By Brian Fencil & Tanya Silverman
Fans of folk music aren’t exactly excited the same way that other musical micro-communities are. In fact, folk can be said to be more about approach than a set of distinct cultural tropes, but this is just getting into semantics.
So if you generally enjoy the sound of auteurship coming to you (mostly) without the help of electricity, well have we got a summer of folk festivals for you. Check out the list below to catch what lineups that fans across the country will be talking about besides what’s going on in Newport this year.
Blackbird Raum busking at Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, WA. Photo by Benjamin Cody.
Northwest Folk Festival
The 43rd annual Northwest Folklife Festival is coming to the Seattle Center on Memorial Day Weekend and makes for quite a diverse, eclectic event. You can cruise around and watch a traditional dance performance or jump in on a Contra Dancing session. Music ranges from contemporary rockabilly sets onstage to makeshift crusty gypsy punk bands along the not-so-beaten paths. Folklife 2014 will feature a cultural focus on East India, with assorted music, dances, panels, discussions, and films arranged throughout the weekend. You can also shop around for local artisan craft pieces or worldly ethnic products. Free admission–just keep your fingers crossed this year doesn’t get damper from Seattle’s notorious precipitation.
Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival
Oak Hill, New York
Perhaps upstate New York does not equate to the blue grassy fields of Kentucky, but still, the rolling, green Catskills mountains are a fine fit for a summertime bluegrass event. Bring your own seating, and set up facing one of the outdoor stages, or stop by the Slow Jam Tent for some tips on sharpening your own banjo skills. If you stay the night at Grey Fox, there’s the opportunity to walk around the campgrounds and mingle with folks from near and far around their tents and RVs. The 2014 lineup includes Nickel Creek, The Gibson Brothers, Elephant Revival, and others. Ticket prices range for how long you stay and if you’re camping overnight.
Brooklyn Folk Festival
For an uber urban folk experience, 30 bands will perform at Brooklyn’s Bell House, bringing in imported sounds of the old-time string, bluegrass, traditional Indonesian, Ragtime, and jug band sorts. One of the newer folk fests–that’s only in its sixth year–the event is organized by the Jalopy Theater and Down Home Radio Show. The local Jalopy House Band is playing, and lots of acts are also coming in from places like Virginia or New Orleans. It’s family friendly during the day but 18+ at night. There’s opportunity for folky education, too, like banjo workshops and film screenings about American folk music or Chinese tribal singing.
Kerrville Folk Festival
May 22-June 8
North America’s longest, continuously-running folk festival (sorry, Newport) is on for a 43rd year, in Kerrville, Texas. The event draws 30,000 people during 18 days of music to the large Quiet Valley Ranch just outside of Kerrville. The event is family friendly and the lineup tends to draw the RV and lawn-chair crowd. Alongside the many performers are guitar, harmonica, and ukulele workshops.
Montana Folk Festival
Dotted with remnants of a mining era and surrounded by an untamed landscape, Butte, Montana is a perfect stage for the Northwest’s largest, free folk festival. Over three days, a kaleidoscope of musical traditions, from mariachi to good ol’ fashioned banjo plucking, will take the festival’s seven stages. The Montana Folk Festival also celebrates the culture from which folk music grew. Each year, a shared Folklife Area becomes a platform for teaching attendees about local history. The theme for this year’s Folklife exhibit has not yet been decided.
Winnipeg Folk Fest
The Winnipeg Folk Fest hosts big names in the Bird’s Hill Provincial Park each year, but in a special format, featuring mostly one-man shows that give the festival a mellow atmosphere, even for a folk fest. However, as about 80 bands take Winnepeg’s 10 stages, you will hear a bit of everything. There are several camping options in the park, with many different vibes. The two closest to the event are the Quiet Campground, which has an 11:00pm quiet time, flush toilets and other amenities, and the Festival Campground, with 6,000 people looking to gather around communal fire rings, play music and make art late into the night. A discount is given to those who buy a ticket before April 30th.
JD McPherson performs at the first Red Wing Roots Music Festival at Natural Chimneys Park in Mount Solon in July 2013. Photo by Pat Jarrett.
Red Wing Roots Music Festival II
Mount Solon, Virginia
Trampled by Turtles, The Devil Makes Three, The Brothers Comatose, and nearly 40 other solid bands will be putting on incredible shows during this three day fest in the beautiful Natural Chimneys Park, Virginia. The festival was started by the Virginian band The Steel Wheels last year, who wanted to create a roots festival in the Shenandoah Valley. This year is expected to be an even bigger success, as camping within the park is already sold out and the 55 dollar day tickets are expected to sell out quickly.