Aging Hippies to young hipsters. Grandparents and grand children. Masters of Industry and Working Class Heroes.
Tens of thousands of people all in one place because they love music.
Welcome to the Richmond Folk Festival.
I really had no idea what to expect. First, when you say “folk music” I automatically think Peter, Paul and Mary or Pete Seeger. Since I grew up in a house that listened to that kind of music I was excited. Turns out it’s not that kind of folk music. It is the many kinds of music that has come to this country with the many immigrants that have made our country the unique and wonderful place that it is.
So there was a Balkan brass band, traditional Pontic Greek music, Zydeco, Mariachi, Merengue, Gospel, R&B, Soul, Go-Go, West African High Life, Québécois, Country and Western, Old Time, Bluegrass, Indian Slide Guitar, Chinese strings, Hawaiian slack key guitar, Jazz, Tibetan opera, and Native American hip-hop. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Which would be sad since the quality of the music was uniformly outstanding. I’m not saying I loved everything but the quality was obviously there.
Group of old time players at the Luthiers tent
Add in an amazing selection of food from all over the world and you got one great party. There was also an area presented by the Virginia Folklife Program where you could see traditional crafts like basket weaving, learn about native oysters, boat building and a tent filled with folks who hand make guitars, fiddles and more. Did I mention that it takes parts of three days to pull this party off? Yeah, Friday evening through Sunday till 6 PM.
I knew I was going to spend as much time there as physically possible. My Lady Wife and The Kid were planning on being there a little then going home. They stayed for most of Saturday and Sunday. It was that good.
Favorite music act was the Québécois group Vent du Nord, followed closely by the West African High Life Band, the Hawaiian guitar, the mariachi and the Holmes Brothers (R&B/Blues/Gospel). But maybe the most amazing moment is the one below:
This was the “World Strings Tradition” session. From L-R it’s a mariachi harp, hurdy gurdy (I heard “Smoke on the Water” played on hurdy-gurdy. I can die now), Hawaiian guitar, old time mandolin, guitar and two Chinese string instruments. Each had the chance to discuss some of the history of their instrument and show some of how it is played. At the end the Hawaiian guitarist began to play a tune he had written and invited the others to join in, based on their own musical traditions. It was ASTOUNDING! We had gone to this just because there was a gap in our schedule between groups we wanted to hear.
It was exhausting and wonderful. The weather was not great (chilly and damp with occasional rain) but they still had lots of people show up. Guarantee it will be a regular event on our calendars.
- 140 days without a rude Virginian.
- Do need to note this about driving around here. First of all, someone needs to point out the turn signal lever to most drivers in this area. Seriously, virtually no one uses them. I’m astounded there are not more accidents when people make turns or change lanes without any indication at all.
- Oh, and talking on your cell phone while driving is legal here. There is no requirement to be hands free so everyone is driving with one hand. It remains a stupid idea. Had someone so focused on their conversation they didn’t see me coming. I was through traffic, they had a stop sign, rolled through it, saw me at the last minute AND STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION IN FRONT OF ME! Good thing I was paying attention. My dad taught me to assume that every other driver on the road is an idiot. Saved me more than few times in my life.
- Preached my first sermon at Church of the Redeemer. Got a very positive response. Also preached at a baptism for the first time at the 11 AM service. That was special.
It’s a new beginning.