Saturday September 17, 2016 — My bicycle wheels spun on the road until I reached the Folk Revival Festival (FRF) grounds. Free bicycle valet? Yes please. The lineup of independent Bluegrass, Country, Folk, and Blues musicians was one for the history books.
As you walk in you see a traveling caravan of friendly and local shops selling everything from cigar box guitars, corsets, vintage clothes, and books (giddy up). As you turn your head and glance over to the main stage you see a contestant from a pie eating contest relish victory, and others wipe off sweet and colorful defeat.
A guitar lick runs down then up for Leo Bud Welch’s sound check past the shops on a grassy knoll. During his set he plays several classic blues standards such as Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Baby Please Don’t Go,” Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working,” and Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” as tiny driftwoods wallow in the park’s lagoon.
Before ending his set–with a sudden burst of adrenaline–84 year old Welch launches himself off his seat and plays as if orbiting through Earth’s atmosphere. His set ends and as people begin to make their way off the hill one man band McDougall bangs his drums across the lagoon.
The Portlandian creates a traveller’s march using bass drum, switching off between guitar, banjo, and adding harmonica on occasion. For his last song he focuses the remainder of his energy on bass drum, high hat, and incrementally fast banjo fingerpicking. It’s easy to listen to and enjoy. As he speeds up more and more, a banjo trance sets in. He ends up playing so fast that he can’t go any faster. Silence. Claps. Whistles. Ducks quack. Hunger begins.
Going hungry at a festival is not easy, FRF is no exception. Plenty of food trucks–Japanese curry, good ol’ fingerlickin’ B.B.Q., Indian-Mexican fusion. As you take in the smells of wafting spices you can’t help but remember Big Bad Rooster’s cover of The Isley Brother’s “Shout” from earlier–bluegrass motown if you will. As afternoon radiation wavers off, Jonny Fritz’s playful lyrics are backed up by his band on the Main Stage.
Soon after, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite boys land their rockabilly sound on the runway. Songs like “Chalk It Up To The Blues” make you feel like you’re in 50’s suburbia (easy there rebel with a cause, sling that butterfly switchblade over yonder). At the same time Chuck Ragan’s band plays back on the hill.
At moments he sounds like Dave Grohl, at others like Bruce Springsteen–especially while covering “The Times They Are A Changin’.” As he strums to and fro, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band play on the Main Stage. You can’t tell they’re originally a Long Beach band from a freight train sounding harmonica chugging along. Their cover of The Beatles’ “Get Back” made for another interesting bluegrass rendition for the Festival.
J.D. McPherson and his band played their retro doo-wop back on the hill as The White Buffalo closed the night with boisterous “Dark Days” and wistful “I Got You.”
For a list of the vendors you can check here http://www.folkrevivalfestival.com/vendors/[adrotate banner=”4″]