Following in the long shadows PDX Pop Now!, Pickathon, and the Smmr Bmmr, the Portland Folk Festival has a Sisyphean task in convincing the bleary-eyed masses to spend one more summer weekend partaking in live music fandom. But this inaugural event has some mighty heft behind it with three founders—Slim Moon, Amanda Stark, Chantelle Hylton Simmons—who have a combined lifetime of local music servitude under their respective belts. The four-day Portland Folk Festival is not anchored to a single venue. Instead, all 50-plus artists will perform everywhere at clubs, nonprofit cafés, a park, a church, and even a brunch show for the early risers. It's nearly impossible to narrow down this list of performers, but here are our top picks:
Longtime Portlanders surely recognize the voice of one Amy Annelle, a former local singer who traveled east a few years back, eventually settling in Texas. In her first return in quite some time, Annelle is armed with a fancy new disc, The Cimarron Banks, of frail folk numbers, each held tenderly together with her wondrous voice and nimble melodies. She'll be collaborating with the Portland Cello Project during their Woody Guthrie tribute, then embarking for a pair of not-to-be-missed solo sets as well. Mission Theater, Thurs Aug 19, 9:30 pm; The Woods, Sun Aug 22, 2:30 pm; Holocene, Sun Aug 22, 9 pm
The duo of Nathan Jr. and Rebecca Rasmussen call themselves Duover, and their music is gracious, melodic folk highlighted by breezy harmonies and Nathan Jr.'s lead guitar. When they posted their album online in January, they sent a message out to 100 of their friends via Facebook—but people started responding with positive feedback, and a massive, 100-person-strong thread began that no one could opt out of. It became the Facebook thread that had a life of its own, and you can read more about that at theduoversituation.blogspot.com, as well as hear the record at duover.bandcamp.com. Mississippi Studios, Sat Aug 21, 8:30 pm
Sixteen acts play throughout Saturday afternoon, outdoors in the Lot 13 space between the Fresh Pot and Moxie Rx. Portland Field Recording Project curates this all-day affair of folk artists, playing entirely for free. Lot 13, N Mississippi & Shaver, Sat Aug 21, noon, all ages
Mirah and Thao just completed a tour where the two traded vocal duties, sang duets, and covered each other's songs. The chemistry was palpable, and so the collaboration continues for a one-off, "mostly unplugged" set. This'll be a one-of-a-kind performance, and the two songwriters are perfectly matched: Mirah with her mystic, world-wise tone, and Thao with her playful exuberance. But just when you think you've got them pegged, they'll go and switch up their roles. Holocene, Sun Aug 22, 11 pm
See portlandfolkfestival.com for the full lineup and schedule.