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Originally published Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 10:44 AM

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Northwest Folklife Festival 2012: Expect expanded horizons

The Northwest Folklife Festival used to be a bastion of acoustic music purism. Today it takes in electronic music, hip-hop, punk rock and a host of other eclectic endeavors. This year's festival is May 25-28 at Seattle Center.

Seattle Times music critic

Festival preview

Northwest Folklife Festival

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, multiple venues on the Seattle Center campus; free (206-684-7300 or
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So now there is no festival for those of us who prefer not to be deafened. I always lo... MORE
I'm with fsm to some extent. It doesn't have to be acoustic to fit the Folklife... MORE
. It's a refreshing development . . . I agree. I REALLY like the banjo stuff but I... MORE


There was a time in the not-so-distant-past when just the mention of an electric bass would send board members of the Northwest Folklife Festival into paroxysms of acoustic-purist horror. No longer. Even a quick glance at the program of the 41st Northwest Folklife Festival, running Friday-Monday, reveals a showcase of electronica, the very loud Seattle punk-rock band Dude York, a celebration of jazz-influenced improvised music and an exploration of the roots of hip-hop.

Folklife's transition to a more catholic musical embrace — think of it as homemade and communal music, rather than only banjo-plucking on the porch — has come about gradually over the last two decades. It's a refreshing development that appeals particularly to young people, now as faithful a part of the flock as their clog- or Balkan-dancing parents.

Here are some highlights:

• Art exhibitions celebrating the centennial of the 1912 Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Mass. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Lopez Room.

• Folklife joins in Seattle Center's "Next Fifty" look at the 1962 World's Fair with a celebration of the book "The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World's Fair and its Legacy." The program includes conversations with the authors, Paula Becker and Alan J. Stein. 4 p.m. Friday-Monday, Narrative Stage at SIFF Cinema.

• "Legacy of Northwest Improvised Music," with Paul Hoskin, Gregg Keplinger, Wally Shoup and others. 7 p.m. Friday, Center House Theatre.

• "Roots of Hip-Hop," featuring Global Heat with Dadical, Mr Magnesium and Free (Soulshifters), Etienne Cakpo, Mestre Curisco & Coty Valdez and others. 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Vera Project/Gallery.

• Artist Home Showcase, with Cumulus, Koko & the Sweetmeats, Dude York and Ravenna Woods, 3 p.m. Sunday, Indie Roots Stage.

• Tribute to the classic set of records "Harry Smith: An Anthology of Folk Music," with The Foghorns, Mark Johnson, Canote Brothers, Baby Gramps, Led to Sea and many others. 1 p.m. Monday, Northwest Court.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or

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