Getting Their Jam On: NC Folk Festival Opens The Stage To Anyone Who Wants To Perform | Local

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GREENSBORO — The man in the cowboy hat and boots explains why he struggles with the urge to sit behind the drums during the Honky-Tonk Jam session at the North Carolina Folk Festival.

“I feel weird just going up there,” said Steve-O, a musician from Kernersville who uses only one name — like Cher, he would later say with a smile. “Like, did you have to sign up somewhere?”

Volunteer festival coordinator Laura Jane Vincent, who is nearby, assures him there is nothing wrong with taking a free seat while the musicians die off while everyone improvises.

And then there he is, on the snare drum of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene”.






Steve-O takes the stage to play drums Saturday for a song during the Honky-Tonk Jam at the Center City Jam Spot at the NC Folk Festival. “I kinda needed that,” he said. “I’m glad I went up there.”


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It was a challenge or a dream for some who took the open mic or a seat during the jam sessions, which are new this year and cover genres and sounds from drums to folk and jazz, during the free multicultural festival of three days from the city center. until Sunday. This year’s entertainment features 31 music and dance bands on the main stage, including funk icon George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, bluegrass/newgrass artist Sam Bush, indie rock band Futurebirds and BeauSoleil with Michael Sweet.

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Although the crowds were sparse at times on Saturday due to the rain, which changed from downpours to foggy weather, the festival drew large crowds downtown. Around 85,000 people returned to the city center as the festival sought to regain a foothold in 2021, two years after the pandemic began. The festival went virtual in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19. The three-day event allows visitors to sample music, such as retro-pop from East Africa.

Over 150,000 people attended the festival at the inaugural event in 2018.

The annual event also continues the legacy of the National Folk Festival, which was held downtown from 2015 to 2017.

As the jam sessions unfolded, others at the festival learned dance styles such as the Irish step in participatory workshops or participated in the family activity zone with crafts and games.

The Honky-Tonk Jam was led by professional musician Mark Dillon, who teaches rock and roll for a living, has written music for theater companies, released a few solo albums and played banjo with the performance of “Porgy and Bess” by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

He comes from a long line of musicians, and as a child sat in Parton’s lap backstage at a music festival.

On Saturday, he brought a dozen songs “that everyone might know” and plenty of instruments for people to step onto on a kind of covered stage.

“That’s the community part of it,” Dillon said as some audience members nearby danced to unrehearsed tunes. “It’s not perfect, but it’s so much fun.”

Some of the musicians took part in jam sessions around town and elsewhere with Dillon and others.







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Laura Jane Vincent, volunteer coordinator at the NC Folk Festival, joins one of the new jam sessions for the song “Angel From Montgomery.”


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This includes Vincent, who, with his heavy bluesy/country accent, was persuaded to join the others on the mic for “Angel from Montgomery.”

Then there’s singer Ashley Virginia, called “cosmic country,” as she might have been 40 years ago or written yesterday, on “Jackson,” a song made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

She has also just obtained a scholarship to release a second album.

“I hope we can all say we heard it back then at the North Carolina Folk Festival,” Vincent said as Virginia performed.







2022 North Carolina Folk Festival Map


NC Folk Festival, provided


Among those drawn to the jam session are professional violinist and music teacher Christen Mack, who is also performing at the festival this weekend with her band, The Zinc Kings.

Evan Campfield, who plays with nearly half a dozen local bands including Bandemic, jumped on bass guitar.

“Some people I just met today,” Campfield said of the undiscovered talent in the area. “But we are such a place for music. It’s a community.

“I kinda needed that,” Steve-O said, in tears after stepping down from the drums. “I’ve been downstairs. We all have lately. I’m glad I went up there.

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.


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