Guthrie's Folk Tunes Ring True at Philly Folk Fest
Words by AQ & Photos by Jacob Keeler
The folkers slept soundly Friday night to the downpour. With no regard for the rain, and all the regard to experience the Philadelphia Folk Fest, many still ventured through the deep mud and relentless rain to experience the temporary tent city set up on Old Pool Farm.
Saturday morning brought a frees start: cool morning, sunny skies, and a lot of fresh mud to navigate. The hill outside our site was now a 3 inch deep slide of mud. But, what is a festival without a little rain and mud?
This year the Philadelphia Folk Fest took a different approach for their Saturday afternoon sets. Festival-goers were treated to a variety of showcases rather than individual acts. Showcases included The Philly Local Showcase hosted by XPN’s Helen Leicht, Woody Guthrie’s 100th Birthday Celebration hosted by Mason Porter, the usual kids activities in Dulcimer Grove, the Philadelphia Jug Band’s 50th Anniversary Showcase and Martin Guitar’s campers contest – just to name a few. The showcases provided a chance for the musicians to have some fun together and for campers to experience a wide variety of musical talents.
Of all the showcases, Woody’s 100th celebration seemed to draw the biggest crowd. Musicians from the Philly scene and beyond put their twist on Woody’s catalog – well, at least as much of his catalog as they could fit into two hours.
Witnessing folk musicians from all different walks put their twists on Guthrie’s songs was truly special. From Zach Stock’s “All You Fascists Are Born to Lose” to the Philadelphia Jug Band’s version of “Car Song” to John Francis’s “Ramblin’ Round” – every tune was unique to that musician’s flare.
In a fitting end to the showcase, all performs took the stage to sing “This Land is Your Land” with the crowd. And yes, they included the often forgotten verse that our government never seemed to appreciate (this verse is the reason Guthrie’s tune is NOT our national anthem):
“there was a big high wall there/that tried to stop me/the sign was painted/said private property/but on the other side/it didn’t say nothing/that side was made for you and me.”
The Philadelphia Folk Fest has withstood the test of time. I like to think this steadfastness has to do with with two things: the music and all the folks out there who love the music – playing and listening alike. Woody – communist that he may have been – sang his real-life stories about real folks, the same type of people who gathered on the Old Pool Farm last week. Witnessing a celebration of one our America’s greatest folk-singers at one of America’s greatest folk festivals was a truly special experience. Of course, why wouldn’t it be packed? We had a damn good day, damn good music and some pretty damn cool folks to enjoy with.
This is a timelapse of the afternoon spent witnessing Woody’s Celebration.