Can’t miss: Mavis Staples (4 p.m., Belk Stage)
Saturday afternoon, at 4, is the only time that unofficial headliner Mavis Staples performs her legendary gospel, soul and R&B music. Do. Not. Miss. This.
Other acts: Steve Weintraub (3 p.m., McDonald’s Family Stage)
Also only once, Steve Weintraub will perform his “awesome Jewish stunts & dances.” How can you say no to that? If he bombs, there’s Cajun music going down nearby simultaneously.
Rhiannon Giddens (1 p.m., Lawn Stage)
Rhiannon Giddens (1 p.m.) plays several times this weekend, but we’d be remiss not to highlight her here. This set reunites Giddens with Justin Robinson, one of the founding members of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and it’s a tribute to the late Joe Thompson, their mentor for African-American string-band music.
Wild card: Yuqin Wang & Zhengli Xu (3:35 p.m., McDonald’s Family Stage)
Chinese rod puppetry? I think so. Performing twice this afternoon, it’s worth stopping by to at least see what Yuqin Wang and Zhengli Xu are up to. The hardest choice of the afternoon may be between Iraqi oud versus Afro-Cuban music; Rahim AlHaj’s picking is stirring and somber, which may outweigh the more danceable and lively sounds of the Pedrito Martinez Group.
Suggested itinerary: Catch the Warriors of AniKituhwa Cherokee ceremonial dance to begin your Saturday at noon at Center City Park. Wander over to Grace Chang’s Chinese guzheng (a plucking instrument) followed by Yuqin Wang & Zhengli Xu Chinese rod puppetry, both at the nearby McDonald’s Family Stage. Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All Stars sounds rad, but they’re further away and also play without competition the night prior.
The Heavenly Harmonies Gospel Traditions takes place at 1 p.m. at the Wrangler Stage, but you can’t go wrong with local (yet national) star Rhiannon Giddens with former Carolina Chocolate Drops bandmate Justin Robinson performing with an African-American string band at the Lawn Stage. Skip out early to see the Japanese taiko drumming at the Church Street Stage at 1:30 p.m.
It’s a serious toss-up at 2 p.m. between Rahim AlHaj’s Iraqi oud music at the Lawn Stage or the Pedrito Martinez Group’s Afro-Cuban groove. I lean towards the Caribbean on this, and the Wrangler stage is more central.
The only performance of the Jewish stunts and dances is at 3 p.m., so find Steve Weintraub at the McDonald’s Stage. Mavis Staples, of course, takes the Wrangler Stage at 4 p.m. It’s her only performance. Save the Monitors for Sunday, and maybe go catch the Pine Leaf Boys’ Cajun music at 4:30 p.m. at the McDonald’s Stage.
I don’t know exactly what the World Rhythms Percussion Traditions will entail — the festival website just lists a half-dozen artists from around the world. But what’s cooler than a bunch of different drummers? Basically nothing. Starts at 5:15 at the Wrangler Stage.
— Eric Ginsburg