The Stray Birds (see our feature here) are truly rooted in tradition, but scan the rest of the Philadelphia Folk Festival lineup and you might wonder about a few. Like Todd Rundgren. Jesse Lundy, who booked him, says, “The first word in the name of our event is Philadelphia. We’re featuring a bunch of cool stuff like In the Pocket and Ben Vaughn, also. Todd was the engineer on Stage Fright [The Band’s 1970 record] and did an album of Robert Johnson songs, so he gets ‘folk.’ But I also believe that a large, large portion of our audience is a classic-rock audience, and this fits the bill.”
To soothe the second-worders, there’s the brand-new Cultural Tent, a callback to the old teaching workshops that were an essential part of the earliest festivals. Dom Flemons (of Carolina Chocolate Drops) and HogMaw will walk you through how to record a traditional album. Sessions on murder ballads, primitive guitar (hosted by Jerry Hionis) and banjo are throwback gems. Bring $40 and you can leave with a new uke and beg-inner’s lessons from the Rev. TJ McGlinchey. Uke-lovers will be front and center Friday night for Jake Shimabukuro. That same evening offers serious blues from Otis Taylor (pictured) and folk rock from Richard Thompson, not to mention Philly’s Celt champions, RUNA.
Really early on Saturday (noon!) in the shaded lobby tent plains Canadian Del Barber showcases. The sleeper hit of this year’s Folk Alliance, Barber will draw you in with candid banter and blue-collar songs. Saturday night runs the gamut from West African traditionals by Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars to the Mavericks’ Americana. Don’t miss David Francey, whose songs carry sounds of his native Scotland. Then Runt rocks you to sleep.
Sunday afternoon, Francey and gifted local wordsmith Michael Braunfeld will lead a songwriter’s workshop. The main stage, meanwhile, will have the crowd up to rock, swing and hippie-hop: old time from Carolina Chocolate Drops, two-steps and swing with Asleep at the Wheel and everything from blues to Appalachian with David Bromberg. Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band will probably be your best bet for getting your hippie-style interpretive dance on. Wear your folk-fest tie-dyed finest.
Philadelphia Folk Festival, Fri.-Sun., Aug. 16-18, $54.50-$198, Old Pool Farm, Upper Salford, Pa., 215-247-1300, pfs.org/folk-festival.
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