Arts & Culture

Festival unites folks through music

Staff Writer
Monday, April 25, 2011

The portraits on the walls were just faces in the crowd at Saturday’s Brown Folk Festival. Older hippies were in abundance, filling the chairs of Sayles Hall to create a mix of Providence folks and Brown students. Music filled the hall from noon until midnight, with a combination of professional bands, singer-songwriters and student musicians.

“Every year it’s been expanding,” said Kayla Ringelheim ’11, one of the event’s organizers. On its third anniversary, the festival featured national acts alongside local acts from Providence and New England.

Though the festival was originally scheduled to be held on Lincoln Field, it was relegated to Sayles due to rain. The reverb-heavy acoustics of Sayles often put performers at a disadvantage, but the location provided a cozy environment for a rainy day. The music was never too loud, and performers only experienced minor sound mixing problems.

The festival kicked off with a traditional contra dance Friday night and also hosted workshops on shape note singing and Ghanaian drumming on Saturday.

Merchandise and crafts stands took up the back and sides of the hall. Violins were displayed on one table, and the instrument maker encouraged festivalgoers to take one and try it out in one of the designated classrooms in Sayles. But the music was always at the forefront of the action.

Headliner Erin McKeown ’01 kept eyes and ears in rapt attention for her hour-and-a-half set.

“I have literally played this song all over the world, and I always think of Providence when I play,” McKeown declared before her bluesy guitar began to buck and her voice seemed to take up all of Sayles. “The way I learned to be an artist was in living in this city and going to gigs,” she told the crowd.

Her two bandmates, Erik Deutsche and Mark Dalio, provided tight accompaniment that was more than simply background.

“Everyone was respectful and really quiet,” said McKeown. “Tonight I was really focused on my relationship with Erik and Marc.”

McKeown’s style is an eclectic mix of singer-songwriter and folk rock, event organizer Avi Kenny ’11 said.

Jake Hill and Deep Creek, another highlight of the festival, are a classic rock and folk-tinged four piece from Plymouth, Mass. Lead guitarist Kit Carlyle often stole the show, with a wailing energetic guitar.

A range of music types and group sizes kept the 12 hours from seeming too monotonous, although most festival attendees came and went throughout the day. The audience was constantly changing, with the greatest concentration of students appearing in the last hours of the show.

Last Good Tooth, the last act to perform, took the stage at 11 p.m. Composed of Rhode Island School of Design and Brown graduates, the three-piece folk group delivers convincing folk and blues tunes with a raspy but powerful voice and fiddle accompaniment. The band also performed at last year’s folk festival.

At their meetings, members of Folk Musicians of Brown plan the festival as well as jam together. “The all-around mission of the club is to promote folk music at Brown,” said Kenny.

“I’m most excited about the music,” said club member Tyler White ’13 before the festival. “Live music’s always better than recorded music.”

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