Folk & Roots Festival has worldwide scope


July 7, 2006


Though it may be overshadowed by the more heavily hyped summer music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago and Pitchfork, the Old Town School of Folk Music's summer celebration is always one of the best bargains of the summer concert season, as well as two of the most rewarding days for anyone interested in the ridiculously broad genres so easily pegged as "folk" or "roots music."

This weekend's ninth annual Chicago Folk & Roots Festival takes place, as always, in Welles Park (4400 N. Lincoln, between Montrose and Sunnyside), and in addition to several acts that shine a spotlight on the Bayou sounds of Louisiana (and an ongoing effort to raise money for the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic), the festival is drawing performers from around the world, as well as our backyard. Here is an hour-by-hour look at the mainstage lineups tomorrow and Sunday.


1 p.m. -- Special Music by Special People

This Chicago Park District music program provides children and adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to record, compose and perform their own music.

1:40 p.m. -- Barrowsmith

Veterans of "Weavermania," Chicagoans Barb Barrow and Michael Smith are now leading a six-piece country-rock band that is effectively an Old Town supergroup.

2:15 p.m. -- Joe Filisko and Eric Noden

This guitar and harmonica duo specializes in acoustic blues from the 1920s and '30s.

3 p.m. -- Lost Bayou Ramblers

The first of the festival's New Orleans-flavored acts hails from Pilette, La., and specializes in early Cajun music.

4:45 p.m. -- James Hand Band

Drawing on traditional country sounds from honky-tonk to Western swing, this Country Music Hall of Famer has been a buried treasure on the roots scene for four decades.

6 p.m. -- Read My Hips Belly Dance Troupe

This dance troupe may have updated the sounds to include a fusion of Middle Eastern music, flamenco and hip-hop, but it's still all about the shimmying hips and gyrating belly buttons.

6:30 p.m. -- Robbie Fulks' Secret Country

Chicago's always entertaining club mainstay Robbie Fulks will be joined by Joy Lynn White and Al Anderson for this installment of his "Secret Country" series, which is dedicated to shining a spotlight on some of the underappreciated, underground legends of country music.

8:15 p.m. -- Irma Thomas

A Crescent City legend, Irma Thomas was feared to have been missing in the harried days after Hurricane Katrina, but she is alive and well and bringing her powerful, soulful vocals to Chicago for a performance with her backing band, the aptly named Professionals.


1 p.m. -- Midwest Invitational Fiddle Contest Finals

Five teams of two finalists, each with a fiddler and a second lead player, will be competing for a $1,000 prize in a fiddle-crazed hoedown sponsored by the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce.

2:15 p.m. -- Tangleweed

Chicago's Americana quintet mixes bluegrass, banjo jazz and lots of harmonizing in its mix of old-time roots music.

2:55 p.m. Emily Hurd

A native of Rockford, Hurd is a talented singer, songwriter and pianist.

3:35 p.m. -- Steve Dawson

A veteran of Chicago power-pop band Dolly Varden, Dawson has struck out on his own with his sophisticated songs that have won comparisons to Van Morrison and Freedy Johnston.

4:30 p.m. -- Kekele

Named for a Lingala word for a fibrous vine in the tropical forests of the Congo River, this Congolese quintet blends Cuban rumba and African rhythms with the irresistible harmonies of Bumba Massa and Loko Massengo for a celebratory African sound.

5:45 p.m. -- Kaiju Daiko

These local masters of Japanese Taiko drumming never fail to present a mind-blowing visual spectacle as well as a veritable earthquake of rhythm.

6:15 p.m. -- Refugee All Stars of Sierra Leone

Forced from their homes in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown by the rebel war in 1999, this group formed in the Kalia Refugee Camp in 2001 and turned to music as a cathartic release from the horrors of everyday life, as related in the documentary, "The Refugee All Stars."

8 p.m. -- 911 Mambo Orchestra

The big, booming, 21-piece band led by Chicagoan Angel Melendez have been hailed as the mambo and salsa kings of the Midwest, drawing on the traditional sounds of the 1950s as well as the current grooves of Latin America. Think Tito Puente. Think Perez Prado. Think Eddie Palmieri. Or better yet, just stop thinking and dance.

In addition to the mainstage performers, the festival will also feature a dance tent with participatory workshops in Nago Yoga, Beledi, West African and Greek dancing (Saturday) and go-go, Bollywood dancing, mambo and salsa, Bio Ritmo and Cajun dance (Sunday), plus the ever-popular kid's tent with sessions on Saturday of the Wiggleworms (noon), Kangaroos (12:40 p.m.), hip-hop dancing (1:40 p.m.), Chuck and Karen (2:30 p.m.), Hula for Kids (3:20 p.m.), the Wee Hairy Beasties with Jon Langford and Sally Timms (4:20 p.m.), and a Kid's Rhythm Circle (5:15 p.m.).

Sunday's lineup for the kids features the Wiggleworms en espanol (noon), Jitterbugs (12:50 p.m.), Mr. Singer (1:40 p.m.), Coro de las Americas (2:30 p.m.), the Bed Bugs (3:25 p.m.), Taiko Drumming for Kids (4:25 p.m.) and Broadway Dance (5:15 p.m.).