Folklife Footnotes: A Few Things I Learned From the Freaks and Folkies at Seattle's Most Diverse Music Festival

While thousands of folks were Squatchin!' it up at the Gorge this past Memorial Day Weekend, many of Seattle's remaining citizens enjoyed live music right here in Sea-Town at the Annual Northwest Folklife Festival. An institution now 40 years strong, Folklife is where uptight Seattle lets its hair down and its inner hippies out. Anyone who's ever elbowed their way through the swarming mass of attendees will tell you the people watching alone is worth a cover charge, but the whole scene (including the hugs)--is free (excepting the food vendors, of course). And free music--good, bad, or downright strange--is always a boon for the community. Love it or hate it, Folklife is as woven into the thread of our Seattle culture as hemp is into a hippie skirt. Here are a few musings I entertained while strolling through the maze of music, people, and food this past weekend.

12. If you orient yourself out of Westlake Center, the monorail is actually useful! If you have half a brain--and plan on drinking--you're not going to drive straight into the can of worms that is lower Queen Anne. Walk or bus downtown and save yourself some time, stress, and parking fees.

11. Love the new "Indie Roots Stage". Good addition to the fest - with interesting, indie folk bookings. The sound over there needs some work however, and the tunes were projected every which way but forward. Maybe a giant deflector panel? Different location next time?

10. On that note: Goodbye, Fun Forest! You were a charming relic from the past--but you also were a good wind block. The Indie Roots Stage could have been in Tornado Alley. Can we get some trees in here?

Cahalen Morrison and Eli West playing on the Indie Roots Stage.
9. Best Act on the Indie Roots Stage: Eli West and Cahalen Morrison. This multi-instrumentalist bluegrass duo and their intricately picked, original songs struck the perfect balance: fevered string instrumentation (banjo, mandolin, guitar), rich country harmonies (featuring Morrison's honeyed twang), acoustic instrumentals, and tear-jerking acapella ballads.

8. Biggest Disappointment on Indie Roots Stage: Death Songs. Love this group fronted by The Shaky Hands' Nicholas Delffs, but their lack of energy and even grayer clouds dampened the set.

7. There's always something good to eat, so bring cash! Folklife is good for adventurous appetites, both on stage and in the stomach.

6. Can't say it enough. Dress in layers. The weather usually sucks for Folklife. Whether it's rainy, threatening to rain, or overcast, let's just call it what it is: "It-Sure-Aint-Summer-Yet-Fest" and try to remember to dress appropriately next year.

5. Attention Methed-Out Tweakers: Leave the dogs at home. They'll love the break from your tweaked-out ways and you'll be that much more available to score!

4. On that note: Girl, leave your poor ferret babies at home and learn an instrument instead. Musicians usually make more money than people who pimp out their pets.

3. Are strollers getting bigger? Does Hummer manufacture the big ones?

2. On pets and babies: Seem to be outnumbering human adults.

1. The best part of Folklife: getting detoured by unofficial acts! Following your ears towards a lively jug band, aspiring child singer, or native drum ensemble can be just as entertaining as the act you're en route to see - and sometimes better.

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