1976 was a pretty dynamic year in music. The Band played their last ever show, which was immortalised on film by Martin Scorsese, ABBA adapted their logo to include a reverse B and The Ramones released their debut album. And somewhere along the banks of the Mississippi, a small folk festival took its first steps. Most of that may seem like ancient history now but the last of those events is very much alive and kicking.
If life does, as they say, begin at forty, then The Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse, Wisconsin is in the prime of its life. Due to a lifetime of hard-work, passion and dedication, this festival has not only continued to take place but flourished as it has done so and the key ingredient is community. The old Folk is used here in the broadest sense, not only loosely describing the music it revels in but recognising that it is the folk who turn out to support the festival as much as the music, stalls, workshops, entertainers and the army of dedicated helpers, which are the reason why it is here at all.
Sadly this year, the 45th, is cancelled, in the physical sense at least, due to the on-going disruption of the current pandemic. But all is not lost as the Songwriting Contest, which usually sees the finalists perform at the festival, is still underway. Anyone is free to submit a song, which they can do here https://www.facebook.com/greatriverfolkfest/ but should do so as soon as they can because the contest has already received nearly 40 submissions in just 10 days.
And the judging process has already selected the first week’s finalist and that comes in the shape of Amanda Pascali, who musically seems to skirt the soothing territory of Norah Jones as well as the more playful end of Bob Dylan perhaps.
And that is just the result of the first weeks submissions. With 11 more weeks to go, just imagine what a fantastic array of musicians are going to be collected along the way. Obviously the end goal of playing live at the festival is not to be this year, but the chance to have your music showcased to the contests on-line followers not to mention a share in the tip-jar donations which are collected along the way, is both great exposure and perhaps a much needed support mechanism at a time when musicians are locked away from their usual live places of work.
Everything you need to know about the contest can be found at the contest’s host page. – https://greatriverfolkfest.org/Songwriting.html
So, what are you writing for? Brush up your best song , get involved, be part of this awesome gathering of talent, who knows where it might take you and who you might get to meet along the way. And if you are a gig-goer missing your usual sonic fix in front of a live stage then this is the next best thing. Explore some new music, your next favourite artist might even be in there somewhere, support emerging talent, be entertained, help keep creativity alive and keep the momentum flowing so that when normalcy is restored the Great River Folk Festival comes back stronger than ever. And hen those times do return, you will have a whole host of new artists to check out in the flesh.