Sin Fronteras: Folks Fest Raises Voices in Solidarity

By: Riley Ann

Music from across the globe took the stage at the 2018 Folks Fest, including acts from the Saharan Desert, Canada, and the tasty melting pot of American folk music. Despite the lyrics being sung in various languages, spanning English, French, Spanish, and Tamashek, one message rang clear: strength in togetherness.

Las Cafeteras.

Las Cafeteras.

The East L.A.-based band Las Cafeteras took the stage by storm on Friday with their Afro-Mexican dance party. Vibrant choreography and hip-shaking rhythms amplified their Spanish and English lyrics advocating for social justice. Band members shared the spotlight trading off lead vocals, and they gave shoutouts to various causes, including Black Lives Matter, indigenous people’s rights, and more. They also performed a new rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” by blending Spanish phrases, new melodies, and a mariachi groove into the familiar tune as a modern commentary. You can see their live performance on KEXP and read the lyrics on their website.

Representatives of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Boulder County joined Las Cafeteras onstage to recognize their contributions as artists to social justice issues. The chamber invited Las Cafeteras to Colorado on the band’s previous tour and thanked the band for the work they do through music as well as educational programs throughout the country.

Later that night, Los Lobos, another East L.A. band lit up the stage with their unique blend of traditional Latin American styles with rock, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, R&B, blues, and soul. The group made waves in music history by bringing Latin American folk music back to top charts in the late 80s, revitalizing Ritchie Valens’ take on the traditional tune “La Bamba,” along with several other hit songs. While Valens was an early trailblazer in the Chicano Rock movement, Los Lobos carried the torch and kept the movement steady via mainstream radio airplay decades later. With their popularity, multiple Grammy Awards, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they’ve made their mark not just within the Chicano Rock movement, but also with deep ties in the ever-colorful tapestry of American folk music.

Heather Mae.

Heather Mae.

Saturday morning opened with Heather Mae, the artist who won last year’s Folks Fest songwriter competition. She moved the crowd with musical confessions about mental illness, overcoming oppression, and body image evidenced in her song “I Am Enough.” As an advocate for body positivity, LGBTQIA rights, people of color, and more, she thanked the festival organizers for curating such a diverse lineup throughout the weekend, saying, “They are trying to elevate marginalized voices, and that includes women. Thank you.” She concluded her set by inviting a chorus of performers to join her on stage for her power anthem “Stand Up.”

When Darrell Scott took the stage Saturday afternoon, he performed a song that he said was written by his friend Marcus Hummon. The narrative showed the life of a Honduran girl named Rosanna who escaped the physical and sexual abuse of the underground sex trafficking industry, bore a daughter, was profiled and arrested by police, was deported by I.C.E. back to Honduras, and nearly died in the desert trying to reunite with her daughter. Her true story is documented here, and you can hear Hummon’s album version here. The song left the crowd frozen and teary-eyed for Rosanna, the representation of people targeted by strict immigration policies and facing not just unfair, but impossible playing fields.

Saturday evening closed with the Indigo Girls. Despite heavy rains concluding their set early, they shared many of their signature songs, including “It’s Alright,” which is one of many that uses music as a vehicle for social change. The Indigo Girls served as one of the first bands to not only be public advocates for the LGBTQIA community, but also to be publicly out. Beloved by the crowd, the duo was joined by the sea of smiling faces singing along in the rain.

Bonnie Paine.

Bonnie Paine.

Bonnie Paine opened Sunday with the help of the “Cottonwood Choir” and instrumentalists featuring many familiar faces from the Front Range, including other members of Elephant Revival. The ensemble inspired the crowd to sing along with spirituals originating from slaves’ field songs about overcoming oppression.

That evening, Tinariwen quickly became a crowd favorite. The band’s fascinating blend of African stylings with American blues idioms created a strikingly unique sound. Furthermore, the band’s formation in refugee camps and resilience despite the backdrop of warfare, strife, and revolution speaks through the music even if listeners don’t know Tamashek. Over several decades, band members have survived against the odds and continue writing songs fighting for human rights and equality. They’ve even been called “Music’s True Rebels” by NPR. You can read more about the band’s background here.

Tinariwen.

Tinariwen.

Once again, Planet Bluegrass curated a powerful festival, giving festivarians an opportunity to see household names, like Regina Spektor, the Indigo Girls, and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) alongside the acts you didn’t know you wanted to see. Stay tuned at the Planet Bluegrass website for their lineup of next year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rockygrass, and Folks Fest.

View the full photo gallery from this event here.

-Riley

Find out more about Riley on her blog.

All photos provided to BolderBeat by the artist. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Resounded With Resistance Of Current Political Happenings

By: Riley Ann

Woody Guthrie would have rolled in his grave this weekend, not in disdain, but in delight had he heard the music at this year’s Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in the hills of Lyons, Colorado. In the spirit of Woody, along with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and so many others, the music of Folks Fest was charged with political messages, the call for solidarity, and the stand for social justice.

The crowd at Ramy Essam's set.

The crowd at Ramy Essam's set.

The festival opened with the Songwriter Showcase, and Heather Mae stole the show with two of her original songs truly about the times, one she introduced as, “my kind of love,” and for the other, she addressed the significance of what happened in Charlottesville. After winning, she shared on her music Facebook page, “I performed ‘Wanderer,’ my song about being queer. I performed ‘Stand Up,’ my song about fighting discrimination. I asked the audience to stand with me and join the cause.” And stand they did. She had the festival grounds filled with people standing and singing along, many with tear-filled eyes. You can watch her chilling music video for “Stand Up” here.

Heather Mae.

Heather Mae.

Heather Mae offered more insights into her performance, saying, “With everything that’s going on right now, what a waste it would be if I didn’t say something and use this opportunity to show that we can’t stay silent anymore. I chose my songs that weren’t necessarily the best for competition, but they were perfect for this platform. The mission I’m on right now is to make music that matters and that makes people think, and I feel like it was really heard, and that’s the most validation I’ve ever felt. It’s like the universe is saying, ‘Good job, kid, keep writing the music you’re writing’ and I feel a lot of gratitude for that.” With her winning performance, Heather Mae earned a one-hour slot on the main stage at next year’s Folks Festival. In the meantime, you can keep an eye on her tour schedule via her website.

Rhiannon Giddens.

Rhiannon Giddens.

Later that evening, Rhiannon Giddens lit the stage on fire with her performance, ignited with the stories of despair, fury, and hope in her latest album Freedom Highway. She opened with a rock version of “Spanish Mary,” a tune she co-wrote with Bob Dylan that’s dripping in satire about imperialism in the name of the Catholic Church. She left the audience on the verge of tears with “At the Purchaser’s Option,” a song she wrote after finding a 19th-century ad about a 22-year-old slave woman’s baby for sale. She left listeners breathless with her tune “We Could Fly,” a song based on the African-American folktale about the people stolen from their homelands as slaves who lost their wings. Rhiannon is a force of nature onstage, and her music has earned its rankings as modern classics, songs that will be forever immortalized in the canon of folk music. You can hear more of her first-hand insights in her NPR interview here.

Ramy Essam.

Ramy Essam.

In the tradition of Sunday morning spiritual sets at Planet Bluegrass festivals, Ramy Essam, the unassuming singer/songwriter who became the voice of the Egyptian Revolution, opened the day with a riveting set. Though he sang mostly in his native Egyptian-Arabic dialect, he introduced his songs in English. The subject matter spanned from honoring the strength of women and girls who fought in the revolution, many of whom were jailed and tortured, to making fun of the police, an agency Ramy described as being corrupt and dangerous in Egypt, and many of his songs challenged tyrant leaders and their wrongdoings. Despite singing in a language very few attendees knew, people began joining his refrains by the end of almost every song. The crowd also sang along with his cover of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier.” At one point, Ramy proclaimed to the audience, “Music is the most powerful peaceful weapon we have.” His set concluded with a chant-like refrain begging for peace “for just one day.” Instinctively, the audience sang along, linking arms as they stood together in unity.

Dave Rawlings.

Dave Rawlings.

While the main stage was filled with outstanding performances, spanning the high-energy acts like The Revivalists and Lake Street Dive, the introspective meditations of Elephant Revival and Gregory Alan Isakov, the down-home tunes of Dave Rawlings Machine, and everything in between, the through line of the festival resonated with resistance. Nearly every performer mentioned the need for solidarity, peace, acceptance, resistance, attention to social justice issues, or, in the lighthearted case of Korby Lenker, putting politics aside momentarily with family in “Let’s Just Have Supper.” In the spirit of the folk music tradition, this year’s Folks Festival was truly of and for the people.

Gregory Alan Isakov.

Gregory Alan Isakov.

You can stay tuned for next year’s Folks Festival lineup at the Planet Bluegrass website here. If it is anything like this year’s lineup, it’s one you won’t want to miss.

View our full photo gallery from Folks Fest 2017 here

-Riley

Find out more about Riley on her blog.

All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Taarka Playing Hometown Show at Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons, CO This Weekend

By: Mirna Tufekcic

If you want to go back in time but still remain present, then expose your ears to Taarka.  

A band that planted its roots in Lyons, CO in 2006 because of the town’s reputation for a ripe bluegrass and acoustic scene, Taarka has been labeled as the new acoustic supergroup who echo sounds of bluegrass, gypsy jazz, celtic, and Eastern European folk. How do you put all of those together and make it sound good? Pure talent, baby.  

Taarka.

Taarka.

The size of Taarka fluctuates according to the venue and festival they’re playing, and also on how many fellow, talent-oozing musician friends they have up on stage with them. Taarka’s core is a wife-husband duo (David Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller) who have performed with members of The Grateful Dead, PhishString Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Darol Anger, Keller Williams, Taj Mahal, Widespread Panic, The Motet, and The Everyone Orchestra- and the list doesn’t end there.

Over the past ten years, Taarka has drawn on various musical influences that gave birth to their latest album, Making Tracks Home (2015). Turning to their Americana bluegrass roots, Making Tracks Home is moody and poppy while still maintaining classical bluegrass tones. Though they began as a purely instrumental band, Taarka has incorporated songwriting in their latest work that has peaked the interest of many musicians and music lovers alike, giving the group momentum and numerous accolades.

Live, Taarka will lure you into a dance frenzy, and fortunately for you they’re playing a hometown set in Lyons, Colorado on the Planet Bluegrass Ranch at the Wildflower Pavilion this Friday, November 11th with Caribou Mountain Collective. Get yourself a ticket here and keep up with all things Taarka on their website. I’ll be there dancing with you.

-Mirna

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat

Building Community Through Song: Rocky Mountain Folks Festival

By: Riley Ann

If you ever have your doubts about humanity, attend Planet Bluegrass’ Folks Fest. There, you’ll be immersed in a brief, yet powerful, idyllic, loving community bonding through song. People from all over the world came together to see international and local Front Range acts alike share two stages in the spirit of song last weekend.

Arthur Lee Land.

Arthur Lee Land.

Local artist Arthur Lee Land, of Lyons, CO, packed the house in the Wildflower Pavilion with his one-man band show. A veteran Song School instructor, he attributes this unique vibe to the days leading up to the festival: “It’s like the love dynamic here - it’s such a listening audience. Part of that is what we do at Song School is just like this intentional, spiritual, love vortex of music and song and community. We lay the foundation for this whole festival during Song School,” said Arthur.

Korby Lenker.

Korby Lenker.

Arthur certainly wasn’t alone. Nashville artist Korby Lenker, who won the Songwriter Showcase contest this year, noted similar themes: “The festival is like the public’s outlet or connection to it, but the people who are here prior to that, there was all this energy that went into making great songs, and that’s what’s curating the next generation of great songwriters.”

Bethel Steele.

Bethel Steele.

The Songwriter Showcase finalists also included local artists: Cari Minor (Rollinsville, CO) and Bethel Steele (Fort Collins, CO). Bethel said she was overwhelmed by her experience playing on the main stage: “It’s like when you look out into a sea of love, that’s all it is. You see the most beautiful faces and attentive audience. People are just so excited to hear your songs and music here, and it’s a total gift.” said Bethel.

Bethel has attended Song School for the last 5 years. “I think the sense of community, it kind of makes you rethink why you’re doing things. I was living in Boston before I moved out here, and this felt like home, like a safe space where you’re validated. It creates a place where you can be vulnerable and a total rock star, and everybody sees you for that,” said Bethel.

Andrew Bird with his band on their "Old-Time" microphone.

Andrew Bird with his band on their "Old-Time" microphone.

This environment provided an open platform for all the artists to be more vulnerable. Michael David Rosenberg, known as Passenger, shared about his experiences being a busking musician dodging the cops before his hit song “Let Her Go” topped the charts. The trio Quiles & Cloud shared a time when they camped on tour and weren’t prepared. A family that was camping because they didn’t have a home fed them “simply because we looked hungry”, which prompted them to write a song to honor the youngest member of the family, a little girl who “wore the sadness on her face”. And Andrew Bird, known for his one-man orchestra show, seemed to open up a bit more by playing an intimate set with his band around a condenser mic they called “Old-Time”. His current album Are You Serious has been noted to be his most honest and least encrypted album to date, making it the perfect time for him to play Folks Fest.

Mavis Staples. 

Mavis Staples. 

Together, people sang along with Darrell Scott’s “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” were moved by Mavis Staples’ energy, and laughed with Lucinda Williams during her political commentary. In a time when so much rhetoric is spent trying to divide people, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest draws people together through music, stories, and belonging.

Check out more pictures from Folks Fest on BolderBeat's Facebook.

-Riley

Find out more about me on my blog.

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 08/19, 08/20, & 08/21

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Weekend! Weekend! Here are our shows to see:

Today (Friday 08/19):

Hi-Fi Gentry, Whiskey Autumn, and CITRA at Tennyson’s Tap in Denver 8PM-Close

Hi-Fi Gentry.

Hi-Fi Gentry.

It’s been a busy summer for these three Colorado rock bands: Denver’s Hi-Fi Gentry dropped their latest release and have been playing throughout the state, Boulder’s Whiskey Autumn just finished a Fox Theatre gig and tours in the Midwest and Southwest, and Denver’s CITRA have been shredding the city with their EP, Ocean, which is why tonight’s show at Tennyson’s Tap is one to see! Three killer Colorado bands under one roof; $10 cover. Get to it!

Check out Hi-Fi Gentry’s EP Film Noir:

Sugar Skulls & Marigolds 7” EP Release Party at the Hi-Dive in Denver 8PM-Close

Sugar Skulls & Marigolds.

Sugar Skulls & Marigolds.

Self-described as “the gateway drug to metal”, Denver’s Sugar Skulls & Marigolds just dropped their latest EP, Blood Moon, and are throwing their vinyl release party tonight at the Hi-DiveBlood Moon, which was produced, mixed, and mastered by Dave Otero at Flatline Audio, is the band’s followup to their 2014 EP, The Coked Out Bunnies. Their new release features spacey artwork by Andy Putnam and the group’s three latest tunes. Check it out and take a metal trip with this band tonight!

Listen to Blood Moon:

Eminence Ensemble with The Hawthorne Roots at Quixote’s True Blue in Denver 9PM-Close

Eminence Ensemble. 

Eminence Ensemble. 

Boulder’s progressive rock/fusion quintet Eminence Ensemble play Quixote’s tonight, supported by “revved-up Montana soul outfit” The Hawthorne Roots. EE actually play tomorrow’s show at Quixote’s as well, making for a jammin’ weekend down in Denver. And tomorrow, sister-led band The Hawthorne Roots will make their way to Boulder’s Owsley’s Golden Road for their second Colorado show. Make sure to catch both of these bands sometime this weekend!

Watch The Hawthorne Roots’ video for their track “This One’s For You”:

Tomorrow (Saturday 08/20):

Geoffrey Louis Koch at The No Name Bar in Boulder 10PM-Close

Indie acoustic/folk artist Geoffrey Louis Koch has made his way from Nashville to Boulder for a show at The No Name Bar tomorrow. Koch’s most recent release, Follow The Voices, has been described as “symphony meets indie folk”. Geoffrey has shared the stage with some big names in the singer/songwriter world, including one of our favorite locals, Gregory Alan Isakov. So make sure to head over to the big brown door tomorrow night and take a listen!

Listen to Koch’s tune “Burn It Down”:

Steve Itterly and The Blind Spots at The Laughing Goat in Boulder 8PM-Close

The Blind Spots. 

The Blind Spots. 

New York’s female-fronted five-piece rock band The Blind Spots are opening things up at the LG tomorrow evening. The group is best known for their “eclectic library of vintage keyboard sounds” and frontwoman Maddy Walsh’s electric vocals. Following their set, Boulder folk and blues artist Steve Itterly will take the stage, making for quite the lineup mix. Itterly comes from a country/delta background, so you can count on those sounds too! This should be a fun show.

Listen to Steve Itterly’s song “Depot Blues”:

The Next Day (Sunday 08/21)

Sunday BBQ Series featuring Strange Americans, Automatic Iris, U.S. Tygers, Wire Faces, and Poet’s Row at Larimer Lounge in Denver 2PM-Close

Strange Americans. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

Strange Americans. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

We can’t think of a better way to spend one of the last Sundays of summer than barbequing at the Larimer with an awesome lineup of local music. Denver is reppin’ hard at this show, which features rock outfit Automatic Iris, cosmic Americana band U.S. Tygers, experimental rock trio Wire Faces, folk band Poet’s Row, and rock’n’roll headliner, and one of our 2016 UMS favorites, Strange Americans. Tickets are only $10 in advance for sweet lineup, so snag ‘em now here.

Check out Strange Americans’ track “Places”:

All Weekend (08/19-08/21):

Planet Bluegrass’ Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons- Various Sets & Times

Earlier this week, we brought you a feature on Planet Bluegrass’ awesome Song School, which ends today in anticipation for the 26th annual Rocky Mountain Folks Fest in Lyons. Some of the national talent on this year’s bill includes Andrew Bird, Conor Oberst, and The Decemberists. The festival opens tonight with the Folks Songwriter Showcase, where talented artists from around the globe compete for a spot in the weekend’s lineup. We’ll be covering the fest, so make sure to say hello and stay tuned for our recap coverage next week!

Get your Folks Fest tickets here.

See you in the shade, Colorado!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

On the Record with Zach & David: The Red Petals

By: David Landry and Zach Dahmen

Colorado's newest blues band sat down with us for records and a chat.

On the Record: Where David & Zach sit down with musicians, listen to records, and bring you their conversation.

The Red Petals choices for this session were: 

  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deju Vu
  2. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
  3. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
  4. The Everly Brothers - The Very Best of
  5. The Band - The Band

House Choice:

  1. Ryan Adams - Rock n Roll

Newly formed blues band The Red Petals walked through the door and went straight for the records; that’s JC McKim, Matt Lowber, and Austin Pacharz. Their story goes likes this: JC and Matt both grew up in Alaska and played in rival high school bands before they both ended up in Boulder. The two played together in a local project, Slanted Jack, but that eventually came to an end.

The Red Petals.

The Red Petals.

In late 2015, JC wanted to start a new project and Matt was itching to play more after a stint of shows playing percussion for Na’an Stop. And that is where Austin (Cold River City) comes in. Na’an Stop happened to need a temporary bass player for a couple of shows and Austin got the gig.

One night, while loading gear, Matt was talking music with the guys and that’s when it happened, the “Hey Austin, want to start a trio with JC and I?” And Austin, “Yeah!” So the three met up in Lyons, the mountain town that Matt calls home, and started to jam old blues and soul standards. It was fluid from the start, and not a lot of questions were asked.

From the beginning, Austin and Matt locked in playing together, and that’s a good thing because it allows JC to dance. JC plays a red, semi-hollowbody guitar, which drives the sound of the band. JC describes the guitar as “flashy blues”, and it’s made him want to play just that.

The three-piece are influenced by 50s and 80s blues, but still allow pop elements to fold in. Each member has their own influences too:

“Funk, jazz, reggae, and hiphop [are] a huge part of my drumming, and my musical approach to drumming.” said Matt.

Austin, on the other hand, is more into the great Pino Palladino (JMT, D’Angelo) and Chris Wood (Wood Brothers). Said Austin, “They know when to hold back and when to push the music further out into space into something cohesive.”

With all of these influences, The Red Petals form a blues power trio, like the greats Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and even the John Mayer Trio. Being a three-piece lets every instrument have its own space, but blend well together, giving the guys a rich, full tone.

Watch a video about The Red Petals formation:

After their experiences in other projects, the guys decided to go into this one with a different approach: have a solid foundation and act like it’s a business. Which is why they went straight to the studio to record singles before playing shows.

“Knowing we want to approach this professionally means that we have more than just the music to worry about,” said Matt.

And so the guys went to Andrew Oakley’s (WWO, A Shadow of Jaguar, Cold River City, BANDITS) practice space, a spot well seasoned and setup for recording. After tracking their first single, “Ruby Sky”, and an old Robert Johnson tune, “Come On In My Kitchen”, The Red Petals headed to Coupe Studios, where Greg McRae helped engineer and mix their sessions. The trio already has plans for more recordings too, and music videos to help push their vision forward.

Currently, The Red Petals are gearing up to play their first live show in Boulder at the Bohemian Biergarten this Thursday, March 31st, with a hometown show for Matt the following day in Lyons at Pizza Bar 66. In the meantime, keep up with the band here and get a taste of The Red Petals' music on their website

-David and Zach on the record

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.