Thursday, August 05, 2004

Falcon Ridge 2004 - Day Four

Day Four (Sunday July 25th) - Sunday dawned beautiful at Long Hill Farm. After awakening exactly at 6am, I hoofed it down to the Mainstage with my tarp extra early for the last day, arriving at 6:30, just in time to hear the festival person in charge say something on the order of "go for it" and in mere moments, the last tarp run for 2004 was done. Delighted to have a found half hour, I enjoyed another shower, this time with no line and no wait at all. Back at the campsite, we lingered over more campstove Wawa coffee and fresh cooked oatmeal before striking camp. The process of packing up went on past the 10am start of the first set at the Workshop Stage, which was called "Fiddler A Dram," however I very much appreciated the private fiddle & whistle concert live from the next tent site that went on for just about the entire time that it took to take down the tent and load the car. By the time the packing was finished, the sunscreen applied, and the car moved down to the day parking area near the road, it was nearing time for the first set at the Mainstage.

Gospel Wake Up Call - The Falcon Ridge Sunday morning tradition this year included Eddie From Ohio, Girlyman, Mark Erelli, and Vance Gilbert all having a go at spiritual and gospel oriented tunes, and no, Girlyman thankfully didn't reprise their version of "Son of a Preacher Man." Gilbert injected his usual endearing dose of humor into the proceedings which amounted to a fine musical start to the final day of the festival.

My Generation - This was the only time I think we skipped a Mainstage set in favor of the Workshop Stage, however in this case since it was Greg Brown vs. Jake Armerding it was no contest; no offense to Jake but we'd seen him in several workshops already. No one explains the intention of the workshop titles to the performing artists, and Eliza Gilkyson, Greg Brown, Erin McKeown, and the Nields each brought their own interpretation as to what was intended by "My Generation." The Nields concentrated on generational lyrical themes such as the song (whose name escapes me) about the father and daughter who relate over music; they also did a really nice version of "Best Black Dress." I thought about speaking to them after the workshop to ask the question that has occurred to both J and I over the years about the character Mr. George Fox in that song and whether there is any intended connection to the George Fox who founded the Quaker religion, however by the time this workshop ended, the next set was starting at the Mainstage so I let it go for next time. All of the performances at this workshop were enjoyable, but once again Greg Brown demonstrated why he is the master of the folk festival with an inspired selection of cover songs, his take on the concept apparently being to perform songs written by other members of his generation. I wish I had noted his setlist because his choices were superb, but from memory I think I recall that his four tunes included John Prine's "Sam Stone," Randy Newman's "Political Science," and one written by his wife Iris Dement. At the end of the workshop, in the midst of some onstage uncertainty as to what song to use for a group finale, Brown spontaneously launched into an awesome version of John Lennon's Beatles classic "Don't Let Me Down" which the others joined in on to close the proceedings quite nicely.

Sloan Wainwright Band - Wainwright's Mainstage set allowed her to stretch out a little more than she could in her many workshop appearances, and although her voice is pleasant, her material didn't really get to me. Her brother is Loudon Wainwright III and she seemed to be fairly well liked by the Falcon Ridge faithful.

Greg Brown - The midafternoon Sunday slot must be reserved for Greg Brown as I recall his Mainstage set fell at the same point in the 1999 festival. Brown wowed the crowd one more time, accompanied by Radoslav Lorkovic, who by virtue of the cowboy hat he was wearing was humorously referred to by Brown as "Red" rather than "Rad". The set was masterful and included one of my favorite tunes from the excellent Covenant album, "'Cept You and Me Babe" as well as "Whatever It Was" and a reprise of "I Want My Country Back" to the delight of the crowd. As J is fond of pointing out, considering Brown's penchant for the overalls with no shirt look, it's a good thing he's a great songwriter and singer.

Snake Oil Medicine Show - Those not staying till the bitter end apparently leave after Greg Brown as there was a mini exodus from the Mainstage seating area before Snake Oil Medicine Show took the stage. The festival booklet describes this as "a band with no boundaries" and a band who "defies all conventions." As instrumentalists they are well accomplished and they did a good job peforming their brand of "musical anarchy" while a live artist painted a picture onstage while they played. I consider myself to be someone who can appreciate a wide variety of musical styles but these guys may have exceeded my capacity for open mindedness.

Eliza Gilkyson - Although my first impression of Gilkyson at the Friday Night Summer's Eve Song Swap was negative, I began to warm to her music during her workshop performances, then she totally won me over with her Mainstage set. Her material was strong, and her vocals were even stronger. She left me wanting to hear more.

Ellis Paul - I could never figure how a guy with such a commercial sounding voice and knack for songwriting could remain as obscure as Paul has, even with a fair amount of contributions to major movie soundtracks. Paul is an obvious festival favorite, well liked by audience and performers alike as his set had no shortage of guest appearances. He even invited Pete & Maura Kennedy and We're About 9 onstage to join him; the Kennedy's have played Falcon Ridge in the past and although they weren't booked this year, they were at the festival to promote their show on Sirius satellite radio. We're About 9 was similarly attending to promote one of the vendor booths. Vance Gilbert also guested with Paul to do another song or two from their current duo CD.

Tracy Grammer - A power failure that caused the Mainstage to lose it's sound system at the end of Ellis Paul's set took the crew from Klondike Sound only about twenty minutes to remedy, in time for Tracy Grammer to close the festival with minimal delay. I mean no disrespect to Grammer when I mention that I can't escape the feeling the the intense reverence bestowed on her by the Falcon Ridge audience has more to do with the circumstance of the untimely death of her partner Dave Carter than the music would otherwise merit. Carter's death shocked the folk community about a week before their scheduled appearance at Falcon Ridge 2001. Festival history describes that Grammer bravely appeared that year and allowed the music community to help her mourn the loss with musical tributes to Carter. Grammer did a well played set of Dave Carter tunes plus one of her own composition, accompanied by Jim Henry, a talented singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist in his own right. After her set, all of the artists still on site took the stage for the closing song "Never Turning Back" led by Maura Kennedy. With that another Falcon Ridge was history and thousands of satiated music fans took to the roads to head home.

Full Immersion - It was extremely pleasurable but unquestionably hard work to do the full measure of Falcon Ridge and I think this year we wrung almost every drop of music out of the four days that was possible and found the experience very satisfying. I would never expect every artist at such an event to be everyone's cup of tea but the artist selection and programming of the four day schedule at Falcon Ridge is about the best I've ever seen - this would be a really hard job to do and to do it well consistently year after year as Falcon Ridge does is an amazing accomplishment. The easy access to performers is another great aspect of the festival. Many come for the duration to play in the various workshops etc. and are often found wandering the grounds more than happy to receive comments and compliments from their listeners. I enjoyed several conversations with the likes of Vance Gilbert and Dan Novarro during the festival. I also took the opportunity to stop by the WFUV booth to thank them for their online content. I had a fun conversation with New York radio legend Meg Griffin who was there promoting Sirius satellite radio; she also emceed part of the festival. We touched on Philadelphia radio legend Ed Sciaky and also Michael Tearson who has a gig on Sirius, and finally Howard Stern who loves to give Meg grief on the air but deep down seems to have a high regard for her commitment to music. Even now two weeks on the afterglow of Falcon Ridge is what has made it possible to recall and describe all the details in these lengthy posts. If you've read all four entries and are still with me here at the bottom of day four I can only say thanks for virtually hanging out with me at Falcon Ridge 2004. I'm ready to go again next year.

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