Memorial Day weekend is just a few days away. In Seattle, that means Folklife, the compound word that instantly conjures patchouli smells and visions of tie-dye. There’s that in spades, to be sure, but the Northwest Folklife Festival is much broader than simply a hippie fest. Beyond djembe drum circles there will also be brass bands, The Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, Blues, Rock, and of course, Folk music.
Capitol Hill will be represented well at Folklife this year. Here are a few Hill-related acts on the bill: Cumulus, Alicia Amiri, NightTrain, The Braxmatics, Wheedle’s Groove, Koko and the Sweetmeats, Shelby Earl, Bucharest Drinking Team, Smokey Brights — there are many. Click here for the schedule.
- Koko and the Sweetmeats currently offer stripped-down blues, with a little sixties pop and garage thrown it. (They’ve been compared to the White Stripes.) “The recording style is more garage-y than the actual music,” said lead singer Garret van der Crimp. Suffice it to say, they’re loud, and they rock. For KatS, things are about to change.
When Koko and the Sweetmeats perform on Sunday the 27th on the Indie Roots Stage, it will be their final show. “My wife and I are in a band together, and we’re taking a break from playing music together. I’m going to do a solo thing, and she’s going to concentrate on her career, and not mine,” said van der Crimp. The Comet was the place where they played their first show as a group and it was their penultimate show as well — some of you might have caught them this past Sunday night. van der Crimp is confident that this isn’t the last that Seattle will see of KatS of one version or another, but for this version, the clock is ticking.
Another Hill band at Folklife will be Bucharest Drinking Team. They are a Romany-influenced band that fills the stage with a large number of people playing horns, strings, and drums, all in the name of drinking and having a party. “Eastern block party is our tagline,” said Marchette Dubois, the Team’s spokesperson, and the community coordinator for the Balkan Misfits Showcase on Friday the 25th. Other NW acts on the showcase at the Fisher Green Stage will be Seattle’s Nu Klezmer Army and Orkestar Zirconium, as well as Vancouver’s Orkestar Silvovica. Go for the tubas and clarinets, stay for the dancing.
“We’re a Balkan brass and string band. Our music mostly originates in Romania, but we play music from all over the Balkans,” said Dubois. The band has people in it from eastern Europe, but many of the members are Americans who’ve taken an interest in the genre. As for Dubois, she fell in love with the music traveling in Romania. With the ensemble, she sings and she plays accordion and horn.
- Shelby Earl will also be performing at Folklife. With a name like that, and some lap steel in the music one might assume that she’s a country act. That’s not the case, but there are hints of country in what she does. “I’ve always felt like a Folk artist in the sense of I’m writing about everyday things over three chord songs,” Earl said.
With Burn the Boats, her first album last year, Earl turned a lot of heads in the critic community here in Seattle as well as nationally, getting love from KEXP, NPR, and Amazon in equal measure.
As they say, it takes years of work to become an overnight success. “I worked in the music industry for ten years before I quit to do music,” said Earl. Her song ‘Under Evergreen’ is about her desire to get out of the life she was in, and into performing. First she was in the band the Hope, but now she always performs under her name. Sometimes she has a band backing her up; at Folklife it will be her on stage by herself. “I’m going to be playing songs off of Burn the Boats, as well as a bunch of new ones,” she said. For the many people in the city who are enamored of her songs, she’ll be recording for a new album this summer. She’ll be at Folklife on Saturday the 26th on the Indie Roots Stage at 1PM.
This is a small sampling of what the groups representing Capitol Hill this year. It looks to be a fun long weekend of diverse music. Much of it good, all of it free. Some of it Capitol Hill.