Radio: Roots and Wings is archived, and can be heard throughout the week at www.wmuc.umd.edu
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50th Anniversary – Philadelphia Folk Festival
The Digital Folk Life
John McLaughlin (editor) and Jamie Downs (art director)
It’s a challenge, alright – turning out a report in the press tent while the festival is running all around you, kids squealing, people cheering, music playing from two and three stages within earshot, the Dulcimer Grove busy with the whirling slap-slap of jugglers and the giggling of story-tellers, the Camp Stage running non-stop half the night with merry-makers, the rain coming down and then the sun blazing forth, the big TV screens flanking the Martin Guitar/ Woody Guthrie Stage (ask Utah, RIP) testing-testing their deft camera work, Klondyke Sound crystal-clear from here, here comes the photographer with two cameras and a computer, oh my…. It’s a tough life, innit?
So who do we have here? (You keep tagging, I’ll keep writing, OK?) Is that Arlo and the Burns Sisters? Now there’s harmonies for you? Tom Rush? What do I know? David Bromberg? “On the road again, hey-hey- hey!” Gene of the silver flask, ambling past, on his way to collect some really, really bad jokes? I love Philly!
The program book, of course, is packed full of names, and the most agile photographer/writer team can’t possibly get around to them all, even with the help of the picks by Festival staff, in the middle of the book. Among our favorites were the soaring sister of The Campbell Brothers, giving her all to the Lord on Sunday morning; Arlo – of course – delivering a polished but off-center set to close Saturday night, making loving fun of how his wife got accidentally arrested, and then, with the packed crowd still laughing, segueing into union songs that his father would have cherished; David” Everywhere” Bromberg, doing journeyman’s work wherever called on, from helping the hillside of Gene Shay fans celebrate the long-time MC’s 50th Anniversary of delivering bad jokes from the Main Stage, to forming one quarter of a terrific blues workshop on Sunday afternoon, with Jorma Kaukonen, Roy Book Binder and Tom Rush, each one more amazed than the next at how much fun expertise can deliver – but, really, for me, there was one man who epitomized the free-wheeling spirit of Philly, and that was, what can you say, David Amram, with his hour-long rolling rap on Jack Kerouac and why the King of the Beats belonged on a workshop stage at Philly.
We almost missed Dave’s Sunday afternoon workshop on his old friend from the Lower East Side in the Fifties, distracted by a fine offering, across the hill on the Tank Stage, of “Husbands & Wives,” especially by an astonishing Kate Wolf reincarnation, Maura Kennedy, who stopped us in her tracks with that pure voice. But David was across the hillside, near the Sing Out! Booth next to the entrance to the Crafts Fair, and we joined in the singalong blues, “This One’s For You, Jack,” with which he closed the set, following on a Kerrville reminiscence and a happy improvised lecture on why books and music and painting and singing make up “the folk process” that included Ti-Jean’s “First Thought, Best Thought” compositional habits, and a free-form rhyming reminiscence of “Pull My Daisy,” the 1959 Beat film for which David wrote the title song – again, improvised once more in the Schwenksville afternoon – and on and on. A workshop, with one man running the stage, in his straw cowboy hat and the black, sequin-lapelled jacket given him by Willy Nelson’s bass-player at Farm Aid, which he’d just left. [Here insert your own favorite yodel-ay-hee-hoo-oo!}
So David was all set to fly out to Moab, Utah, for the premiere of the documentary film, “David Amram: The First 80 Years” (YES!), and we were sagging from all this fun, one more time at Philly. And then the thunder boomed, the lightning crackled, and we broke for the shuttle back to our car and headed for home. I guess we chickened out, leaving the rest of the fun to younger folks, like Amram (father and son – Adam played hot congas for his Dad), and all the rest of the Philly crowd, dancing, singing, cheering, laughing, having a good old time, as always. Thanks for letting us bring our view of the show to your screen – John & Jamie, of The Digital Folk Life team.
New Interview with Christine Lavin
HMT Banjo Workshop at DC Art Studios
Out Among the Stars in Benton, PA
March 5th, 2010, Featuring Interview with Lisa Null, Co-founder of Green Linnet Records.
July 15th Interview with Organ Grinder Lola and Master Bob.
Philly's 46th Anniversary
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2007
“Roots & Wings” Radio Show,
WMUC-FM, UMD in College Park, MD
www.wmuc.umd.edu – Go to Show Archives, mp3, Fridays, Roots and Wings - Streaming Online
Our Move to DC, 2004