Yes, it’s that time again. Time to strap on your party hat (or your practical, sun-repelling hat) and bus down to Seattle Center for four free (donations strongly encouraged) days of excellent music and other cultural phenomena. Yes, I’m talking about the one and only Northwest Folklife Festival, now celebrating its 40th anniversary! I’m honored to once again be hosting a Ball of Wax showcase (Sunday, 7-10), which will this year feature Tito Ramsey, Robert Deeble, The Foghorns, and Heatwarmer. But there are a ton more BoW-affiliated artists (and otherwise wonderful artists) performing all four days that are worthy of your attention. Below follows your one-stop shop for what not to miss at Folklife this year.
Friday, May 25:
Jeremy Burk, 4pm, Indie Roots Stage
Jeremy’s an old friend of Ball of Wax and a Folklife mainstay. A set from him and his excellent band is the perfect way to kick off the weekend.
Levi Fuller, 6:20pm, Folklife Cafe
Yes, that’s me. Whatever. I will be accompanied by the very talented Mr. Paul Hutzler on pedal steel guitar, and followed by two of my favorite musicians in town on the Cafe stage (see below).
Geist & the Sacred Ensemble, 6:30pm, Vera Project
Geist & the Sacred Ensemble are dark, brooding, hypnotic, and somewhat terrifying. I mean that in the very best of ways. Get your sham-on (sham-on? shaman? get it?) with Geist.
Amateur Radio Operator (solo), 7pm, Folklife Cafe
Mark Johnson has been with BoW since the very beginning, and whether as a full band or just Mark and his guitar, an ARO set is always a treat.
Led to Sea, 7:40pm, Folklife Cafe
Led to Sea’s Alex Guy was, of course, one of my co-conspirators on the Songs about Books project. Alex is a brilliant songwriter, singer, player, and performer.
The Music of Grayface, 8:20pm, Folklife Cafe
It looks like I’m never leaving the Cafe on Friday night. I recently wrote about The Music of Grayface performance at the Ball of Wax 27 show. Curious to see what he does in the Folklife setting.
The Curious Mystery, 9:25pm, Indie Roots Stage
Why have The Curious Mystery never been on Ball of Wax? I don’t know, but I love them nonetheless. Here, watch this video and get excited.
Saturday, May 26:
Kevin Barrans, 1:40pm, Indie Roots Stage
You might remember Kevin’s beautiful shape note track from Ball of Wax 27. I think this will be a more standard banjo/guitar type set, but you really can’t go wrong with Mr. Barrans. Come back Sunday morning for the shape note stuff.
Lonesome Shack, 2:25pm, Indie Roots Stage
Dirty, bluesy, gritty, sexy. Lonesome Shack! Another excellent act that has so far slipped through BoW‘s fingers, but that doesn’t stop me lovin’ ’em.
Wu Ziying, 5:40pm, Center House Theatre
Not a Ball of Wax affiliate, but a master of the Chinese zither known as the guqin, who does not perform very often. This promises to be a wonderful performance.
Alicia Amiri, 7:30pm, Center House Theatre
It’s starting to look like everyone from Ball of Wax 27 is playing Folklife this year! Alicia’s voice and songs are truly wonderful. Go read that piece on the BoW 27 show again, won’t you?
Sunday, May 27:
Shape Note Singing Mini-Convention, 11am, Intiman Choral Courtyard
As mentioned above. This should be a much more appropriate setting for shape note singing than a Thursday night at the Sunset.
Bushwick Book Club Seattle Presents Original Music Inspired by Dr. Seuss, 1pm, Folklife Cafe
The Bushwick Book Club is loads of fun. I have been involved in several of their shows and they’re always a blast. Enjoy some fine songs inspired by the great Dr. Seuss, including Led to Sea yet again!
Ball of Wax Showcase, 7-10pm, Indie Roots Stage
Tito Ramsey, Robert Deeble, The Foghorns, and Heatwarmer will represent Ball of Wax this year, in what should make for a very lively Sunday evening.
Master Musicians of Bukkake, 8:35pm, Vera Project
MMoB are way too cool for Ball of Wax, but that’s OK. They put on one of the most compelling concert experiences you will have the fortune to witness, and don’t very often play for free, so this is a pretty special occasion. I will completely understand if you skip out of the BoW showcase for a bit in favor of this one.
Monday, May 28:
Ben Fisher, 12:20pm, Folklife Cafe
You might have been introduced to Ben Fisher via Ball of Wax 26 (the Anthology of American Folk Music tribute), or by walking down University Way NE while he’s busking in full-throated troubadour mode. Ben’s music is honest and earnest in the best of ways.
Tribute to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, 1-4pm, Northwest Court Stage
I helped organize this event, along with Robert Millis (who will be our MC), Devon Leger at Hearth Music, Greg Vandy/American Standard Time, and the tireless Folklife staff. And let me tell you, it’s gonna be a doozy. We’ve got an insanely great lineup of artists playing songs from Volumes 1-3 – including many featured on the Ball of Wax tribute, and many mentioned elsewhere in this post. Rob knows a ton about these old records (he even has some of the original 78s!) and will usher us through the proceedings beautifully.
Stellarondo, 2pm, Vera Project
Always a pleasure to be visited by these lovely Missoulans. They’ll be sharing a tune at the Anthology tribute too!
Washover Fans, 2pm, Indie Roots Stage
Straight up folky rootsy music, played by people who mean it. Strong harmonies and serious instrumental chops.
Corespondents, 2:45pm, Indie Roots Stage
Corespondents are brilliant and strange and always invigorating. They just keep getting weirder and better.
Pufferfish, 4:25pm, Indie Roots Stage
Yeah, yeah, I’m in this band too. But I loved ’em before I joined.
Midday Veil, 7:30pm, Indie Roots Stage
Why not end your Folklife weekend with some dark, swooning psychedelia? Midday Veil’s Emily Pothast collaborated with Caitlin Sherman of Slow Skate on Ball of Wax 26 for a very intense take on “The Butcher’s Boy,” and will also be joining us solo for the Anthology tribute show, but you should definitely immerse yourself in the fog of the full Midday Veil experience.