Hundreds of folk-hued artists in town for the Folk Alliance Region Midwest conference have created an ear-pleasing smorgasbord of music. Local Spins’ Ricky Olmos sampled some of the offerings.
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Ambling along a narrow hallway at the Crown Plaza Grand Rapids Airport Hotel on 28th Street SE on Thursday night, Folk Alliance Region Midwest conference attendees and artists convened for a number of intimate late night performances.
Hosted in various sponsored hotel rooms, with monikers such as Traditional Room, The Warming House and Hoosier Folk, the showcases saw each space filled with the trappings of folk music in its rawest form.
While the popular and captivating private showcases are a favorite of FARM attendees, festivities began Wednesday with a preview showcase at Grand Rapids’ new Listening Room, where an attentive crowd was treated to the likes of various showcasing artists ahead of the main conference.
Indianapolis songwriter Michael Kelsey proved to be a wildly entertaining element of the evening. The guitarist explored the surface of his instrument to add percussive elements and droning effects to his songs, while engaging the audience in a theatrical manner and endearing stage presence.
On Thursday, the conference officially began in early afternoon at the Crowne Plaza with a community sing (hosted by Matt Watroba), a welcome reception and an open-mic session that stretched until the evening.
By 8 p.m., the 330 or so conference-goers mingled, sipped coffee and bounced from once performance to the other. The FARM DJ Showcase saw performances from artists handpicked by regional radio disc jockeys. The short sets, held in the Grand Centennial Ballroom, saw a packed crowd and displayed an impressive array of talent.
HEARTFELT PERFORMANCES AND LATE-NIGHT MAGIC
Annie Sumi conjured a dreamlike fog of instrumental layers. The Ontario-based artist performed alongside an electric guitarist and cellist to form an entrancing trio. Sumi’s equally delicate and powerful songs seemed to cast a gentle spell over the room.
Other highlights included Aspen Jacobsen, a 15-year-old songwriter from Detroit with an astounding voice and collection of heartfelt songs.
Following the DJ Showcase, attendees and artists made their way to a stretch of hotel rooms for a highly anticipated evening of cozy late night showcases.
With each room offering its own ambiance, snacks and beverages to accompany rotating acoustic performances, listeners wandered from room to room to take in the sights and sounds.
Highlights included Noah Derksen, an artist from Winnipeg with a knack for storytelling, and Katie Dahl, who performed an impressive set of originals with intricate compositions, holding the room’s attention between songs with quick-witted humor and interaction.
The evening continued with performances running till early morning hours on Friday, with conference-goers reveling in the series of magical performances and moments before ducking into yet another musical portal of the night.
PHOTO GALLERY: FARM Showcase at Listening Room
Photos by Anthony Norkus
Photos by Kendra Petersen-Kamp and Ricky Olmos