These guys were so much fun to watch. You could tell during their set that they were so excited to be playing for everyone, and their guitarist had one of the happiest smiles I’ve ever seen (along with an incredible beard) on his face for almost the entire set. The fact that they were playing incredibly infectious folk rock for their entire set certainly didn’t hurt their likeability either.
Favorite song: “Beautiful Sunday”
Possessed by Paul James
There aren’t enough words to describe how awesome this man was. The Austin-based, one-man musical wrecking crew had complete control over the Prophet Bar crowd once he took the stage. Blazing through songs on his banjo, fiddle, harmonica, busted old suitcase as bass drum, and whatever other instruments he felt like blessing with his magic touch, he put together what was easily one of the most energetic sets I have ever seen in person. I was so sad when his set ended, because it was just too much fun to not keep going on.
Favorite song: “Know That I Will Always Love You”
Random note time: I did not realize fedoras and ascots were so popular in folk music. In every band I saw, at least one person in the band was wearing one. It was kind of ridiculous, and cool at the same time, because I am almost certain that the people wearing those hats could not pull off that look at any other time besides being on stage.
While I didn’t get quite as up close and personal with these guys as I did with some other bands because I decided I would have my dinner break at this point, I still got to see and hear most of their set. The band that put together and hosted the night was the first full folk band that I saw. Decked out with their acoustic guitar, banjo, and upright bass (love the upright bass, can never get enough of them. Just so you know.), they rocked their set as hard as they possibly could. All of the band members come from alt-rock backgrounds, and that influence really bled into their super-energetic set. It was a ton of fun watching these guys dancing and rocking across the stage while I was getting the closest thing to a breather I got from the wonderful insanity of the night. I also can’t thank Jeremy Drake enough for helping get this entire festival put together, so I would like to take a moment to say that sir, I tip my hat to you here for your wonderful festival.
Brent Engel (of Here In Arms)
I honestly don’t know who this guy was… But I wish I did so badly. He was a last minute fill in for Steve Stanley and the Mercs, because Steve Stanley was out with strep throat. When I walked outside to hear his set though, I walked out at the perfect time, because he was in the middle of a great cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” I loved his cover, because it was as if you took everything about that song, soaked it in beer, replaced all the instrumentals with an acoustic guitar, removed about 70% of Elton’s range and shoved a fistful of gravel down his throat and then made him sing. And I mean all of that in absolutely the best way possible, because it was so much fun to hear. He also had a couple of great original songs, including one about him being in love with Stevie Nicks circa 1976, which is something I agree with him completely on. The last songs I caught of his set were a few more amazing covers, this time from the Boss, with “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark.” I do feel awful that I didn’t catch this guy’s name at any point, so bonus points to whoever can tell me what his name was, he needs to be recognized for being awesome.
Whiskey Folk Ramblers
These guys gave me a whiskey-soaked Decemberist vibe, but that might have just been because of the similar voices and the accordion. On a side note, accordions are awesome and a severely underrated instrument when used properly. Anyways, these guys were another great, high energy show, and were so invested in their set that everything was an incredible amount of fun. The best part of this show was when the trumpet/tambourine player jumped off the stage in the middle of the song and proceeded to run around dancing and playing his tambourine for a solid two minutes until they finished the song. It was one of the funnest and funniest moments of the night.
The headliners at last! The Fort Worth–based band got top billing for the show, and for a good reason. By the time their set started, The Door was packed. Telegraph Canyon was the most indie pop–oriented folk band of the night, but they still kept enough of the folk going on to bring the festival to a terrific climax. I can’t really put into words the reason for their awesome like I did for a lot of the other bands, but everything about this show was just… electric. Everything about the music had a vibe to it that just made it catch and set fire to the crowd. The set was an incredible amount of fun to listen to, and I ended up dancing my way through most of it because it was just so catchy and danceable. They also had this kid’s tiger xylophone on stage with them as a legitimate instrument. This made me both incredibly happy and impressed that they were creative enough to work something like that into their music.
Favorite song: “Shake Your Fist”. Mostly because it was the one that involved the xylophone.
“They like to play this song a lot on ‘16 and Pregnant.’ We really don’t get it either to be honest…”
The other headliner of the night, and the last show before my body decided 7 hours of high energy folk music was quite enough and shut me down for the night, came on in the Prophet Bar as soon as Telegraph Canyon was done. They managed to draw almost the entire crowd from The Door into the Prophet Bar, which is a significantly smaller venue, so this show was a bit cozy. Oddly enough, that only seemed to make the show better. It should also be noted that by this time 90% of the crowd was quite drunk, and everyone was still amped from the Telegraph Canyon show. Musically, these guys reminded me of the Avett Brothers, with the simple guitar/banjo/kick drum/harmonica set up, but they had a very different vibe to their songs. Instead of a traditional folk feel to the music, these guys were like many other bands from the festival and had a much more rock/blues background to their stuff. They were having as much fun as the crowd was while they were playing too, cracking random jokes, telling great stories, and doing a couple of shots of whiskey to celebrate the day. And that made them the perfect band to cap off this crazy folking night.
This festival was wonderfully put together, and one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I know they’re already planning next year’s festival, and in my opinion, it really can’t come around quickly enough.