival, we got our tickets at Will Call (the sign hand lettered and half-hidden) and made our way to the Main Stage, where Baka Beyond was playing. I told my sister that "baka" means "stupid" in Japanese. We decided the band was South African, having some white folks with vaguely British sounding accents and some black folks with African prints. As it turned out later, another festival-goer told us they were Scottish and that they worked with African musicians.

Baka Beyond was extremely danceable: very tribal, with a bit of Celtic thrown in. We found some dancers next to the stage and danced wildly. As it turned out, we knew some of them from State College and hadn't seen them since Halloween. I recognized one of them right away, because nobody dances quite as weird and wild as her.

We developed a system — my sister's suggestion — for rating the bands we saw. They get either a smiley face or a frowning face, written next to their name in the program book. Baka Beyond got two smiley faces.

The Sons of San Joaquin, who were on next, got a frowning face. They were way too country: slow, dragging country. They were singing about dogies, for heaven's sake. We took the opportunity to buy ourselves some iced coffees and get festival shirts. I got one that looks like a short-sleeved purple baseball shirt. Way cool. My sister got a blue strappy tank.

Plena Libre, a Puerto Rican band with a dance groove, got a smiley face.


Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, old-time country who did a track on the "O, Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack got a smiley.

But our favorite, Loudon Wainwright III, got three smiley faces. We're listening to his album right now, getting ready for today. Had him sign it after his concert, and he gave us a huge smile and a bumper sticker that says "Time flies when you f**k around and then you look like sh*t." It's a line from one of his songs.

He's a great songwriter, equally capable of humor and of, say, a moving tribute to Fred Rogers, and a really funny performer: he kept making funny faces to underscore his lines. We decided he looks like a blend between Neil Young and Gary Busey.

Listening to his album, "So Damn Happy," seems an auspicious start to the day.


More Folkfest Fun:

August 24, 2003 - Folk Needs Funk

August 25, 2003 - Fabulous DiFranco

August 29, 2003 - Left Overs


Funky folk people frighten old bus drivers.

Copyright 2003 by Alyce Wilson

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