Folk Fes­ti­val kicks off a new half-cen­tury

Souderton Independent - - FRONT PAGE - By Nathan Lerner

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.

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