Sadly, some of the bright lights of that era are no longer with us, but others with outstanding lyrical talent stepped in to take their place, and over the next couple of decades it became fashionable for rock stars to go “unplugged.” Electric bands from the British Isles went trad and American rockers found their roots in blues and bluegrass. Even Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, of all people, won raves and a slew of Grammies two years ago for his acoustic collaboration with Americana superstar fiddler Alison Krauss.
Musical fashions and trendy nomenclature may come and go, but fresh new singer/songwriters and acoustic bands always seem to keep popping up. And one of the best places to hear stalwarts in the field like Greg Brown, Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky, as well as to check out today’s up-and-coming talents, is right in our neck of the woods: the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. The annual singer/songwriter showcase returns next weekend, July 22 through 24, to Dodds Farm on the outskirts of Hillsdale in Columbia County, where the Taconics merge into the Berkshires.
In typical folkfest mode, the Falcon Ridge site offers your choice of four stages where music goes on simultaneously over three days. The Main Stage draws the biggest crowds with headliners like the aforementioned; other established stars appearing this year will include Sólas, Tracy Grammer, C. J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Eliza Gilkyson, Gandalf Murphy and His Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Red Molly, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson and Hudson Valley faves Jay Mankita and Professor Louie and the Crowmatix, among others. There’s also a Workshop Stage, where you can enjoy informal song-swaps among the famous and not-so-famous; a Dance Stage with an 8,000-square-foot wooden dancefloor, where folks who need to keep moving can boogie out to a multiethnic smörgasbord of danceable beats; and a Family Stage with music and activities geared toward kids, featuring performers like Roger the Jester and the Storycrafters.
But one of the things that makes Falcon Ridge special is the heavy emphasis on letting the cream of the newcomers rise to the top and get heard by thousands of fans-to-be. In the mold of the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, where Michelle Shocked cut the legendary Campfire Tapes that kick-started her superstardom, Falcon Ridge dedicates plenty of time on its Main Stage – this year, all of Friday afternoon, from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m. – to an Emerging Artist Showcase. Here you can listen to a couple of dozen as-yet-unknown performers from all over the US and beyond (there are two Canadians and a Muscovite in this year’s lineup) and vote on which ones you want to see return as headliners next year.
Although the onstage action doesn’t start until Friday, the gates open for campers on Wednesday afternoon, July 20 (presumably Thursday is parkin’-lot-pickin’ day). A three-day Festival ticket with camping costs $150 for adults, $60 for youths aged 13 to 18. Without camping, admission to the entire Festival is $120 for adults, $40 for age 13 to 18. Single-day tickets without camping go for $40 on Friday and Sunday, $50 on Saturday. Students and seniors over age 65 with ID get a $10 single-day discount, and children age 12 and under get in free. You can order tickets (which will be held at the gate), see the full schedule and find directions to the Festival site at http://falconridgefolk.com.
Frances Marion Platt