by Donte Kirby
It’s the longest continual music festival in North America, it’s been around for over 50 years, it’s absolutely one of That Music Mag’s favorite festivals. It is the Philadelphia Folk Festival. A musical landmark as unique and important as Woodstock or Coachella. Director James Wallace saw that this folk fest was “something very different…it demands a documentary.” That documentary is At Fest.
“There are 20,000 stories at the folk festival and I chose three. You get a slice of life,” says Wallace.
One story is about HogMaw, a Pennsylvania blue grass band who plays the festival circuit. Another is about the Philadelphia Jug Band’s rise from campsite band to main stage players. Along with these two tales are the stories of the folk fest community, everything told with an intimacy and honesty that can only be surpassed by physically being there when told.
“It’s a movie about music, love and family, and appreciating this,” explains Wallace. “[It’s] looking into your own life and finding that sense of peace and belonging and realizing it’s a choice.”
At Fest is Wallace’s debut feature film. The Philadelphia Folk Festival was Wallace’s first music festival. His wife had been going for 20 years and said “she was going to go for the rest of her life.” So he went in with an open mind and had the time of his life. That was five years ago. Five years since he met his “chosen family”.
The gravity of the over 50 year tradition that is the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the love of volunteers and festival goers for the event pours through every scene. “A senior guy on the festival, burly guy, after [the movie] was over wept and hugged me for two minutes.” Wallace continues, “I made something that could affect him like that. I’ll always remember that.”
At Fest premieres Aug. 7th at the Trocadero Theater with special musical guests Matt Baldwin and Colin Reeves of HogMaw. The film will also be shown at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York on Aug. 12th.
Wallace’s motto is “grow where you’re planted”. At Fest shows the fine oak that the Philadelphia Folk Festival has grown into with a peek at its’ roots and a tribute to its’ branches.
Wallace and his wife have teamed up with Pledge Music to raise funds for the documentary. There are seven days left. By donating, much like Kickstarter, you are given a variety of goods depending on your donation level. Rewards range from a digital download of the movie to a signed copy to a soundtrack (featuring many folk fest favorites) to apparel and more. A pledge of $100 also includes a festival survival kit, something that may be worth it for the upcoming 52nd annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. Folk Alliance International will receive 20% of funds donated after the target goal has been met. If you’re interested in seeing the movie but can’t make it to a screening, Pledge Music is a great way to get your copy and to increase the public awareness of the importance of folk music.
More information on the film can be found on the Facebook page.