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Like The Glory Days, North East Regional Folk Alliance Brings Musicians Together | December 2011

written by Julie Canepa
photography by Laura Carbone

The Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) held its annual conference on November 8th through November 11th in Kerhonkson, NY. Operating under the same collective mission and goals of Folk Alliance International, NERFA uses this yearly event as an opportunity to bring together artistic talent and members of the music industry to share resources and increase awareness of folk music’s continued relevance to the media and the general public. Take a bunch of emerging artists, agents, festival organizers, DJ’s, journalists, publishers, producers, promoters, graphic artists, photographers, record and recording label professionals, instrument makers and club owners, and cloister them in a 1960’s hotel in the hinterlands of the Catskills. First one must break the traditions of folk as not only the traditional music of common people but as a “roots music” sprouting branches of singer-songwriter, blues, bluegrass, gypsy jazz and world music into current society.

North East Regional Folk Alliance

Walk into the lobby of the hotel and all attendees are immediately surrounded by a cacophony of sounds from all manner of musicians spontaneous jamming. In one corner, David Anram plays his penny whistle accompanied gypsy guitarist Stuart Fuchs, and over there, a trio of troubadours sings sonatas within the perfect acoustics of the second floor stairway landing. In addition to the spontaneous outbursts of music, there’s the Formal Showcase, with the most highly coveted performance spots, held in the Manhattan Theater. Tricentric Showcases go on after the Formal Showcase, and both are juried line-ups. The Family/Children’s Showcase is a relatively new addition to the conference, performed mornings of the conference for a live audience of local school children. The wild late night “guerilla” showcases happen in private bedrooms.

In the main room, Key Note Speaker, singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega one minute expounds stories of the folk revival of the 1970’s and the next raps the poetry of Tom’s Diner, unaccompanied. The rooms fill, to showcase regional acts like Babik, Frank Solivan and the Dirty Kitchen, Gathering Time and Spuyten Duyvil. After midnight, hallways became crowded with cellos, banjos and bewitched blonds, all yearning to be seen, to be heard and be discovered. There’s the traditional crashing of folk DJ Gene Shay’s late night suite party, which ends with a room full of musicians playing a communally.

North East Regional Folk Alliance

Education and an exchange of ideas are top priorities, with workshops, panel discussions and seminars on topics from the current state of folk music to how to market music, get bookings and tour, how to gather funds and use social media. Griddle sessions have the first sixty seconds of your CD alternately yeahed, neighed and/or critiqued by a panel of music producers and directors.

Attendees rub elbows with representatives from Folk Alley, Siruis XM, Philadelphia Folk Festival and other promoters. Just find them in the rooms, lobby and at the bar. NERFA satchels fill with CDs, business cards and promotional literature. Folk enthusiasts can look forward to more of the same at the International Folk Alliance in Memphis in January.


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