70th National Folk Festival - Butte MT

Monday, July 14, 2008

When I hear the words "Folk Festival", I envision Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary. Well, the 70th National Folk Festival completely changed my mind. Take a look at the list of performers and you'll see what I mean.

From the website: "Music and dance traditions from every part of the nation are represented, performed by the country’s very finest traditional artists. Audiences are treated to authentic blues, gospel, jazz, polka, cowboy, bluegrass, klezmer, old-time, Cajun, rhythm and blues, mariachi, western swing, zydeco and more. Continuous performances on seven stages celebrate Native American, Celtic, Acadian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, East Asian, Appalachian, Hispanic, Eastern European, African and Pacific Island cultures."

What a wonderful eclectic gathering of extremely talented and passionate musicians. With only one late afternoon/evening and one full day, we saw only a small smattering of the performers. But what we saw....oh my!

The main reason for out attending was so Stu could see his retiree friends, Bill (mentioned yesterday) and Freddie, who plays in the bluegrass band, The Seldom Scene. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, it was just in time to catch the band and meet up briefly with Freddie. When they were done we managed to meet up with Bill & Cindy (remember that proverbial needle in a haystack, thank goodness for cell phones) and headed off for drinks & something to eat. Here is a pic from Sunday after the festival ended. From left to right, Stu, Freddie & Bill.

Let me interject a little about the setting for the event. We were quite impressed with how well Butte had this set up. There were multiple stages but they were scattered throughout the closed downtown area. Rarely did the music from one stage impact that playing on another. There was a lot of walking and most of it up or down hill, but we just took our time. Parking was provided at community parking center with free shuttles to take you back & forth. The food tents were all in one location with drink tents scattered around. Another area contained souvenirs and other items to purchase.

There were people of all ages.....young and old, from babies to the elderly. Everyone was having a good time and often there was spontaneous dancing in front of the stages. At one point Cindy dragged Stu out to dance and I soon followed. First time I'd really danced in 10 years. LOL! What fun...well, except for trying to fast dance on an uneven rocky surface. We both felt it the next day.

The closing act for the night was Shemekia Copeland....she hosts Sirius Blues and I have listened to her for several years. Wonderful to see her perform in person!

From there Freddie invited us to the hotel (where all the performers were staying) to have a few drinks at the reception. We walked into the lobby and listened to a jam with folks from at least 4 different bands while we waited for Freddie. Once back in the reception area we saw the same thing repeated several more times. These people are truly passionate about their craft. Eventually we saddled up the trike and headed back to the campground, taking an interesting back road scenic route picked by the GPS.

We got a bit of a slow start on Sunday and missed the first couple of acts that we had hoped to catch. We did see The Seldom Scene performing again (different stage).

Then we wandered around, enjoyed the beautiful views as well as historic sites, ate a little and eventually caught my new favorite group, Le Vent du Nord. They were the closing act for Sunday and the crowd was very appreciative. Dancing galore....everyone getting into the act. (I have already downloaded some of their music from iTunes). We didn't understand a word they sang, but we sure enjoyed the entertainment!

So what was the cost for all this? Three days of professional music, morning - noon - night? Nothing...nada....zip...zilch...zero! Needless to say, we've already put the dates for the 71st National Folk Festival on our calendar, July 10-12 2009 in Butte. Hope to see you there!

Till next time - keep on rollin',


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