Arts & Culture

Varied musical acts, vendors spice up folk festival

In its fifth year, the Brown Folk Festival has become a popular venue for Northeastern bands

Staff Writer
Monday, April 15, 2013

Two student bands, along with 11 bands from across the Northeast, performed Saturday afternoon on Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle. The second half of the festival was held in Sayles Hall until midnight.

There were babies, dogs and beards aplenty on the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle Saturday when the fifth annual Brown Folk Festival kicked off in a celebration of live music. The noon-to-midnight festival featured 13 acts from Providence and the Northeast, including two student bands.

Bands performed on the quad until 6 p.m., when the festival moved into Sayles Hall. Lucelle Pardoe ’16, one of the festival’s organizers, said the event’s outdoor half tends to have a laid back, family-friendly atmosphere, while the festival “becomes more of a dance party” inside Sayles.

After five years, the festival has become something of an institution at Brown, said Becca Rast ’13.5, another organizer, adding that the planning committee no longer needs to solicit bands to play. Instead, the process of finding performers mostly involves “people sending us their stuff,” Rast said.

If turnout is any indicator, the festival is developing a reputation among Brown students and community members alike. “That we have over 100 people here before 1 (p.m.) is a big deal for us,” Rast said as she surveyed the crowd on the quad.

Vendors set up shop around the quad, offering hand-crafted fiddles, face paint and henna tattoos.

The festival opened with Gill Moss, a folk-rock band from Providence. Unlike the many accoustic acts of the day, Gill Moss featured a drum set and electric guitars. The band had a clean, cheery sound well-suited to the vocals of Leanne Luce, who gave a thoughtful delivery with a refreshing lack of affectation.

Brown’s pirate a capella group ARRR!!! also performed early in the festival. ARRR!!! has become a staple of the event, performing every year since the festival began. The two student bands — selected weeks earlier through an audition process — proved highlights of the festival. The Gano Street Jumpers performed upbeat ballads and classic bluegrass tunes with raspy-voiced energy and charm. The performers appeared to have fun playing together and their foot-stomping and tambourine-beating inspired members of the audience to tap or clap along.

Gouda, the folk duo of Mary Craig ’13.5 and Jonah David ’13.5, followed with another strong set. Craig played a charango, a 12-string Bolivian instrument, while David added percussion with foot stomps, cups and other small objects.

The charango’s ukelele-like jangle occasionally pushed the music into familiar twee territory, but David’s striking voice was an effective buffer. Craig’s performance was most powerful and convincing when she allowed herself to belt the lyrics.

The festival had a rousing conclusion with performances by Tallahassee and The Mighty Good Boys. A crowd of students formed in front of the stage for these final acts.

Community member Elad Vilk said he had been looking forward to seeing Tallahassee ever since he listened to their music online. Vilk said he liked that their music had “a bit more rock to it” than most folk acts. Many of their songs included heavy drums and electric guitar solos.

The Mighty Good Boys followed with the final, stand-out performance of the festival. The musicians — who describe their band on their website as “a rock and roll band with healthy influence of Appalachian and other folk music styles” — gave a barrelling, kinetic performance that had audience members dancing and even bowing before them.

The band finished with a crowd pleaser — a rendition of “The Weight” — as the audience sang along.


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