Northwest Folklife Festival off to a mellow, multicultural start
An on-the-scene report from the opening day of the 2014 Northwest Folklife Festival at Seattle Center, by music critic Paul de Barros.
Seattle Times music critic
Northwest Folklife Festival
Through 9 p.m. Monday, May 26, at Seattle Center; free, $10 donation suggested (206-684-7300 or www.nwfolklife.org).
The intrepid and optimistic were rewarded Friday for journeying under gray, threatening skies to Seattle Center for the opening day of the 2014 Northwest Folklife Festival. Dry, occasionally sunny weather welcomed the festival’s mellow, multicolored bouquet of music and dance.
By 4:30 p.m., the Center grounds were moderately occupied, with the usual gaggles of kids gamboling in the fountain, tattooed and pierced goths lurking in circles, families strolling with strollers and buskers barking.
The cultural focus this year at Folklife is India, and one of the serendipitous surprises Friday was a screening of the hot-colored animated film “Sita Sings the Blues,” directed by Nina Paley (alas, not to be repeated this weekend). The film featured a snazzy jazz-age sound track and a hilarious “chorus” of silhouetted gossips who commented on the love story’s plot.
Another nice surprise was Richmond, Calif., bluegrass foursome, Steep Ravine, which sent its high, lonesome sound out over Fisher Green, where fans sat on their jackets, spread over grass that had been drenched by morning rain.
The real attractions at Folklife, though, are Northwest music-makers who play what festival founders Phil and Vivian Williams call “back porch” music — the stuff you play for the amusement of your friends, your community and yourself.
There was plenty of that, including Eric Moore and his Two Scoops Combo, Seattle’s own version of New Orleans’ Dr. John. Moore banged out gris-gris and boogie woogie with gruff élan for an enthusiastic crowd at the Fountain Lawn Stage.
The most-populated venue at Folklife, from the opening note was, of course, the Roadhouse, where contra dancers and swing dancers, the women spinning in peasant skirts, the men earnestly keeping up, were already wiping sweat from their brows.
If you’re dance-inclined, the Roadhouse affords a handy respite from the intermittent rain forecast for the next couple of days, as does SIFF Cinema, where “The Sound of Mumbai” (2:55 p.m. Saturday) and “Hooray for Bollywood” (5 p.m. Saturday) are scheduled as part of the Indian focus.
Other indoor highlights Saturday include jazz man Jay Thomas with the Cantaloupes (8:45 p.m., Cornish Playhouse), the Huong Viet Performing Arts Group (7 p.m., Bagley Wright Theatre) and folk singer Tom Rawson (7:10 p.m., Folklife Cafe).
If the sun sticks around, check out Cahalen Morrison & Eli West (4:40 p.m., Fisher Green) and The Cumberland Brothers (5:20 p.m., Fisher Green).
The top highlight of the weekend is the Mahishasure Mardini Kuchipudi Dance Ballet, from India (7 p.m. Sunday, Bagley Wright Theatre).
Paul de Barros (206-464-3247 or email@example.com) covers music at blogs.seattletimes.com/soundposts/ or follow him on Twitter @pdebarros