If you thought that old-timey music was just for Appalachia, this weekend offers an opportunity to learn better. “Seattle is a hub of old-timey music in the west,” says Morgan John, who sings and plays banjo (and sometimes fiddle, guitar and ukulele) in the Atlas Stringband. “There are square dances twice a month in Ballard, a lot people playing honky-tonk and bluegrass. The Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society hosts house parties and dances in parks. There is something going on every week.”
As John describes it, this is not a scene, but a community rooted in old American traditions. Old-time music is participatory. Musicians play shows, but they are just as likely to join an open jam. Many of them, like Jere Canote of The Canote Brothers, build their own instruments by hand. Audience members are more likely to dance with each other than to sit down to listen. Jams and dances are often all-ages, and are open to all skill levels. If you don’t know what to do, just ask the person next you. They’re sure to be right neighborly.
The community is coming together this weekend for the Seattle Folk Festival at venues in Columbia City and downtown Seattle. Featuring performances by nearly twenty northwest artists, including The Tallboys, Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, Sean Flinn & The Royal We, and Jackstraw, the festival also offers workshops, dances, and open jams. The festival opens Friday night with a square dance to benefit Bike Works, followed by a dance party benefiting Northwest Folklife and featuring the region’s Balkan bands. Saturday’s lineup features indie roots music all day. The Appalachian Winter Evening concert will feature artists from and inspired by Southern Appalachia. Sunday is the Family Jam, with a full day of performances supplemented by an all-ages family square dance and a kids’ craft workshop on how to make a “Seattle Crankie.”
If you miss the festival this weekend, or if you just can’t get enough of that old-time music, you can join a square dance at the Tractor Tavern on Monday, or attend the Conor Byrne Old Time Social – Open Jam on Tuesday night. The website www.oldtimeseattle.com maintains a calendar of old-time music events and offers introductory information for newcomers to the community.
Just the facts:
What: Seattle Folk Festival
When: Friday, December 09, 2011-Sunday December 11, 2011
Where: Columbia City Theater & Seattle Town Hall
Cost: Tickets available online and at the door. $40 weekend pass. Single event prices vary.
For More Info: www.seattlefolkfestival.com