Arts News

Big Music at the Moab Folk Festival

Set in the heart of Southeastern Utah, to the backdrop of stunning redrock landscape and an endless, majestic sky is the incomparable event with “a community-minded spirit” known as the Moab Folk Festival. Since its debut in 2003, the festival has embraced folk music that reaches beyound the traditional. It’s eclectic style has attracted such genres as folk-fringe punk and Celtic-folk among the more well-known, like Bluegrass and indie folk-rock.


Musical artists attending this year’s festival, which runs Nov. 6-8, include Bill Nershi (bluegrass), Indigie Femme (roots/folk), Blame Sally (indie folk-rock), Darol Anger (acoustic jazz), Harry Manx (Hindustani) and The Burns Sisters (Celtic-folk), just to a name a few. Headlining the festival is legendary bluegrass musician Peter Rowan, who has been an innovative force in Americana music for the past 40 years. In 1965 he joined “the father of bluegrass,” Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys before teaming with David Grisman to form the group Earth Opera, a then-frequent opening act for The Doors.

Originally scheduled to appear this year was Juno Award nominee (Canada’s Grammy), Ferron, who is one of the most influential writers and performers of women’s music, and who has been an important influence on later musicians such as Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls. However, she recently canceled her appearance due to health reasons. Stepping in for her will be Cris Williamson, a longtime pioneer of lesbian political activism. Williamson’s music and insight has served as a catalyst for change in the creation of women-owned record companies back in the 1970s.

Also, Eliza Gilkyson makes her second appearance at the festival, this time backed by guitarist Nina Gerber, who for years performed with the late Kate Wolf.


The festival experience, however, can go beyond just the pure enjoyment of listening to great music. It also offers numerous jam sessions that are free to the public and educational programs for kids. More recently, in 2008, the festival expanded to include the Moab Folk Camp, a five-day series of workshops under the direction of festival co-organizers Cosy Sheridan and TR Ritchie. The camp, which runs Nov. 1-6, includes courses in songwriting, singing and harmony; beginning, intermediate and blues guitar; and mandolin and harmonica. Course instructors include Sloan Wainwright, Brooks Williams, Keith Little, Eric Jones, Sheridan and Ritchie. The fees range from $180 to $585, and may be purchased at www.moabfolkfestival.tix.com.

The festival is alcohol, drug and pet free. Also, it’s is a pedestrian friendly event — all of the venues are located in historic downtown Moab and are within walking distance of each other. Outdoor performances will be held in the Moab Ball Field, an easy walk from Main Street, which offers panoramic views of redrock country and the La Sal Mountains. Evening performances will be at the Grand County High School auditorium and historic Star Hall. In addition, the city of Moab was designated the first EPA Green Power Community in the nation, and the festival is a “100 percent renewable energy” festival, using wind energy supplied by Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Program to offset its carbon footprint, hence the festival’s “green” mission: Small Footprint, Big Music.

Tickets to the festival are $30/single venue pass and $115/full festival pass, moabfolkfestival.com.

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