By the second day of the Great Lakes Folk Festival, I realized something important had been overlooked. Missing from the music stages was ... well, 51 per cent of the human population.
So far, I've sampled eight acts with, by rough count, 35 performers. That breaks down to 32 men and three women -- 93-year-old singer Alberta Adams, the singer (C.C. Collins) who opened for her and a flamenco dancer
The three acts I haven't seen aren't likely to add any more women: It seems that the festival lacks a full-time female musician or singer under the age of 90; it has no women playing an instruments.
I'm sure that's a coincidence, but it's a bizarre one. Here is an event that's debut (when it was, temporarily, the National Folk Festival) was propelled by two great female fiddlers, Eileen Ivers and Natalie MacMaster. It soon followed with an all-female Irish group (Cherish the Ladies), a half-female French-Canadian group and a flurry of other talented women, mainly singers and fiddlers. And now, almost, nothing.
Enough about that. Sunday night (Aug. 15), after the festival ends, I'll share some of my favorite jokes and stories I heard and signs I saw. Since there's still a chance to go to the event -- for people living near East Lansing, Mich. -- I want to mention some acts to make sure you catch; I'll include their Sunday performance times:
1) Doyle Lawson. He plays the mandolin beautifully and sings well, but he does something more: He hires great talent, then hones them beautifully. It's a tight ship, with jokes, songs instrumentals and top skill. (4:15 p.m. Sunday, MAC Stage)
2) Mariachi Perla de Mexico. Sure, these guys go overboard in playing to the tourists. In one 50-minute set, they included "La Bamba," "Beer Barrel Polka," comic dancing and, I believe, a bull-fighter song and a chicken dance. Still, they are remarkably good -- six fiddlers, two wondrous trumpeters, two guitarists, lots of great voices. (Noon, City Hall Stage; 3:05 p.m., MAC Stage)
3) D.W. Groethe. This guy is the opposite of the mariachis -- no flash, no flair, just a small cowboy, alone on stage, singing and reciting poems. That works because he writes poems and songs with stark, spare brilliance. (3:15 p.m., City Hall Stage,
4) Cedric Watson. He showed up at the accordion session and held his own with masters of the instrument. He showed up again at the fiddle session and did the same. He led his Creole group zestfully, rotating between both instruments and singing in French. He does it all well and -- at about 27 -- has been working on it for less than a decade. (Noon, Dance Stage)
5) Alberta Adams. There were, I'll admit, some problems with the set I saw. It wasn't that she was brought on late and only did four songs; it was the fact that she used too much of her time talking about the band players and getting us to applaud them. Hey, these guys are good and we had already let them know that before she began. Once she was onstage, we wanted to focus on the wondrous vocals of Alberta Adams, this festival's token woman. (4:15 p.m., City Hall Stage)