Vance Gilbert - The Point, Bryn Mawr, 3/3/05
Vance Gilbert is one of a number of artists I had the pleasure of hearing for the first time at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 1999. Gilbert quickly disarms the audience with an easygoing, slightly self-deprecating but always friendly and intelligent sense of humor; his music isn't bad either. Fast forward to Falcon Ridge 2004 and Gilbert seemed like an old favorite, especially entertaining in his Performance Skills Critique Workshop. So I was somewhat dismayed to learn, talking to him between sets at the Point, that he was not booked to play Falcon Ridge this year.
Gilbert's long form concert performance was more musically rewarding than the samplings you get at a festival; even his forty-five minute main stage set at Falcon Ridge only hinted at how good his own concert might be. Gilbert played a good number of tunes from his latest album Unfamiliar Moon as well as a sampling of his five previous releases. He seemed to really enjoy the Point, and he seemed especially knocked out by the enthusiastic response from his hometown crowd, in spite of little or no local airplay. Gilbert likes to joke about being a black man playing folk music but he embodies the best of both worlds, bringing a warm soulfulness to his music, with the possible exception of when he sings about fellow folkie Ellis Paul.
I so enjoyed the concert that I couldn't let it pass without dropping an email to Anne Saunders at Falcon Ridge about Gilbert's omission from the 2005 festival. Anne does the booking and even in my limited experience it is clear that she does an amazing job putting this complex musical jigsaw puzzle together every year. Anne wrote back to explain that they give him one year off out of every four and that is why he was not included in this year's festival. About three days later I got another email from Anne, saying that due to a cancellation, they booked Gilbert for this year's festival after all, saying "it seemed like the right thing to do." I'm not taking credit for this turn of events, but I would like to think that my email helped in some small way. Here's Gilbert noticing the camera; this was shot with normal 50mm lens from the table right next to the stage (click on photo to enlarge).