The locally fabled yet relatively unknown Zorthian Ranch in Altadena served as the idyllic pastoral venue for Saturday’s New Los Angeles Folk Festival, a one-day event that brought together 28 bands and solo artists and included the emerging and established as well as the traditional and experimental from L.A.’s folk music scene and beyond to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The 45-acre ranch, home to eclectic artist Jiryar Zorthian until his death in 2004, was for decades a bohemian haven frequented by local celebrities, artists and musicians, but has sat largely neglected for the last few years. That wasn't the case this weekend.
The lineup, which featured headliners Spindrift, Amanda Jo Williams, Frank Fairfield and Djinn Aquarian, offered traditional folk fare while challenging the notion of what defines the genre. “People talk about punk music as the DIY scene, the alternative scene, the underground scene, but I think this is just as important. And to me, folk and punk are almost the same thing, just remove some symbols,” festival founder Daiana Feuer said regarding the festival’s defiance of conventional parameters, one that extended to the location.
After a 10-minute hike up to the hillside retreat (for those who didn’t want to brave the precarious ride up the narrow road in the festival shuttle), attendees walked through the ranch’s vast sea of junkyard treasures, stopping to contemplate the numerous curiosities that filled the landscape from decrepit trucks and weathered midcentury farm equipment to purposeful installations that included Zorthian’s best known structure, an elephant constructed from burlap, rope, buckets and a fire hose, featuring a papier-mâché missionary's head inside the animal’s stomach.