Photographs by Michael Seinberg
The 33rd annual edition of the Old Songs Festival took over the Altamont Fairgrounds last weekend for three days of non-stop music. Saturday evening’s mainstage concert featured nine amazing acts, including folk legend Gordon Bok. Saved but empty seats are in evidence while people slowly fill the lower part of the fairgrounds as the concert heats up.
The Johnson Girls are a mostly a cappella group that specializes in sea chanties and maritime music. They came together in 1997 after the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival. On Saturday night they got the audience moving as they kicked off the mainstage concert.
Because so many of the festival attendees are musicians themselves, buying and selling instruments is also a big part of the weekend. There are a number of vendors who sell brand new, handmade instruments that range from guitars to hammered dulcimers, but the instrument exchange works to match buyers and sellers on a smaller budget. Sellers drop off equipment, which is displayed and watched over by festival volunteers. Then buyers browse, and 15% of each sale is donated to Old Songs.
Sheesham & Lotus & Son cracked up the Saturday afternoon crowd at Venue 3 in the middle of the fairgrounds. The Canadian band, which specializes in old-timey roots music, plays a wide variety of musical instruments, including gourd banjos, contra-bass harmoniphoneum, fiddles and traditional banjos.
These handmade African baskets are just a taste of the wide array of handmade, fair trade and high end clothing, jewelry, crafts and food that is a big part of the Old Songs Festival each year.
The three-day festival also featured camping sites that ranged from simple tents to full-size RVs. But for some music lovers, a nap by the mainstage is just what the doctor ordered.