Our annual live broadcast of the wonderful American Folk Festival will take place on Saturday, August 24 and Sunday, August 25, along the Bangor Waterfront. In your car on the way to the festival or unable to attend? We’ve got you covered with six and a half hours of great live performances and interviews beginning at noon. And when you see our outreach booth stop by for a visit, buy a new WERU T-shirt, and pick up a schedule or bumper sticker! Remember, this broadcast is made possible by listener support, so thank you!
For insight into why WERU does this broadcast, read an interview with WERU’s Matt Murphy and Joel Mann, written by Joergen Ostensen, a Fordham University journalism student from Hope, Maine.
For the fourteenth consecutive year, WERU will be broadcasting the American Folk Festival live on the radio and the internet from the Railroad Stage in Bangor.
Joel Mann, WERU’s Program and Operations Director, who has participated in all the live broadcasts, said he thinks the folk festival is a great way to celebrate the end of the summer.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a ton of fun,” he said.
Matt Murphy, WERU’s General Manager, who has also participated in every broadcast, said everything is dependent on the functionality of the equipment.
“It all boils down to one line that they give us from their stage into our system,” he said.
Mann said although the employees of the festival are true professionals it can still be a nerve wracking experience before the connection is made and even after there is still potential for mishaps.
“That connection can be tripped over, stepped on, broken, the phone line connection could drop, so you gotta be constantly monitoring everything,” he said.
This year, with the cooperation of the equipment WERU will be broadcasting performers from all around the nation and the globe. This year’s lineup includes everything from Ylli Brekofca’s Albanian accordion to The Fitzgeralds, a fiddle and step dance group from Ottawa, Canada.
Murphy said the folk festival has always been a showcase of cultural diversity, something currently missing in society.
“There’s some much animosity towards the ‘other,’” he said. “[The festival] is a really a great statement to make. We’re about celebrating all people and celebrating diversity.”
Mann said the fact that many of the people in the audience attend intentionally to experience something new speaks to the tolerant and celebratory culture of the festival.
“Look at the crowd at the folk festival” he said. “All these people want diversity, the kind of variety they can find on WERU.”
According to Mann and Murphy the reactions of foreign born artists exemplifies what the festival is trying to achieve. They said they have interacted with artists at each festival that has been broadcast. This is because WERU volunteers interview the artists in between performances.
“One of the things that the performers always say is how welcome they feel,” Murphy said. “And as we all know there are some people trying to come to the country who don’t get a warm welcome.”
This year’s festival will include artists from seven countries outside of the United States.
According to Mann, WERU’s interviews help create a stronger connection between the performers and the audience.
“[Artists] love to tell you about where their music comes from and how they got interested in it,” he said. “It’s a really good opportunity for them to talk about something you’d never hear about elsewhere.”
Murphy said the interviews are a service WERU can offer that is particularly important, especially because the artists are often unfamiliar to the live and radio audiences.
“They are ambassadors for the tradition they come out of,” he said.
Mann said the reactions of artists from previous years speaks to the tolerance of the local community.
“It shows you what a warm city Bangor is,” he said.
The festival has created a community of people, according to Murphy, who are able to work together because they share a love of the universal language of music.
Murphy said this can be seen in the cooperation of the performers and the festival employees.
“You’ll have a brass section from New Orleans and some college student from UMaine leading them around,” he said.
Mann said the festival very much fits with WERU’s ethos as a ‘voice of many voices.’
“The diversity of the festival itself matches our diversity perfectly,” he said.
Murphy, who is among the people who help decide which artists to invite, said he represents WERU as those decisions are made. According to him, there is an intentional effort to create a diverse group of performers.
“They try to go around the map and around the traditions,” he said. “So it’s not a blues festival, it’s not a bluegrass festival, it’s not a Celtic festival, it’s a diversity festival.”
According to Murphy, working the festival and supporting the artists is a great feeling despite the work it entails.
“It brings out the best in people,” he said. “Respecting and understanding and celebrating other traditions that [are] not your own and just being together dancing.”
WERU’s broadcasts and promotion in the weeks before the festival have helped make the festival what it is today, according to Murphy.
“People know that there’s something big going on because we’re broadcasting the whole shebang,” he said.
Mann said the live broadcasts are among WERU’s most important contributions.
“I’m always most proud of WERU when they do this,” he said. “I think it’s such a service, not only that we’re broadcasting it, but that we’re supporting it, supporting the diversity, the attitude of tolerance.”
This year’s festival will go from Friday, August 23rd through Sunday the 25th. WERU will have live broadcasts on Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the festival go to americanfolkfestival.com.