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Folk Festival Problems?

Deckman 30 May 04 - 10:34 PM
dianavan 31 May 04 - 03:44 AM
Deckman 31 May 04 - 04:05 AM
McGrath of Harlow 31 May 04 - 06:04 AM
paddymac 31 May 04 - 07:41 AM
DonMeixner 31 May 04 - 08:38 AM
Thomas the Rhymer 31 May 04 - 10:25 AM
Uncle_DaveO 31 May 04 - 01:49 PM
Stewart 31 May 04 - 02:53 PM
Deckman 31 May 04 - 03:04 PM
Don Firth 31 May 04 - 03:43 PM
Stewart 31 May 04 - 04:08 PM
IvanB 31 May 04 - 08:42 PM
Jon Bartlett 01 Jun 04 - 11:05 PM
Deckman 01 Jun 04 - 11:08 PM
GUEST,reggie miles 02 Jun 04 - 01:34 AM
Liz the Squeak 02 Jun 04 - 04:15 AM
Snuffy 02 Jun 04 - 08:41 AM
Stewart 02 Jun 04 - 12:48 PM
Deckman 02 Jun 04 - 01:08 PM
Uncle_DaveO 02 Jun 04 - 01:20 PM
MAG 03 Jun 04 - 12:26 AM
dianavan 03 Jun 04 - 12:37 AM
Deckman 03 Jun 04 - 04:40 AM
wysiwyg 03 Jun 04 - 09:08 AM
GUEST, NOMADman 03 Jun 04 - 07:43 PM
GUEST,GUEST: Candy Hughes 03 Jun 04 - 08:13 PM
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Subject: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Deckman
Date: 30 May 04 - 10:34 PM

This will be long:

I'm starting this thread for several reasons. One is to follow up with a thread that Mary Garvy started on May 4th. This being the Memorial Day Holiday weekend in America, it's also the start of the "Folk Festival" season. In the earlier thread, several problems and frustrations were mentioned. I think I have a unique perspective to bring to this discussion, simply because I'm so damned olde, and I have been involved in folk music, and folk festival production over the years.

Back in the early 70's, the late and wonderful John Dwyer and I created and produced a series of small folk festivals at our local community college in Everett, Washington, U.S.A. We were both staff there, he full time, me partime. We had created what turned out to be quite a successful guitar teaching program. As these things go, these classes evolved to many different teachers, teaching many different styles of guitar. And all this led naturally to our "Spring Folk Festivals."

I think we had a total of four festivals, I don't remember for sure. But, they were amazingly successful and great fun. Of course, John and I worked our butts off, but we soon learned how to do it. We got the better performers involved, got the students involved. We quickly learned to use the full resources available.

And it was perfect for our students. For two full days, they could sit in on classes with all the "greats" they'd heard of and had seen. And, the entire festival was free for everyone. We arranged housing for out of town performers, we had BBQ's, and we pulled it off.

Those were the best days of any festival I ever saw. Moving on ...

Waaaay back in 1962 in Seattle, we had something called the "World's Fair." It was a grand event, lasted six months, and every Sunday us singers would gather on the lawn in front of the "U.N. Pavilion" and sing our hearts out. Great times. I like to think that those days gave start to what is now known as "The North West FolkLife Festival."

My next comments are going to be using this festival as an clear example of exactly what can go WRONG with a festival.

When it first started, in 1971 I think, it was small and fun. It was an outgrowth of the natural music that was happenning in Seattle area living rooms and the occasional small club and coffee house. In the first years, the festival planners had a good sense of what it was about, namely folk music. They went out of their way to court the folk performers, dancers, singers, etc.

Early on, we had all the percs: free parking, free instrument checking rooms, we even had "slumber rooms" where you could sign up for a half hour nap between performances and someone would wake you on cue. Really very nice in those days, but of course, we were ALL performing for free.

Then, things began to change and the percs began to dissapear. "What, free parking, we can no longer afford that." "What, free beer in the hospitality room, we can no longer "afford that." And these changes have, in my opinion, been devastating to the original folk festival mission. And, in again my my opinion, the root cause of this change has been money! Surprise ... follow the $$$'s.

Do festivals cost money to produce? Sure. Early on, grant money was obtained to cover these costs. And the festival planners started growing with the money. Why, my goodness, let's have a "BIGGER" festival next year. And look here, maybe we can get more money. And guess what, they did.

Then, I think, a HUGE mistake happened. The festival LOST it's focus. And that's so sad. "They", and there are really many "they's" involved, decided to bring in the venders. Let's have all the craft people. Hey, we have to have food venders to feed these hungry people. On and on and on.

Now along comes the Seattle City council. One day, they looked at all these crowds, some 200,000 by now, and said, "weeeeee!" Look at the money we can make if we just charge a small admission fee. I well remember when they floated that idea some dozen or so years ago and we shot it down in three weeks. I remember that I wrote to Ruby Chow, council member, and told her that the day she charged admission is the day she gets my bill for all my years of free performances.

Now, all of my recent comments might make you think that I'm slamming the North West FolkLife Festival. But I'm really not. All things considered, I think it's a damned fine festival. But ... it's a victum of it's own success, as John Ross mentioned on the earlier thread. And here's the whole point of this diatribe ... it's so damned sad"!

It didn't have to happen this way. Remember what a folk music festival is supposed to be about ... it's folk music!!! It's not the food venders, the craft shows, the 200,000 people crowds.

I know, I know. I sound like a crotchety olde fart, and maybe I am. I give no appologies. "Bride Judy" and I spent a wonderful afternoon there yesterday. We had wonderful visits with old friends, Mike Nelson, the Seattle Song Circle crew, Riley and Maloney, Mike Neun, and of course Utah Phillips' wonderful concert last night. But, in the process, what we had to endure with the crowds, the smoke, the terrible organizing, the lack of planning, and VERY rude and untrained staff people, makes it doubtful that we'll try it again.

I sincerley hope that this thread gives food for thought, especially to those of you out there that are involved in festivals and festival planning. Don't make the mistake of trying to be everything to everybody. O.K. I'm shut. I'll put on my hard hat and look forward to your thoughtful input.

One last note ... Reggie Miles, I can't agree with you more. It's simply NOT RIGHT that the "festival" receives a kickback from your private CD sales. Hell, the festival didn't help you with the costs or the production of your CD's.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: dianavan
Date: 31 May 04 - 03:44 AM

I loved those evenings at the U.N. pavillion and hanging around the fountain. I remember the good feelings there and the music was so sincere. Those were the early days.

I don't know about the festival scene in Seattle after 1969 because I went to Europe and then Canada. The Vancouver Island festival has gone through many of the same changes you mentioned.   

I liked the addition of food when it was the homemade variety and hearty. Now its crap. I liked the arts and crafts because it gave me an opportunity to see what the local craftspeople were producing and I always supported them by buying a yearly souvenier of the festival. Now - crap from Bali.

So yeh - everything changes but the folks remain the same.

Organizers change too. The Van. Isle Festival has gone through many organizers as well. I didn't go for a couple of years because it seemed to have deteriorated. Imagine my surprise when a new organizer turned it around and brought in better planning and great music and song. The concessions and 'crafts' still stink but the musician are fed well. Festival goers can bring their own food and drink and camp if they wish. It is not strictly a 'folk' venue but a venue for local talent as well. ...but if the locals aint folk, who is?

Why don't you come up and check it out. Its in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. Maybe you need a change of scene. There's also a hotel if you need accomodations. You can drive it in a long day. The festival is the first or second week of July. Bring your family and friends. Also your sunscreen.

There's a website somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Deckman
Date: 31 May 04 - 04:05 AM

Thanks for the invite. I just may do that. And, I have heard many nice comments about the festival up there. I also plan on attending the smaller get togethers, like Rainy Camp. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 May 04 - 06:04 AM

Festivals have a life cycle. Typically they start small, grow, go to seed, and die. Or in some cases turn into something else which is part of the entertainment industry.

And new ones spring up, and go through the same life cycle.

One festival which operates a different pattern is the Fleadh Ceoil in Ireland, where the idea is that after a couple of years in one town it gets transplanted to another town - the idea being, I understand, that it should help generate a local traditional music scene which can them develop without being overshadowed. How far it works I'm not sure, but it's an interesting way of doing it. I wonder if anything like that happens elsewhere?


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: paddymac
Date: 31 May 04 - 07:41 AM

It seems to me that the Comhaltas' Fleadh Ceol has been a huge success in spawning a large number of "music camps" throughout the year and all around the island. It's become an industry in its own right. It's a delight to see so many youngsters get involved and progress to great skill levels, but somewhere along the way it seems they are not taught the nature of folk. Maybe that part of their learning is presumed to happen in pubs and sessions. I watched a session in pub during Willie Clancy week a few years ago, with 14 girls and one boy, violinists all, I'd guess all about 14 or 15 years old. They played all in lockstep with the teacher. I realize that there is a school of thought that one should master the craft before trying to improvise, but those young ones came across as well-trained, mechanical clones, ready to play in most any orchestra, but not as folk musicians. Far better that than not to play at all, but still, I was sort of saddened by it. They were fine violinists, but not fiddlers.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 31 May 04 - 08:38 AM

Some time you should all hear what Michael Cooney has to say about the rise and fall of the Mariposa festival. I believe he covered it in Sing Out so it must be on file someplace.

Don


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 31 May 04 - 10:25 AM

An interesting piece...

http://www.michaelcooney.com/MC1P012.html


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 31 May 04 - 01:49 PM

McGrath, the perigrinating folk festival is alive and well in the United States. It's called the National Folk Festival, and it's organized and partly run by the Smithsonian Institution. It stays in one location for four years, and then moves on. At least two such cities have organized successor regional festivals to carry on with the momentum. I know of a place in New England, and then most recently Lansing, Michigan. I'm told that the New England successor has continued in success for at least six, maybe ten years. I think that last year was the first for the Lansing festival, called The Great Lakes Folk Festival. I don't know how well it did or will do.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Stewart
Date: 31 May 04 - 02:53 PM

Well, I'll come in with my perspective. As a relative newcomer to Seattle (moved here from Minnesota 8 yrs ago) I only know what Bob Nelson, Don Firth and other old-timers have told me about earlier NW Folklife festivals. I was quite impressed the first couple of years I attended, but now have mixed feelings about the festival. I was given a performance stage spot 3 years ago, but that was right next to a construction site with heavy machinery noise and within close proximity to the infernal drumming. But I accepted it as better than not having an opportunity to be on stage. The next two years I was turned down, and only this year was given an opportunity to do a workshop, but my performance application was again turned down. So it is quite a mystery to me how that whole selection process operates. Then I hear a promo spot on our local folk music radio station last week about Folklife - "come to see the celebration of arts from the Horn of Africa, and come to see all the great international performers." So that's a Pacific NW regional festival??

Well this weekend I took a slightly different approach. I hang out mostly at the NW Court stage with Celtic and maritime music, away from the huge crowds with their cacophony of drums and other noise, smoke and merchants around the fountain area. Then I took out my fiddle and did a little busking. this was not for money, my fiddle case was closed, but mostly for my own amusement and for the few people who slowed down to listen as the passed by, although most people seened to be in quick transit from one point to another. But that was fine - it was fun to do for a while. Then my friend Paddy Graber (trad Irish singer) and I discovered a free open-mic stage in the Silver Platters CD store with a blackboard sign-up. We did our own 30 min. set on Sat (unitl another musician showed up), and another 15 min set on Sun. And we sold a good number of CDs by pointing to the table across the room where they were on sale (Silver Platters got their 15% plus the city/state 8.8% tax, but we didn't have to get expensive permits, etc, etc. so that was ok).

So we had fun in these impromptu sessions both performing on our own and also listening to other impromptu "street musicians." To me this is what a folk festival should be about - just people sharing their music in an informal way. So if I go to future Folklife festivals I'll be spending more of my time doing this, and meeting old friends who happen to pass by and staying as far away as I can from the lunatic center of the festival. I'll do my workshop with our Irish session late this afternoon, and then try and recover from this hetic weekend.

One other bit about the festival management. I was successful in getting them to put the workshop schedule on their web site, however one still had to look in the printed schedule in a place other than the schedule grid to find info about the workshops. Then I corrected a typo and mis-statement of our workshop title on their web site, but they neglected to correct this on their prited guide - oh well... Then I was told by our folklore society that I couldn't put anything about my workshop in their monthly newsletter - "well, if we did it for you then we would have to do it for everyone else, and we don't have enough space" - although I did persuade them after some talking to put a few announcements on their table at the festival. By contrast, my Victory Music friends were happy to put an announcement of my workshop in their monthly publication and also to put it on their table along with many other independent musician related flyers. I think that some organizations as they get bigger and bigger lose sight of their origins and what they should be about. A lot of this is about money (that's why I am an unemployed musician, by choice) and personal power ("we've been running this organization for years and we don't want anything to change or to lose our power in running it").

Well, I'll step back and see what follows. I don't mean to be cynical or too negative, but some things just seem to run their course and then we have to move on to other things.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Deckman
Date: 31 May 04 - 03:04 PM

Thanks for your thoughtful input Stewart. You certainly are one of the persons I was hoping would contribute to this thread. I puzzeled for several days before I wrote my opening comments. I also didn't want to appear too negative, but at the same time, I did want to address some of the many frustrations that I have with the festival, as well as frustrations that I know others feel. My intent was/is only to try to improve not just this festival, but hopefully others. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 May 04 - 03:43 PM

The other thread on this year's Northwest Folklife Festival is HERE

Good comments, folks, and very much to the point. One of the big problems with the Northwest Folklife Festival right now is that it is so bloody big! And it has become so (what was that curse word people used to use about certain folk musicians who were more interested in the paycheck than the music back in the Sixties?) commercial.

It's nice that those devoted to the singing of traditional Scottish ballads have an opportunity to see what Basque dancers are up to, and the Hawaiian slack-key guitarists can become acquainted with the songs of New England cod fishermen, and that 500+ singer-songwriters have one more chance to showcase their stuff—but it strikes me that the Folklife Festival is trying to be all things to all people. I recall early one afternoon some years ago when I came onto the Seattle Center grounds to take in the festival when the first music to assail my ears was "Duke, Duke, Duke—Duke of Earl, Earl, Earl. . . ." and I wondered if I had come to the right place. I heard all kinds of music that afternoon, from various flavors of rock to pop songs of the Fifties ("sha-boom sha-boom") to singers who wrote their own "folk songs" and droned on tunelessly for thirty verses about what marvelous insights they had gained while gazing into the depths of their navel lint. It was several hours before I encountered anything that resembled what I thought I would find at a folk festival. I realize that this gets into the thorny thicket of "what is folk music?" but please forgive me if I don't really think that a dozen grunge-rock groups using the Folklife Festival as a showcase for their newly formed bands is really it. If you apply the word "folk" to anything and everything that people do, then the word loses its meaning. It's a very good thing to be inclusive. But if you're going to call it a "Folklife Festival," there really ought to be some kind of delineation here.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Seattle Center hosts the Northwest Folklife Festival. Over Labor Day weekend, the Seattle Center hosts Bumbershoot, a massive arts and crafts festival—complete with a variety of musical groups. Other than having to pay to get into Bumbershoot, its getting harder and harder to tell the two festivals apart.

(Grump, grump, grump. . . .)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Stewart
Date: 31 May 04 - 04:08 PM

Let me pop in again. Yesterday (Sun) there was a delightful hour-long program in tribute to Phil Thomas for his years of work collecting and singing songs of the Pacific Northwest. This was in a little theater in the Seattle Center Building. It was not a huge audience, maybe 50 or 60, but a very appreciative one. Several musician friends from B.C. and Bellingham, WA were on stage to sing Phil's songs, and it was a wonderful thing. Again this is what NW Folklife should be about. Thanks to John Ross for arranging this.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: IvanB
Date: 31 May 04 - 08:42 PM

DaveO, I believe the National Folk Festival is actually on a three year rotation, at least that was its time span in East Lansing, MI. The Great Lakes Folk Festival is in its third year (2002 being the first) and, so far, shows no signs of petering out. However, GLFF does have paid performers and takes a large sum of money to produce. Depending on the economy, grant money could dry up pretty quickly and I doubt the festival could survive in that case.

So far, there's been no admission charge for the festival, just volunteers running around with donation buckets to which one can contribute according to one's ability. I hope it can stay that way. In the 80's and early 90's, we had the Michigan Festival on MSU's campus. It went for 10 days spanning two weekends and had a variety of music, not just folk. One could buy an admission button for $8 the first year, allowing attendance at any and all the concerts during the entire festival. As the festival went on, admission buttons got higher and higher in price, Attendance fell off, some of the grant money dried up, and the festival finally collapsed sometime in the 90's.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 01 Jun 04 - 11:05 PM

Yes, Stewart, wasn't that a nice little concert? People felt enough ownership to talk to people "on stage" and that's one of the markers of community. I'd like to see more of this. And kudos to John Ross for organizing it!

This was my 29th year performing at the Folklife festival. I still look forward to it every year because of the opportunity to sing informally. I regard the advertised gigs as being no more than a hook to hang your hat on - it's the informal sings (at pubs, parties, stairwells: hello, Mark Graham!) that contain the magical moments. I have lost nearly all interest in being on a stage - the best 'formal' gigs are the small and intimate gatherings such as the Phil Thomas one, where people either know Thomas, or his work, or have an interest in either, and a musical 'conversation' becomes possible. When people have come for a reason, it's possible to address that reason. But when you're singing at the Northwest Court (which is mostly where me and Rika get put), you haven't got the least idea of what people are there for (and maybe they don't, either) so it's very hard to get a conversation going.

My 2c.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Deckman
Date: 01 Jun 04 - 11:08 PM


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 02 Jun 04 - 01:34 AM

My weekend started a little early. The folks at Folklife called on Tuesday and asked if I'd be interested in doing an interview on the radio. The last time I played at Folklife, two years ago, I participated in one of these. So, on Thursday at about 7-8 in the morning I was scheduled to join the folks at KMPS. I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself with Ichabod Caine and the Waking Crew. He was a very gracious host and was nice enough to invite me back anytime that I had shows to advertise. He also hinted that he might be interested in having me as a monthly guest, a very flattering gesture. He was kind enough to advertise my show and workshop at the Festival. Even though they seemed more interested in my musical saw playing, I hoped that, by bringing my guitars along, he might offer me a chance to play one of my original songs and he did. I played one of my new ones called, "Wanted: Used Car". After the interview, just as I was about to head back home, Ichabod took me down the hall to their sister station KYCW. He introduced me to the host Tall Paul. Paul was nice enough to follow suit and offer an opportunity to play another saw song and then let me play another original song on my guitar. I played my song "A Dilly of a Tale", about having eaten some bad dill pickles. I left both Ichabod and Paul with a couple of my most recent recordings. Later, at the festival and elsewhere, I had folks stop and tell me that they heard the radio spot. They also told me they had heard them play one of the songs from my latest called, "Shopping Cart Wrangler." All that attention is enough to increase the hat size of any mortal man.

On Saturday I headed to the EMP for my workshop about how to play the musical saw. Being unfamiliar with the location, I had to call to ask where the learning lab was. The room was wonderful, and an enormous upgrade from the space that we used during my last workshop, two years ago. We had about the same number of folks in attendance or perhaps a few more. About ten to twenty showed up. From that small number I was able to reap five contacts of those who wished to stay in touch.

I made mention to all in attendance of my intention to start an organization of those interested in this curious art form and that I decided to call it the Sawplayers Association of Wasington State (S.A.W.S.). Fortunate indeed that I live where I do, as the end result of that spelling wouldn't have worked out in too many other states. I had no intense agenda to the idea of starting the club/group of enthusiasts. However, it is my hope that, by spreading the idea around we might gather more attention to this nearly lost art form. Perhaps some day we'll have enough interest by enough folks to host our own Northwest gathering of saws. If I were to really dream big, a sawchestra would be fun, but that idea may take a while to ripen. Actually, I'd be happily surprised to simply find another saw player out there in the woodwork (so to speak) with whom I could play a duet, but given the very varied and individual nature of the approaches that different folks have taken to learning to play, one of those electronic loop mechanisms seems my only alternative at present.

With one of those gadgets you can become your own partner by recording a melody part and then performing a harmony along with the previously recorded section. It's not as dramatic or dynamic a presentation as two players together on stage live but I'm fairly certain I can have some fun with the idea.

I was happy that Steve, an attendee of past workshops, showed up again, and this time brought along a variety saws to demo and share. He was also willing to share his insights concerning what was important to understand about the how-to aspects of playing and help with instruction during the hands on portion. Steve made a recording of the workshop on his mini disc recorder and took a photo of the event. What a wonderful contribution he made to this year's event. I just finished listening to the recording. Wow, I didn't realize there was so much to say about saw playing. Or maybe it's just the way I say it. ;0) I was a little saddened by the fact that after so many workshops Steve hasn't decided to focus on learning to play his saw these past few years. He said he's been working a lot more with his ukulele of late, an admirable choice. I'm a uke fan myself and have several that I don't spend nearly enough time with.

I guess my real inspiration was having seen Tom Scribner play.
Even though I've only had the opportunity to hear him play once, it gave me an idea of just what the saw could sound like. Just having that example was enough for me. I guess each of us get inspired in different ways.

I didn't have a great deal of time before my performance on the Exhibition Hall Lawn Stage so I went directly there afterward.
I managed avoiding the highest concertrations of visitors last weekend by knowing a few shortcuts and walking around the outside edges of the event when in a hurry.

I had a good half hour set. I was tickled to see so many smiles on the faces of friends and family. I wish I could have had more time
to continue. It's a real blessing to be able to bask in all of those smiles.

If I have any complaint about the event it's the same one that I've noticed year after year.

I still feel that offering the drum ensembles an indoor location of their own is the best of all possible solutions. This handful of performers continue to dominate, via the sheer volume of their instruments, most of the available listening environment on the entire festival grounds. They have been getting away with this for far too long and nothing is being done to deter this from happening by this festival's organizers. They are, however, quick to pass rules against any musicians, playing instruments of lower natural volume, to keep them from using amplification while playing casually. These folk musicians would not want to bring in amplification if there were no issues with volume to compete with on the grounds. This habit of looking the other way at the abuse of the few to the detriment of the majority isn't fair or right and something should be done about it. The entire main walkway on the west side of the fountain was dominated by four drum bands that set up camp all weekend long and never moved. They never offered the space to those who played instruments with lesser volume. When some friends and I tried to play one brief set on the south end of that same walkway, the nearest of these drum bands began to drum loudly right over the top of our music. Instead of waiting and kindly offering us an opportunity to play one measly set of music all weekend long, they used their volume level as a weapon to destroy our chances of being enjoyed by the folks who had stopped to listen to us, ruining an opportunity for folks to hear our folk music. I don't think the majority of the space should be alloted to the minority of the peformers just because they have louder instruments. Putting these groups indoors with their own stage, just as the dance bands had their own stage and space indoors, is a viable solution. It gives focus and attention to their art. Just as the Exhibition Hall was set aside for the dancers, the drummers should have a venue where they can perform and be heard (indoors!!!). They can take turns as the rest of us do, performing their "set" of percussion before all who would attend such an event. Give them their own stage/venue and let them set up and tear down their gear after their half hour set as we do. This would effectively eliminate them from being hogs, via their volume, of the available listening area that the festival has to offer and thereby make the entire grounds available for the many more folks who have instumentation of lower natural volume. There are ways of muting drums as well that would decrease their level of output volume.

Another point is this. I was offered a single half hour performance slot last weekend. By contrast, these drum bands are setting up camp all weekend long. One group even had their own tent set up. Do they have to apply to the festival for the opportunity to play their four day long performances as we do? Their volume easily carries for an entire city block in all directions. I say take them out of the outdoor mix by offering them a specific venue either away from the highest concentration of stages on the outskirts of the festival, or inside where their volume can't negatively impact the available listening space. I would love to have an opportunity to play on the grounds and actually be heard above the din. I can't compete with their volume. It seems as though, by letting these drum bands get away with this volume bullying year after year, that the festival organizers are telling me that my music isn't worth accommodating. Or perhaps they think that folks are not actually interested in my folk music. Maybe next year they should just change the name of the event to Drumfest and be done with it.

What is seriously needed is a Volume Czar to organize the event. Either that, or I'm going to start working on the biggest dang drum on the planet for next year's event, and take over ALL the space via my volume. It'll shatter ear drums, glass and guitar tops with a single thump, and nobody better complain either especially after what I've been putting up with in years past. (Okay, that last comment may be a bit extreme)

And please don't respond with how this outdoor playing has some historic tie to their art and that putting them indoors is denigrating this history or tradition. Most of these guys were just beating trap sets, and besides, the history of performing outdoors is tied to many more folks than just drummers. And lest you think I'm down on percussionists, I've been playing percussion for the last twenty years. Having no formal training, just scrubbin' on my ol' 1929 Maytag Custom Dixie Delta Deluxe Eldorado Special, I still only consider myself a pre-cussionist but even I recognize that the best percussionists I've heard know that, when it comes to volume, less is more.

End of rant


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 02 Jun 04 - 04:15 AM

I've been attending festivals as punter, performer, steward and donkey (i.e., equipment carrier for a morris team/band) for about 20 years now, up and down Britain, with occasional forays into Europe and I've noticed a distinct change.

The first festivals I went to, admitedly, were small country affairs. These managed to be intimate as well as all embracing. There was a lot more emphasis on group activities like dances and concerts, rather than the personal performances of sessions and singarounds.

Since then, I've been to some of the bigger ones. Sidmouth, as performer, Towersey, as punter, performer and steward, two European festivals as performer and donkey, and myriad others up and down the UK.

The European festivals have practically every contingency covered. There are concert tents, dance tents, display tents, from intimate through to binoculars necessary size; there are childrens activities, indoor and out; chill out tents; noisy tents and beer tents. Every age group is catered for, every musical desire covered. The chill out tent is near the craft fair, somewhat removed from the noisy tent, but still far enough away from the concert tents that you can listen without extraneous noise.

It may be that I'm slightly more focused on performing now, but I'm aware that more and more festivals have 'singarounds' billed. It seems to me that people no longer go to specific festivals to see booked artists but to enjoy a session or a singaround of the calibre you don't get at your local (if you have one) folk club.

In my 20 years experience, the focus has shifted from hearing other performers, to performing. I remember when the singaround was because there was no room to get into a concert or dance and it was something to do. Now it seems that certain festivals are only worth visiting for the singarounds. If Sidmouth folds, then I reckon the Anchor Pub Sessions could rise from its ashes and continue as an entity on its own merit. If the Barn sessions at Towersey were stopped, then a significant number of people would no longer go to Towersey. In Chippenham, the sessions and singarounds make a fair sized contribution to ticket sales. I can't remember the last time I went to a festival with the intention of seeing a particular performer (except Les Barker but he won't thank me for that!). I certainly haven't booked a festival specifically to see a performer for about 10 years but I have booked because I wanted to attend the singarounds.

As a performer, we've never had many special perks except at Hastings (which strictly speaking isn't a folk music festival but includes many of the same people doing silly things) and on the continent. The continental festivals are a little different because we are guests and ambassadors, so we are treated very well - free entry to the whole festival, free beer tickets, at least one free meal ticket and use of the performers bar, a much more salubrious environment than some of the other beer tents I've been in, with comfy chairs, stable tables and carpeting! I'd hope that the same is applicable to foreign visitors when they visit British festivals. I know it was the case at Saffron Walden - it was my job to!

The major problem with festivals anywhere, is that you cannot please all the people, all the time. Once you learn to accept that it is not your God given right have the performers YOU want in the lineup, life becomes easier. Once you learn to accept that you will always have at least one person complaining about your booking policies, and accept it in good grace, then you will manage. Once we all learn to take responsibility for our own actions and not to try and lay blame on others, we will all get on a lot better!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Snuffy
Date: 02 Jun 04 - 08:41 AM

Liz,

I think singarounds have grown as more people take the attitude that folk is not something that's done to you. What makes a good singaround different from a folk club or concert is that there are no performers and no audience - just "us" entertaining ourselves. It is a truly communal experience that people have enjoyed for centuries, and still do, even outside the folk world.

I have never booked for a festival on account of the "names" on the bill, and could probably count one one hand the number of "shut up and listen" events I've attended at festivals.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Stewart
Date: 02 Jun 04 - 12:48 PM

I'd like to refresh this thread and pull it up alongside of the thread on Seatle Folklife Memorial Day Weekend since they are related.

S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Deckman
Date: 02 Jun 04 - 01:08 PM

I would suggest that one of the catter shakers go ahead and combine these two threads. I started this particuliar thread as I wanted to approach the issues from a broader perspective. Thanks, Bob


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Jun 04 - 01:20 PM

IvanB:

You are right, and I was wrong, the National Folk Festival is on a three year rotation, not four. At my age, I've got CRS.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: MAG
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 12:26 AM

walking into the festival around noon on Saturday was the usual natural high. You walk in and see people participating all around you, and having fun. For all that the crowds and people being unpleasant getting to me, I'd miss it terribly if I couldn't go.

As I said on the other thread, I was a first time participant, although I have applied by myself in the past. Coming from across the state and having food and    hotel costs is a commitment, and I couldn't relax most of Saturday with a 50 minute set at the Roadhouse coming up. Being at hospitality where a lot of performers hung out was great and it looked like you could do a lot of jamming there. We were on last Saturday, and when we went over to hospitality the party seemed to be breaking up.

My knees are shot so I couldn't go back to the Roadhouse and dance, especially with my guitar in tow.

There weren't any workshops which really interested me, except Artis, which was on Monday when I had to leave. (I am very glad he is still there.)

I'd like to hang out with other singers. As I said otoot, Intiman Court is a great place to chill.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: dianavan
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 12:37 AM

I've been to the west coast of Ireland a couple of times and what I thought really kept the folk music alive was the fact that there really wasn't an audience. You were expected to perform. You either played an instrument or sang or both. If you couldn't do that, you danced. If you didn't do any of those things, you had to tell a story.

Maybe thats whats needed to keep folk music alive.

I sometimes think that as soon as you have an audience, you become 'pop'.


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 04:40 AM

Dianavan, that's a very interesting point. You might well be right. Bob


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 09:08 AM

"Folk isn't something that's done to you"

BRAVO!

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: GUEST, NOMADman
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 07:43 PM

Yes, the National Folk Festival is on a 3-year rotation. This year it's in Bangor ME, Aug 27 - 29. I think this is the last year for Bangor.

Here's their web site.

Regards,
John


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Subject: RE: Folk Festival Problems?
From: GUEST,GUEST: Candy Hughes
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 08:13 PM

slightly different perspective, perhaps

you've been talking MUSIC, let me also mention DANCE ...

prior performer at FolkLife: exhibition Finnish, Scottish Country and International folk dance groups

hadn't been back to FolkLife for several years ... and I found it more diverse and (arguably) better than ever

I do completely agree with the criticism of the very loud continuous drum noise .... it became extremely difficult to listen to the Magical Strings performance on the Exhibition Hall Lawn stage ... and the Bouldings are NOT all that quiet .... the drums may have been a virtual block or two away, but only those sitting in the first few rows could concentrate on the music we'd all come to hear ... this is just one example ... the drum noise did pervade the air nearly everywhere, all day all night

could movable acoustic partitions be placed around the drums if they cannot be moved indoors ? this might also apply to bagpipes ?

we were there nearly all day every day, so got a good look at FolkLife 2004 ...

actually, we ran across a great many jammers who were not buskers ... at the NE corner of Fisher Green, outside the N door of the Food Circus (and even in the stairwell, well out of the traffic patterns), on the steps leading to the top of Fisher Pavilion, beside the First Aid tent, on the pathway leading to McCaw Hall ... also on the north end of the Fountain lawn

we had a wonderful time -- my new husband had never been to FolkLife before, so we saw everything from Zimbabwean marimbas to Andean panpipes to Inupiaq dancers to Venezuelan style flamenco to Hawaiian hula and we danced contras and international and Scandinavian and Balkan and Tyrolean and big-band ... and yes, nearly everyone we met or saw is living in the Northwest

we went to a Ukrainian bandura workshop and and Argentianian tango workshop, and we'd have gone to many more except they overlapped with something ELSE we wanted to see and/or were located at the exact opposite end of the grounds with insufficient time to get there ...

it was all great fun -- yes, there were outrageous crowds on Saturday, and the area around the Fountain is always crowded, but there were performers with only a handful of listeners too

I hope the workshops will be integrated into the published schedule this next year ... they were on the website but not on the printed-on-paper one ... and some of those entries were difficult to read without magnifying glasses

re the performers -- I guess it depends on how you define FOLK: is it something that might be played by groups of the 50s or before ? or is it closer to the definition of ETHNIC ? does hip-hop count ? (according to what was on the schedule, this year it did) does "cowboy" count ? (apparently not, other than two international groups had members costumed as such) ... I tend to be inclusive rather than exclusive, though styles which already have a large festival of their own, might be less preferred than groups which make this their ONLY public performance all year ...

yes, it's big ... if you want small and cozy, go to the festival at Northgate ... just for example ...

hey, I'm an idealistic pre-Baby-Boomer, can't help believing that if we learn to understand and tolerate and respect other modes, other beliefs, that this world will be better for all ...


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