Mr. Bopst goes to the Folk Festival

As our own Christ Bopst was part of the Richmond Folk Festival programming committee, we thought it only appropriate for him to share his list of the absolutely not-to-be-missed performers this year. Enjoy!

As our own Christ Bopst was part of the Richmond Folk Festival programming committee, we thought it only appropriate for him to share his list of the absolutely not-to-be-missed performers this year. Enjoy!

The time is here. Another Richmond Folk Festival happens this weekend for your free — that’s right, totally free of charge — listening enjoyment. Needless to say, but I’m giddy with excitement. Here are but a few reasons why…

Ensemble Shanbehzadeh

After the last programming committee meeting this past Monday at Legend Brewing Company, Josh Kohn, the festivals right hand man and programming manager at the National Council for the Traditional Arts, casually mentioned that the group was playing a little house party out in Midlothian and anyone who wanted to come was welcomed to attend. To me, this casual invitation was the equivalent of telling a pop-loving prepubescent that the Jonas Brothers were doing a special show for her on her birthday. During the selection process for picking artists and bands for the year’s folk festival, the Ensemble Shanbehzadeh was brought up for consideration with the words “bagpipe music from Iran” and I thought Jim Wark, former Style editor and current Blackwell Elementary school teacher, and I were going to orgasm. The two of us are the biggest, most enthusiastic advocates of the weird (at least, to western ears) on the committee and we threw our hands up immediately even before hearing the music. Once we did hear the music, the lilting trance-like melodic phrases of the ney-anban (double-reed bagpipe) punctuated, supported, and enabled by purposive Persian rhythms, our shared love of the musically unknown was consummated. We were in love. Anyway, I headed home as fast as I could to say goodnight to my daughter and wife and set out for the night’s once-in-a-lifetime intimate performance of obscure, melodic greatness. I was not disappointed. The one thing that surprised me was how alluring the music was. Saeid Shanbehzadeh is one, as Prince would say, sexy motherfucker (he looks/performs like a Al Green, Mohammed Rafi, Fela Kuti, and Rudy Valentino hybrid) and he plays his handmade ney-anban like he is seducing the most beautiful girl in the world. Due to the cramped confines of their living room engagement, Saeid couldn’t bust the Bushehr moves that he wanted to, but it was an entrancing evening nonetheless. I can’t wait to see the ensemble kick out their Iranian jams without space constraints. There won’t be a dry panty on the island.

Zakir Hussain

Few percussionists can actually make their instruments talk. Zakir Hussain is the rare musician who actually can. I imagine he could make his tabla speak any language he wanted it to with fluid, knowing grace. The son of the legendary tabla player Ustad Allah Rakha Khan, Zakir has played with an impressive range of artists from the London String Quartet, Van Morrison, Yo-Yo Ma, George Harrison, Rennie Harris, Bela Fleck and a host of a appreciative others. If Keith Moon took his inspiration from Ravi Shankar instead of 1960’s American surf music, you’d have something close to the wizardry of Zakir’s cadenced intricacies and bottomless melodious depth.

Rare Essence

I have to admit that of all the classic DC GO-GO bands from yesteryear, Trouble Funk is by far my favorite, but Rare Essence always gave them a run for their money. Propulsive party music with a distinctive inner city flair, Rare Essence’s gospel infused good times are sweetened by Latin, blues, jazz, and R&B inspirations. Their hits “Overnight Scenario” and “Body Snatchers” were pivotal building blocks in my adolescent musical education, and I spent many a sweaty night dancing and singing at their legendary shows. GO-GO was the black punk rock in the nation’s capitol back in the late 70’s/early 80’s and Rare Essence, Chuck Brown, and EU was mandatory listening for anyone that had Minor Threat or Government Issue painted on the back of their jackets. They took the tension out of my teenage aggression. It ain’t nothing but a party y’all…

Boukman Eksperyans

Given the continuing struggles of the people of Haiti, program committee members (myself included) wanted to bring music from the long-suffering island to highlight the rich musical history of our neighbors to the south. We wanted to remind people in our instant amnesia culture not only of the ongoing cultural significance of the islander’s melodic contributions, but to raise awareness (and hopefully much needed funds) to help the people still dealing with the painful aftermath of this year’s earthquake. Boukman Eksperyans represent the merger of past traditions with modern innovations employing West African influences, ceremonial drumming, chant and dances from the traditional Vodou with elements of rock and R&B to create a truly unique and quintessentially 21st century Haitian melodic platform for timely social and political commentary. This 11-piece group’s joyous celebrations draw their strength from the indelible spirit of the Haitian people.

Tony Rice

Simply put, Virginia native Tony Rice is the baddest motherfucker on the planet when it comes to flat-picked guitar.

Virginia Rocks: A Salute to Virginia Rockabilly

(Featuring The Dazzlers, Deke Dickerson & The Ecco-fonics and Special Guests Victor Mizelle, Russell Williford and Clint Miller)

Local promoter Danny Ingram had the good sense to book Deke Dickerson a couple of weeks back in the duckpin bowling alley at Southside Plaza and I was sorry I missed it. Bowling and rockabilly together makes perfect sense. The no nonsense, stripped down guitar playing of Dickerson and the raucous energy of The Dazzlers are timely, timeless reminders that rock music is at its best when it is played in it’s rawest, primitive form. Performing with Virginia native sons Victor Mizelle (one of the two surviving members of the Rock-A-Teens, a 1950’s “one-hit wonder” whose single “Woo-hoo” hit #16 on the Billboard charts in October of 1959), Russell Williford (a legendary member of Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps) and Clint Miller (his catchy hit, “Bertha Lou” reached #79 on the Billboard chart in 1958), this showcase of homegrown, national and international talent cements Virginia’s place in the history of rockabilly music.

No BS! Brass Band

Of any local group, No BS! Brass Band has the broadest commercial appeal without making a single, solitary concession to the demands of commerce. Their immense, limitless appeal is based solely on their undeniable musical ability, natural showmanship, and their defining, elusive talent to endear themselves to any and all audiences. They pull off the impossible: they make jazz sexy.

Their inclusion in this year’s festival opens Pandora’s box for every local, desperate for the adulation of strangers artist and group to ask why they, the genius, undiscovered talents they think they are, to ask, if No BS! Brass Band is on the bill, then why are we? Well, the answer is simple. You suck. No, to be honest, the Richmond Folk Festival (in my mind anyway) is about bringing musicians from around the world you most likely would never see and not about showcasing local talents. You know why? Because if there was a festival that featured nothing but local talents, the hard, undeniable truth is that nobody would come to see it. If that seems harsh or anti-Richmond, you are either delusional about your commercial appeal or in direct denial of reality. Every year, there are heated discussions about having a stage for Richmond bands and every year I vote against it. While I am not completely adverse to the idea (I’d love for Avail to reunite for a special performance), having a yearly showcase for the music of the world has proven to work out pretty well for all those concerned. While I love No BS! Brass Band with every fiber of my being and think they are a natural fit for the festival, I worry that certain people (you know who you are) will want to take pompous, unfounded issue with their inclusion because they themselves aren’t playing on one of the stages.

And that would be fuckin’ stupid.

Anyway, I hope you and your loved and not so loved ones can come check out the festival this year. It will be, as it always is, completely and totally awesome.

(Pictured: The Family Bopst at last year’s festival)

  • error

    Report an error

Chris Bopst

Chris Bopst believes that god is nothing more than the summation of us all. At least, that’s what the goose bumps tell him.

There are 5 reader comments. Read them.