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2012 Philadelphia Folk Festival: Local Acts, Holmes Brothers, and Lucinda Williams Shine


The 2012 Philadelphia Folk Festival took place this weekend at the Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford Township - near Schwenksville.  The folk fest, in its 51st year is a tradition unlike any other in the region, providing a venue for local acts and unknown acts looking to get their name out there. Not to mention, there's great food, great beer (from Yard's Brewing Company), along with crafts, and shows performed by trapeze artists. Tell me where else on this side of the ocean can you experience all of these things in the span of a few hours!

The folk fest often times gets labeled as a music festival centered around folk music and catered towards "hippies." While it features plenty of folk; you can hear blues, zydeco, country, bluegrass, and even gospel. The headliners this year included Lucinda Williams, Little Feat, Trombone Shorty (who headlined last year), Steve Earle, John Hiatt, and Wanda Jackson (who didn't make it in time on Saturday). For a true music lover, there is something for everybody at "the fest."


On Saturday afternoon, 88.5 XPN's Helen Leicht featured many local artists over at the Camp Stage  - including Aaron & The Spell, Carsie Blanton, aaron & the spell folk fest 2012Harper Blynn, and Andrew Lipke. I had a chance to check out Aaron & The Spell and Carsie Blanton and was thrilled by both acts. Aaron & The Spell (led by frontman Aaron Brown) is a band which draws comparisons to Amos Lee and Ben Harper, with a huge influence from Otis Redding. They are best described as a band that soaks in all of the influences of the Philly indie music scene. If you get a chance, check them out. This is a band with a sound that's a rich blend of blues, R & B, and soul.

Carsie Blanton, based out of Philadelphia performed a variety of originals with a two-member band. In one of her songs, she prefaced it with a story about how she once turned down a guy's overtures at a bar in New Orleans. Even though she didn't go home with him, she did end up writing a song about him. The song was even better than the story to say the least. If you get a chance to check out Carsie and her group, by all means do so.

At 2:00 - Mason Porter and a variety of folk groups performed over at the Craft Stage as they celebrated Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Guthrie was born in 1912 and turned 100 on July 14th. I had a chance to check out Mason Porter when they played at the 88.5 XPN local showcase two years ago. And, my wife and I were lucky enough to catch them on a random evening in Lancaster at the Lancaster Dispensing Company earlier this year. Each time I hear them, the more I enjoy them. Like a fine scotch they get better with each taste.

On Saturday afternoon the headliners were The Holmes Brothers, Lucinda Williams, and Wanda Jackson.The Holmes Brothers kicked things off on the The Holmes Brothers Folk Fest 2012Main Stage at 4:00 and brought a lot of energy to a crowd, which baked in the opressive sun. Having covered the Folk Fest for the past four years, I must say that three out of the four years we encountered relentless sunshine during the afternoon concert. This time we took cover in the shaded area in the front row of the stage. It was a good decision to say the least! The Holmes Brothers delivered a great hour-long show. They once performed for Bill Clinton and have been all over the world. Sherman and Wendell Holmes can play the blues with the best of them.

Following the Holmes Brothers' performance, Wanda Jackson was set to play- who never made it on time. Instead her backup band carried the show during her hour-long slot. And they didn't disappoint one iota. They kicked it off with Link Wray's "Rumble", which you would recognize from Pulp Fiction (if you saw it). They followed that up with a variety of rockabilly Lucinda Williamstunes. Folk Fest emcee Gene Shay announced that Wanda Jackson had arrived at around the time Lucinda Williams was set to take the stage, but it was too late. "That's show business", remarked Mr. Shay.

Lucinda Williams took the Main stage at 6:00 and was remarkable. She played for an hour and was joined on stage by Steve Earle for one of her songs entitled "Drunken Angel."

On Saturday night Steve Earle and the Dukes took the stage at 7:15, followed by John Hiatt and the Combo, Little Feat, and Mike Cross closed out the evening. Sunday's headliner was Trombone Shorty, who as I mentioned before performed last year.

Once again, the Fest was a rousing success. The Philadelphia Folk Fest is one of the great treasures of this fine country. There aren't many times you can view such a wide variety of acts for such a good price. Not to mention, you can enjoy good food and good beer (presented by Yards Brewing Company) and even watch trapeze performers within Dulcimer Grove.

The Philadelphia Folk Fest is an event which can be enjoyed by anyone - young or old. Let's hope it continues for many, many more years at the Old Pool Farm.

Check out the Philadelphia Folksong Society's website at http://www.pfs.org/

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

Photo of Aaron & The Spell by Amanda Bakay

Photos of the Holmes Brothers and Lucinda Williams by Aileen Bannon. Check out her 2012 Philadelphia Folk Fest photo gallery at www.philly2philly.com/culture/lens

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