Folk Festival kicks off a new half-century
Journal Register News Service
The Philadelphia Folk Festival will be commencing its second half century replete with a star-studded lineup. Friday’s highlights include Mary Chapin Carpenter as well as the New Orleans-based group Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars. Saturday night features Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and the Dukes, John Hiatt and the Combo, Little Feat, and Mike Cross. Trombone Shorty C Orleans Avenue will close out the festival on Sunday night.
Last year, the Philadelphia Folk Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary amid unprecedented fanfare and an enthusiastic audience turnout. Throughout the bulk of its illustrious history, the festival has taken place on the Old Pool Farm outside of Schwenksville in Montgomery County.
Levi Landis serves as the executive director of the Philadelphia Folksong Society, the organization that sponsors the festival.
HH VDLG, “TKH 50WK wDV GHfiQLWHOy a huge milestone!” Landis rebutted the notion that this year’s festival would be anticlimactic after the big blowout for the 50th anniversary.
“Every year is important to our audience. The festival is more than just the anniversaries. In the past, the years after the anniversary years were referred to as hangover years.” Landis grew emphatic, “TKDW LV GHfiQLWHOy QRW WKH FDVH WKLV year. Our lineup is a monster and ticket sales are close to tracking last year’s.”
There is a dynamic tension between preserving tradition and enhancing the festival.
Landis observed, “There are enormous efforts made each year to keep the festival fresh, to attract new folks and cater to some of our more physically challenged or older folks.” Landis cited some VSHFLfiF HxDPSOHV RI LQQRYDWLRQ.
“This year, we have all new food vendors in concert side and campgrounds, with fresh, local, organic and veggie options. We will again expand the campground and have a shuttle service to aid folks walking the site.” He added, “We will have a free bus leaving from vards Brewing Company to take city folks to the site for Sunday.”
Since 2009, Jesse Lundy and Rich Kardon, partners at Point Entertainment, have been programming the festival.
Lundy pointed out, “Last year, we needed to show a good crosssection of acts and styles that represented the progression of the event over 50 years. We still booked some more contemporary acts. We also put some of the more traditional stuff into situations that focused on collaboration.”
Asked what he considered the programming highlights, Lundy replied, “Obviously, we’re thrilled with the Saturday night lineup. Since most of these artists are already friends, there is a great potential for collaboration.” Lundy continued, “We’re also looking forward to hearing Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars on Friday night. They represent real New Orleans history. We have a lot of music from New Orleans this year.” He acknowledged, “This wasn’t so as much the result of planning as good fortune.”
According to Lundy, “The biggest factor in booking the festival is who is touring. There is so much competition in the market during the summertime that artists can choose the major venue in a given market that they want to play.” He HODERUDWHG, “:H DUH fiJKWLQJ IRU WKH same acts, who might otherwise SODy FLUHfly, X3R1HQWLDO, $SSOH Farm, the Mann, the Keswick, the Susquehanna Bank Center, Musikfest or any of the other local theaters and clubs.”
To deal with the competition, Lundy employs a strategy of stressing the intrinsic appeal of playing the festival, “We have to make the Philadelphia Folk Festival as attractive as possible to performers.”
He concluded, “We really rely on artists to understand how unique our festival is compared to the other venues. We work hard to create lineups that bands will be enthusiastic to be part of, as opposed to just looking for another payday.”
With a particularly strong lineup, this year’s Philadelphia Folk Festival offers an appealing way to hear music in a relaxing bucolic setting.
— Nathan Lerner serves as liaison for Central Control at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@ gmail.com.
Mary Chapin Carpenter is among the performers set to take the stage at this year’s Philadelphia Folk Festival.