by Donny Frauenhofer
At the start of our “recorded history” of the human race music already had been in existence for some time, so no one knows exactly when people began playing music.
Estimates say around 55,000 years ago. Most likely the earliest music was nothing more than drumbeats and shouting. Unquestionably the first meaningful music to follow would be folk music, where an oral telling of stories handed down from generation to generation were eventually sung in memorable melodies or folk songs of general thoughts about life, as in the Seikilos epitath.
The Seikilos epitath is carved on an ancient Greek tombstone and is the oldest surviving musical composition with notation. It’s dated to be from 200 BC. The song is very short and the lyrics translate to:
While you live shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end
In the broadest sense through several later centuries in western culture, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and the Romantic era, there were there basically only three types of music, religious, classical (both instrumental and opera) and folk songs. Today we are overwhelmed with fractured micro-genres of music: hip hop, gospel, jazz, blues, swing, big band, bubblegum, reggae, Celtic, fusion, industrial, Dixieland, ska, salsa, barbershop, country, R&B, disco, heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, doom metal, speed metal, glam metal, rock, indie rock, country rock, rockabilly, alternative, pop, punk, roots, world beat, Americana, EMO, ambient-house-dub-acid-electronica-techno-trance-GAO-trap… blah, blah, blah. It’s enough to cause head spin!
How refreshing that Nietzsche’s music programmer Ellen Pieroni who earlier this year created the five-day Nietzsche’s Jazz Festival decided to create a five day Nietzsche’s FolkFest that brings us back to our roots… folk music.
Nietzsche’s new folk festival features 48 musical acts over the course of 5 days. The Nietzsche’s FolkFest started Wednesday, November 9 and will end Sunday, November 13 in the evening.
The FolkFest draws from a wide range of different interpretations of folk music and features a diverse cast of local folk outfits. Many are familiar faces to Allentown, and some are nationally touring acts hailing from different
parts of the country.
The music kicked off last night, Wednesday, November 9th, with Tyler Westcott and his trio performing their brand of gypsy jazz and old-time swing and continued till the wee hours of the morn featuring local headliner Folkfaces playing a rowdy blend of energetic whiskey drinking Americana, with heartfelt ballads in between. Also performing Wednesday were Sam Marabella and his Band, The Brothers Blue, and Nickel City String Band.
THURSDAY Nov. 10
Thursday’s music features special programming designed to shine a light on our folk music songwriters.
Rather than the usual potpourri of headliners and supporting acts Thursday is a dedicated Singer/Songwriter showcase. There will be 15 performances over the course of the night. The showcase will feature some musicians who are well known to the Buffalo and Allentown Folk scene, such as Bobby Angel, Joe Bellanti, Jungle Steve, Jack Topht, and Jeff Goldstein, but the night will also bring attention to some new and unfamiliar performers. All sets are 20 minutes long, and the music begins at 8pm with GRIFFIN!, and ends at 12:40am with Nietzsche’s living legend, Jeff Goldstein.
FRIDAY Nov. 11
Friday night brings attention to larger folk acts with solid followings, both in the form of out-of-town acts, as well as Buffalo native acts. After a happy hour led by The Neville Francis Band, the music kicks off at 10pm with Shelf Life String Band warming up the front barroom. They will be followed by the first headlining act on the main stage of the evening, Rear View Ramblers, begins with a 10:30pm set time. Rear View Ramblers draw inspiration for their sound directly from Buffalo, playing music that reflects “struggling days being young and broke, to playing music in Allentown and the Elmwood Village, to finding true love in a dive bar on the most random occasions”. The band was named “Best New Band” this past year by Artvoice readers’ poll and has been the opener for national touring acts such as The Ragbirds and Yonder Mountain String Band. Second headliner of the night, The Observers, follow up with an 11:30pm performance in the front barroom. The Observers also hail from Buffalo, featuring familiar faces to the folk scene that play in all sorts of folk-inspired projects. The Observers take you on a journey of the human experience through music, guiding you through “a myriad of emotions from tear in your beer ballads, to remain in your brain melodies, and even down home, foot stompin’ hootenannies.”
Nationally touring act, DiTrani Brothers, follows up The Observers with a 12:30am slot on the main stage. DiTrani Brothers, Bobby and Walker, originally hail from North Bend, Washington, but began traveling coast to coast with their songs in 2013. Since then, the duo has evolved into a full band, complete with Dana Hubanks on washtub bass, and Eddie Gaudet on drums. Together, the band plays originals inspired by ragtime, Roma swing, and the traditions of these genres. After DiTrani Brothers, Friday’s music wraps up with a final performance in the front barroom at 1:30am from TCBand.
Saturday’s festivities start of a bit earlier, with the first headlining act of the evening, The Steam Donkeys, performing at 8:30pm on the main stage. With a long and well documented history as one of Buffalo’s longest standing country rock/folk outfits, The Steam Donkeys have seen their fair share, with multiple national tours, album releases, and lineup changes since its formation in 1991. The Steam Donkeys pride themselves on combining the music they like, whether it be country, rock, honky-tonk, swing, and folk, into a creation that can’t be called anything other than The Steam Donkeys.
Local acts Catskill Mountain Boys and Rob Falgiano keep the folk party glowing before headliner Tough Old Bird hits the front barroom at 10:30pm. Formed in Fillmore, NY by songwriting brothers Matthew and Nathan Corrigan, Tough Old Bird provides a blend of authentic folk and blues that create a vision of the rural landscape it comes from. Tough Old Bird was formed in 2013, and since then has been busy with multiple releases, including debut “Never To Return”, 7-song EP, “The Barn Sessions”, and second full-length album “Gambling Days”. The group features a mix of electric guitar, accordion, harmonica, and acoustics that provide a sound that is at once both ancient and modern. Seth Faergolzia’s 23 Psaegz follows Tough Old Bird with a set at 11:30pm on the main stage. Touted as the 2010 successor to Seth Faergolzia’s 13-year project, Dufus, 23 Psaegz carries on the warm, weird legacy of Dufus by “stretching the boundaries of musical experience with unmatched craze and care”. Although the group was originally formed to perform Seth’s puppet-rock-opera “23 Psaegz”, it carried on to eventually become a collaborative backing ensemble for Faergolzia’s web of musical endeavors. The band self-describes the “musical architecture” of the 23 Psaegz as a “kaleidoscopic New Orleans marching band meets Peter & the Wolf in outer space, with the intense alchemy of lyrical imagery and sonic wonder”.
After a quick performance in the front barroom by Twenty Thousand Strongmen, final headliner of the evening, PA Line, wrap up Saturday night with a main stage at 1am. PA Line exhibits an original performance with musical styles ranging from Mumford and Simon and Garfunkel. Each performance aims to get the feet dancing and create intimate emotional connections between artists and fan.
SUNDAY Nov. 13
After a headliner packed Saturday night, Sunday’s music starts in the early afternoon, with the music kicking off on the main stage at 2pm with Michael Faltyn, and alternating between the front barroom and main stage until the festival concludes with the last performance at 6pm from someone who is no stranger to Buffalo or Allentown, Ann Philippone. Other familiar faces to Allentown will be singer-songwriters Kathryn Koch and Sam Sugarman, both providing support for headliner for the evening, Tiny Rhymes, who will perform at 5pm on the main stage. Tiny Rhymes is a folk group that draws more inspiration from the classical, chamber, and indie worlds than the country of bluegrass realm of folk. On Tiny Rhymes’ song-writing abilities, Artvoice writes, “Some people like to write songs while others tell stories. Vocalist/guitarist Sharon Mok tells her audience a story. Her voice floats beautifully above the acoustic sounds of her ‘chamber-folk’ band only to be matched with the soothing sounds of cello and violin.” The group features members all classically trained, but remaining instinctive in their compositional and arranging choices.
The first ever FolkFest at Nietzsche’s as a follow up to the first jazz-fest last spring continues the momentum and attitude that new things are headed for Allentown, and Nietzsche’s in particular. And with an even wider cast of characters and musical acts playing the festival, Nietzsche’s 2016 fall FolkFest is sure to bring together a community like no other in Allentown.