There’s No Game Sunday Afternoon. Why Not Enjoy a Little Folk Music?

As we all are aware, no American is supposed to do anything this Sunday that is not related to the Super Bowl.

The evening is for the game and the daytime is preparing for the game. Making food, making sure Uncle Ray has his picks in for the pool, making more food.

It’s your basic unofficial American holiday, and if we can’t have the traditional mass gatherings this year, let’s make a wild guess that millions of people will find some way to gather in some form anyway.

So the last thing you might expect to get scheduled for this Sunday is a folk music festival.

Image for post

Yet that’s just what the organizers of the Greenwich Village Folk Festival (GVFF) have organized. They’ve scheduled their event for 3–6 p.m. on Sunday.

Which leaves people plenty of time to still watch the Super Bowl, though it could cut the prep time for nachos and wings.

If the organizers of the GVFF might seem to be defying all reason here, it turns out that even beyond some fine music, they can draw on both logic and precedent.

Logic says that some number of Americans in truth would be perfectly happy to do something on Sunday afternoon besides sit around fantasizing about Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes in the Red Zone.

Last year’s Super Bowl telecast drew 99.9 million viewers. America has about 331 million people. That leaves about 231.1 million theoretically open to alternative entertainment.

The cool part of the GVFF, though, is the precedent.

Nineteen years ago, in 2002, the late, splendid and greatly missed folksinger Dave Van Ronk was released from the hospital just a few days before the Super Bowl.

The folk music community, including the late Pete Seeger, hastily arranged a benefit concert at the Towne Crier in Pawling, N.Y.

“Hastily” meant it fell on Super Bowl Sunday, and they heard the same skeptical chuckles then that they might be hearing now.

Schedule a non-football event on Super Bowl Sunday? You might as well stage a vegan benefit at the Lone Star Steakhouse.

Image for post
Backstqge at 2002 Dave Van Ronk benefit concert. Back row: Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger, Molly Mason, ao Rodriguez-Seeger, Jay Ungar, Steve Katz. Bottom row: Christine Lavin, Phil Ciganer, Garth Hudson. Photo by Judy Cangialosi.

But the folkies had the last chuckle. Besides Seeger, artists like Garth Hudson, Steve Katz and Oscar Brand performed. They raised more than $4,000, which in the folk music world is real money.

On a sadder note, the decision to hold the benefit on that date rather than delay it proved fortuitous. Van Ronk died a week later, taking away one of folk music’s great characters.

With this bit of history in mind, Sunday’s GVFF will include a Van Ronk tribute. Two, really, each with three singers performing a Van Ronk song: Tom Russell, Jeff Gold, Rolly Brown, Willie Nininger, Eve Silber and Chris Lowe.

In addition, there will be eight solo performers: Ingrid Serban, Josh White Jr., Professor Louie, Elijah Wald, David Massengill, Karen Mal, Rod MacDonald and Eric Bibb.

In folk festival style, sets will run about 15 minutes each.

This being the days of Covid, naturally all this will be virtual, conducted over Zoom. That may raise a red flag for some fans, but Christine Lavin, one of the co-hosts, says artists have done so many Zoom performances now that you’d be surprised how good they sound.

The performances will also be recorded and archived, giving them historical significance beyond the music itself. “These are very valuable files we are creating,” Lavin says, “to show how folk musicians made it through the pandemic.”

To some extent that has meant scrambling and improvising, but one of the encouraging things about virtual concerts is that they don’t compromise the music. They just change the delivery process.

For information on the GVFF, like how to sign up, go to www.greenwichvillagefolkfestival.org or the GVFF Facebook page.

It’s free to watch, though viewers are encouraged to leave tips.

As for the Super Bowl, there really isn’t a conflict.

Folk music, just as a simple matter of record, has been around way longer than the Super Bowl and will be here long after the Super Bowl — sorry, football fans, but it’s true — has gone.

Folk music has coexisted with the Dark Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Revolutionary War, the invention of the light bulb and the deployment of the atomic bomb.

There’s room for all of it. No matter what happens in the world, it seems, the folk keep singing.

David Hinckley wrote for the New York Daily News for 35 years. Now he drives his wife crazy by randomly quoting Bob Dylan and “Casablanca.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store