Sunday, October 12, 2014

Richmond Folk Festival Saturday Re-Cap

Skies were overcast, the weather was a bit chilly, but the music was superb at the Richmond Folk Festival yesterday!  In fact the music was about as good as I ever remember it being, but I probably say that every year.  I also really liked the new stage layout - it felt more condensed and easy to navigate - with the stages on more equal footing.  I never really liked the old Altria stage (main stage)  anyway, as performances there always felt a little stale compared to some of the other stages.

Just about every act I saw was a highlight.  I began the day with steel guitarist Kayton Roberts and his country music friends on the Community Foundation Stage, who put on a good show of traditional country.  The only downside of that set being the constant needing to applaud every solo taken by his guitarist and 85 year old fiddler, but that's part of that style, I suppose.

The Hot Seats Short Band (missing Ben Belcher) put on a good, very oldtime oriented, set at the children's stage.  I only wish they could get to play on one of the less out of the way stages.  Imagine what they could do on, say, the Dance Pavilion stage, with Benny boy in tow.

As we left The Hot Seats a surprisingly good band was playing on the Community Foundation Stage:  The West African Highlife Band.  I love those West African rhythms and melodies, and these guys really jammed it out.  I'm looking forward to checking out one of their sets again today!

We saw a little bit of Furnace Mountain Band - who can really mesmerize and delight an audience - but chose to leave their set early to catch a little bit of the French-Canadian band Le Vent du Nord.  I'm glad we did.  Le Vent du Nord tore it up!  Tres bien!
The mighty James River - as seen from the side of the Dominion Dance Pavilion
Then we hoofed it on over to Brown's Island to catch a few minutes of William Bell's soul / rhythm and blues.  I definitely wanted to see some of this kind of music this weekend and although this stage was packed we made it up toward the front.  Unfortunately, his set was the same time as the mariachi band (Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano)  so we meandered back over to where we had just seen Le Vent du Nord to give that a shot.

With so much going on at one time - all the time - it's hard to stay at one stage for long.  After getting a taste of the Mariachi band we took a few minutes to watch the Balkan brass band (Boban and Marko Markovic Orkestar).  For some reason, this Balkan music didn't really grab me; probably because I was anxious to head back over to Brown's Island to the MWV stage for the Global Rhythms workshop.

I love and hate the workshops at the Richmond Folk Festival.  I'm there to see the musicians from different styles and cultures jam together, but usually the moderator takes so long talking to each individual musician that very little music gets played and the jamming is saved for an awkward moment at the end.  Not so for this drumming meetup, because the drummers - representing India, West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Egypt and more - collectively took it upon themselves to get multiple drum jams going, resulting in a standing ovation from the audience.  The beatboxer Shodekeh held his own with these guys.  This was probably the highlight of the day for me.

When we left the drum workshop Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers were still playing in the Dance Pavilion so we got to see a good bit of their set and they were killing it!  We made it to the front of the stage just as Dwayne Bopsie and his rub-board player jumped down into the crowd to play in the midst of the people tightly packed in up front.  This was awesome, but might have been lost on those toward the back of this crowded stage.  This zydeco band was almost more like a jamband in flavor and feel - they really kept the energy going.

The Holmes Brothers were playing when we walked by Community Foundation Stage, so we got to check out their old school gospel and rhythm and blues music for a few minutes.  They played the best version of Amazing Grace I have ever heard.  As the Holmes Brothers were playing, I looked behind me to see that the Mayan Sundance ritual had already commenced.  Four (?) guys in Tezcatlipoca Voladores had just started to make their descent by swinging around the 80 foot pole, while one guy sat on top. Watching this as the Holmes Brothers played was a surreal experience.
Jazz pianist Lafayette Gilcrhist and beatboxer Shodekeh getting funky!
The stage they now call the Altria stage is a great stage with a natural amphitheater.  We were ready and waiting when Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes - featuring Shodekeh - took to the stage to debut his new go-go suite for the first time in public.  The first two movements were one long 30 minute jam that had me thinking of both P-Funk and King Sunny Ade.  He briefly paused to introduce the band, before playing the 3rd part of this new piece of music, which was equally as enticing as the first two parts.  So much good music in one day!

We had plans to stay for Le Vent du Nord on the Altria Stage, but were too wiped out and overly stimulated from the constant exposure to awesome music, non-stop for 7 straight hours, so we left after Lafayette Gilchrist, knowing that we could listen to Le Vent du Nord on 88.9 WCVE on the ride home.  Unfortunately, that set wasn't being broadcast.  I wonder why?  Oh well, Ian Stewart's World Music Show wasn't a bad alternative.

Looking at today's Richmond Folk Festival schedule, I am equally excited to head down there soon for another great day of music.  They pack it all in between noon and 6pm today, then it's gone for another year, so get it while you can!

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