In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|August 14-20, 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
A musical comedy
Seven words you can say at the Folks Festival
by Myles HykenMany remember the late George Carlin for, among his scathing and poignant rants, the routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” It became the focal point of one of the most storied legal battles concerning obscenity and censorship in American history. In a mini peripheral tribute to the groundbreaking comedian, let’s examine the seven words you can expect at the Folks Festival. Yes, festivarians, in just a few days, you will again swoop upon the brilliant scenery of Lyons to frolic in the mirth and music. By the way, can’t we come up with something other than “festivarians” now? I mean, this is the 18th year of the esprit de festivals and what is that word supposed to mean? Is it a combination of “festival goers” and “Rastafarians”? Honestly, I don’t see much “deepa reality” or “I and I” going on, maybe just a few fair dreadlocks blowing in the breeze coming off of the St. Vrain. Perhaps it was coined as a hybrid of “festival trekker” and “trustafarian.” Given the geography, you can’t deny the plausibility. I’m not trying to offend those greens (green recycling, green weed smoking, perhaps green money grubbing). I quite envy them, truth be told. I wish my parents, having made tons of money out West, allowed me to inherit their summerhouse in Boulder where I could spend entire seasons breaking from my Herbalife sales to tour with my favorite bands and climb a few fourteeners.
Pardon that interruption; now back to the subject at hand. One word you can say (and feel) liberally at Folks Fest is laughter. A few of this year’s performers chimed in with opinions on the subject of humor and comedy.
Boulder Weekly: Why do you think humor finds its way into music?
Greg Brown: Because it finds it’s way into life, as well. It is usually contained in the answers we come up with as to why we’re here and where we are going. It’s not always an easy time, and so I imagine we necessitate humor in our lives and in our music.
Aaron Keim (Boulder Acoustic Society): It helps people relate to you. You don’t have to be sooooo friggin’ sincere. Like a joke at the beginning of a keynote speech. It’s light, but then you can move on from there because you have grabbed them. Scott Aller, one of my band mates, always says, “We want to leave everyone smiling, even if we’re playing something darker.”
Amos Lee: All creative arts should touch on comedy in some manner, especially today. In music specifically, if you write about what you know and what you experience, you couldn’t avoid it.
BW: What do you think musicians and comedians have in common?
GB: I don’t think they have a whole lot in common, unless the comedian is holding an instrument. Comedians tend to be dark. Not that I know very many, in the traditional sense, that is. Comedians often can’t turn it off. I think they are nervous compared to musicians.
AK: Both can be joking but perfectly serious at the same time. Most musicians are rooted in a love for comedy.
AL: When I am watching a comedian, I have so much admiration for them. I mean, all they have up there is a microphone and their ideas. Other than that, who knows? It depends on how great their insight is.
BW: Perhaps they share the element of timing?
GB: That’s true. Steve Goodman once sang a well-known, traditional tune. I forget which one, but he sang it leaving out certain words and it totally changed the original meaning. It was hilarious. Goodman was a master of timing in song.
BW: How about Monty Python’s “Lumberjack Song” as an example?
AK: Timing in the context of both is important. Whether great comedy or composition, it’s really about the moment and dressing it up correctly.
AL: Comedy is more focused; however, the timing factor is huge in music — it’s more about phrasing.
BW: What is your favorite humorous line from a song?
GB: John Prine comes to mind immediately. Father forgive us for what we must do / You forgive us and we’ll forgive you / We’ll forgive each other ‘till we both turn blue / Then we’ll whistle and go fishin’ in the heavens
AK: Boulder Acoustic Society has a song called “Acoustic Serenade” that is humorous in music alone, without words, until the very end where we sing, “Kazoos have feelings, too.” Anything by John Prine comes to mind, too.
AL: Off the top of my head, I can only think of this one John Prine song. I can’t even think of it clearly, but it contains a line about “with heartbreak and a chuckle you can laugh at your own pain.” I might add that he is my favorite humorous songwriter.
BW: Greg Brown’s… You Americans, you are so easy to please / A jug of wine, a loaf of bread / And, and… / Fifty thousand dollars
BW: They say sarcasm is the lowest form of comedy. I say fuck them, whoever they are. What do you think?
GB: Sarcasm? Sarcasm is good, can’t beat it, great leveler. It deflates pretention, a priceless tool we all need in our arsenal.
Add to laughter two more words: express yourself. In one of George Carlin’s final interviews in Psychology Today, from late June, he observed that “self-expression is a hallmark of an artist, of art, to get something off one’s chest, to sing one’s song.” On the Planet Bluegrass website, our presenters state “when we started in 1991, our vision was to bring together songwriters from all over the world to collaborate and share their stories.” This year’s lineup again brings together many accents, including the edgy Scottish singer KT Tunstall, Australian roots trio The Waifs and Canadian space folk quartet Great Lake Swimmers.
AK: Good songwriters can convey what they are feeling, even the most commercial of them. Touring is a magnifying glass on life. That is why songwriting is a 24-hour-a-day job.
AL: Self-expression is innate, like water, paper or food.
Word number four is spontaneity. Witness the already legendary performance of Peter Himmelman from last year’s festival. Approaching the stage rather abruptly, and apologizing to the audience for his lack of sleep and hurried schedule that brought the band to the show only hours before their time slot, one would expect a lackadaisical performance. Himmelman and his band fiddled around for a short while, tuning and bantering, and apparently disagreeing on which direction to take. Eventually, he broke out into a nearly 40-minute electric guitar solo, very Hendrix-like and a significant departure from all of the exclusively acoustic performances prior to it. But it didn’t end there. This solo was a mixed bag, intertwined with a comedic, even confrontational, rap playfully questioning the authenticity of Boulder vegetarians, combined with impromptu dialogue with a member of his band about his father’s experiences in Auschwitz. This stream of consciousness came together with a funky, rhythmic jam that had a loud and frenzied crowd boogeying their asses off. When the mayhem finally ended, Himmelman announced to the crowd “that was unprepared, by the way.” A barrage of laughter ensued. He closed the show with the beautiful and yearning “Closer.” New festivarians (whatever that means) should come to expect this kind of behavior at the Folks Festival.
Our final three words are anarchy or therapy? Armed with lyrics and ukuleles, this year’s performers are sure to keep step with the past. Let your anger out or heal some wounds (or do both). Odds are Todd Snider will usher in the DNC with “You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers).” You can guess the subject matter. Perhaps KT Tunstall will perform the naive “Beauty of Uncertainty” or “Saving My Face” — about 50-year-old women striving to look like high school seniors.
AK: People want to be vulnerable to a songwriter. They want to feel good. I have been abandoning my upright bass lately for the ukulele. It has no effects, you can’t hide behind it. You can reach people through it.
Festisseurs are in for another awesome treat this year. That’s my new word — kiss my ass if you don’t like it. It is a combination of “festival goer” and “connoisseur,” an appreciator of fine things. Planet Bluegrass’s Folks Festival is one of the finest of its kind in the country. And God bless George Carlin.
On the Bill
The Folks Festival will take place Aug. 15-17 at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, 303-823-0848, www.bluegrass.com.
Respond: email@example.com to top