What would have been an average festival with a decent line up of performers was transformed into a magical evening of musical wonderment simply because of the venue at which the 3rd LA Folk Fest was held.
Zorthian Ranch could easily be dismissed as a hippie haven tucked away in the Altadena hills, and although the archetypal Hollywood crowd might scoff at the idea of sitting on the ground to watch an acoustic performance, they are not missed. The first sign you will encounter after the quarter mile hike at a nosebleed incline reads, “This is a lawless land”. While the venues proximity lands it far enough out of town to yield spectacular views, the night’s stars remain dwarfed by the city’s light. That’s no problem when you have a multitude of lounges, makeshift stages, creative recycled art in every direction, and last but not least, the swimming pool. Providing patrons with plenty of added entertainment and a refreshing way to beat the heat, men, woman, and children all skimped down to their skivvies to enjoy the azure pool overlooking the Glendale hills.
The term “Folk Festival” might be a tad misleading. As a music junkie going into this not knowing what to expect, I was blown away at the variety of bands performing. Over 30 bands played on four of the stages set up around the Zorthian’s, including a soulful salsa outfit, an always impressive acoustic set by Dustbowl Revival, cutesy electro-pop from Pisces, catchy, sexy, and unique jams from personal favorite group He’s my Brother She’s my Sister, powerhouse songs from Tommy Santee Claws, an impressive display of catchy jingles by Beachwood Sparks, a unique performance with a message during Emily Lacy’s set, feel good tunes of Triplefoot Chicken, among many other talented acts.
One of the most unique performances belongs to Dirt Bird, whose engaging and energetic hoedown, square-dance, and waltz sets invited everyone to pair up with multiple couples as they command a very intricate and often confusing series of cowboy approved dance moves, bringing people together and kicking up a dust storm in the process.
While the community in attendance at LAFF is made up of Los Angeles’ bohemians, hippies, and all around good natured human beings, the sheer number of attendees this year seemed a bit underestimated. One couldn’t say that the place was particularly crowded – unless you either wanted to buy beer or use the restroom. By the way, another centerpiece which makes LAFF an incredible festival unlike any other is the $3 beers. The problem: waiting in like 20 minutes to use one of three port-o-potties. Hopefully production learned their lesson this year and will make accommodations for an even greater crowd during the fest’s triumphant return to Zorthian’s next year.
To sum things up, when your biggest problems are the lines for booze and bathrooms, you can call that a successful festival. These are the same problems you will find at all concerts ever. When the entirety of your concert goers are walking around with beaming smiles glued to their faces, that is an immortal festival. And not to end on a bad note but history shows that these types of festivals become very popular very quickly until they become over-saturated, and tend to lose a little something special along the way. If you missed this, I feel sorry for you, but jump on board next year so that one day, decades from now, you will be able to say, “It was so much better before it blew up.”
Photos coming soon!