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New Bedford Folk Festival ~ 2017 July 9 ~ New Bedford, MA

... by Joanne Corsano ...

The Kennedys
Maura and Pete Kennedy
Click on the picture
for a photo gallery of the festival day #1

Set List (The Kennedys at the Purchase Street stage)

Wall of Death {Richard Thompson} - Umbrella [new song, written by Maura to celebrate the 25th anniversary of when she met Pete] - Life Is Large - Half a Million Miles - Dharma Cafe - Easy People {The Nields} - Safe Till Tomorrow [new song] - Matty Groves - Don't Talk to Strangers - Stand

Scroll down the page for review of the show.


Brakeman's Son (Vance Gilbert)

Life is Large (The Kennedys)

Stand (The Kennedys with backing vocals from three local children)


Day #2 of the New Bedford Folk Festival surpassed Day #1, a real achievement considering everyone we saw at Day #1 was excellent. The weather was a little cooler and the day was a little less tiring, even though Concert Going Partner and I covered more of the footprint of the festival. Day #2 featured two of my favorite performers from the folk universe, Vance Gilbert and The Kennedys.

We started the day in the Whaling Museum theater with its comfy seats on steeply sloping rows, providing pretty good sightlines from just about anywhere, even for those people Randy Newman says have no reason to live. The day began with a "workshop," the theme of which was songs of social justice. This group included the only weak performer we saw all weekend, the maladroit Joshua Davis, who spent six minutes before his first song, and then ten (!) minutes before his second song explaining why they were songs of social justice (they weren't). His selfishness in hogging this much of a 75 minute set being shared with three other performers was mind boggling. Vance Gilbert gently made fun of him after his first faux pas of talking far too long, but it didn't work since he talked even longer the next time. He was followed by the superb Joe Jencks, who really did do songs of social injustice, including a Utah Phillips song, Dan Plews, who was distinguished from every other performer of the weekend because he is English, and the superb Vance Gilbert who performed Sam Cook's "A Change is Gonna Come," which he said Sam Cook thought of as the African American answer to "Blowin' in the Wind."

Next we tried to get into the Purchase Street tent for another workshop, but it was too crowded, so we stood at the back and listened to just two songs: the satirical "I'm Bad" by Susan Werner and The Roche's "Hammond" by Lucy Wainwright Roche, whose mother wrote the song, accompanied by The Nields. This set promised to be great, but the lack of seats discouraged us and we went off to the Meet the Performer stage, an indoor venue. At this festival, one needs to be flexible in one's plans and willing to change course in midstream.

At the MTP stage we caught the last few minutes of the set by Joyce Anderson, who sometimes strums her fiddle like a guitar. We then stayed for the full set by Vance Gilbert, who took the "meet the performer" format seriously, and entertained questions from the audience. Some answers were tongue in cheek in a typically Gilbertian way (audience member: "when are you going to cut your hair?" - Vance: "when are you going to grow some?"); others were more serious (Vance talked about being a performance coach and teaching singing). I didn't keep a full set list, but he performed "Goodbye Pluto," "Brunswick County," "Brakeman's Son" (video above), and a song featuring a homing pigeon, the title of which I am too lazy to research.

Next up on the day was The Kennedys at the Purchase Street stage, which again was too crowded to get a seat, so Concert Going Partner and I stood just outside the tent where we actually had a much better view, and we got to stand during the lively and energetic 45 minutes this talented husband-and-wife duo were performing. Their set included two brand new songs and one that they've been trotting out for audiences for a few months, "Don't Talk to Strangers," a song that is available for download at the usual internet outlets, and the profits from which Maura and Pete are donating to the ACLU. The set included a generous helping of some of their most well loved live numbers and finished up with the anthemic "Stand," with backing vocals from three young girls. I got two videos so scroll up and take a look at 'em. During "Stand," Pete entreated the audience to stand and sing, and everyone did. It is a very moving song, and people really SHOULD stand during it. I know folk crowds don't stand (we're polite and don't want to block the views of people behind -- not like those rude rock crowds), but for this one song an exception could be made.

We finished up the day by staying at the Purchase Street stage, where seats were now available, to watch one more "workshop," with Hamer, Cavanaugh, and Cortese (three musicians from the band Session Americana), and Copley Street. Both bands were both very good. Copley Street consisted of three musicians playing Celtic instrumentals on uilleann pipes, Irish flute, fiddle, and mandolin; Hamer, Cavanaugh, and Cortese sang songs accompanied by guitar and fiddle. The two bands were a good combo; it was late in the day, and people were tired, and it was an engaging mix, going from the Celtic instrumentals to the folk songs and back again. The MC was one of the members of Copley Street, who was very witty and entertaining. A good way to end a whirlwind two days of music.

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