Category: Matt Nakoa

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, August 4-7
(with Peter Mulvey, Heather Maloney, Tom Rush, Patty Larkin & more!)

June 18th, 2016 — 3:31pm

We founded our family on the spirits of close community and adventure: it’s in our wedding contract, and one of the main reasons my wife and I both work in education is to ensure that our calendars include time to wander together. But nothing looms as large in our ongoing pursuit of the live and immersive than our annual excursion to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which this year celebrates its 28th anniversary August 4-7 at Dodd’s Farm in Hillsdale, NY, just over the border from Great Barrington, MA, at the foothills of the Berkshires.

Founded in 1988 to celebrate and sustain the nascent singer-songwriter revival, Falcon Ridge has come to embody the ideals of the modern folkworld, in which fans, artists, concert and radio hosts, and others who live their lives grounded in the diverse ideals and soundscapes of folk come together to celebrate the breadth of the movement, the music, and the community they engender. As ethnomusicologist and regular FRFF attendee Liz Carlisle wrote in her 2006 undergrad thesis on the fest,

As a well developed “state” into which “citizens” opt in, FRFF is not just summer camp for a bunch of delusional, idealistic folk music enthusiasts (folkies)…Indeed, the real-ness of FRFF is at the crux of its symbolic power. The common goal of those who attend is to make the folk music ideal – a vision of shared power and creation, uninhibited personal expression, and general acceptance and love – real through a successful music festival.

Reaching this goal every year can be a challenge, especially in a world where smaller music festivals are falling apart around us – both Clearwater and Gathering of the Vibes have been cancelled for this year, due to a combination of factors that inevitably include financial concerns. But thanks to that efficiency, and a core cohort of volunteers and organizers who work tirelessly year-round to maintain and sustain the place they love, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest continues to offer the best of both the world of intentional community, and the world of folk.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 12.41.31 PMThis year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest mainstage and workshop stage performers include the usual mix of well known names from three generations of American folk, representing a broad tent, from solo singer-songwriters like Tom Rush, Patty Larkin, Vance Gilbert, Matt Nakoa, Heather Maloney, Eric Schwartz and Peter Mulvey to folk rock, world music, psychedelic, country rock, Americana, and other genre-busting bands and folk supergroups like The Felice Brothers, The Gaslight Tinkers, Brother Sun, Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes, and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Well-populated contra dance and children’s stages run throughout the festival, too, and up-and-coming performers play regularly alongside colorful tye-dye, jewelry, henna tattoo parlors, and African drumset sellers in the vendor area, and stalls selling everything from Caribbean goat stew to ice cream, sweet and savory crepes.

Camping at Falcon Ridge isn’t mandatory; only about a third of the attendees each year choose to stay overnight in the fields, and my parents – neither of whom camp – have always found themselves both fully welcome and fully sated by their own experience. But if you can do it, living on site is highly recommended. The sense of community on the farm is palpable and sweet; I have yet to meet a camper who did not discover their own site “family” in their first few hours on the farm, and wandering camp-to-camp brings an evening’s delight, full of laughter and food-sharing. Those who play and sing are always welcome to join in. And, as a bonus for nightowls, the music at Falcon Ridge continues into the wee hours in the campgrounds, where a half-dozen regular formal songcircles and stages like The Budgiedome and Pirate Camp bring together mainstage performers and up-and-coming name-brand performers from the coffeehouse circuit.

Although officially Falcon Ridge doesn’t start until Friday, August 5, Thursday offers its own special pre-fest charm, with a shaded farmer’s market and tasting day on-site that offers the best of local breweries and wineries, dairies and farms. And there’s music, too: some of the best music I’ve seen at Falcon Ridge in the past 4 or 5 years has been presented or previewed on The Lounge Stage, a one-time campsite stage that found it’s way into the main festival grounds to avoid a thunderstorm two years ago, and has since become an officially sanctioned festival-within-a-festival housed under the Dance Tent. Performers for this year’s Lounge Stage have not yet been released, but their ability to select and combine mainstage players and rising stars together for intimate sessions in the round makes the Lounge Stage a must-see; past performers include Jean Rohe, Matt Nakoa, We’re About Nine, John Gorka, Irish Mythen, Pat Wictor, Pesky J. Nixon, Caitlin Canty, Buskin & Batteau, hosts Pesky J. Nixon, and more.

One last note before we get to the music: while Falcon Ridge needs paying patrons to survive, as alluded to in Carlisle’s thesis, it also needs volunteers, and this year’s volunteer pool is currently thin, far below the needed thousand it takes to run the place efficiently. Volunteers get two solid meals a day, free access to campgrounds and the festival itself, and the warm satisfaction of helping build and maintain a crucial cultural locus of love and music, all for the price of a staff t-shirt and a few four-hour shifts throughout the long weekend; if you’re interested in joining up, head over to the volunteer website, and stake your claim for a spot on one of our crews.

Either way, we’d love to have you – and we’re sure you’ll love it, too. So click through below for a 21-track collection of coverfolk from a set of artists who together represent the breadth of modern folk music and the promise of an intentional nation. And then, if you can make it happen, save the date, and register now – as a volunteer or a paying patron – for the very best fest around. We’ll see you there.

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Preview, 2016
[now available in mixtape format!]

Artist-centered and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down shares coverfolk features and ethnographic musings throughout the year thanks to patrons like you. Coming soon: new and newly discovered tributes and cover collections take on Dylan, Blind Willie Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, American tradfolk and more, plus our usual plethora of artist and songbook features as the summer kicks in!

Comment » | Darlingside, David Bowie, Felice Brothers, Festival Coverfolk, Gaslight Tinkers, Heather Maloney, Matt Nakoa, Mike + Ruthy, Peter Mulvey

Unity House Concerts Presents: Matt Nakoa
(November 21 @ The UU Society of Greater Springfield)

November 9th, 2015 — 8:00pm


Cover Lay Down is proud to present Unity House Concerts, a folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield. Concerts are held in our wooded sanctuary, and feature a combination of well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.

Our 2015-2016 series features a diverse set of artists, including past shows with The Sea The Sea (September) and Mary Lou Lord (October), upcoming shows with Mike + Ruthy (December) and Joe Jencks (March), and our next offering, on November 21st, with young singer-songwriter Matt Nakoa, a Berklee-trained artist with a soaring, soulful folkpop voice sure to leave you breathless.

Matt NakoaDiscovering Matt Nakoa is like discovering air. A stunningly talented musician eminently comfortable in his skin, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter is so engaging in live performance that we stopped him the moment he walked off the Lounge Stage at this summer’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest to ask him to play our concert series – and subsequently went on to catch him six more times during the same weekend.

What’s the big deal here? For starters, Nakoa rocks, sometimes quite literally. His vocal turn on an impromptu Led Zeppelin set this summer alongside psychedelic folkrock wizards The Grand Slambovians, shared in last week’s omnibus (Re)Covered feature, rivaled the original. And, as you’ll see and hear below, his work with The Brit Pack – “the most epic semi-fictitious brit-rock cover band ever” – is searing, and the covers of Radiohead and Roxanne that he has recorded with them are spot on interpretations, transcending the facility and force of their adaptation.

But don’t let his willingness to tread the harder edge fool you. Nakoa’s trio work with fellow folk travelers Brad Cole and Robinson Treacher is catchy and percussive, bright and sunny enough to get a crowd on its feet. And, as seen in the several tender in-studio covers below from Fox Run Studios, Matt Nakoa’s got an ear for high harmony that is truly out of this world.

In sum, Matt Nakoa is a musical adept, one of those well kept secrets you just can’t help but celebrate: intimate and genuine, one of those rare performers who can simultaneously bare his soul and welcome you inside. His growing songbook is rich with metaphor and poetry, sung in praise to a complicated, emotionally present world that envelops the listener, even as his coverage runs towards the beautiful and the lighthearted. The result – on keys or guitar, in acoustic mode or full production – is an emergent body of work that is sweet and soulful, playful yet wise, with a mature depth of observational lyric and an incredible emotional range that runs from soaring to bittersweet.

Nakoa has performed in the White House and India, and is currently opening for Tom Rush on tour; we’re lucky, indeed, to have found and booked him before he gets too big for the coffeehouse circuit. Check out the videos below, dig deep into his albums at his website, then catch Matt Nakoa at a venue near you.

Matt Nakoa: Tainted Love (orig. Soft Cell)

Matt Nakoa, Jared Salvatore, and Eric Schwartz: Dancing In The Dark (orig. Bruce Springsteen)

Matt Nakoa and Eric Schwartz: I’m Only Sleeping (orig. The Beatles)

Matt Nakoa: Arise, Arise (orig. Jean Rohe)

Matt Nakoa and The Brit Pack: Roxanne (orig. The Police)

Matt Nakoa and The Brit Pack: Just (orig. Radiohead)

Matt Nakoa: Moondance/Fever (orig. Van Morrison/Peggy Lee)

Non-profit and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down posts regular features on artists and songwriters as part of its continuing mission to ply the experience of coverage as a comfortable space for discovery. As always, we encourage you to follow the links above to hear more from and about the artists we feature, the better to support and sustain the arts, the artists, and the folkways.

And, if you live within driving distance of Springfield, Massachusetts – just a hop, skip, and jump away from Hartford, Northampton, Worcester and the Berkshires – join us November 21 for a very special evening with Matt Nakoa…and then book now for our December 4 show with Americana roots duo Mike + Ruthy, who we previously hosted in our intimate carriage house concert series back in the Spring of 2013. No reservations necessary; Facebook confirmations greatly appreciated.

Comment » | House Concerts, Matt Nakoa

Back to top