A wrap-up of Folklife Festival 2012 plus highlights for Monday, May 28.
The 41-year-old Northwest Folklife Festival, which wraps up Monday, usually puts more of a human-potential spin on folk arts — “Learn to tango dance and live a fuller life!” — than a political one.
This year that was still true, but it also felt like everywhere you turned someone was protesting something. After sending out strains of the civil-rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to the sun-welcoming crowds Saturday on Fisher Green, singer Laura Love declared, “I know the people of Seattle will get out in the streets — and riot if we have to.”
Sunday, the “Voices of Occupy” filled the Intiman Choral Courtyard, and Saturday, on the Narrative Stage (at SIFF Cinema), community organizer Jasmine Marwaha of Unite Here Local 8 delivered a labor-union polemic before passing out a petition supporting Space Needle workers’ contract negotiations.
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When an Irish jam session Sunday at the Northwest Court broke into the 19th-century anti-scab song “Blackleg Miner,” it felt like the ’60s folk boom had risen from the dead.
“It would be wrong for us as a nonprofit to take a political stance,” said Folklife Executive Director Robert Townsend, who seemed concerned to hear about all this. “We try to be as apolitical as possible.”
Indeed, Folklife’s eclectic programming by and large was more about aesthetics than protest. And organizers were rewarded by clement weather and massive crowds — including 65,000 people on Saturday alone. (In 2011, about 235,000 people attended the four-day festival.)
One of the best programs (to be repeated Monday) was “The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and Its Legacy,” a lively lecture and slideshow by authors Paula Becker and Alan J. Stein.
Other Saturday and Sunday high points included Jonathan Womack’s towering Super Mario Brothers-inspired visuals at EMP’s Sky Church, backdrop to thumping laptop dance beats; fiddler Tim Wetmiller’s hot bluegrass licks with Dysfunction Junction at the Mural Amphitheatre; and a showcase at the Vera Project featuring Kamau Ngigi rapping in Swahili with the rocked-up hip-hop group Global Heat.
The weekend’s lowlight came Saturday with a (nonfatal) shooting at the festival’s periphery. It was the second shooting in five years at or near Folklife. It did not seem to keep people away Sunday, nor did cloudy weather.
Monday’s Folklife highlights
• Mozart’s Requiem Sing-along: 5 p.m., Intiman Choral Courtyard
• Latin Folkloric Show: (Trio Lucero del Norte; Los Flacos; Diego Coy Musica Colombiana; Enrique Wetzel & Laura Oviedo), 1 p.m., Fisher Green Stage
• Corespondents: (indie folk), 2:45 p.m., Indie Roots Stage
• “The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and Its Legacy”: (Authors Paula Becker and Alan J. Stein talk about their book), 4 p.m., Narrative Stage (SIFF Cinema)
• Tribute to “Harry Smith: Anthology of Folk Music”: (local artists reprise the anthology that helped launched the ’60s folk boom: The Washover Fans, Atlas Stringband, Dave Knott, Robert Deeble, Alicia Amiri, Coty Hogue, Ben Fisher, The Foghorns, Mark Johnson, Canote Brothers, Les Chattes Creole, Highball Whistle, Emily Pothast, Levi Fuller, Jeremy Burk, The Horde and the Harem, Annie Ford, Pufferfish, Stellarondo, The Jelly Rollers, Led to Sea, RedDog, Baby gramps, Robert Millis), 1 p.m., Northwest Court Stage
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