Richmond Folk Festival returns this weekend

Zach Stapel
Contributing Writer

For a sixth year in a row, tens of thousands of Richmonders are expected to  pack the riverfront to eat, drink and listen to music they don’t get to hear every day.

The Richmond Folk Festival returns on Friday, Oct. 10. The three-day festival will feature 30 local and international artists performing on seven stages.

Admission to the festival is free, and last year 200,000 people attended, the most in the event’s history. The festival, sponsored by Venture Richmond in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, has become the second largest folk festival in the country.

“The Virginia Folklife Stage and Demonstration Area would qualify as its own festival anywhere else. It’s a phenomenal celebration of traditional arts, the music of the people,”  said Lisa Sims, deputy director of Venture Richmond and director of the festival.

“It’s not (just) banjos and quilts. There’s nothing like it. And it brings our community together in so many ways. We hope VCU students will give it a try. They will not be disappointed.”

The festival features acts such as Nathalie Pires, a Portuguese “fado” singer and Aurelio Martinez, performing music from Garifuna. Chankas, a Peruvian group, will perform the “scissors dance,” and the Chuck Brown All-Star Tribute Band, featuring go-go musicians Big Tony from Trouble Funk, Sugar Bear from Experience Unlimited (EU), Buggs from Junk Yard and Jas Funk from Rare Essence, and  Alex Meixner, a polka artist will also perform.

“Folk music is the music of the folks,” Meixner said “ (It’s) music that is relevant to people because of common experiences in life, like love, longing for home and enjoying life. It is a constantly evolving form of expression, but also something that maintains its roots through generations by learning from those that came before us.”

Meixner has been performing since he was 6-years-old, alongside his father, grandfather and two sisters. He started out by playing church picnics and dance, and eventually attended college for the trumpet, though he said the accordion was his first love.

His family comes from Austria, and he said he has been influenced by a blend of cultures in America.

“The last four generations that my family has been in the United States, we’ve been influenced by their kinds of pop music (and) other cultures coming together,” Meixner said.

In his 31-year career, Meixner has grown in skill, receiving a Grammy nomination in 2007 for his collaborative album with Bubba Hernandez’s “Polka Freak Out.” He said he seeks to cultivated a unique style of folk that melds the music of the past with that of the present.

“In the middle of playing an absolutely traditional melody that been around for 200 years, we could break into Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train,’ Meixner said. “And someone will be like ‘Hey that’s not traditional folk music’, well traditional by what terms? A few hundred years from now, when people are looking back at the music of the late 20th century, Ozzy Osbourne will be considered folk music.”

Meixner will perform on Friday, Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. on the Atria stage; Saturday Oct. 12 at 12:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. at the Community Foundations Stage; and Sunday at 1:15 p.m. at the Dominion Dance Pavilion.

He will take the stage with with his cousin and four-time Grammy nominee trumpet player Hank Guzevich.

“(Guzevich) comes from a family that is Lithuanian, Polish, Mexican, Chinese and Navajo Indian,” Meixner said. “He’s a one man United Nations.”


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