My town of Seattle, located in the upper-left-hand corner of America, recently played host to the 47th annual Northwest Folklife Festival. I’ve attended almost every year; I’ve been booked to play at it seven of those years; mostly with my late wife, Sally Jo Davis. These days, rather than performing, I show up with my camera.
You may think the festival is just about hippies with guitars, or relocated hill people with banjos. There’s some of both; but there’s so much more. The festival seems to beckon to people from many different backgrounds and lifestyles.
During all four days, I took my 10-year-old Canon camera to the festival, and shot photos of many of the more iconic or unusual folks in attendance. Here, I’ve grouped my photos, and have written short descriptions, all to give you a taste of what the festival has to offer, year-in and year-out. — There are a lot of photos here; but I chose each one carefully, from the more than 500 I took during the festival. I’ve cropped and color-corrected every photo, in order to compensate for the shortcomings of my old, outmoded camera. (If anyone has a real camera, with changeable lenses, they wish to donate to me, I promise to use it to its maximum capabilities.)
Now, here we go. As mentioned, I’ve separated the photos into groups; we are starting with those who made the music we all came to hear.
Without the people who come to make music, there would be no festival. So I’ll put those folks first in my photo gallery. Only one these people is shown playing on an official stage; he’s the greatest, and I’ve saved him for last; but everyone else was busking (playing for tips). Buskers are one of the best parts of the whole affair. (I do have scores of photos of folks playing on official stages; perhaps I’ll make a post for those.)
Folk musician Silas Follendorf and listener, sharing a moment.
After playing a balls-to-the-wall set, this is how the Chaos Marching Band finished their performance.
Boka Kouyate, originally from Senegal, is one of the finest singers I’ve ever heard in my long life. But he also plays balafone, which is his griot family’s special instrument. And, he is a great drummer. Here he is, participating in the World Rhythm Festival Tent’s drum circle. Everyone was welcome to join in and play. I even got my egg shaker out of my knapsack and played a little, while I danced.
This very kind young woman sang and played the fiddle, simultaneously. I had a great time hanging with her for a few. She’s a very experienced, accomplished busker.
These three uke player/singers were really quite good, and very much in tune. I took a selfie, with them in the background, which caused them to break out in peals of laughter. Later, while we visited, I told them to just keep playing!
One of the prettiest things, to me, is an accordion, with its bellows, stretched way out. This one had really pretty bellows. The man playing it found one of the quieter spots at the fest, and was simply enjoying his own music.
This woman is playing the pan. It’s a percussion instrument that is also tuned to play several notes. — Sort of like a mini-steel drum. I enjoyed a good conversation with her. We encouraged each other to just keep doing what we’re doing!
Now, this was a first for me: hearing an African kora player performing with a violinist was a real treat. They were busking; they drew such a large crowd that security had to ask them to move to another area, in order to free-up traffic. I was really fortunate to hear one song before this happened. Rather than moving, they just packed up.
I had just entered the festival grounds when I came upon these two players, who I think are sisters. They had beautiful, coordinated outfits, and raised a fabulous ruckus. Why they are not famous, I’ll never know.
This man was off by himself, very quietly playing his dumbek drum. I just felt a strong need to capture him on film. He wasn’t loud or flashy; he didn’t need to be.
This lovely woman drove down from Bellingham, WA to busk all four days of the festival. Rather than playing traditional songs like “Wildwood Flower” (which BTW, she can play very well), she focused on performing contemporary material by groups like Radiohead. What caught my ear, as I strolled down the craft market promenade, was her beautiful voice, singing lines from a Moody Blues song. That band was my late brother Al’s favorite; shortly before he passed away, he met them, hung out with them, and received front row tickets to their Las Vegas show, directly from them. Right out of their hands.
When he was a young man, living here in the Seattle area, this fine gentleman took on the performing persona of an eccentric old man. To say he has grown into the part would be quite an understatement. Baby Gramps is famous now, but he’s ours. You may borrow him. — I’m proud to call him a friend.
Musicians love to play for dancers. Here are some of my 2018 favorites.
This wonderful woman from Panama was dancing right in Seattle Center’s International Fountain. Lucky for her, the water jets were ebbing at that moment. She was situated between the drum circle and an alt-country band. I’m not sure whose music she was dancing to. Both? Note the little boy with the ball, and note how color-coordinated he and the dancer are.
Young and old congregate and interact at the festival. This dancing couple also happened to be color-coordinated with some nearby folks from India, in the background. (Our Indian community accounts for a large number of the performers and dancers the festival features.)
I took several (if I may say so) really good photos of this fabulous drum circle dancer; she gave me her email address so I could send them to her. (I always offer to do this, if I have the chance.) She wrote it down on a card, which I put in my pocket. When I got home, I couldn’t read her handwriting! — Well, at least I can share her photo with you.
My favorite string/jug band on Earth would be the Crow Quill Night Owls. They hail from right here in the Pacific NW. They worked with the amazing Maria Muldaur as her backup band, when she toured the entire continent, including Canada. — When they play, people, including me, can’t resist getting up and dancing.
Yes, she’s a dancer. (You’ll see in the following photo.) She starts off covered in this ginormous paper shroud. She slowly rises from the ground, finally casts off her shroud, and then, dances. All the while, folks like me are snapping photos like crazy.
Here she is, dancing on a concrete barrier. I could make an entire post from the sequence of photos I took, as she went through her amazing repertoire of moves.
There’s always a contingent of skaters at Folklife. It’s an event for everyone to turn out, where we can just be ourselves. Here are two solo skaters, and one duo, that I was particularly drawn to.
Walking by the fountain, I spied this man, standing there holding his board like this. He agreed to me taking this photo. It’s like he was just standing there, waiting for someone to ask.
These girls were more than happy to demonstrate their tandem ride on their electric skateboard! They went zooming around the food booth area at a pretty good clip.
I’d only been at the fest for a few minutes when I bumped into this man. His wheels nearly blinded me. — You know, whenever I ask skaters to pose, they say yes.
Now comes an assortment of…. peeps. Peeps just enjoying the festival vibe.
This is my favorite model. I mean the bunny, you silly rabbit. — I’ve never seen such a calm bunny, considering how around five thousand people approached it to pet it.
This is just too cute to leave out. Aren’t people just grand?
How would you caption this? Here’s my attempt: Boy to man in ripped vest: “Will you be my Dad?” (I’ve subsequently found out, courtesy of Silas Follendorf, that this gentleman is Harper Mack. Silas says he is an amazing guitarist.)
I was, once again, walking by our beautiful International Fountain. These seven young people suddenly walked over to the edge, where they spontaneously positioned themselves like this. I simply walked down into the fountain, below them, looked up, and asked them to let me take a photo. Here it is.
I asked almost everyone depicted here, for permission before taking their photo. I couldn’t do that here. It would have ruined the pose. I just loved they way she situated herself to watch some acrobats performing on the lawn.
The festival features a 4-day powwow as part of its offerings. While taking some time to enjoy the powwow activities, as I do every year, I snapped a photo of this young man.
I’ve noticed a wonderful thing about the Folklife Festival. It brings all kinds of people, of all ages, together. People don’t seem so prone to erect walls…. I’m 69, and I visited with all kinds of folks. I felt like I was getting a tiny glimpse of Heaven during the four incredible days.
This gentleman was pushing his cart around the grounds, giving away produce to anyone who wanted/needed it. He couldn’t understand why I wanted a photo instead of a green pepper! I told him I am good for now, as far as produce goes, but that I could never take enough good pictures.
Young people having fun. Just like my friends and I did when were young. I don’t need to do this now; but it’s enjoyable to see others do it.
This year was no different: I met some strange folk at the folk festival. Here are a few of them, depicted in all their glory.
I’ve managed to photograph this person four years in a row, dancing in the World Rhythm Fest Drum Circle. This is the most subdued costume I’ve every seen him in. — I’ll have to talk with him about that. On the other hand, see below….
This young woman may be the most unique being I’ve ever met. She said it takes five hours for her to get ready to go out and stun all onlookers.
This woman also had an extremely individual, fabulous look. It was hard to choose which photo of her to share, because I got several good ones.
I subsequently came upon the two amazing people, sharing a laugh, in their $700 footwear.
Is it just me? I look at this photo, and I think, “Johnny Depp”. He was pretty much surrounded by photographers — very popular.
As usual, there were furry people at this year’s event. These two seemed very comfortable around each other.
As fascinating as all of the folks I met at Northwest Folklife 2018 were, Sheen was the most entrancing of all. She was truly a mystery wrapped in an enigma. I’m invited to her upcoming birthday bash, where we will slide down Gasworks Park Hill on beach towels. — Or something like that. It didn’t make sense to me; which is prolly a good thing. Because If everything the young do, were to make sense to an old man, then, they would need to think of new things to do! — Ya know, I’ll probably just watch….
Hanging with Sheen had me feeling like I had a role in a Scarlett Johansson movie. — And, this particular “movie” has come to its end. Farewell from the 2018 Northwest Folklife Festival!
Comments are welcome!
Since I gave them short shrift, with only their photo showing at the top, I thought I should embed this video for you, featuring our very own Filthy Fem Corps Marching Band: