Folk Revival Festival
September 16, 2017
With new music festivals popping up every weekend and their established counterparts growing at an exponential rate, the Folk Revival Festival in Long Beach certainly could’ve gone for a massive spectacle and charged attendees a week’s worth of pay to come see some massive national and international names. Instead, the organizers decided to go with a more local vibe that channeled small-town arts and crafts festivals of yesteryear — and it was an absolutely brilliant change of pace.
Over the course of the day, most of the crowd (myself included) had no idea who most of the acts were, but it didn’t detract from anyone having a good time. As acts like Leather Tramp, Janie, and the Show Ponies kicked things off in the early afternoon, visitors ranging in age from 7 to 70 danced, cheered, drank, and ate for a solid 10 hours while checking out new bands and handmade products like cigar box guitars, embroidered sarongs, and (of course) delicious barbecue.
Along with the 15ish country and folk artists spread across the festival’s four stages, the real stars of Saturday afternoon and evening were the other events taking place on one of the side stages. Considering that the entire day was geared toward being as family-friendly as possible (aside from the sometimes impressive amounts of beer and alcohol flowing from the bars), having things like a pie-eating contest, banjo contest, and a few sessions of good ol’ fashioned open square dancing all build up to the headlining daytime act of a glorious beard and mustache competition meant that both kids and adults could simply wander around Rainbow Lagoon and take in all different forms of enjoyment.
As for the actual musical component of the festival, the real show kicked off later when old school country star Billy Joe Shaver showed up with a set of fresh stitches in his face after he’d fallen earlier in the day. Of course, a little blood and a quick hospital trip wasn’t enough to stop the 78-year-old icon from performing some of the tracks that’ve made him such a well-respected commodity in the outlaw country world over the last 45 years. For that, Shaver likely had the most memorable performance of the entire festival.
After other established acts like Matthew Logan Vasquez and the Good Luck Thrift Store Outlet played for a significantly more intoxicated crowd, the festival’s true headliner was ready to take the audience straight to Tennessee at right around 9:00 p.m. But even if it wasn’t one of the biggest crowds Lucero has ever played to at a festival, the hundreds of folks gathered to sing and dance to classics like “Chain Link Fence,” “Nights Like These” and “Here at the Starlite” were all plenty enthused to see the country-punk icons.
With their set cut down to an hour due to time constraints, watching the Memphis-based band take the stage by announcing that it was last call at the bars and then strum their way through well over a dozen songs new and old seemed a perfect and fitting way to end what most people would describe as one of the more pleasant and relaxed music festival experiences to hit Long Beach in quite a while. Watching kids play tag and drunk adults riverdance and/or hula hoop isn’t really what you’d expect at a multi-stage festival, but it was a whole lot better than many of the Coachella knockoffs that seem to happen at least once a month these days.
To be honest, the only real negative from the entire day was the douchebag photographer deciding it was acceptable to accost and physically push our trusty 5’2” 100-pound photography wizard while in the makeshift photo pit for Lucero. With everyone else having a genuinely good time, it was a little jarring to see some washed-up blowhard with an “official” badge shoving a girl less than half his size (even if she’d kick his ass both in a fight and a photo contest). But hey, even the wonderfully gravelly voice of Ben Nichols can’t soothe the ego of a beer-bellied never-was who finally landed a gig shooting for a local festival.