STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Scheduled to perform during the afternoon of Saturday Aug. 20, Peter Yarrow was surprised to learn this was the 55th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival.
“I’m just very, very impressed with the reality that Philadelphia Folk Festival has gone on for so long, with such quality,” he said in a phone interview.
Also taking the Martin Guitar Main Stage on Upper Salford’s Old Pool Farm that day, starting at around 4 p.m., will be Tempest, Robin & Linda Williams, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Vishten, Si Kahn, The Stray Birds, Sharon Shannon, Del & Dawg and The Wood Brothers. (Follow the highlighted links for stories on Peter Yarrow, The Wood Brothers, Visthen and Buffy Sainte-Marie.)
The weekend is packed with traditional and contemporary music; dance; children’s activities; crafts including handmade clothing, jewelry, pottery, glass, toys and musical instruments; and food vendors that offer menus featuring Asian, Mexican, Greek, American, vegetarian/vegan, barbecue, fusion and more.
Up and down the festival area, there’s almost always something going on in Dulcimer Grove, the Camp Stage, the Front Porch Stage, the Lobby Stage and the Culture Tent.
Among this year’s entertainers geared to children and families is Wissahickon Valley Public Library children’s librarian Michelle “Miss Michelle” Miller. After performing her original music at the Philadelphia Folksong Society’s Heartwood Music Festival earlier this year, she was asked to play in the shaded Dulcimer Grove area at 2 p.m. Aug. 21. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping it moves me up in the hierarchy of performers. I keep writing more and more music — adult and children’s,” the singer/songwriter said, noting that her musical story times at WVPL’s Blue Bell and Ambler branches are drawing a combined average crowd of more than 100 parents and children each week.
“Music is so important to me. I’m so lucky to do this in my job,” said Miller, who also hosts the “Miss Michelle’s Story Time” program on Montgomery County Community College’s montcoradio.com Thursday mornings at 10:30.
The evening the Folk Fest campgrounds opens on Aug. 18 is the “Thursday Night Camper’s Only” show on the Camp Stage, hosted by “World Cafe”/WXPN’s David Dye. Performing will be Liz Longley, The Quiet Life and The Sheepdogs. If you plan on camping, go to www.folkfest.org to check camping ticket availability and the rules of tent and RV camping.
Since we already told you about the Saturday headliners, here’s who else you can see on the main stage:
Friday afternoon (starting at 2): Hoppin’ Boxcars, The Hello Strangers, Hurricane Hoss, Frog Holler and Burning Bridget Cleary.
Friday night (starting at 7:30): Iris Dement, David Myles, Darlingside, Anderson East, The Lone Bellow and Bakithi Kumalo & The South African All-Stars.
Sunday (starting at 4): The Great Groove Band (an improvised band of school-age musicians 6-18 formed at the festival), Pine Leaf Boys, Rock My Soul featuring The Fairfield Four and The McCrary Sisters, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Buckwheat Zydeco and Los Lobos.
Formed out of a loose collective of Kutztown bluegrass musicians in the mid-’90s, Frog Holler is making their first Folk Fest appearance since 2009. “Some of us in the band are lifelong Philadelphia Folk Festival people. It’s a great atmosphere to play music in,” said singer/songwriter Darren Schlappich. “The last time (the band played the festival), it happened all so fast. So this time I’m going to slow down and try and enjoy it more.”
Eager to share songs from their new album “Souvenirs,” Frog Holler — an on-the-spot name someone came up with an open mic. night — alternates back and forth between “crunchy rock songs,” as Schlappich puts it, and twangy bluegrass. What all the songs have in common are Mike Lavdanski’s five-string banjo, which he plays like a guitar.
“As we added members, we all had bluegrass in common and we listened to rock through the ‘80s (and) ‘90s,” he said. “I dug up an assortment of cassettes because I knew some anniversary dates were getting close. August 16, 1996 was the first day we played under the name Frog Holler. So we’re playing Philadelphia Folk Festival almost 20 years to the day.”