Moab festival proves folk is not dead |

Moab festival proves folk is not dead

Joel Stonington
The John Cowan Band brought some bluegrass and Cowan's incredible vocals to the Moab Folk Festival. Cowan, center right, invited songwriter Darrell Scott, center left, onstage for some outright jamming. (Joel Stonington/The Aspen Times)

Friday night’s first performer made me lean over to my buddy, Dylan Hoffman, and say, “Do you think folk might be a dying art?”I thought he was being pretty gracious and that I would have to make amends for convincing him to drive down to Utah with me for the Moab Folk Festival. Then Darrell Scott took the stage with his deep voice, fast flatpicking and carefully soulful melodies. It was good, really good. So I sat back to relax. His set melded in with John Cowan’s – one of the original members of Newgrass Revival who now plays with a hot bluegrass band – and before I knew it, four hours had flown by.

At that point I didn’t care that the crowd’s median age was probably double my own (26). The hours of good music were enough excitement to keep Dylan and I up around a fire in a nearby canyon singing and playing music until after 2 a.m. All night the moon peaked out behind clouds to light up the canyon walls that rose up around us. And our little two man band sounded that much better as we hung onto the feel that Scott and the John Cowan Band let loose. Moab Folk is something of a fledgling in the festival world. Though after only four years in existence, they’ve been able to get some heavy-hitters. This year’s lineup included Lucy Kaplansky, David Wilcox, Sloan Wainwright, Caroline Aiken and others. Still, the small feeling may be one of the best things about the festival. It’s just a little more quiet, earplugs aren’t necessary and the crowd is attentive. During some of Scott’s songs, when he would sustain a note, even the tiniest sound could be heard.

Woke up Saturday morning, made some oatmeal and went for a hike up a fin that dropped away quickly on either side. Got the blood pumping. Then went into town for a second breakfast a little after noon.The sun came out, the day warmed up and we arrived at the Moab Ball Field in time to hear Jim Hurst and Missy Raines play before Lucy Kaplansky. The crowd was small – a few hundred – but the booths around the back fence of the diamond were doing steady business.Families were walking around, buying gyros, testing kites and trying on sun hats. It was, for an Aspenite, a summer respite in what has become an early winter. We laid out a blanket, read books, listened to the music, watched girls twirling hula hoops and dozed off a few times. The evening folk festival has two venues and the musicians play one the first night and switch to the other the following night. We decided that Scott and Cowan were good enough to warrant another go-round, plus we figured it would be good to see the other venue.

So after the first night at the Grand County High School auditorium, we went over to Star Hall. It was a cute little spot, and the show was just as good with only a few repeated songs.It jazzed us up enough to stay up late again, this time camping on a ridge with a moon that provided enough light to see colors. It was a good weekend – canyon country, good music, a full moon and a last taste of summer. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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