Sunday, August 21, 2011

VIDEO: Archie Smith explains Bowed Psaltery at Philly Folk Festival

Archie Smith of North Carolina explains the Bowed Psaltery, an instrument he has been producing for 40 years.

Smith was one of many craftsmen and women who had tents at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

PHOTO: John Francis singin' in the rain

Scattered thunderstorms and a flood watch wasn't slowing down anybody at the Folk Festival on Sunday as folk fans donned ponchos and performers tried their best to keep their instruments dry.

Photo by Andy Stettler

John Francis
Mid-way through his performance, Pennsylvania folk musician John Francis told the crowd he was going to join them on the grass for his favorite protest song, "Born in the U.S.A."

In the photo above, the audience sings along while others hold umbrellas over the artist.

Fun for the kids at Philly Folk Festival

UPPER SALFORD — No matter your age, Dulcimer Grove at the Philadelphia Folk Festival allows everyone to act like a kid.

Hidden away in a canopy of trees on Old Pool Farm, hours of entertainment are provided in this shady hideaway, making the Folk Festival a family-friendly experience.

“When I first came to this festival I thought to myself ‘Why would anyone bring kids to this?’” said crafts volunteer Caitlin Ryan, 21, of Blue Bell. “But I quickly learned many of these parents are exposing their children to other kids, good culture and things they would not typically learn in school.”
Read full story: Fun for kids..

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunny, warm first day for Folk Fest


UPPER SALFORD — When it comes to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, it is a small world after all.
Maura Kennedy of The Kennedys knew that someone had traveled from the Virgin Islands to make it to the 50th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. While performing a workshop concert set with her husband, Pete, on Friday, she asked the growing hillside crowd if anyone had come from farther away than that. Somebody piped up that they had come from Bahrain.
Although hail fell in parts of the township Thursday night, most of those camping for the weekend reported that it was just heavy rain that fell over the Old Pool Farm. Philadelphia Folksong Society board member Edward Stevens reported that the special campground concert Thursday night had to be halted because of the weather.
Although there were patches of mud here and there Friday, sunshine and temperatures in the 80s dried things up for a concert lineup that included Justin Townes Earle, Tempest, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, and a slew of regional acts, including Harleysville’s Burning Bridget Cleary.
“I’m having a good time so far,” said Philadelphia resident Alex Satta, editor of a new magazine called Headspace.
Satta thought the festival’s on-site ticketing process could have been more streamlined, however, and said he would keep it mind when he organizes a new, Pennsylvania-oriented folk music festival of his own in the future.

For some, the festival of music, crafts, dancing, family entertainment and food provides a sense of homecoming.
“It’s great to be here for the 50th. It was great to be here for the 40th,” said Philadelphia resident Miki Young.
She was willing to bet that some who haven’t attended the festival in decades made it a point to be here for the festival’s golden anniversary.
“If you were 16 then (in 1961), you’d be 66. You can still make it up the hill,” she said, laughing.
Downingtown resident Jack Marylees’ first Philadelphia Folk Festival was 1971, when he was 14. He estimated that this was probably his 35th time there and he wore his Folk Fest 30th anniversary T-shirt.
While the festival looks and feels the same to him as it always has, he noted the changes.
“The stages are bigger. The sound systems are incredibly wonderful now. They were pretty primitive back then (in the early 1970s). They’ve added a venue or two since then. The variety of the music is the same. The festival gets younger somehow. I don’t know how that works,” he said.
“In the ’70s, the way you found people is there was a huge bulletin board with scraps of paper. Now (with cell phones), you say: ‘Where are you? Three tents down,’” Marylees, said, miming holding a phone to his ear.
While Marylees enjoys discovering artists he’s never heard before, Chris Nyce of Upper Hanover Township said he was looking forward to hearing Celtic music groups and seeing heritage folk artists such as Arlo Guthrie, David Bromberg, Tom Paxton and Tom Rush.
Nyce, who was camping with his 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, reported that although the storm had blown some tents about Thursday, the campers were none the worse for wear.
Mike Ruddy of Ridley Township, who has four children performing on the main stage Sunday as part of The Great Groove Band, said he was looking forward to seeing Arlo Guthrie, Trombone Shorty and the several Philly acts that were going to be featured on the main stage, such as Hoots and Hellmouth and Birdie Busch.
Ruddy’s children and the son and daughter of his neighbor Maureen Martin sat under a shade canopy on the hillside overlooking the main stage, while the children beat out bongo drum rhythms and played recorder tunes, hoping for a tip to be tossed into a hat.
Saturday’s Folk Fest headliners include David Bromberg, Trombone Shorty, Arlo Guthrie, Jorma Kaukonen, Battlefield Band, John Hartford, Angel Band, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble and The Campbell Brothers.
Visit or call (800) 556-FOLK.

Follow Brian Bingaman on Twitter @brianbingaman

Friday scenes from the Folk Fest

Reporter Brian Bingaman spent a few hours Friday checking out the scene at the Folk Fest. Here are a few candid photos he took.

Folk Fest features fun for all ages

Zaia and her brother Jason Grunwald are shown making bubbles Thursday as campers arrived and set up their camping sites for the 50th annual Philadelphia Folk Fest. (Photo by Mark C. Psoras/The Reporter)

Gene Shay — Philly Folkfest emcee for 50 years

For Journal Register News Service

He’s an American folk music icon. But he’s also our Main Line neighbor. A more gentle man would be hard to find.
Gene Shay is known and respected nationwide as the founder and emcee of the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival and as the unhurried, welcoming voice of Sunday night’s folk music radio program (WXPN 88.5 FM, 8 - 11 p.m. and As the producer or host of untold numbers of folk concerts, record albums and events; and more recently as the doyen of on-air folk music on the Internet (, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 5 - 7 p.m.) and satellite (Sirius XM: The Village, Sunday, 6 - 8 p.m.), he is truly in a class by himself.
No one else anywhere does what he has done for more than 50 years. As he put it recently, “I’m not one to boast, but it’s just a fact that no one has the experience, knowledge and network that I have.”
Shay will receive a well-deserved honor at the folk festival’s 50th anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 21. At his side will be his wife, Gloria, with whom he is also sharing a 50th anniversary, and their daughters, Rachel and Elana, and their families.
He reflects quietly, “I think I am the only person who has been on the festival stage every one of those 50 years.”
Born Ivan Shaner, he grew up in Nicetown (North Philadelphia), the eldest child in a Jewish family. Forbidden to play near busy Germantown Avenue, he spent most play-time indoors.
“I listened to a lot of radio,” he recalled. “I loved all the music: classical, jazz, traditional folk, show tunes. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a radio announcer.”
Much to his sisters’ annoyance, “I practiced all the time,” he explained. He wrote scripts for himself, imitating announcers’ voices. He’d regale the family with recitations of food containers’ labels and play-by-play descriptions of their household activities. By the time he was 16, he had developed his distinctive sound.
As soon as he arrived at Temple University, he became a communications major and worked at WRTI radio station. After a stint in the Army between wars (he volunteered the day after graduation), he was hired immediately upon his first professional audition at WHAT. Puzzled when the station manager asked him what name he was going to use on the air, he realized that Cold War listeners might not trust a man with a Russian name. He became Gene Shay.
When the host of WHAT’s Sunday evening folk music show retired, Shay was asked to take it on. The folk genre had been purely traditional music, but now “the national folk scene was just taking off with singer-songwriters.” He has captained the show through seven different stations.
Newlyweds Gene and Gloria joined the fledgling Philadelphia Folksong Society (PFS). Soon, David Hadler, a fellow PFS board member, approached him suggesting that they organize an outdoor concert. They pitched it to the board and became the founders of the weekend-long Philadelphia Folk Festival. Proudly, Shay explains, “You know, the Festival is run entirely by the Folksong Society, entirely by volunteers. It has never been sponsored by any governmental or private entity.”
As life became more hectic for the growing family, Shay shifted his career into promotions and public relations, and had to let go of running the festival, but “stayed with what I do best: emceeing and advising on talent.”
Shay marvels at the folk festival’s enduring success.
“Many people treat it as a family vacation and reunion, with generations gathering. There’s always a sense of community, which is an essential part of folk music.”
During its 50 years, the festival has always been an evolving mix of traditional artists and acoustic singer/songwriters, balancing stalwart performers with budding talent. Through it all, there has been one constant: the soft-spoken, mild-mannered, always-ready-with-a-joke emcee Gene Shay, the “folk DJ.”

Campers move in to Old Pool Farm for Philadelphia Folk Festival


More than 20,000 people head to Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford during the month of August to participate in the Philadelphia Folk Festival, an event that is now entering its 50th anniversary.

Live folk music and vendors are spread over several hundred acres of land creating a welcoming environment that keeps bringing families and individuals back every year.

Although attending for a single day allows you to enjoy an entertaining and memorable time, to many individuals being a camper is the only way to get the full experience of the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

“To really get a real feel of this festival, you have to be here at night,” said John Fuhr, 67, of Chester County who has attended all but six festivals.

Tracy Beerley hauls gear up a hill as she and fellow campers of the 50th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival set up on Thursday afternoon August 18,2011. Photo by Mark C Psoras

Over the past 40 years, Fuhr stations himself in Azzole Country, a camp that was created at the 1968 Folk Fest by six people and is now known as one of the largest camps at the event. More than 30 different camps are situated throughout the area including The Tuesdays, The Hooligans, Bob’s Country Bunker and F.L.I.D.S.

“(Azzole Country) started as something very small and has completely grown from there,” said Fuhr. “We’re always welcoming to new people and new groups, but a lot of the originals come back each year. We give them priority on setting up a tent in our space, but if someone needs a place, we are happy to have them.”

Within the 80-acre camp area that sleeps 3,200 campers and volunteers, Azzole Country covers more than 10,000 square feet and is home base for nearly 65 tents, according to Fuhr. It takes roughly seven hours to assemble the entire camp which includes a 50-foot flag pole waving an Azzole banner and strobe light, a 100-foot dome tent and a decorated entranceway.

Each year these campers situate themselves at the same location, marking their territory. But sometimes that is not so easy.

“You need to get here early to get the land,” said Fuhr, who arrived on Tuesday. “I can always know where we stay based on the surrounding like the trees and the level of the ground. I can tell this year we are over 15-feet over from usual because there is a downhill slope we usually don’t have.”

Just like all the other camps on the grounds, people from all over the country travel to Pennsylvania to attend this event. In Azzole Country, individuals from Omaha, Neb., State College, New Jersey and Pittsburgh travel to this central location to enjoy a few days of fun and friends.

“We come here to exchange stories, listen to music and to see friends,” said Azzole camper Gene Goldsmith, 66, of State College. “It has become an annual event.”

As a camper, Goldsmith has experienced many different scenarios and changes over the last several decades. He described the event as either being a mud or dust fest, this year looking more like mud fest, and he remembers portable showers being installed within the last 10 years, when in earlier days a wash cloth and water would have to do. Despite having showers, Goldsmith stated there are still lots of festival stinkies — people who do not shower the entire time.

Being the 50th year, there are lots of stories to be told, many of which were happening under the Azzole Country dome by Fuhr.

Fuhr laughs when telling the story of their friend Stoner who showed up to the festival one year wearing white shorts and packing only a tent and toothbrush. Stoner ended up losing the toothbrush inside the tent on day one that year.

Anthony Talatin, 19, of Philadelphia has been attending the Folk Fest for the past 12 years, first as a camper and now as a volunteer.

“It’s a party every day all day,” he said. “You are never not having a good time.”

Being a camper veteran, Talatin knows the essentials for food and clothings. Clothing items you must pack include extra socks and underwear, flip flops and shoes, he said. For food, he suggests grilling items like hot dogs and hamburgers. Chips and other snacks are always a plus.

Many of the camps are fully loaded with a propane stove or camp stove, coolers and water jugs. A camp two doors down from Azzole Country provides a fully-stocked tiki bar and gas grill. For Azzole Country, food musts include canned veggies, cold cuts, bread, bagels, coffee items, and eggs.

“We bring plenty to drink because staying hydrated is key,” said Azzole camper Dave Knapp, 48, from New Brunswick, N.J. “For dinner we usually bring something that is already cooked that we only need to reheat.”

As the sun sets, the real party begins at the Philadelphia Folk Fest. The entire camp ground is lit by hanging lights and lanterns, a view Fuhr finds breathtaking. Each night, many of the camps have jam sessions where individuals are invited to sing or play an instrument in a large circle with other music lovers. Campers drink, dance and have fun into the early hours of the morning with some of their greatest friends.“Folk music has really morphed and changed over the years,” said Goldsmith. “It’s much more than just kumbaya stuff. Younger generations are now basing music off of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, a lot less tradition. There really is no way to define folk music because everything is folk music.”Some Folk Fest volunteers have been camping since Monday, but the majority of the 3,200 arrived Thursday. With four days of camping, music and friends, many more memories will be created at this Festival’s Golden Anniversary.

Campers arrive at the fest

Jim Wengrenovich submitted this photo of the line for campers getting their tickets and wristbands.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Music legend David Bromberg joins the Philadelphia Folk Festival's line-up

By Rob Nagy

A seasoned and skillful musician like David Bromberg can go head to head with anyone.
A musical virtuoso for decades, Bromberg is proficient on the acoustic, electric and steel guitar as well as the Dobro and fiddle.A seasoned and skillful musician like David Bromberg can go head to head with anyone.
A musical virtuoso for decades, Bromberg is proficient on the acoustic, electric and steel guitar as well as the Dobro and fiddle.
He has an amazingly diverse range that has found him performing on more than 150 recordings by artists that include Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Jerry Garcia and Jerry Jeff Walker. A musician’s musician, there isn’t much that Bromberg can’t do or hasn’t accomplished in his more than 40 years in the music business.

Read full story in Entertainment.

Arlo Guthrie: 'It's always good to come back' to the festival

By Ed Condran

Arlo Guthrie is no stranger to the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

“It’s a great festival,” Guthrie said. “It’s always good to come back.”

The veteran folkie, who has crafted such classics as “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and “The City of New Orleans,” is still a dynamic performer, who draws strong crowds.

“People still come out,” Guthrie said. “It’s incredible how diverse (the fan base) is. I have my fans who are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. There are my dad’s (Woody Guthrie) fans, who are in their 80s and 90s, and then there are the fans, who are under 35. It’s great for me.”

Guthrie, 64, is a wry, disarming charmer live. He is adept at engaging the audience while he peppers the crowd with his array of songs from his deep canon.

Read full story in Entertainment.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yards Brewing Co. announces new Folk Fest Lager

In celebration of the 50th year of the Folk Fest, Yards Brewing Co. is releasing its first ever lager - Yards Folk Fest Lager - for this weekend only.

The Philly-based brewing company describes the beer as a Märzen-style fest beer that will be available to taste at the Hospitality Tent of the backstage area along with wines by Black Walnut Winery.

This is the only time the lager will be available for tasting and according to a company representative, the beer will not be on sale anytime after the festival weekend. Since this is a VIP tasting, access will be limited.

Event information

Friday, August 19; 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
In the Hospitality Tent of the Backstage area
$125; limited to first 150 VIP patrons (50% off for Friends of Fest)

For more information about the VIP tasting visit the PFF website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Road closures announced for Philly Folk Festival

There will be detours this weekend for the festival. Traffic restrictions are in place from 3 a.m. Aug. 18 until 5 a.m. Aug. 22.
View Folk Festival traffic guide in a larger map

Camp fires are a go after township lifts burn ban

FILE PHOTO - The Giving Tree Band performs on the Camp Stage during the 49th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival on Saturday afternoon August 21 2010. Photo by Mark C Psoras

The hand-painted, white signs with the orange borders started appearing in Upper Salford last week.

It’s Philadelphia Folk Festival time, and Friday through Sunday, the Philadelphia Folksong Society will mark the festival’s 50th anniversary with headliners like Dan Bern, Tom Paxton, Levon Helm, Arlo Guthrie and Jorma Kaukonen.

Philadelphia Folksong Society president Levi Landis predicted attendance would be around 14,000 per day.

Read full story at The Reporter

Monday, August 15, 2011

Get ready for the 50th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival

For a half century, the Philadelphia Folk Festival has taken over the Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford for a weekend of worlds best folk artists.

Now in its 50th year, the folk festival will return this weekend (Aug. 18-21) for another year of great music and more.

Arlo Guthrie, David Bromberg Big Band, Jorma Kaukonen,
The Campbell Brothers, The Kennedys, Angel Band,
Joel Plaskett Emergency, The Wood Brothers, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Dala, Tempest,
Madison Violet, Give & Take Jugglers,
The Great Groove Band, Dan Bern, Justin Townes Earle,
John Hartford String Band, David Amram, The Battlefield Band,
John Flynn, Elizabeth Butters, Alexis P. Suter Band,
Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, RUNA, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Wilderness of Manitoba, Kim & Reggie Harris, Roy Book Binder, Footworks, Caitlin Rose, Brad Hinton,
Burning Bridget Cleary, The Berrys.

We will be live blogging the festival beginning Thursday through Sunday. Follow @ReporterGo for the latest news and events and tweet #JRCFolkFest to send us your photos, videos and more.