Soon. Soon there will be green grass, leaves on the trees, and flowers planted all over downtown Bangor. Once spring has officially sprung, folks will start thinking ahead to planning their prized summer weekends. Mark your calendars: the American Folk Festival takes place this year on August 22nd, 23rd, and 24th.
Recently, the AFF Committee announced the first five musical groups slated to perform at the Festival. Click any of the photos for links to video performances.
Bill Kirchen is always a favorite at the American Folk Festival. He first joined us for the inaugural National Folk Festival in Bangor in 2002. This Grammy nominated guitarist, singer and songwriter continues an American musical tradition where country and rock return to their roots in blues, bluegrass, honkey-tonk and Western swing. His career spans 40 years and includes guitar work with greats such as Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe. His website contains a proclamation from Johnny Cash that states, “I think he’s great.” If you ask me, those are some pretty impressive credentials.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys graced the stage at the first American Folk Festival in 2005. Mr. Riley is a Grammy award winning Cajun accordionist who is enhanced by the array of guitars, fiddle, and drums that the Playboys have mastered. The group showcases the music of southern Louisiana, where the strings on the instruments are directly connected to your feet, generating an irrepressible toe-tapping.
Bon Debarras is a Quebecois trio hailing from Montreal whose name translates to “good riddance,” but no one says that when they’re on stage! Who needs drums? This group has mastered foot and body percussion and the washboard for their needs. Bon Debarras incorporates the accordion, banjo, guitars, harmonicas, the mandolin, and even kazoos into their performance. They even rap! Make sure that you do not miss them in the 2014 American Folk Festival lineup.
Adonis Puentes : The “Voice of Cuba” and his Orchestra is led by Cuban-Canadian singer/songwriter Adonis Puentes. Puentes started playing guitar at the early age of six and was writing his own music by age fourteen. His rich salsa music is complemented by a diverse horn section, piano and guitar. Puentes states that sometimes he has to pull his car over because he is “assaulted” by a new rythym, which he immediately calls home to record on his voicemail for later use. That’s an entirely different type of distracted driving!
The West African HighLife Band epitomizes the word happy. Pharrell Williams has nothing on Babá Ken and his troupe of vetted West African musicians, including members from the bands of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Hugh Masekela, and Ghanaian Highlife group Sweet Talks. “In Africa, music is created to help people rise above the pain and suffering of daily life, to transcend all evils with the joy of music… This is music that connects body, mind, and spirit. It is happy music.” Highlife is a feel good flowing rythym with a beat that makes you want to dance, and I’m certain many people will be doing just that during their performance.
With the amount of press and fanfare that these five groups have I can only imagine how extraordinary this year’s American Folk Festival will be. I can almost feel the summer breezes fanning the crowd from the Penobscot River. Check back frequently on the BDN blog to see what’s new with the 2014 American Folk Festival in Bangor.