The Folk Revival
By Simon Weedn
In 1970, it’s likely no one expected that a regular gathering of dulcimer players in Claremont’s Memorial Park, would evolve into one of the area’s most beloved annual events, The Claremont Folk Festival. Yet, here we are in 2013 with the festival, as it is today, marking its 30th year of existence and rapidly approaching a half a century since its humble beginnings. After all these years, the festival is still produced and curated by Claremont’s Folk Art Center, a business that was founded in 1958 by Charles and Dorothy Chase and is considered an institution of the Southern California folk music & arts community. Past line ups have included the likes of: Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Tom Morello, the drumming of The Taiko Center of Los Angeles, and the Chase’s grandson, Ben Harper. In keeping with their tradition of highly regarded headlining acts, the event’s June 17 program includes an appearance by punk rock icon and modern day Renaissance man, Henry Rollins.
This year’s incarnation of the festival presents a lineup that is just as varied as ever. The main stage is featuring performances by legendary session player and prolific solo artist David Lindley, longtime Ben Harper collaborator and extremely talented percussionist Leon Mobley & Da Lion, spirited hot jazz/ragtime revivalist Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys, powerful folk group Moira Smiley & VOCO, as well as many others. In addition to performances on the two stages, there will be a series of classes and workshops, some of which are led by some of the aforementioned performers, on everything ranging from mosaic making and monotype printing to African drumming, ukulele and banjo playing.
Probably the biggest stand out in this year’s lineup and by far the most internationally well known is musician, writer, publisher, spoken word artist and all-around music enthusiast, Henry Rollins. Mr. Rollins has been active in underground music community since 1980 when he began his first band, State Of Alert, and then rising to prominence throughout the early and mid ’80s as the last of four singers for the mythic hardcore punk rock band, Black Flag. Following Black Flag’s break up, Rollins embarked on a career that has seen him do everything from DJing radio shows and acting in TV & films such as Heat and Sons of Anarchy to fronting his own rock band, Rollins Band, and self publishing more than two dozen books and collections of writing. Though Rollins speaking shows cover a wide variety of topics and feelings, his goals for each night are simple, “To connect, to make impact, to be clear… to be unavoidably clear,” as he puts it. While one might consider his appearance at a folk festival a bit out of place given his punk rock pedigree, Mr. Rollins is quick to point out, “To me, punk rock was always folk music, it’s music for folks, it’s a real genuine communication.” As for how his speaking shows fit into a folk festival, Mr. Rollins explains, “To me, my talking show is an emotional acoustic performance, it’s the most essential human signal, just a voice with no effects. When I’m onstage by myself with my microphone, I just kind of wonder why I haven’t been doing this type of thing at folk festivals before.” With so many years of speaking shows under his belt at this point, Mr. Rollins performances are consistently of some of the highest quality one can hope to take in and will most certainly be one of the high points of the festival.
As the days before the event wind down, anticipation for this year’s festival grows and grows. With such an immensely talented array of performers and teachers, there’s little doubt that this year’s Claremont Folk Festival will certainly be one for the history books. For those planning on attending, be sure to check the website for a complete list of performance set times and workshops and prepare yourself for a day of fully immersed in the arts.
Claremont Folk Festival at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1500 N. College Ave.
Claremont, (909) 625-8767; folkmusiccenter.com/folk-festival. 10AM-9PM, Sat, June 15. Tickets $25. Children 12 and under are free.