Festival weaved a big finish


Pardon this brief detour from my TV world, but I wanted to wrap up a look at the first Lansing Eastside Folk Festival.

My previous blog was written at the fest's mid-point, when it was off to an amiable start. As it happens, the finish was big and booming and great fun. A mega-tent was packed with people to hear the Tannahill Weavers, who are wrapping up a 50th-anniversary tour.

Yes, 50 years.Two of the people -- Roy Gullane and Phil Smillie -- have been there for 48 of them and still play a key part. Gullane is the lead singer and a charming storyteller; Smillie usually sticks to flute and tinwhistle, but stirs up great energy when he starts banging the bodhran. John Martin, the fiddler, didn't get much attention, but Lorne MacDougall had a huge impact with his bagpipes. Like the vast majority of Americans (and reasonable people everywhere), I assumed I didn't like the bagpipes. MacDougall and the Weavers showed that I might be wrong.

Indoors, the festival had some impressive Native American artwork; outside, it got better (and younger) late in the day.

The one mistake made by the Great Lakes Folk Festival was to quit having the evening Valley Court Park concerts, which drew a much younger and more vibrant crowd. We saw a reflection of that with LEFF: Mostly, old people arrive early; young people arrive late. The morning and noontime concerts drew a crowd that was fairly large, very grey and quietly appreciative; the evening one with the Weavers drew a big, booming response, a good finish to an excellent festival.