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Meeting artists at festivals?

09 Feb 13 - 09:21 AM (#3477499)
Subject: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: greg stephens

In a separate thread about Frome Fetsival's cancellation, Howard Jones says, apropos of how festivals have changed over the years: "You used to have the chance to meet the artists around the festival, maybe even play with them in a session but now this doesn't seem to happen very often".
If it is indeed the case that it doesn't happen often nowadys, that seems a terrible pity. Is that people's general opinion? I remember taking my guitar along to Cambridge folk festival, probably 1965 or 66, and in one day sitting down one-to-one with both Blind Gary Davies and Spider John Koerner and playing tunes together. The first in a corner of the bar, the second in a little conveniently empty marquee.A fantastic experience for a youngster. My feeling is that this still does happen, but maybe I am wrong. Any experiences one way or the other?

09 Feb 13 - 10:00 AM (#3477517)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Bobert

Attend smaller festivals...

The big ones with 50,000 people and 3 stages ain't for meeting or hangin' with other musicians...

We used to have a great festival at Wolf Trap Farms in Northern Virginia called the National Fold Festival and it was perfect for meeting folks... Might of fact many of the performers would conduct "workshops" and show others what and how they played stuff...


09 Feb 13 - 10:52 AM (#3477530)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: GUEST,Peter

I would imagine that festivals like Cambridge with big names on big stages now have separate facilities for performers so they all have a private jam in the "green room".

09 Feb 13 - 11:06 AM (#3477533)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: GUEST,999

It isn't likely to happen at large/big festivals for a few reasons.

1) Many of the performers have warm-ups to do, etc., and they haven't the time before they perform.

2) They are often 'confined' to an area that doesn't allow the general public access to either the performers or their instruments.

3) Some performers attract lots of people and the hour they have to spend is taken up with 'press the flesh' and make-nice small talk.

It's unfortunate, but too often that's the way it is.

09 Feb 13 - 11:36 AM (#3477544)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Paul Davenport

I think this thread is really important. As an artist who is far from a headliner I have to confess a certain exasperation with the 'headliners' who only do one concert and then go on their way. They're missing the best bits! If you examine a festival over a weekend you'll note that the dance teams provide the visible face (and work like hell for it) whilst the lower echelon acts provide the core, doing concert spots, leading singarounds, running workshops and playing/singing in sessions. That's the 'old school' way and I wouldn't want do anything else. But…when an artist takes the lions share of the festival artist budget and contributes nothing except their 'august presence' I kind of wonder whether this 'folk' thing has become just another facet of the commercial music scene and whether that is, in the long run, a good thing. My early mentors were the likes of Mike Waterson (an interior decorator) and Ian Manuel (a coalman). Back in the day nobody was expecting to make a living out of singing folk music, they had day-jobs. Should they now? Or is the commercialism, as Guest 999 says, '… unfortunate, but too often that's the way it is.'

09 Feb 13 - 01:08 PM (#3477587)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Ebbie

In Juneau, Alaska, artists commonly, if not routinely, jam with local musicians. Those who don't usually are those whose tight schedules prohibit it. Some touring musicians stop in Juneau only briefly, on their way to tour stops in Anchorage or in small towns along the way.

But those who remain become a bright memory here. Artists ranging from Kenny Baker to Bruce Molsky via John Prine and Tommy Sands and Mick Moloney and Ginny Hawker and Peggy Seeger - and lots more - we pass the word along that they're wonderful folks...

09 Feb 13 - 04:23 PM (#3477654)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Mo the caller

At the Chester February Folk Day (held in an old school) there is a concert in the afternoon in the main hall, and in two other classroom there are sessions (one with a leader, one DIY). The artists often join in.
Also at Bromyard, we were in an informal session in the beer tent and realised that one of the Doonans was there too.

And Whitby is all about participation. The callers who have been teaching you may be dancing in your set afterwards, the musicians lead workshops and session, as well as perform. They may not be the Big Names commercially, but they are the stars in my book.

09 Feb 13 - 04:41 PM (#3477662)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: GUEST,Peter

Whitby is rather exceptional, especially as there is no "star system" there.

I think Greg is unduely pessimistic but when you get a big festival like Cambridge with professional management there will be an assumption that artists need to be segregated from the common herd.

09 Feb 13 - 05:02 PM (#3477677)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Leadfingers

A lot depends on the 'Artiste' as much as the festival - WHFF a couple of years ago , Pete Coe , who was THE Headliner spent the whole Friday evening athe 'tunes' session , borrowing instruments some of the time too .
And a lot of festivals seem to keep the main acts in some kind of seclusion from 'the Hoi Polloi.

09 Feb 13 - 05:04 PM (#3477679)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: GUEST,Shove ha'penny

Cambridge and Shrewsbury are the only folk festivals I have been to where artists are segregated. All the others i have been to (Sidmouth, Towersey included) generally encourage the artists and public to mix.

09 Feb 13 - 07:14 PM (#3477710)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: GUEST,Peter

Well the festival explicitly referred to at the start of the thread was Cambridge. Under the previous management Sidmouth would sometimes have a car waiting to whisk the "names" away. Played havoc with the driver's schedule if an early pick up wanted to do some jamming first. A lot of that has to do with parachuting in acts for a single concert of course.

Personally I prefer festivals like Stowmarket or the old National where there is really no distinction between audience and performers and where everybody is there for the duration.

09 Feb 13 - 07:33 PM (#3477711)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Seamus Kennedy

The Michigan Irish Festival in Muskegon has a session tent a little way off from the main performance tents. It's run by Mudcat's very own Big Mick, and the festival asks the headline artists to go over to the session tent and sit in which they pretty much all do.
It's a great idea because it gives the festival-goers a chance to jam with the pros, and it gives the pros a chance to play some stuff that's not on their set lists.
Win-win all round.

09 Feb 13 - 10:54 PM (#3477743)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Beer

I was involved with festivals for 10 years in booking mostly. And i am proud to say that all musicians were able to walk and talk with folks that were there.

Bruce Murdoch
David Francey
Jessie Winchester
Garnet Rogers
Brendan Nolan
Penny Lang and many others.


09 Feb 13 - 10:56 PM (#3477744)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Beer

Bigger festivals have no choice but to put up barriers , so look for the small ones as was mentioned above.

10 Feb 13 - 04:05 AM (#3477766)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Acorn4

We've deserted Shrewsbury in favour of Whitby for the very reasons mentioned above.

10 Feb 13 - 06:59 AM (#3477818)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Howard Jones

My original comment was less to do with barriers (literal or metaphorical) put up by the festival organisers to keep the 'stars' away from the hoi polloi than the inevitable consequence of booking big name guests for just one or two appearances. The headline acts may be appearing at two or even three festivals on the same weekend, they're simply not around long enough to get involved.

There was a time when being booked for a festival meant just that, and artists would would be given a number of slots at different events throughout the weekend. In between, they could often be found socialising in the beer tent or playing in sessions. Whilst this is may still be true for the middle- and lower-ranked performers on the bill, the headliners, the ones organisers appear to think will draw audiences, are often just in-and-out.

Some festivals don't exactly encourage artists to stick around. Some will only offer artists tickets for the day they are actually performing and may be quite resistant to giving them access for the whole festival.

I suppose its an inevitable consequence of having more festivals and more competition between them. I think it's a pity, and one of the reasons I find myself increasingly drawn to small festivals.

10 Feb 13 - 12:12 PM (#3477915)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: frogprince

Most of the thread happens to relate to large festivals on the other side of the pond. Here in S.E. Michigan we're fortunate to be in easy reach of a couple of fests big enough to have first-string performers, but small enough that we get to mix and gab with them quite freely. It's a nice part of the experience.

10 Feb 13 - 07:35 PM (#3478058)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: GUEST,Rob the Roadie

Was at the Innerleithen Festival a fewyears back and headline act was Dougie mclean, olks even had the chance to win a 20 min spot to support him at his concert.Angie Wright ,my wife tried but failed,only just as it we were told.
After the concert which we attended as punters everyone (well almost went to the local hotel for a session, great fun was had by all and after about an hour Dougie turned up and we let him join in.

At Orkney a room was set up for singers and another for tunes and people switched from one to another through the night (we left at 4.00am) we sat singing with most of the headliners including the Mcalmans.

At Chester Fest we sat singing in the pub with Show of Hands
in one year and Last nights fun on another.

A simmilar session went on till the early hours with the acts at the Girvan festival when Angie was part of Taggart and Wright and trying to get bookings as unknowns.

So if you want to join in on a session come over here. o UK.

10 Feb 13 - 08:19 PM (#3478066)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Betsy

Back to start of the thread - Greg - I was there at Cambridge in those days , I met a lovely Canadian girl . You're correct,but,it was a REAL Folk Festival - and not the monstrosity which it has become.
For example if Vin Garbuttand many others of his age group were booked, you'd definitely be in a session in a beer tent with him ,but whilst the present policy of booking mid atlantic "no-ones" persists I'm afraid Cambridge is not what you looking for, so look further afield to a proper Folk Festival a la Whitby , Saltburn and I'm sure Festivals down South to hopefully obtain the sessions and close contact to performers you rightly desire.

10 Feb 13 - 09:15 PM (#3478092)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Tattie Bogle

Yes, as Ebbie says, it amy sometimes depend on the tour schedule: they have to be off as soon as the concert's over to go to the next place.
And as Leadfingers and other have suggested - it depends on the artist too. Some years ago, I spent a magical whole day in a pub session in Sidmouth in a session where Dougie Maclean played with whoever came in, the day after his big gig.
And much more recently, at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, we had Alasdair Fraser, Phil Cunningham, Kris Drever and many of the professionals playing into the wee small hours in a certain hotel bar with all comers great or small. Likewise the "House of Song" was a democratic mix of all comers, be they professionals or first-time-ever-in-public amateurs.

11 Feb 13 - 04:03 PM (#3478362)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Don Firth

There are folk festivals. And then there are folk festivals!

The first one I ever attended was the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1960, held on the University of California Berkeley campus and put together mainly by Barry Olivier. It was over the Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May), began at noon on the preceding Wednesday and lasted until the following—I don't recall whether it was Monday, or if they ended it on Sunday, giving out-of-towners like me a day to get home for work. Anyway…….

It began with a sort of welcoming ceremony at noon Wednesday. The schedule consisted of your choice of a number of two-hour workshops and discussion groups of various kinds beginning at 1:00, another selection at 3:00, then a dinner break, and the concerts began in a main auditorium at 8:00. On Thursday and for the rest of the festival, the workshops began at 10:00 a.m., with a lunch break from noon 'til 2:00.

Each concert was divided at the intermission. As I recall, Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl sang the first half, then John Lomax Jr. sang and told stories the second half. All of the performers were very well known to folk music enthusiasts, and although there were no spots programmed in where one could get together and jam, there were numerous after-concert parties, or you and others could skip a workshop that may not interest you and get together.

Sandy Paton was one of the featured performers (having recently returned from the British Isles), and I knew Sandy in the early Fifties when he lived in Seattle and was just teaching himself to play the guitar. He invited me to an after-concert party. We had been there for maybe fifteen minutes when in walked Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl. I don't think I ever met the host, but I had a good chance to chat with Peggy and Ewan. And others.

I attended two other Berkeley festivals, 1961 and 1964, where, among others, I had a chance to meet and chat with Charles Seeger, patriarch of the Seeger family, Marais and Miranda, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Almeda Riddle, and Joan Baez (whom I had met previously when she sang in Seattle during the World's Fair in 1962).

In all three festivals I attended, many of the workshops and discussion groups were moderated by the inimitable Sam Hinton, who also MCed the concerts and sang one of the concert halves himself.

I met a lot of very interesting people, I learned an amazing amount at these festivals, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

When the Seattle Folklife Festival got under way in the 1970s, I was working out of town at the time. The first one I attended was, I believe, in 1977. My God, what a mob scene!! When I went onto the Seattle Center grounds, the first thing that greeted my ears was "Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl, Earl, Earl……" highly amplified, and I wondered if I had come on the wrong weekend!

To make a long story short, I did participate in several of these "folklife festivals" (also over the Memorial Day weekend), both performing and in workshops. But this was a whole different kind of thing from the Berkeley festivals in the Sixties. There were, I heard, well over one hundred thousand people milling around the Center grounds (74 acres) and some 6,000 performers of various kinds performing on several dozen different stages and large meeting rooms. There were singers, dancers, and musicians of all kinds and cultures all over the area, and practically all the stages were amplified. The throb of Taiko drummers boomed over the grounds and could be hear miles away!!

This, contrasted with approximately 1,600 attendance at the Berkeley festivals, with maybe a dozen featured performers.

To me, the only salient thing I remember was that at one Seattle Folklife Festival where I sang in one of the big concert halls, I wound up following Elizabeth Cotton, who was one of the few paid participants!! One tough act to follow, but the audience was kind.

This incredible mob scene was totally different from the learning experiences I had at the Berkeley festivals—which I much preferred.

Of course, that's just me……..

Don Firth

11 Feb 13 - 05:25 PM (#3478400)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Ann N

:) links to Saltburn Folk Festival 9th to 11th August 2013 and Whitby Folk Week 17th to 23rd of August 2013   :D

12 Feb 13 - 05:48 PM (#3478804)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: Mo the caller

How about Bedworth Folk Day. It started out as a Saturday event, but loads of the artists had breakfast in the pub on Sunday and joined the sing-around (songs interupted by shouts of "number 27" from waitresses).

13 Feb 13 - 06:35 PM (#3479263)
Subject: RE: Meeting artists at festivals?
From: ChanteyLass

Performers at the Mystic Sea Music Festival are very accessible to talk to (though not monopolize), and if you go to the late night pub sings (for which there is no fee), everyone sings along but instruments are rarey used. It's a sing! It's easy to say hello to performers at the New Bedford (Massachusettts) Folk Festival (formerly Summerfest), too, but again one shouldn't monopolize them. The same is true at New Bedford's Working Waterfront Festival . At all these festivals, the best time to say hello is when they move from one stage to another, but often they have limited time to get to the next stage, and you shouldn't slow them down. Maybe festivals should schedule some time for jam sessions.