Good Folk Fest was started in 2006 and held three times until 2008 at the Mellwood Arts Center here in Louisville. Invented, birthed, coordinated, and protected by artist/musician/renaissance man Scott Scarboro, the event focused on the obscure and sometimes mysterious Outsider art, which can range far in style and aesthetics. Definitions fly around this moniker, with some of the most common debates settling on artists who pursue a style of folk art that can be described as homegrown or rustic. But the Outsider idea can vary to such a wide degree; its main pursuit is one of art that does not subscribe to a mainstream philosophy. Scarboro's focus has always been to combine music and visuals that marry newer materials and techniques with older traditions. The descriptor I always adhere to is "raw."
Joining the ranks of such long-running and celebrated festivals as NYC's Outsider Art Fair and the Doo-Nanny Fair in Alabama, Good Folk Fest summons and reigns in outsider/folk art and musical acts from across the country and rounds them up into one spot for a weekend. In 2009, Scarboro had to search for a new venue and found it three years later with the newly opened Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Good Folk already had a genuine reputation for bringing some of the most interesting acts to play Louisville; with the KCAA the festival has the opportunity to be larger than previous years.
The dates set for this year's GFF are November 2-4. I wanted to present some shotgun-style brief previews of the music featured at this year's fest. The lineup curated by Scarboro becomes an adventure due to the amount variety throughout the entire weekend. You have no idea what the next act will bring to the stage. And with three stages, the diversity is upped even more. So, starting with Saturday's folks, on we proceed....
The headlining act this year is the fringe singer-songwriter Baby Gramps, who has been performing a creative mish-mosh of blues, rag-time, jazz and folk since the mid 1960s. Baby Gramps has pretty distinctive guitar, singing and arranging styles, and hangs in the echelon of underground performers reserved for such legends as Hasil Adkins, Jandek and other Outsider musicians. Baby Gramps will be performing a special invite-only opening ceremony on Friday night, as well as on Saturday at 3pm.
Prog-punk-new wave trio Madame Machine hails from Louisville. MM has become one of my favorites here in River City, and I was all excited when they got added to the lineup, presenting themselves at 10:30am on Stage A. I'm sure they'll have some copies of their debut seven-inch EP on Noise Pollution Records that was reviewed here on this blog back in April, along with an interview with bassist-guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Salena Filichia. Madame Machine always strides chiefly into unpredictable rock areas that get spacey and then go all tight within a breath.
|Salena in Madame Machine|
Ninnie Nu is another GFF veteran that will be returning at 11am this year. Ninnie is the musical alter-ego of performance/visual artist Cynthia Norton. She will be performing music from her CD "Freedom Rings from Within," a collection of sparse, haunting dulcimer-led songs that was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and reviewed here. Ninnie's shows can range in presentation from minimalist to a full band, and always sees her utilize found and reconstructed instruments. This year she will be playing a homemade seven foot dulcimer.
|Ninnie...not my photo.|
11:30am, Stage C: Nashville's Grandpa Egg is led by singer-songwriter Jeb who sometimes performs solo or with various accompaniment that can be loose in its arrangement. The ancestor of this style seems to be rooted somewhere in the vortex of Syd Barrett's material being framed by nicely diverse acoustic-based tunes as can be heard on the 2011 recording "Songs for My Cat."
At noon on A, Viola Buck will present junkabilly in its finest forms and as a family band. Led by Scarboro and his son Harlan, the band follows Scarboro's ideas and philosophies about Outsider art and music, as well progressing musical visions he pursued with his band Monkey Boy for many years. Homemade instruments that boils the ideas of garage rock-rockabilly-country and western psychedelic hillbilly music in a beaker in some underground laboratory in Scarboro's basement somewheres.
At 12:30, another GFF veteran will perform, the one-man-band Slate Dump. Returning from West Virginia, home of possibly one of the most famous of all one-man bands Hasil Adkins, Slate Dump will be the first of a few one-man-bands that bless the fest this year. One-personed-bands offer as much variance as any other configuration and can never be stereotyped. There is a primitive bluesiness that can bloom within a blink into a prickly punk rock in Slate Dump's sounds.
|Slate Dump...not my photo.|
At 1pm on B, the noise duo No Copper is scheduled. These two have released split materials with Louisville gnashers Tropical Trash. They're sounds range from drone to pure noise. Sometimes on their recordings it sounds like a someone taking a bath in motor oil while wearing a suit of lavaliers. Definitely interested in seeing this band's live performance.
When Scarboro announced the revival of GFF, one of the first thoughts that entered my brain was NYC's Brownbird Rudy Relic. Performing a mix of pre-war country blues blended with real rhythm and blues and doo wop and boogie woogie, Relic stands out for the amount of toned-up energy that he takes over his live shows. He sits and plays a guitar and sings into a mic in front of his mouth BARELY. By the time the song is nearing its end, he's nearly falling over, stomping out of the perimeters of the performance, despite whether its a ballad or a rug-cutter. People will swoon. Brownbird's at 2 on B. No missing this guy.
Following up Brownbird will be Baby Gramps for his 3pm Saturday performance.
Miami's Los Bastardos Magnificos follow Gramps with their dark C and W jug bandness on Stage A. I fully expect a border draw of moonshine from behind a longcoat during this show. Los Bastardos Magnificos draws on dance-party-til-dawn corn liquor ruminations that flow through a collective of banjo, mandolin, washboard, fiddles and spoons. Dark murder ballades and boughten skip melodies galore.
At 4:30 on C enter Louisville's softcheque, a treasure of creative bizarre ladled up properly. Led by opera singer-keyboardist Dane Waters and including a family of River City visionaries, this group is completely unpredictable, swaying between dark and bloody synth music that explores pictorial alleys soft and loud.
Saturday closes with Lexington's trio The Asylum Gypsies Surf Band. Led by guitarist-singer-visual artist El To Po and prize-courting vocalist El Gitano, this is real pure bent surf rock taken from some era undetermined, bellied into a hurricane of lo-fi wrangling that all leads to the fact that their drummer is actually a horse named Alien Bill. Mexican wrestling masks and insanity.
|Asylum Gypsies Surf Ban|
The earthly and traveled folk of singer-songwriter Sarah Elizabeth Burkey will be on Stage C at 10am, as well. Burkey tours extensively, is as well-known an author as a musician, and has collaborated with the likes of Barrie Barlow of Jethro Tull and Jean Ritchie. Burkey will be followed at 11am on A by The Man, a Louisville free jazz collective. The last show I saw The Man perform they took the room into space for a little while, so I'm interested in seeing this performance in this space.
Also at 11am is singer-songwriter Derrick Wade Manley, performing on Stage B. Full disclosure: He's my brother. I've had to make that disclosure a few times here, being I've reviewed both his solo performances, as well his work with his bands The Fuckmunkys and The Bottom Sop. Despite being related to him and knowing him all my life, I'm a big fan of his music. I believe for this set, Derrick is playing solo, levering his steer into the realms of honky tonk, country and folkish byways. There's always some rock n roll involved, as well. Derrick always delivers entertaining shows with enough charisma you have to wipe it off your pants afterwards, and I'll always contend he's one of the best songwriters in the world. Don't take his brother's opinion for it; come out to GFF and check him out. He may not be around Louisville for too much longer.
|Derrick Wade Manley|
Sunday's noon set on A features another GFF vet, one-man-band J. Marinelli. I remember during the first GFF taking immediate notice of Marinelli. While there elements of blues and country in Marinelli's style, what set him apart from other one-man-bands was the fact that he leaned more in the direction of chiefly punk and older indie rock, and that he was one of the loudest acts at the fest, nearly sticking his heel through the craw of his snare. He's a prolific writer and seems to crank out a couple of albums a year, each better than the last, splaying his lo-fi crunch and wail for all to hear. It's garagey and loose, yet has a secure catchiness woven inside of it all that is hard to describe. Look for a full length interview with the man himself here in a week or so on this blog, including a review of several of his last releases.
12:30pm on B is Sir Salamander, an instrument builder who is currently living in here in Louisville. Salamander, also known as Jason Rubino, is a singer-songwriter who combines a variety of genres and styles from around the world, as well as from popular forms in the US, and meshes everything together, creating a sound that fastens itself to unpredictability. Soon following, at 1pm on C, legendary local country music singer-songwriter Scott Mertz will perform. I've seen Mertz several times and always enjoy his music.
The Smacks! will reunite at 1:30pm on A. Full disclosure: I'm in this band, so I excuse myself from talking about it in some gesture of trustworthy blog-reporting. ("reporting"?)
J. Glenn performs at 2:30 on B. One of the first performers I met and watched upon moving back to Louisville almost seven years ago, Glenn has performed in a variety of bands over the years. I've always been a big fan of his solo material, and reviewed his latest release "Magick Eagle Ate the Magic Snake" released last year. For years he performed as a one-man-band, although I think that since he has expanded into a bigger project, always experimenting with his sound. J. Glenn pours out an industriously vigorous rustic rock that is blessed with some domed country from inside his guts. Purty and rough.
On Stage B at 2:30 there will be local singer-songwriter Joel Henderson who just released his album "Locked Doors and Pretty Fences" in April of 2012, a recording of a mix of country, blues and pop that features members of Over the Rhine and John Prine's band.
Closing the day and the fest out will be North Carolina's The Mad Tea at 3pm, a duo that links back to 60s garage and surf rock. The group consists of Ami Worthen performing electric ukelele and guitar while Jason Krekel maintains both guitar and drums one-man-band style. They have a seven inch EP out called "Rock n Roll Ghoul" that was produced by Greg Cartwright of The Oblivions. Some punkabilly wildness will do nicely to close out the Good Folk weekend.
From one-man bands, scrawlish hillybilly music, seven foot dulcimers, Louisville prog, punk and garage, homemade surf and junkabilly, and all varieties of songsters, the fest offers a diverse ringaround the idea of Outsider music. And oh yeah, there's art, too. I'll let someone more qualified than me preview that.