Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On the Road in Lyons Colorado

On the Road in Search of More Music

By Glen Creason

If you wonder if there is any place on the planet where the optimism and hope of early folk music still exists in full flower you must visit Lyons, Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Music lovers would do well to go to any lengths to experience this very special slice of lyrics-rich nirvana in the beautiful red-rocks canyon amphitheater on the St. Vrain River. Lyons is a magical place on its own, nestled in the mountains outside Boulder. When filled with some of the greatest musical talents in America and several thousand die-hard "festivarians" it manifests a real life Camelot in tie-die and red mud-caked boots. This being the 18th year of such revelry the event has gained such notoriety as a musician's music festival that the young talent overflows for a dozen hours a day with little drop in quality from one wonderful performer to another. The Folks Festival runs for three lovely days each year and improves, it seems, each and every turn of the Summer Season. With workshops, a songwriting showcase and terrific shows in the secondary venue, the Wildflower Pavilion this is most certainly an embarrassment of mind and soul expanding riches. This year, everything about the event was challenged by seriously inclement weather which dumped unremitting sheets of rain on the opening day but it just gave perspective to the next two glorious gifts of truly memorable music.
We stayed and got soaked to our chonies on day one but will never forget the magnificent Patty Griffin's enchanting hour of sweet song poetry while buckets poured over our tightly gripped poncho in the press ring up front. Songwriter powerhouses Shawn Mullins, Josh Ritter and Dar Williams joined with Patty Griffin and Amos Lee for the really rain inflicted sets, playing on for committed fans, creating remarkable scenes of music in the mud. While the stalwarts spread blue tarps and popped umbrellas the songs rang out true and pure in the gray afternoon as the words reached us through the sweatshirt hoods and vinyl. Williams one of the sweetest voices in song gave us an inspired set while her audience wiped water off their glasses and Josh Ritter touched the heartstrings when he took on the elements and won out. Finally Amos Lee took the baton at the finish and left the middling crowd more than happy as he rocked them out of their chilled souls in decidedly Fall like weather.
Day two was almost tropic in comparison with a steely gray sky offering balmy temps above the sixties and a really amazing variety of sounds that stretched way beyond the normal definition of folk. This festival was heavy on female talent and Sarah Sample, Susan Werner and the doubly delicious Waifs showed that the sisterhood is mighty powerful at Lyons. The Great Lakes Swimmers were uniquely fine and Todd Snider along with Greg Brown produced moments of true greatness. When Snider sang
“ Enjoy yourself, it's later then you thinkEnjoy yourself, while your still in the pinkThe years go by, as quickly as a winkEnjoy yourself, Enjoy yourselfIt's later then you think” he set the tone for the ever-growing crowd to do just that. Probably the most under-rated songwriter in America Todd Snider set the bar mighty high in the late-afternoon on Saturday but the grand master Greg Brown kept it wild and wooly in the penultimate set of the day. One of the very best parts of the festival is the overall camaraderie and cooperative humanity of the gathering of like-minded souls. Part Woodstock, part family picnic and part glory in the sweet music, the Folks Festival is one of the greatest tonics available for twenty-first century despair. When Greg Brown asked the assembled “Peace on earth, when will it ever be in sight? This old world is everybody's beautiful home So why can't we treat each other right.” the positive answer he got from this audience really gave you goose bumps of joy.
Day three was the usual, perfect day in the mild Colorado sunshine, albeit with some sticky mud left over from the early downpours. Highlights for me were certainly the uniquely incredible “Mountain Goats” from our own So. Cal., the infectious groove of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, and the instrumentally peripatetic and optimistic Tim O’Brien. Yet, it was once again it was the ladies who shone the brightest. Young Missy Higgins provided one hour of some of the best songwriting, singing and pulchritude while KT Tunstall assumed the serious responsibility of closing the magnificent feast without disappointing a soul out on the tarps. Just a humble suggestion to our own Cerritos talent scouts that Missy Higgins now resides in nearby Silverlake and Tunstall seemed to have packed the place with rabid fans.
On a personal note it might not light up the radar of memory for all others but as I sat with my family, on the tarp in the dark and heard the old pro Nanci Griffith close day two with the wonderful “Last Song to Mother” and heard the lyric “And if I promise not to cry/ Please look me in the eye/ And say you've truly known me/ Tis the sweet sound of goodbye /Amazing grace how sweet the sound” there was precipitation but not from the clouds overhead. On the road in musical America you will not find better quality of performer or better feelings amongst humanity than this Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.


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