Sunday, October 31, 2010

2011 Folk Festival Headliners Announced!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One of my most favorite times of the year happens at the end of every January: the Ann Arbor Folk Festival put on by The Ark. I start to get super excited about it generally in late October when the line-up starts to be announced starting with the main headliners and slowly filling out the bills with smaller more regional acts. The first night of the festival is generally full of artists who are expanding the traditional folk genre. Past Friday night acts have been Ben Folds, Jackie Greene, Jeff Tweedy, Rufus Wainwright, and Jay Ferrar & Ben Gibbard. While the Saturday night headliners are usually the classic folk and roots music pioneers. Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Richie Havens, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and John Prine have all been recent Saturday night guests. You can read all about the history of the folk festival and see previous line-ups here.

The Ark began announcing the headliners last week, and I'm already getting anxious for January to be here. Headlining on Friday night is one of the best bands to see live, The Avett Brothers. Words cannot express how excited I am to be able to catch them live again. Also playing Friday will be Citizen Cope (I find it really odd that he's playing a folk festival, but maybe he's got some folkie gems hidden up his sleeve that I don't know about...) and local favorite Vienna Teng. Saturday night folk legend Judy Collins will play, along with Mavis Staples (!!!), and The Swell Season as the main headliner. I find it surprising that the main Saturday headlining spot didn't go to Mavis or Judy, but nevertheless I'm super excited to catch all three acts. There's also usually a "breakout" star of the festival, and I'm excited to see who that will be this year.

The countdown to January 28th, 2011 is on!

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new obsession

A couple weeks ago, I caught Joe Pug at The Ark here in Ann Arbor. I've seen him a handful of times now, and he just keeps getting better and better live. He's really matured in the last year or so since I've seen him, and I LOVE the band he's playing with. The upright bass and pedal steel really add another layer of depth to his songs. I'm holding out hope that he might record a version of "Hymn 101" with the pedal steel because it was amazing.

But this post shockingly isn't about him. It's about his opener, Vandaveer. I had heard a couple of their songs before, and liked them ok, but seeing them live was unreal. Vandaveer is Mark Heidinger's folk project that brings in Rose Guerin for some of the best damn harmonies I've ever heard. Heidinger's lyrics pull you in and Rose's vocal additions effectively nail you to your chair and don't let you move until your ears are the happiest they've been in a long time. I've listened to "Dig Down Deep" at least 100x since the show. Seriously check these guys out. They just finished up a tour supporting Joe Pug, and will hopefully be back on the road sometime soon.

Woolgathering - Vandaveer (mp3)

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Robert Allen Zimmerman

I was able to see Bob Dylan this past Thursday, and it was hands down one of the best shows I've ever seen. He played straight through for almost two hours, the band was tight, and it seemed like he was having an absolute blast on stage. I have a pretty sizeable obsession with Mr. Dylan, and had seen him live three times before, but this concert blew those out of the water.

Many people say Dylan should put a stop to his "Never Ending Tour" citing poor vocals and the reworking of his classics. Those people couldn't be more wrong. Sure, his voice has changed over the years but when he's on his game there's nothing like it. And to those who get upset about the reconstructing of some of his classics, I say shut the hell up. The man's been touring for 40+ years, he's allowed to do things differently. I'd get bored as hell playing the same songs the same way for that long. Stumbling through various reviews, I read something that pretty much sums it up. "Everybody struggles to make sense of Dylan, and all the while Dylan is stuck trying to make sense of all of us." Word.

He opened with a great rendition of "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" moved onto "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)". What a great way to start! Other highlights of the setlist include an awesome "Simple Twist of Fate," "Desolation Row," "High Water (For Charlie Patton)" and "Ballad of a Thin Man." I was able to sneak into the front row for the encore of "Jolene" and "Like a Rolling Stone" and seeing Bob up close was probably one of the greatest moments of my entire life. He was smiling the whole time, and I'm convinced we shared a moment when he looked right at me and smiled. Swoon. Three days later and I still haven't come down from the high. Here's hoping he continues the Never Ending Tour for years to come.

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