The rain really started to kick up a few hours before the first concert was set to begin. Luckily, I had just finished dinner over the campfire before it started to drizzle, then rain, then pour.
Just as Angaleena Presley was set to take the stage, the rain let up enough for my camping neighbors to snap a photo of a double rainbow in the parking lot. “It’s a sign for the festival,” I said. Everything around here is a sign for a happy fest.
There was a large crowd at the camp stage for the Thursday night concert – which is only open to campers at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Sturgill Simpson came out and played a couple of good songs with the energy of a rock ‘n’ roll band before the lead singer and songwriter, Simpson said, “We had to get the slow stuff out of the way. Y’all want to dance now? This is for the guy who said he wanted to dance.”
Jamming on country, blues and bluegrass riffs, Sturgill Simpson whipped the crowd into a boot-stomping frenzy. The blazing fingers of guitarist Laur Joamets, Kevin Black’s walking bass lines and their really loose jams were my favorite aspects of the band from Jackson, Ky. That and without any concession stands open, canned beer was the companion of choice for most in attendance which really made the overall experience all the more authentic.
When Parsonsfield came out for an encore, lead singer and banjo player Christ Freeman said, “Want to hear some punkgrass?” That’s the best way to describe this band.
Bursting with charisma, Parsonsfield dominated the evening showcase with roots rock energy. Hailing from Connecticut, the quintet was originally known as Poor Old Shine, named after the song “Ain’t No More Cane” and Freeman produced the band self-tiltled first album last year. The band changed its name July 12 and will release an EP, “Afterparty” on Aug. 19 under its new name.
The band played all sorts of instruments throughout its set including Freeman playing the saw, guitarist Max Shakun picking up a squeeze organ, and mandolin player Antonio Alcorn and Harrison Goodale on upright bass pretty much stuck to their primary instruments.
With a great and mostly dry Thursday night concert, it seems like a sign of good things to come for the 53rd annual Philadelphia Folk Festival.