Lowell Folk Festival Lowell, MA July 27-29, 2018
by Jennifer Simon

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The three-day Lowell Folk Festival is my favorite of the area summer music festivals.  I have been attending for 20+ of the many decades it has been going on.  The festival closes down most of the central historic district of this old city allowing for free-flowing travel between the five stages.  There is no admission charge – though donations are politely solicited.  Music is a combination of “American”; blues, bluegrass, Cajun, Hawaiian, swing, beatboxing & gospel, along with “World Music”; mariachi, flamenco, afghan, salsa, Georgian, Columbian, Greek, Cape Breton and more.  As an added bonus most bands perform multi times on different stages.  You can follow a favorite around or stay in one place to get the broadest sampling of music.

From the video channel of Alice Kaufman

A sampling of the music I listened to included: Mariachi Mexico Antiguo – every bit as much fun as you imagine a mariachi band to be.  20+ musicians with horns and strings along with singers and dancers in traditionally dress.  Excellent musical talent providing a crowd pleasing joyous time.

From the video channel of The Lowell Sun

Kahulanui – Hawaiian swing band.  Grammy award winning band.  Unusual combination of swing music with Hawaiian vocals.

From the video channel of MoeJoeSounds

Rahzel beatboxed to a huge crowd at the Dutton Street stage.  The crowd loved his DJ playing him samples of classic R&B songs which he then built his beat boxing from. He attracted a large crowd of kids who danced along.

From the video channel of The Lowell Sun

Iberi  Choir – Georgian polyphonic singing – kind of like Tuvan throat singing, but totally not.  Dressed all in black, but with a great sense of humor, they performed sounds like you have never heard before. Bernard Allison Group – wonderful American guitar blues.  I saw them twice – at Boarding House Park a grassy amphitheater and at the Dutton St. Dance Pavilion.  Great guitar playing, wonderful mastery, really got the crowd going.

From the video channel of Fred Greaves

Corazon De Granada: Flamenco Joven Y Jondo – amazing dancing in full traditional dress.  The performance really showed off how the dancer and band percussion work together. Salar Nader & Mustafa Saeed – 2 musicians playing North African music.  Sitar, Tabla, Rubab.  Sitar is the instrument behind the dreamy aquarium sounds in the Beatles experimental music.  Salar showed the audience how to clap along to the traditional 16 beat music.  Clap on the 1, 5, 9, & 13!  The music was beautiful and captivating.  The performers were really good at talking to the audience, pulling them along without lecturing.

Bonus feature is the amazing food at the festival.  Of course, you can get all the traditional fair food, but the real feature are the church groups vending food of their native cultures.  Greek, Brazilian, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian.   My son specialized in food stuffed inside other foods, think ground meat stuffed inside plantain or empanada, or spring rolls or potatoes then covered in cheese.  And each one then deep fried, to maximize the heart stopping joy.

The festival also included amazing non musical attractions.  Craftsmen demonstrations were plentiful including : basket making, cooking, iconography, black smithing, bottle collecting etc. And what festival would be complete without the requisite craft fair – vendors with hand made crafts for sale reflected the local and international communities plus local community organizations telling about their missions and their upcoming events. Politicians, Choirs, music and dance classes, plus a kids’ game area with face painting, corn hole, crafts etc. All in all the Lowell Folk festival brings together an amazing amount of entertainment from cultures spanning the globe and had an amazing array of options for anyone of any age and background to enjoy.

Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.

To submit an article or review, or to just say hello hit us at [email protected] 

Jennifer Simon is a contributor, a lighting designer, and an expert on live performance. She has worked for The Center for the Arts, Natick, Dance Umbrella, Old 78 Farm Fall festival, and nearly every comedian and performing artist to tour in the last forty years.

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