Editor's Note: Trawling the Small Print is a new feature wherein we squint hard at big festival lineups and spotlight a few gems that may have been hidden below the headliners.
The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival has existed for a quarter of a century; in that time, it has survived a relocation from Estes Park to Lyons and a once-in-every-500-years flood while seeing attendance grow to about 4,000.
This year (the festival runs from August 19 through August 21), the main attractions include the Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Mavis Staples and Lucinda Williams. But as is always the case at festivals, you have to look toward the bottom of the lineup on the poster to find hidden gems.
Take the Accidentals. The youthful trio out of Traverse City, Michigan, was formed by sickeningly talented multi-instrumentalists Katie Larson and Savannah Buist in 2011, when they were fifteen and sixteen, respectively. Growing up in Traverse City with its famous film festival, the Traverse City Film Festival, had an enormous impact on the group's members, leading them to develop a score for the film One Simple Question in 2013. They say that Michigan, in general, has a great folk scene right now.
“There’s a unique scene around Michigan,” Larson says. “We end up jamming on a lot of people’s albums. Detroit is bouncing back and has a cool scene, and there are a lot of cool bands out of Ann Arbor, including a gypsy jazz band called the Appleseed Collective. It’s a great time to be here.”
The Accidentals have never performed at Folks Fest before, though this isn’t their first time in the Denver area. Larson and Buist are excited, and they might even pull out a Rush cover especially for the occasion.
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“We play violin, cellos, guitar and bass,” Buist says. “We switch between drummers a lot, too. It’ll be a show packed with a little bit of everything, so you really won’t want to miss it. It’s gonna be crazy. We might do a cover of ‘Tom Sawyer,’ by Rush. You never know what you’re going to get with the Accidentals.”
The Accidentals are touring the rest of the U.S. for the rest of the year but will also get back to the studio at some point to record a followup to their Parking Lot EP.
“'Parking Lot’ is a song Katie wrote about the fact that a lot of the time you get to venues and they won’t let you in because you have to wait in the parking lot until set time, even if you’re headlining,” Buist says.
In a similar place on the bill but from almost clear across the country is L.A.’s Freddy & Francine, real names Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso. Initially influenced by L.A. bands She & Him and Fleet Foxes, the group grew as the duo soaked up the sounds of Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams and the like. Now they consider themselves Americana folk soul.
Like the Accidentals, this will be Freddy & Francine’s first time at Folks Fest but their first time performing in Colorado.
“This is kind of a big splash for our first show,” says Caruso. “We don’t usually do set lists until sometimes the day of. I’d imagine we’ll do the set list for this one in advance, but we haven't nailed it down yet. We’ll try to give [the audience] a variety of our discography and what we do, all under the umbrella of Americana soul.”
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Freddy & Francine will spend the rest of the year touring or, as Ferris puts it, “bouncing around.” But before that, they can only hope that the Folks Fest is as much fun as the Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon was.
“A lot of our friends were there, and it’s a beautiful, scenic area,” Caruso says. “There was a particular show we did with pine trees all around us, and it was just magical.”
Certainly the Rocky Mountains can beat a few pine trees.
The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival takes place in Lyons on August 19-21. For more information, go to bluegrass.com/folks.