Tune Those Acoustic Guitars, Folk Festival Headed to Downtown Brooklyn

By Ben Fractenberg on May 8, 2012 4:09pm 

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — No sleep till banjos.

The fourth-annual Brooklyn Folk Festival is coming to Jay Street May 18-20, bringing old-time music like folk, blues and Klezmer to the bearded borough. This year's festival is paying special tribute to folk legend Woodie Guthrie.

"2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Woody Guthrie — longtime Brooklyn resident," said event founder Eli Smith. "A number of performers will play his music. Actors will read from his works of prose and poetry."

There are more than 30 bands in the lineup, including New York City-born-and-bred Feral Foster, Blind Boy Paxton and the East River String Band.

This year's festival also will see an altered version of last year's popular "Banjo Toss" competition in which people competed to see who could throw a banjo the farthest into the East River.

There will be more carnival-style games, one of which involves people trying to toss a banjo onto a large hook hanging by a rope, according to Smith. Those who take part in the contests will be entered into a raffle to win their very own instrument.

In case you want to show off your voice or your dancing feet, there will a square dance on Sunday afternoon and musical and vocal workshops included in the price of admission.

The three-day event will be at an old 27,000-square-foot former retail space at 345 Jay St.

"We have friends in high places in theater and set design," said Smith.  "We gained access to incredible sets. It will make the space, which is drab retail space with linoleum floors and florescent light, look real good."

Smith, a musician and host of the online Down Home Radio Show, said he created the festival four years ago to support the growing New York folk scene. 

"[There's] an overwhelming amount of great talent in Brooklyn that needs a way to express itself in a larger annual event."

Smith added that he's seen a resurgence of folk recently, which he attributes in part to feelings of anxiety in uncertain times.

"Here we are again with the great recession. People get alienated and they start looking out for something they perceive as authentic," he said. "That's comforting to them. It gives a good feeling. A feeling of having something in your life you're doing yourself."

Tickets for the event are $20 or $45 for a weekend pass. Check out their website for the full lineup and event schedule.

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