In previous years I’ve often gone to all 3 days of the Richmond Folk Festival
– Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However, due to the way the 2015 lineup comes together, attendance could be condensed into one day this time around. The five bands I’m most interested in seeing all perform at non-overlapping times on Saturday, October 10.
First off, there’s Grupo Rebolú
(1:15-2:00 Dominion Dance Pavilion) from New York who play Afro-Colombian music. Their highly danceable rhythms are rooted in the music of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. After their set, there's the “Masters of Rhythm
” workshop also on Brown's Island (2:30-3:30 WestRock Foundation Stage), featuring members of many of the different world music groups performing at this year’s festival. I love these types of workshops where they talk to musicians from different regions and traditions and have them provide examples of their respective styles and then jam together.
I might cut out of this rhythm meetup a little early to walk just north of Brown’s Island for The Alt
’s set (3:30-4:15 VCU Health Stage). The Alt is more artistically appealing than most Irish bands at this level. They rely on songcraft more than showmanship, offering obscure, sometime eery ballads that will stick with you long after the playing is done. Eamon O’Leary is one of my all around favorite musicians in any style, John Doyle is a living legend and stringed instrument master, and the lovely Nuala Kennedy is both charming and impressive on flute and vocals.
After The Alt it’ll be time to head back over to Brown’s Island for more Latin/Caribbean music, this time presented by the New York based Amargue Bachata Quintet with Andre Veloz
(4:30-5:15 Dominion Dance Pavilion). Bachata is a Latino music from the Dominican Republic. Andre Veloz is the band’s frontwoman, and from what I understand it is rare for there to be a female bachata singer. The bachata music ends by 5:15 which should leave ample time to get a good spot for The Alt
’s 2nd set of the day (5:45-6:30 Westrock Foundation Stage). This stage, which is under a tent and seated, will be a good place to watch The Alt work their magic.
This day’s itinerary closes with two jazz ensembles: the Feedel Band
(7:00-8:00 Dominion Dance Pavilion) and the Sun Ra Arkestra
(8:30-9:30 Community Foundation Stage). Feedel Band plays Ethiopian Jazz out of Washington DC. I'm not sure what this will be but I'm eager to find out. The Sun Ra Arkestra dates back to the 1950’s and is on the short-list of the most important jazz collectives of all time. Mr. Sun Ra himself returned to Saturn in 1993, but the Arkestra continues to explore the outer realms under the direction of alto-saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen.
|Sun Ra Arkestra|
Another cool thing about this plan is that it is logistically easy to pull off. It doesn’t involve as much walking through the crowds as usual because of the multiple back-to-back performances all taking place on Brown’s Island on either the Dominion Dance Pavilion or the WestRock Foundation Stage. There are plenty of food and beer vendors in that vicinity. The only time it leaves the island is for The Alt on the nearby VCU Health Stage at 3:30 and then for Sun Ra Arkestra all the way over at Community Foundation Stage for the final set of the day. That too makes sense logistically.
|2015 Richmond Folk Festival map showing the sets mentioned above|
I will probably wake up on Sunday morning with the notion to head back down to the festival. Sunday's highlights include DJ Grandmaster Flash, a “Global Voices” workshop and Deacon John’s Jump Blues, along with bonus sets by some of the performers I will have seen on Saturday. But, even without Friday or Sunday, Saturday is a strong enough day to be a stand alone.
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