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Linda Perhacs, L.A. Ladies Choir and more perform at the New L.A. Folk Festival

August 6, 2010 |  2:22 pm

LAfolkfest The reliable story about L.A. folk music is that it emerged in the ‘60s from the eucalyptus-scented mists of Laurel Canyon, its core members and hangers-on outfitted in belt-grazing beards and flowing white dresses. And while the small but passionate folk scene in Southern California still  maintains this woodsy vision, it’s also become more variegated, influenced by other California movements, like the rumble punk of X (Les Shelleys’ Tom Brosseau counts John Doe as an influence) or a baroque sense of exalted composition that Brian Wilson lost himself in (and echoed, to a certain degree, with Joanna Newsom’s “Ys,” her lavish 2006 collaboration with Van Dyke Parks).

Whatever folk is now, the organizers of the New L.A. Folk Festival happening this weekend at HM 157, a Victorian mansion in Lincoln Heights, wanted to showcase some of its most compelling, experimental and rambunctious practitioners. On the adventurous bill are performances from L.A. Ladies Choir, a cadre of angel-voiced ladies including Becky Stark; Mia Doi Todd, whose soothing ragas on “Gea” highlight her supple, smoky voice; David Lynch’s favorite, Ariana Delawari; Les Shelleys, the acoustic guitar-vocals duo of Brosseau and Angela Correa, and most notably, Topanga Canyon songstress Linda Perhacs, who will be debuting a new band and music. Her lone 1970 album "Parallelograms" has been rediscovered and rightfully celebrated as a lost classic, even feted last year by a variety of artists at REDCAT. Other special guests are yet to be announced.

The festival will also offer a few side amusements, including a charity raffle (proceeds will go to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Gulf oil crisis relief efforts), beard contest, tequila and mezcal specials and the Little Frenchie food truck. Gentlemen, start grooming thy flavor savers now.

After the jump, festival co-producer Daiana Feuer, executive editor of L.A. Record, shares her thoughts about the new wave of folk and the aims of the festival. She also lays down a hard and fast rule about what won’t pass muster in the beard contest.

— Margaret Wappler

P.S. Here's an mp3 from ((Eagle Winged Palace)), who tell stories of an ancient haunted California that recall Devendra Banhart crossed with Fleetwood Mac. Download here: ((Eagle Winged Palace)) -- "Movin' On to Avalon"

How would you describe the current wave of SoCal-based folk?

New L.A. folk is tied to an Eastside culture. This culture has provided some of the most unique and nourishing experiences I’ve had in Los Angeles. My whole life is music in one way or another, but the folk scene in particular generates experiences that feel special, intimate, strange, hip and existential in a way that your average concert does not. And maybe we need that release. People are experimenting with the form, the history and the future in ways that are as crazy and forward-thinking as noise or punk or the DJ/producer scenes. It’s tied to a way of thinking and living in the creative community with a sort of rejection of mainstream values. It’s less superficial, even in its more fashionable incarnations.

How does the new folk align itself with movements of old and how does it break new ground?

I’d like to talk about this in the context of L.A. history in particular. I'm thinking of the vibe that you get when you walk into Pappy & Harriet’s in the desert. When the Maddox children hitchhiked here in the 1930s, strange hillbilly music was popular among young people outside the mainstream. These proto-bohemians lived and dressed unconventionally and played exotic instruments (the banjo was exotic then). It was a stylish counterculture that came from the artistic community, a lot of them poor, and it was considered experimental. When Gram Parsons came around a few decades later, he reawakened the hippie spirit with “cosmic American music,” psychedelics, long hair and rebellion. Like these movements, what’s been happening in folk music over the last few years is pretty avant-garde. What’s unique about it now is the blending of genres that simply carry the spirit of folk. There are people honoring tradition and others doing really new and strange things with the form, but there is a bohemian nature to all of it.

How long did it take you to put together the festival and what were some of the challenges?

I have been doing nothing else since May 31, pretty much, and luckily the Armenian market by my house sells cheap vegetables so I haven’t wasted away. Initially my biggest challenge was narrowing the focus. It would take a hundred hours of performance to squeeze in every nuance. 

Then I found out [The Echo/Echoplex booker] Liz Garo was putting on a country festival the week before my show and When You Awake was doing a roots festival the week after mine. Not only did this prove my point that this music is really happening right now in L.A., but it made it so that I could veer slightly more psychedelic, and emphasize the experimental aspect of the folk scene — and I might only need two days to do it.

Why did you feel like it was important to put together a festival that focuses only on folk?

For a while now I’ve been telling people that folk is breaking ground right now in L.A. ,and it’s not something just happening for a very small community. I know there will be a national impact soon. 

Every now and then I get a pat on the head and a moment to talk about it, but that wasn’t enough for me. I felt that if I wanted to say something, I needed to do more than write a review. I put together this festival and decided to interview all the bands so that it wasn’t just me talking, but it comes straight from them and their varied experiences and opens up a discussion. I felt that I needed to put together a good event that makes everyone walk away feeling what I’ve felt when seeing just one or two of these bands perform.

Any tips for hopefuls entering the beard contest?

The right outfit can really bring out the personality of your beard. Long nose hairs do not constitute a mustache so don’t even go there. Fake beards are OK if your heart is in it. We would never let a private moral view that fake beards are inferior to real beards be the basis on which to deny your participation in any contest — whether that be life, love, or beards.

The New L.A. Folk Festival is on Aug. 7 at HM 157, 3110 N. Broadway. 2 pm to midnight. $15.

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