Mudcat Café message #2899256 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #129165   Message #2899256
Posted By: Don Firth
03-May-10 - 02:35 PM
Thread Name: NW Folklife threatens street performers (Seattle)
Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
Leeneia, I don't know where you are or if you have ever had an opportunity to attend a Northwest Folklife Festival. But for the entire three-day weekend, one hears a whole variety of things such as rock bands complete with amplification, drumming—LOTS of drumming, notable African, Native American, and Taiko (the big drums that you can hear for miles)—and just about every other kind of musical or semi-musical endeavor, and this is coming at you from all sides. As to one busker playing in Eb and a nearby one playing in A, half the time the ambient din is so great that distinguishing between keys and noting dissonances is impossible, because it's totally lost in the general dissonance.

Sometimes you can hear the drumming from a few miles away! Across Lake Union and up on Capitol Hill, for example. From the viewpoint of a singer official scheduled and on a stage--especially on one of the outside stages accompanying herself with an accoustic guitar, or some unaccompanied ballad-singer, he or she is trying to compete with a general din that verges on the deafening.

Not only that, there is a general crowd noise. The Northwest Folklife Festival is usually attended by 200,000 to 250,000 people, generally milling around in the 17 acres of open space on the 74 acre Seattle Center campus. I was an active participant in these festivals early on: official, scheduled, and on stage. But the event has become so cumbersome that, to me, it's no longer much fun. And unless there is someone performing that I particularly want to hear, I don't go anymore. The last few times I attended, I was trying to navigate my way around in an electric wheelchair. I don't know how many times I wound up with someone in my lap because they were trying to see over other people's heads and didn't even see me there. Shouting a warning didn't work, because due to the general background roar, they couldn't hear me.

No, unless I am asked to participate in a particular workshop or performance, I don't subject myself to this mob scene. Especially when on that entire 74 acres, if you want to hear any actual traditional folk music, it is generally confined to the meeting rooms up in the northwest corner of the Center grounds.

I have to take my hat off to people like Reggie, who have the guts to get out there and try to add some genuine traditional music to this event, and add it in a way, like the minstrel who sings to any and all in the village square in the hope that a few people might drop a few coppers in his hat. And that kind of performing has been traditional for well over a thousand years.

Don Firth

P. S. Leeneia, my comments here are not just aimed at you, but at those who may have never been to this pit of chaos we call the "Northwest Folklife Festival" and don't know what bucking those crowds amid the general din is really like—or what it's like to brave the whole thing and try to actually offer something the way Reggie does.

P. P. S. But to be fair to the Powers That Be, when I was asked to participate in the Coffeehouse Reunion Concert ("Geezer's Concert") in the 2003 festival, they'd heard I was using a wheelchair, so they offered to send a "pusher" to meet me at a specified entrance so I wouldn't have to "hand crank" my way to the designated area. But I must add, this particular event was masterminded by the late John Ross, so there was some genuine thought behind it.