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Festival Starts 7th Year Print-ready version

Rain Fails to Dim Folk Show

by Stephen J Sansweet
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 24, 1968
Original article: PDF

Maybe the folk music purists - if there are any left - didn't quite dig it, but the Philadelphia Folk Festival grooved into its seventh year Friday night with quite a mixed musical bag.

From teenage song writer Janis Ian to ageless Doc Watson and from the old-world-styled Pennywhistlers to the electrified Sweet Stavin Chain, the festival took off in a mad dash and never bothered to slow down to catch its breath.

The whole affair was seasoned with a healthy sprinkling of rain. A half hour into the concert the predicted "widely scattered showers" decided to scatter themselves over the festival site, the Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford township near Schwenksville.

Umbrellas popped up and blankets became raincoats for the next 40 minutes, but the crowd of several thousand barely stirred.

Patrick Sky, who has been called a low pressure country folk singer, was one of the evening's hits. The cherubic Sky delivered a steady stream of patter along with his songs, all written by himself.

DIRGEFUL TUNE

From a dirgeful tune about people incapable of loving he launched into the "tragedy" of an old hog caller done in by a pinball machine.

Sweet Stavin' Chain, a Philadelphia electronic blues band, started out loudly, but settled down to two solid numbers, "Never Say No" and "Tore Down."

Their last selection, "Stormy Monday," had the best beat, but the lead singer tried a bit too hard.

POWERFUL FINALE

John Denver put on a good show singing about, among other things, dirty old men. His voice was a little raspy around the edges, but he managed to deliver a powerful finale about the "Sound of Freedom."

Joni Mitchell, her long blonde hair flowing over a floor length gown, received a standing ovation from the audience after singing five of her own songs.

The 24-year-old Canadian girl has a striking voice that matches her talent as a wordsmith.

WEARS HOMBURG

Jerry Jeff Walker, who has recently arrived in the folk spotlight, came on stage in a leather coat and black homburg to sing his hit "Mister Bojangles," about a dancer whom he met in a New Orleans jail.

As always, Doc Watson and his son, Merle, achieved near perfection on guitar and banjo. The blind Doc sets a mood on stage with his stories from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

Janis Ian ended the concert after 1:30 A.M. and had the audience cheering her contemporary songs. At 17, she is truly an amazing performer.

A London group, the Young Tradition, made quite an unusual sound with three part harmony on several old English ballads, including a very explicit one on the seduction of a country girl.

JOAN BAEZ TO SING

Igra, an East European folk song and dance ensemble, managed only one dance because of the slippery stage. The dance was none the less animated and quite colorful.

Philadelphia's answer to Newport continues Saturday and Sunday. Workshops start at noon both days and food is available on the festival grounds. Saturday night's concert starts at 7:45 P.M.

But the piece de resistance will be the solo concert Sunday at 5 P.M. by Joan Baez. The entire festival is sponsored by the Philadelphia Folksong Society.

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