1. Dancing with hipsters to Cajun music
The National Folk Festival, which concluded its third and final appearance in Greensboro on Sunday, was rife with examples of stellar musicianship and openhearted cultural ambassadorship, but the event is really about spontaneous moments of community. It’s subjective, of course, but for me the magic happened when my 4-year-old daughter spotted a group of hipster millennials dancing on the East Market Street sidewalk with exaggerated elbow thrusts to the exuberant strains of the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band. Thrusting herself in front of them, she let loose with a joyous “Yea-ah-ah-ah!,” executed a couple vigorous jumps and began to spin like a crazy person. The hipsters were delighted, of course, and reciprocated by upping their own dance moves.
2. The beat-boxers at the Dance Pavilion
On Saturday, my cousin Gabe and I attempted to organize a migration from CityStage as the Ethio-jazz combo Feedel Band transitioned to Dale Ann Bradley’s bluegrass set so that we could check out beat-boxing at the Dance Pavilion. Launching with Rahzel, a one-time member of the Roots, and then moving into “the team of rising star Nicole Paris and her father/mentor Ed Cage,” the set not only delivered jaw-dropping vocal pyrotechnics but set the proverbial room on fire like no other act I saw the whole weekend.
3. Tuvan throat singers
While I probably only caught a third of the acts at the three-day festival, I feel reasonably confident that Alash, better known as “the Tuvan throat singers,” was the crowd favorite. The droning sound of throat singing is technically mind-blowing, but can sound a little tedious without the right execution. Yet Alash brought a striking knack for melodic interplay and soulfulness to their set. Hailing from a remote central Asian republic in the Russian Federation, Alash’s songs about horses proved the festival’s point that culture can break down barriers between people. My cousin remarked that the “clop-clop” rhythm of the music suggested cowboy music. As a Western corollary, imagine the spare country soul of Sun Records-era Johnny Cash & the Tennessee Three.
4. Kentucky country pride
While Kelsey Waldon drew a large and appreciative audience at the Wrangler Stage on Saturday evening, the response was nothing like the ecstatic reaction garnered by the Tuvan throat singers. Still, Waldon’s set hit me in the heart. A classic country chanteuse from Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky. flanked by a crack honky-tonk combo, Waldon does her home state — and mine — proud.