When a man with a shaved head, a leather jacket and an empty 20 oz. Coca-Cola bottle says, "It's spanky time," try your best not to look him in the eyes. Day two of the Northwest Folklife Festival proved to be just as eccentric and unexpected as the first, with the crowd nearly tripling in size and the number of vendors selling "freshly squeezed strawberry lemonade" quadrupling. In between mouthfuls of barbecue and shortcake, curious patrons soaked in the fresh batch of musical and entertainment performers, which could be found on just about every square inch in sight.
For the second day in a row, the real ear-gasmic tunes weren't found on the large outside stages or inside any buildings -- they were outside on the sidewalks, in between trashcans and "legalize marijuana" petitioners.
Christopher of the Wolves
Sporting an impressive mess of musical goodies, Christopher of the Wolves wowed the crowd with a six-foot-ish horn, a drum between his legs, two cymbal-like things to his left and right, and two more cymbals triggered by a kick-drum pedal. The rainbow umbrella was a nice touch, too. His tunes were tranquil, mellow, and relaxing, and many of those watching had their eyes closed for minutes at a time.
The award for most money made in a five minute span goes to The Retrospectacles, who sold $45 worth of CDs just in the time it took me to find an angle out of the sun for a decent photo. Featuring fiddlers Josie Toney and Andrew Foster, and guitarist Ethan Jodziewics, the trio (which is supposed to be a quartet, though pianist Scotty Leach was M.I.A.) wisped through beautiful, up-beat Irish and Scottish infused folk music that had the crowd erupt in applause (and dollars) after the completion of their first song.
Although I was finally successful in getting a good photo of the group, it'd be a sin if I posted it instead of one of their videos.
Unnamed travelers with a political agenda
The band, which had no name (but insisted they were "traveling, broke, and sexy"), was appropriately talented given their situation. Maybe the music was a tad repetitive, but I like to think they spend more time hopping on trains and eating canned beans than worrying about writing top 40 love ballads. Plus, they were opportunists. While they had the crowds attention, they took a moment to ask for tips ... and sell a hunting bow "they found." Somewhere near the end of their set a girl wandered over to spread the cannabis prophecy.
Perry Church and Austin Siedentopf
With nothing but a few decks of cards, some coins and a couple of rubber bands, University of Washington students Austin Siedentopf and Perry Church took post at the festival with a cardboard sign reading "free magic." First off, I have been following and learning magic since I was a small boy -- I have NO IDEA how they pulled off their tricks. One consisted of a girl picking out a card and after some small talk, Siedentopf ripped off a corner and made it disappear with the wave of his fingers. OK, no biggie. The mind-explosion came when it re-surfaced ... five feet away inside a large closed container. Side note: Church, the president of UW's magic club, manipulated matter. Simple as that. Two solid objects just can't pass through each other.
Joe Williams Austin Siedentopf (left) and Perry Church
Mr. Yo-yo (whose name I did not catch) was able to pull off the spectacular flips, turns and backward catches previously reserved only for YouTube. Either the guy was a crafty yo-yo swindler, using his secret professional status as a professional to fill up a small hat with money, or he is the next Hiroyuki Suzuki (you might need to Google that one.)
Group jam session
Anyone with an object that made noise was able to participate in the circle of hysteria and dance that formed in front of the "rhythm tent" near the fountain. People danced, sang and jittered in place as drums, bells and a lone trumpet filled the air to a crowd trying desperate to peer on their tippy toes.
If you want to sell some noodles, buy a pot. If you want to sell a lot of noodles, throw some fire into the mix. A never ending line formed in front of the Island "hut," which sold wok fried soba noodles seasoned with ginger and garlic, and served with vegetables and special sauce. As with every other food merchant at the Folklife festival, meals varied between $7 and $8.
For those looking to leave with at least some of the money you came with, Thai Heaven has what I suspect is the cheapest, tastiest snack at the festival. For only $2 I picked up a chicken satay with peanut sauce that was cooked right before my eyes. The line was a tad long (a testament to their quality, I suspect), but the result was well worth it.