Corrections or additions?
This column by Richard J. Skelly was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper
on August 25, 1999. All rights reserved.
Richard J. Skelly on the Philadelphia Folk Festival
One hot August afternoon at the Philadelphia Folk
I don’t know how many summers ago, a folksinger friend of mine, Rod
MacDonald, compared the festival to a golf tournament. As we sat
our cold water in the 90 degree plus sunshine, we could hear —
from yonder arise — an audience applauding and cheering wildly
at one of the other stages. A few minutes later, the stage immediately
behind us erupted into cheers as a workshop on humorous songs wrapped
up. Not unlike being at a golf tournament, argued MacDonald, a former
Newsweek magazine staffer-turned-folksinger and author of "The
Aliens Wore Business Suits," and other little known classics.
Such is the typical experience at the Philadelphia Folk Festival,
where, at times, there are good shows going on at two or three stages.
So you just catch 15 or 20 minutes of one stage before walking over
to the other stage to catch that other act you saw in the program
Always well-attended, always painstakingly well-organized, the
Folk Festival, presented by the Philadelphia Folksong Society, remains
one of the best concert dollar values in the area, offering the chance
to see and hear dozens of performers in the course of a three-day
This year’s festival, the 38th, is no exception. Headliners, depending
on your orientation — i.e., singer-songwriters, country-folk,
blues or Celtic — include John Prine, Suzy Bogguss, Dar Williams,
Moxy Fruvous, Doc Watson, and Balfa Toujours. Also featured: Janis
Ian, Lucy Kaplansky, Deb Pasternak, Broadside Electric, Cry, Cry,
Cry, Stacey Earle, Chris Smither, David Olney — the list goes
Among the Garden State natives performing this year will be Rik
born and raised in East Brunswick and now based in Vermont. Palieri
is one of three or four Polish bagpipe players in the U.S., but he
is also a fine interpreter of the blues music of Leadbelly, Skip
Mississippi John Hurt, and Elizabeth Cotten, among others who have
long since left this realm. Aside from performing his own songs and
the songs of others on banjo and guitar, Palieri regularly astounds
his audiences with his mastery of the Polish bagpipes, the trumpeta,
(an eight-foot long wooden horn, also of Polish origin), and an
of other instruments.
The scope of the other performers and bands this year is again
Alvin "Youngblood" Hart and Chris Smither, two talented
blues players who write their own material while paying homage to
the masters; David Olney, John Prine, and Ray Wylie Hubbard, all
singer-songwriters who stretch the boundaries between folk and country
music; Loudon Wainwright III, who’s in a class by himself as a topical
singer-songwriter and comedian; Elizabeth Jones, who performs songs
from Appalachia; Steve Forbert, who some might argue is a has-been
but has been proving himself in recent years by staying out on the
road and continuing to write fresh new songs; Tempest, a Celtic rock
band and the more Irish traditional Eileen Ivers Band; Bio Ritmo,
an Afro-Cuban salsa band; and Brave Old World, a klezmer band.
That’s only part of the list, but if you keep an open mind and a
a curious heart, you’re bound to find something to latch on to at
this year’s "Philly Folk Festival," as the natives call it.
With music on four stages all day, music on the main stage in late
afternoon and at night, refreshments in food booths at the top of
the hill, crafts vendors, and plenty of shady places to take a respite
from it all, the festival is a great way for hardy, music-loving souls
to spend that next-to-last weekend of summer. I say hardy because
the festival does go on — rain or shine.
Pennsylvania, 1-800-556-FOLK or 215-242-0150. Tickets and information
online at www.folkfest.org. All-festival admission is $69 at
the gate; individual days and evenings $24 to $43. Friday,
and Sunday, August 27, 28, and 29.
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