Each August, the Great Lakes Folk Festival has been rather great. This year, it's merely semi-great ... which is still pretty good.
This blog entry is strictly for people near East Lansing, Mich.: If you have a chance, catch the last two days of the festival, Aug. 14-15. The event is half as good as it used to be, which still makes it twice as good as almost anything else.
The problem involves dropping the Valley Court Park concerts. During the day, under the searing sun, they were sparsely attended; at night, they gave the event its festival flavor.
At other stages, people can merely sit in folding chairs and clap politely. At Valley Court, this became a party -- blankets, food, families, teen-agers, dancers. Now that part -- for this year, at least -- is gone.
Still, catch the event. Stripped down, the festival still is a chance -- for free (remember to throw money in the buckets) -- to catch great and varied music in a sweet setting. On the first night, I caught:
-- Chulrua, an Irish trio. Sticking to the traditional style, it lacks the crowd-pleasing size and swirl of Solas, Cherish the Ladies and others. Still, these three guys play and sing great music and it's a joy to hear Paddy O'Brien talk about music, tell jokes or do anything in that wonderful Irish accent.
-- D.W. Groethe, a wonderful cowboy poet and singer. A ranch hand by day, he writes pieces that are sometimes funny, sometimes emotional, always very wise.
-- A convergence of four great accordionists -- O'Brien, Cedric Watson and two others. They talked, played and entertained us greatly. There are more such sessions coming up, all on the City Hall stage -- fiddlers (noon Saturday), banjos and fiddles (3:15 p.m. Saturday) and singers (2 p.m. Sunday). Pat Egan of Chulrua is a particularly good singer. There should be good times ahead -- even if they're only half as good as last year.