August 17, 2015
The final day of the 25th annual Folks Fest music festival was one of relaxation and discovery. One of the reasons that we enjoy attending festivals to begin with is the fun of discovering previously unknown to us, musical artists. Often these talented upstarts are found lurking on the smaller side stages, but at Folks Fest there are always a number of excellent acts that can be found on the main stage in addition to those found playing in the Wildflower Pavilion.
This year’s final day began with a wonderful musical tribute to the 25 year history of Folks Fest with a main stage show that featured many of the Planet Bluegrass family of musicians performing music that covered the gamut of the impressive history of those who have performed on the Folks Fest stage, with special significance to those who have since passed away. It was a beautiful way to start the day, which generally has begun with a gospel set, though I must say that this was just about as spiritual as anything previously seen on the main stage.
The first solo act on the main stage was a woman who we were completely unfamiliar with named Heather Maloney. Once again, she was an awesome discovery as she played a set of what can only be described as folk-inspired indie rock. With songs from her latest release and covers like her fantastic version of the early 70s anthem, “Woodstock”, it was a great set from a talented and beautiful young singer songwriter.
Nest we headed over to the Wildflower tent where three of the top ten Songwriter showcase winners were playing a set. This set included the champion, Ben Shannon along with a friend of Kerry’s, Carter Sampson and Nebraska based Jami Lynn. It was another wonderful, intimate set from three supremely talented singer songwriters each of whom easily displayed why they had made the top ten showcase of new talent.
The Family Crest
The next set on the main stage was yet another great discovery, this time a raucous seven piece band from San Francisco called The Family Crest. The band, declared by NPR as the “Favorite New Artist of 2014” delivered a wonderful set of singalong anthems and quiet ballads. The band which features a trombone, flute, cello and violin in addition to the traditional rock band instruments creates an orchestral-folkie feel in many of their songs and they have an infectious stage presence as well creating a great show.
Siblings made up the next two acts to grace the main stage, first up was the long-time Folks Fest favorites making their fifth appearance at the festival, the Aussie sister act, The Waifs. They performed yet another stellar set featuring music covering the span of their long and storied career which includes seven CD releases and a bunch of the Australian equivalent of the Grammy Award, the ARIAs.
The Wood Brothers were up next, offering an interesting contrast between a sister act and then the brother act. They were great as well. A sort of fraternal spin-off of the successful band Medeski, Martin and Wood, the Wood Brothers have a more bluesy, gravelly feel to their music and they had the crowd on their feet enjoying the music and dancing the late afternoon away.
I was back and forth between the main stage and wildflower pavilion to catch sets from the legendary Richard Thompson and one of my personal Folks favs Ellis as the evening got under way. Richard Thompson has been named one of the top twenty guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone and career spans from his work with the Fairport Convention back in the 60s through his more than forty solo albums. While many still do not realize who he is, all the musicians certainly knew and the crowd included most of the other acts taking in the legend’s set.
Longtime Folkies Gillian Welch and David Rawlings closed out the festival with yet another incredible set of original music. It was a perfect cap on what was just about a perfect weekend of music, friendship, fun and relaxation. I cannot wait to see what the next 25 years brings.
David Rawlings and Gillian Welch