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GUEST,John Pietaro Pete Seeger at Dissident Folk Festival (25) RE: Pete Seeger at Dissident Folk Festival 20 Oct 06

Hey folks...

Been a while since I wrote into this, but I was happy to come across a thread on the Dissident Folk Festival. I'll take a second to thank MacDougal Street for making the drive up to Beacon and putting on a great set of their own. In addtion to wonderful music, I loved their "smell the sulfur" placard. My fave song in their set was the wonderful somng "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been Union?", sang by Anne Price. Great tune. Other highlights on Sat Oct 14 included Lach- who offered a great set, Bev Grant with her new group The Dissident Daughters, Bruce Markow's solo set, that of a young singer-songwriter names Holly GoAnarchy-who opened up the whole show, and Graham and Barbara Dean, as well as several excellent poets and speakers. My group, The Flames of Discontent, also performed on Sat night and our percussionist Rafael Figueroa(also a vocalist and poet) took a brief set of his own for which he was backed by me (on percussion) and Flames bassist Laurie Towers. A real treat was having renowned jazz violinist Gwen Laster sitting in with us for his set. Gwen also jumped into that Woody round-robin Steve wrote about; she's a brilliant improvisor.

Pete Seeger was unscheduled only because of a conflict with other dates, though I'd been in touch with him from the start of my organizing of this event. He made some suggestions for performers (such as the incredible bass-baritone Kenneth Anderson who was the featured act for the Robeson tribute on Sun Oct 15). Oddly enough Pete did not agree with me on the title of the event--"Why are you calling it 'dissident' anything? Who knows what 'dissident' means outside of college kids?? Why don't you call it a Labor Festival or maybe call it Protest with a question mark?". Naturally, I held my ground on the title. My intent was for it to be dissident with regards not only to our reactionary, war-profiteering government, but against what can only be described as the frequent trend of complacency in the folk music world. I wanted to break through those bonds as well. Anyhow, on Sat morning, as I was setting up the hall, Pete came in beaming. He told me that he would indeed be able to make it for the Woody tribute, as his prior engagement wold end at 7PM. I was of course absolutely thrilled: Pete has been an idol of mine for decades.

The Woody tribute, as well as the Paul Robeson tribute, were of course the highlights of the Festival for me. Anna Canoni spoke about Woody and showed a film, but Pete was able to offer first-hand info. His description of how Woody wrote classics such as "Union Maid" is always amazing to any of us. And though Pete often recounts some of the same stories you've heard before, he is an icon and so a first-hand account is of great importance. The big jam session was a wonderful expereince for all, though it was a bit hap-hazard (as these things always are).

Sadly, the guy who'd committed to coming down and recording the whole event NEVER SHOWED! There was no recording equipment set up in the sound board (sorry Steve), so we only have memories. I do have some photos, which I will be sending out to all of the performers this weekend. SOme that I took were very grainy (not a digital camera). And the few pics that the Center director took were better but very dark, but I just received lightened versions of those, too. I have some shots on my website - - for anyone interested. This Dissident Folk Festival was the first one, so I am sure the bugs will be ironed out for the next. If possible, they'll be annual but we may do it only on election years for maximum impact. Hey, its all about the politics...

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