The 45th Annual Kerrville Folk Festival - Good Times Ahead!
For many of the regular attendees of the Kerrville Folk Festival, Memorial Day simply means one thing -- festival time! And few, if any, festivals have the same sense of ritual and atmosphere of an annual reunion among friends like Kerrville. While recounting the rainy days of recent festivals that pushed several guests (like my family and me) from campsite to hotel might seem worth mentioning, focusing on unlucky events of the recent past only distracts from the optimism and friendliness the festival is known for and which make for such memorable, good times ahead!
Memorial Day Weekend
The festival actually begins for some on the weekend prior to the official start with the annual “Land Rush.“ On Saturday the 21st the truest of the true believers line up to claim their camping spot for the entire three-week festival from May 26th till June 12th. That said, there is still plenty of camping space for guests pitching a tent for a single day or night during the festival. One of the best aspects of the Kerrville Folk Festival is the egalitarian, welcoming spirit for all folk-lovers both old and new. And in addition to the music, there is truly something for everyone from yoga to bike rides, canoe rides, river swimming, children’s concerts, songwriting schools, music panels or just relaxing in a hammock or tent all day long. The days can be as lazy and long as desired!
It could be said the first weekend brings in the bigger name performers. Thursday night’s headliner is Jimmy LaFave, preceded by this writer’s favorites: The Deer and Matt the Electrician. Others to look out for on the weekend include Austin’s Carrie Rodriguez (Friday), Virginia’s The Steel Wheels (Saturday), and Austin area performers: Slaid Cleaves, Terri Hendrix, and Ruthie Foster - all on Sunday.
Those staying through the week will appreciate the more intimate Sundown Concerts at the Threadgill Theater as the festival pace slows down. Monday night features some of the 2015’s New Folklore winners followed later in the week by Israel’s David Broza and Steve James from Washington state. The middle of the week is also a good time to hear some of the best music around the campfire. As far as official daytime “events”, the 35th Annual Songwriters School takes place during the middle of the first week for those hoping to study and improve their craft. The second week offers a Ukelele Workshop and a separate Harmonica Workshop in the mornings.
The second weekend might feature slightly lesser known artists, but the eclecticism of the line up suggests a liberal interpretation of folk music with a jazzy blues feel. The theme of family and reunion is again revisited. North Arkansas’s Dana Louise and the Glorious Birds headlines the Friday night show. The daughter of Ezra Idlet from Trout Fishing in America, Dana is backed not only by her dad but also by fellow Trout Fisher Keith Grimwood. Speaking of Trout Fishing, the beloved, four-time Grammy nominated duo plays Saturday on the main stage and a Sunday Children’s Concert (not to be missed!) before reuniting with bandmates Wheatfield. First formed in the 1970s, the band played through the 1980s before disbanding – only to reunite and record again in the 2000s.
Call it an immediate family or extended family affair, few weekends will bring together long-time loved ones like Weekend No. 2 will! Also, make sure to check out the fabulous Sutlans of Swing on Friday and festival favorite Peter Rowan and his folky bluegrass sound on Sunday night.
The third weekend is highlighted by the Memorial Concert with the Kerrville Symphony Orchestra which closes out the entire festival. Held once every five years, the show recognizes musicians, staff and other loved ones within the Kerrville family lost over the past five years. The concert will definitely be an opportunity to remember the “Rodfather,“ festival founder and leader Rod Kennedy who passed away in April 2014.
Yet before the emotional close to the festival, there will still be carefree fun to be had! Walt Wilkins will surely pick up the pace on Friday night while the all female trio Harpeth Rising from Bloomington, Minnesota, and New York’s Ari Hest start things off on Sunday evening. New York’s Judy Collins should also be a treat just prior to the memorial concert on Sunday evening.
For more info and lineup, visit the Kerrville Folk Festival Website.