BMOREhush documented much of the recent Baltimore Folk Fest. Here’s some of what they found there.
There was a thrill, a surge, and a huge sigh of relief at the end of the night on October 12th for BMOREhush. We took to the streets of Station North, hunting down contacts and looking for the perfect shot in alleyways marred by watery light from streetlamps.
We didn’t get to film in every venue, but we hit three of the five successfully. According to Alex Champagne, the mastermind behind the madness, each space was “curated to have a certain vibe”. Folk music is multi-faceted, and the organizers of the 2013 Baltimore Folk Festival worked hard to represent that creativity to the best of their ability. Getting all-embracing venues in Station North involved is a good place to start.
Each location brought something different, all of them were working to showcase something different. The set up in Joe Squared was more fluid to keep the music going while the kitchen was open. Charm City Art Space, provided a punk rock edge that brought well-maintained chaos, parading and foot stomping. Liam Flynn’s featured traditional sounds, while The Crown was more eclectic keeping a line out the door all night. Finally, The Windup Space had a good mix and served as the central locale for the festival, hosting accessible bands and musicians.
When Alex and I sat down to talk, the idea of folk as an intergenerational genre emerged. This music’s ability to bring in anyone from your grandparents, to your youngest cousins was evident during the festival. The Windup Space exhibited the phenomenon particularly well.
Each venue was packed this year which, for the organizers, was a big leap from the 2 venues that hosted last year (Joe Squared and the Windup Space). The whole event “exceeded expectations,” remarked Champagne.
Our intent was to give fans and spectators an inside look, a backstage pass into how a band gets ready to perform. We wanted to capture the fears, the jitters, and the excitement on tape like a National Geographic special about the mysteries of the natural world. We put faith in ourselves to get the shot the first time. We put faith in the bands to get a great take in one go. We set off into the unknown for this project, and the result was something special.
We started our tour of the festival at Charm City Art Space where Barrage Band Orchestra paraded up and down the streets, drawing people out to watch the band start off the night. The children were not forgotten as the clarinet player’s son, in costume, carried a sign that pointed people in the right direction. Still, it was a challenge to follow them as they played. It was a rough beginning in a space that is both beautiful and gritty. Each of the players re-entered CCAS while the perfectly cacophonous brass music echoed off the walls and welcomed us all inside the circle. And thus the night began.
Soft Cat at The Windup Space BFF 2013
Soft Cat was certainly a deviation from Barrage Band Orchestra. Finding the right space to film was more challenging since we couldn’t control the lighting, the background noises, or the people filtering in and out. And only we thought the band should be playing in the bathrooms. Although we are exceptionally grateful to the staff of the space for all of their help throwing the shoot together. In the end, the band settled down right in the middle of the room. The few people who had already trickled in sat around the dim light of the bar, as the soft red glow from a table lamp put the musicians in a faint spotlight. Their set was quiet, thoughtful, and a pre-show treat for all those lucky early birds. Once it ended, it was followed with more handshakes, more smiles and jokes, more hellos and immediate goodbyes.
The Crown had a small crowd of people getting drinks and watching the first artist, Honeyboat, set up her equipment. The rain finally started to fall so we hustled the members of Viking Moses along with a small dog named Georgia into the karaoke room off of the main room. We stumbled through setting up amps, checking levels, and finding the perfect Korean music video to have playing in the background. We finally caught our footing and Viking Moses had a great set. This was meant to be our last shoot, and we wanted it to be a success. But as the band started, the members of Tigerland all arrived and were ready to play the most impromptu set of the night. It was invigorating to know that a noteworthy musician was doing a shoot in a very small room while another talented band was ready to jump into the deep end with us.
Then there were high fives, congratulations on a great set, karaoke jokes, and then goodbyes. We had to hustle into the alley behind The Crown to get ready for the last shoot.
Unfortunately our video didn’t work out for Tigerland’s performance of ‘Heavy’, but it was a denouement worthy of our otherwise successful night. While stark lights shone on a quartet that stole our hearts, a small crowd jumbled in behind a full dumpster as rats squeaked in the darkest corners. The band was calm, well-paced, and sounded well rehearsed and comfortable with their material.
At the end of night, the crew from BMOREhush had experienced something noteworthy. The whole festival was well attended, beautifully executed, and full of love. Music had brought the bands, the fans and the curious onlookers together, but an overall feeling of goodwill and affection kept everyone crammed into the venues like sardines in a rain-damp can. We were excited to work with the bands because of our respect for their work and their individual translation of what folk is or can be. But what we didn’t expect was getting appreciation back from those musicians. We all got to share in the experience of each other’s work during the festival. We are undoubtedly grateful for the opportunity to participate.
We may not have shown the backstage nuances we intended, but we did succeed in showcasing some incredibly talented musicians within the same sphere of music.
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During our conversation after the festival was over, I asked Alex if he had started to think about next year yet.
“As soon as I realized things were going well,” he retorted. “I thought ‘What about next year?’” There were a few glitches, some details that fell through the cracks, but the curation at each space went off without a hitch, thanks to the strong team that kept the event running smoothly. Knowing that he had a crew of people like Dan Cohan, Michelle Dwyer, Brendan Sullivan, Liam Flynn, Brad Kolodner, and Russell de Ocampo to help with the coming year of planning, Alex’s confidence makes sense.
“Coming from the Charm City Art Space, where we have band stickers inside our toilet bowl and welcomed graffiti on the wall, we are not used to such a well run event, so BFF was a wonderful change!” said Michelle Dwyer, the curator and contact for Charm City Art Space for BFF in reaction to this year’s festival.
We’re enthusiastic about how to improve, grow and expand next year. We can’t get over the love, support and excitement tangible in this scene.
“I’ve always been aware of all of the great people here in the folk and music scene, but somehow I’m always surprised and amazed at their energy and excitement- not just in what they’re doing but what others are doing. As long as I continue to witness and be involved in such a great community, I’m always going to be driven to put on a great show,” said Alex in reaction to the festival, that my final words would pale in comparison to.
As long as musicians let us invade their private moments, and venue managers and owners invite us into their spaces, BMOREhush will continue to push to show you something new.
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Folk does not happen but once a year! Check out the Baltimore Folk Festival website for related news and events throughout the year.