I’m no stranger to live music. I went to weekly gigs all through the eighties, almost without concern for who was playing. Sure I had favorites, but it was more concerned about being out and partying with my friends. As I matured, so did my music taste. I became choosy about what I listen to, and even pickier about where I spend my free time.
This past year I’ve only seen a few live performances, but I picked some good ones. My friend Erin shares my music taste and joined me at the Long Beach Folk Festival. It was a mecca of talent. We were already big fans of ‘Possesed by Paul James’, but we discovered ‘The Americans’ at this amazing event. Why was it so amazing? We figured out that we not only love the music, but the whole folk / bluegrass scene.
The lack of posturing, the remarkable absence of the ‘rock star’ mentality, and the friendly attitude of both musicians and audience was refreshing. It seemed the men and women were more concerned with mastering their instruments than creating a persona. I’m not going to say there is a lack of style-consciousness, (the event did host a fantastic facial hair contest) but the musicians and audience seemed jocose about their styles, if they even bothered with appearances.
There are no rock stars in Folk Music. The intimacy of being able to pull up a bale of hay and sit about five feet from the artist really enhanced my ability to enjoy an acoustic performance. I felt a part of the experience instead of just being one of thousands of spectators.
The humility was convincing. The tragedy about the Long Beach Folk Festival is they booked PPJ at the same time as Frank Fairfield! Konrad Wertz warned his audience that they were missing Frank Fairfield’s performance, and that if it were him, that’s where he would be. If you ever get a chance to see either, do it. Luckily for me, Frank Fairfield played recently with another fantastic discovery; ‘The Howlin’ Brothers’. Different venue, but a similar experience with a small but loyal crowd. I bought their CD and I’m sharing this great information with you. I guess that makes me a fan, but I prefer to call myself an enthusiast.
I know there are few people who share my eclectic music taste, but if you do have a hankering for banjo, fiddle, and stand up bass, played by musicians that feel like your friend by the end of the show, follow me into Folk / Bluegrass Heaven. See them live if you can, and most importantly, buy their music.
The Howlin’ Brothers:
Possessed by Paul James: