Bringin' Em In Off The Street

Big halls, small halls, no halls, in the streets, seeking refuge in churches: Most folk musicians claim to be interested
By Tony Strike

Big halls, small halls, no halls, in the streets, seeking refuge in churches: Most folk musicians claim to be interested in the acoustic atmosphere of their surroundings and the ambiance of their audience, rather than uninteresting and irrelevant details like the absolute size of the crowd or the gross at the gate.

Some admit to multiplying quality by the quantity of quality, however, and that could explain why Bob Dylan is getting divorced in Malibu instead of strumming some tunes at the Equinox Street Performers Music Fair this Sunday. But its a three-ring-circus of a fair in three different halls of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, and if that isn't his idea of atmosphere...

So Mr. Dylan must have other reasons for staying away. Perhaps he still harbors some feat of unknown promoters, preferring the calm efficiency of Bill Graham. But this gathering of over twenty groups of pluckers, singers, strummers, poets, grinners, mimes, pickers, jugglers, solo breakers, films, twangers, storytellers, dulcimer hammerers, balladeers, and at least one sidewalk artist (he draws on sidewalks) is being organized by the Winthrop House Folk and Jazz Society, whose recent spate of profitable concerts proves its competence and artistically populist nature. Whipoorwill Productions, a group of musicians in the festival, is co-sponsoring the event along with the Music Emporium, reportedly a capitalist organization that sells instruments for profit. So with three sponsors to work efficiently and divvy up the profits...

Maybe Mr. Dylan only does benefits. Okay, the sponsors say, we'll use most of the profits to bring entertainment to senior citizens in the Boston-Cambridge area...

Maybe Mr. Dylan does only square dances. Okay, the sponsors say, we'll run the fair from 3 pm in the afternoon and then sometime after dinner we'll have professional callers Tod Whitemore and Peter Guarnaccia start the doe-si-doein'...

Maybe Mr. Dylan couldn't get a ticket.

You'd better hurry and get yourself a ticket, in fact, or you'll be standing with the also-lived-in-Cambridges during a real live I-know-I-chose-Cambridge-over-New-Haven-even-knowing-Bonnie-Raitt-lives-in-California-because-her-first-album-was-her-best sunny spring folk music festival. They play on the high school steps in Weiser, Idaho, once a year for the real fiddlin' championship, but this saves camping out on the football field and you will still hear some fine fiddle tunes played by some fine fiddlers.

Cheap Trills does a lot of those fiddle tunes as well as some uptempo jazz and swing. Their soloists take amazing breaks one after another and play "high voltage stuff at breakneck speed" as someone once said. They'll be there.

Foxfire is a good bluegrass band with tight harmonies and good musicianship, and they'll be there, too.

Others who will be there are Brother Blue, famous storyteller and regaler of children, adults and subway riders; Carlos Larzarte, a folksong singer from Argentina; and Pete Smith, who plays the guitar and dulcimer and recorded an album with an assist from Harvard's own Dave Heilbroner.

There are others listed on the program, of course, but take special note of "Street Musique," a Canadian film that combines live-action and animation to capture that stoned spontaneity of outdoor music. This music fair is indoors and most of us don't even smoke Camels anymore, but yesterday is gone and the lesson learned was go with the flo, jump faster than the jrocks roll, and keep an eye on the sun.

If that sun sets and clouds roll in you might prefer Stormin' Norman and Suzy 'who have taken New York by, well, who were very popular with the hard-core dwellers of that real city. They are playing a benefit performance for the Clanshell Alliance, an anti-nuclear grass roots group, at 8:30 pm on Sunday at B.U.'s Hayden Hall.

As for the rest, Harry's on vacation. So read the Rock cars.