Featured photo: Anna Vtipil (1st place winner of the Not Your Average Folk Contest)
Folk. Folks. Folksy. It brings up pastoral themes, bucolic settings over fields as the sun sets. A tight-knit community, a potluck in a town square. Neighbors helping each other wrap up a late summer harvest of hay or tobacco. The dry plucking of a banjo played from a dimly lit porch as the fireflies start up.
Do not be mistaken; The people who think folk music is relegated to country pastimes and some idyll quiet existence are the same ones who were outraged when Bob Dylan plugged in a Stratocaster in Newport in ’65.
The commonality of the people’s music and the songs our forebears taught to us as it was taught to them is inherent in all societies. Folk literally means “community.” It’s called “folk” because it is us, all of us. It’s a melting pot of origins with parts that span the globe.
The NC Folk Festival arrives this weekend for a three-day free to attend celebration of music, dance, and us. The lineup of renowned artists is full of local, regional, national, and worldwide acts. Here are a few peeks at some of the 300 artists who will be appearing.
The folk master: Sam Bush
Longtime multi-festival attendee (and mandolinist extraordinaire) Sam Bush is headlining. His mastery of the form, good nature and wide collaboration with everyone from Patti Smith to Doc Watson has cemented his place in the annals of folk. His infectious enthusiasm at live shows and extensive catalogue has made him a fan favorite for decades.
- Friday – City Stage, 9-10p.m.
Ethiopian funk: QWANQWA
Hailing from Addis Ababa, this Ethiopian band plays folk music that spans all corners of their home country. The driving beats, catchy melodies, and soaring vocals are all unique to Ethiopia as each region has distinct styles, instruments, dances and languages. The 60’s Ethio-jazz of popular fellow countryman Mulatu Astatke is reminiscent of these styles.
- Friday – City Stage, 7:30-8:30p.m.
- Saturday – Cone Health Stage, 12:00p.m. – 1:00p.m. & City Stage, 3:15-4:15p.m.
Cultured clarinet: Michael Winograd & the Honorable Mentshn
Klezmer, a Jewish folk style of Central and Eastern Europe, is a staple of Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Winograd’s clarinet is backed by his band of horns and woodwinds, cymbal-heavy drums, accordion and piano.
- Friday – City Stage, 6:00-7:00p.m.
- Saturday – Cone Health Stage, 7:00-8:00p.m.
- Sunday – City Stage, 2:00-3:00p.m.
A local tie: Black Opry
“I started to feel very uncomfortable with the culture of country music,” says Holly G., in a video introduction at a New York show. “So I decided to change that.” In a genre where Black artists are marginalized and ignored in a lot of cases, country music remains a staple of a white, red America. Black Opry Review seeks to be heard. Assembled in a round robin arrangement of the various artists at each show, it allows a showcasing of their individual styles along with group performances. This collective of musicians, including a Greensboro local, are breaking down barriers and offering inspiration to aspiring Black musicians and artists who seek to not be sidelined as an oddity in the country folk genre.
- Friday – Lawn Stage, 8:45-9:45p.m.
- Saturday – Lawn Stage, 7:00-8:00p.m.
- Sunday – Lawn Stage, 5:15-6:15p.m.
The legend: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
Headlining Saturday is Kannapolis native (and Mothership Captain) George Clinton, aka Dr. Funkenstein. Clinton’s eclectic style and take-no-prisoners approach to funk has earned him and 15 other members of P-Funk legendary places in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Mothership will not be attending, as it’s been retired and is currently on display at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
- Saturday – City Stage, 9:00-10:30p.m.
Zydeco sounds: BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
BeauSoleil is a quintessential example of the French speaking traditional Zydeco folk. Their popularity and ability to affect the crowd notwithstanding, the decades on playing have established them as masters of the genre. Bandleader Doucet is a recipient of the National Heritage Award and the band has won multiple Grammys.
- Saturday – Old Courthouse Stage, 4:30-5:30p.m.
- Sunday – City Stage, 5:30-6:30p.m.
For the kids: Big Bang Boom
A Greensboro based band, Big Bang Boom is an approachable pop/rock band that writes kid friendly songs. Their shows are notorious for involving the audience, keeping everyone up and dancing and bringing kids on stage to help with sing-alongs.
- Sunday – City Stage, 12:45p.m.-1:30p.m.
Indie sounds: Futurebirds
With a name inspired by medieval fowl who could predict battle outcomes, Futurebirds bring their Indie Rock stylings to Greensboro. Often sharing the stage with their Athens, GA brethren, Widespread Panic, they’ve appeared at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and have toured across the country.
- Sunday – City Stage, 3:30p.m.-5:00p.m.
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