Sunday, June 5, 2011

Boston Folk Festival 2011

... though they persist in calling it the WUMB Music Festival.

Sarah, Dave, and I showed up a little past noon and scurried up to the Coffeehouse Stage to catch the Squeezebox Stompers in progress.  Rockin' Ralph and friends took us through a laidback Cajun/rocking set that was a nice way to start off the festival.

We got out of there as soon as they were done for the long walk down to the Field Stage, where we saw Buskin & Batteau's last song (Guinevere, which was kind of long and overwrought but so is everything B&B do, so it was ok) and half of David Mallett's set.  His voice is so inviting and warm and he and his long-time bass player ran through some of David's  newer stuff while we were there.  Then we careened back upstairs to catch the second half of James Keelaghan's set.  He and Mallett were scheduled in the same slot and we wanted to see both.  Keelaghan has that beautiful, in-command baritone voice and had a funky accompanist who filled in some bass runs and a little lead on his bouzouki.

Keelaghan's set ended and we moved way down to the front (they actually had the front two rows "reserved for patrons" who never showed up) for Amy Black.  She brought the full band as well as her sister and just knocked us all dead, as we knew she would, with songs from One Time plus a couple of covers.  She "finished" with Meet Me On the Dance Floor but then ignored Dave Palmatier's insistence that her time was up and let loose with her cover of Love Me Like a Man.  This was worth the price of admission.

Our plan was to go back to the Field Stage immediately after Amy's set to see Red Horse but as much as we wanted to see that remarkably talented Kaplansky/Gorka/Gilkyson trio we hated the thought of missing Pesky J. Nixon, whom we had never seen before.  Since Amy ran late we thought Nixon would be just about starting and so dashed back up to the Coffeehouse Stage in time to catch Greg Greenway's last couple of songs (B&B and their conga player were accompanying) ... which was great.  He's so serious I don't know if I could have taken him for a whole set but a little bit was fun.

Pesky J. Nixon came on (with their monkey, Newman) and were a delightful treat.  We only stayed for three songs but they included Will You Miss Me and This Thing in Atlanta and seeing them was the hidden gem of the festival for us.  They all have wonderful voices, their mix is so professional, and they have some remarkable songs.  We would have loved to stay but on the other hand would have felt like fools if we missed Red Horse, and so tore ourselves away and grabbed seats at the PACKED Field Stage in time to see the last song and a half: Kaplansky sang lead on Wayfaring Stranger while Gorka and Gilkyson contributed harmony and Duke Levine played lead guitar.  Talk about star power!

Next up was Lennie Gallant from PEI (though currently residing in Nova Scotia) and he played a great set of originals with a funky violinist and a Bruins fan on Chapman Stick.  I toured around and got some curry and some CDs during his set, and then the final act came on: Susan Werner.

Werner has done some music in her career that hasn't been to my taste, but has some real tools and has delved into many musical styles.  I love her latest songs and she played a great set with plenty of help from the also-extremely-talented Trina Hamlin (who played percussion and harmonica at the same time) and Natalia Zuckerman ... they needed a bass player and so Zuckerman picked it up and played it like it was her primary instrument.  Werner soloed on piano on her incredible recent song Manhattan Kansas and also did My Different Son, both of which are the type of soul baring, lyrical pieces that will stop your heart.  She closed with A Long Time Between Trains and had the crowd eating out of her hand.

All in all a beautiful (though chilly for June) day and a fun time.  I wish they could get their act together to bring in more marquee talent, but we could not complain at all about what we'd just seen and heard.


  1. Thanks for the kind words (Ethan from Pesky J. here!). The festival was such a marvelous treat for us to participate in, hope to see you at a show soon!

    PS: For the record - our only complaint was being lined up against Red Horse, we wanted to go see them too!!!

  2. As a BACHA stage volunteer, I thank you profoundly for making the trek up to our little piece of heaven in the McCormack Building. ;-) Getting the day started w/ the Squeezebox Stompers was a brilliant me up and dancing despite having just flown into Logan from GA that morning!

    Pesky J Nixon made a lot of new fans at the fest. Was so much fun to see and hear the enthusiasm and excitement in the room!

  3. Speaking for the members in the Squeezebox Stompers, I especially want to thank Liz and Kathy for helping to bring us to the coffeehouse stage. We were impressed with the festival's organization. I got to see several performers on three stages in addtion to performing. How about a dance stage next year?
    Rockin' Ralph

  4. You'll be happy to learn that Pesky J. Nixon was just voted Most Wanted to Return at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival---from amongst all the Emerging Artists. They got the highest number of votes and will, in fact, be on the main stage at that fest in July!