“Traditional music is everybody’s music,” says Caleb Klauder, who plays mandolin and sings in Portland’s Foghorn Stringband.
The organizers of the Olympia Old-Time Festival would definitely agree. The seventh annual festival is happening this weekend.
“It’s such a DIY kind of music,” said Klauder, a founding member of the quartet. “It’s not owned by anybody. It’s a community’s music, and that aspect is so appealing to so many people who are fed up with the commercialism of America.”
Foghorn, one of the Northwest’s best-known old-time bands, will headline the festival’s Friday night concert and play for Saturday night’s square dance.
“We are really excited to have them,” said festival organizer Emily Teachout of Yodelady, which will play Saturday evening. “It was when I saw them that I realized, ‘This is the style of music that I want to be playing.’ They were so captivating. They play really driving, danceable music.”
Opening on Friday night are wife-husband duo Evie Ladin and Keith Terry of Oakland, California, as well as fiddler and quilter Sue Truman, who’ll present one of her handmade crankies, the scrolling illustrations that tell the story of a song.
“Evie grew up in the old-time music scene and is a really well-known banjo player and songwriter and dancer,” Teachout said. “They’re both dancers and they do a lot of percussive dance, Appalachian flatfoot style, as well as body percussion.”
The festival also includes a Friday night honky-tonk dance with Seattle’s the Tallboys; smaller concerts, including one with Yodelady, one with Oly Mountain Boys and one for kids with Professor Banjo; and a host of free workshops on Friday and Saturday on everything from doll-making to singing duets and playing in a string band.
The offerings draw sizeable crowds.
“We expect 300 to 500 people,” Teachout said. “We know we’ve had people from at least five different states, including Alaska, and from B.C., and some of them come back every year.”
In fact, it seems to Klauder that old-time music’s popularity has only continued to increase since Foghorn formed in 2002.
“It’s infectious,” he said. “It’s spilling into other genres, too. It’s been spilling into country and honky-tonk, and jazz has this traditional repertoire.
“The Cajuns already had it going on,” he added. “They have this music that’s identified with their culture.
“I think old-time music is that for people who didn’t grow up in that tradition.”