A quick little post about today's experience at the Folklife Festival. Three things, really.
1. On what was called the "Narrative Stage," I came across a group performing Kingston Trio songs. They did a great version of Woody's "Hard Ain't It Hard." At shows I tend to spend a lot of time watching the audience, looking for their reactions. As I was spanning the crowd here, I noticed that there was no one who looked anywhere between 10 and 40 years old. There were kids, yes, and there were middle aged folk and beyond, but I was definitely the only person there who fell in in between. Not that this is surprising, but it is a little disturbing to me. There is this question of relevance that spoke loudly via demographics.
2. One of the best things about Folklife are the street performers. Any spot you stand it, there's at least three styles of music you can turn your ears on to. It's really pretty amazing the way people pay attention, crowds form around them. Many ensembles I saw were of the jug band type, full of eclectic instruments and Appalachian overtones. It made me miss the Hackensaw Boys, with their cans and their washboards. If you're into this type of music, go directly to www.hackensawboys.com to check it out. If you are in Charlottesville, go see them play.
3. At the beginning of my set I felt the need to invoke not the Homerian muse but the sunshine, because the weather forecast has been iffy all week. I told the crowd that it was sort of like a Rain Dance, but opposite: Peter, Paul and Mary's "Weave Me The Sunshine." The clouds shifted about in the sky, and there seemed to be a bit of wind dusting around out there. Miraculously it remained in this weird stasis throughout the hour-long set. And literally in the last two seconds of the last song, the skies opened up in a kind of cosmic purge. I can't tell you how relieved I was that it held off until the very last chord was struck, and I couldn't help but feel part of something bigger. The crowd immediately scattered for shelter, and an uncharacteristic downpour ensued.