It’s finally warming up in Milwaukee. After 10 days under 32 degrees, it was a (relatively) warm day here in the mid-40s. Very cloudy, though. My wife said it was a great day to visit Milwaukee’s Holiday Folk Fair, so that’s what we did.
The Folk Fair is a November institution in my home town, and now takes place at State Fair Park, a couple miles from home. This is where greater Milwaukee’s ethnic groups offer traditional crafts, costumes, dances — and food! Yes, food is really the star here. For lunch we had chicken paprikash and wonderful dumplings from Slovakia, Indian samosas, Ugandan sambusas, a Czech pork dish with a different sort of dumplings from the Slovak version, and a variety of cookies and desserts.
We also enjoyed a batch of ethnic music and dancing, from the Philippines, Mexico, China, the Czech Republic, and some pipers from Wales (I think). Wandered around all the exhibits, and chatted with folks from the Friendship Force. We don’t go here every year, but always have a good time in the process.
Seeing the creative process in action
Tonight, after watching the Wisconsin football team escape with a win at Iowa, we had a different sort of musical experience from earlier in the day. We watched the Showtime film Lost Songs: The New Basement Tapes.
Have you heard about this album? T-Bone Burnett was offered a box full of lyrics Bob Dylan had written while hunkered down with The Band at Big Pink in Woodstock, NY (a few years before Woodstock became iconic). The lyrics had never been set to music, but Dylan allowed Burnett to see what he could do with them. So he pulled together a fine collection of performing songwriters into the Capitol Records studio in Los Angeles to finish the songs.
The assembly was composed of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (of & Sons), Jim James (of My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and (for a bit of variety) Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
The film offers a fascinating look at the creative, collaborative process among the musicians, that may have also mirrored the process that resulted in the original Basement Tapes, now also newly released. It’s great music, let me tell you. Go see this film if you can.
The film also reminded me of Door County’s Steel Bridge Songfest, where dozens of not-quite-so-well-known performers show up at the Holiday Music Motel on a Sunday night in Sturgeon Bay, are thrown together in a random fashion and expected to have at least one song ready to perform on Friday night. This resulted in one of the most fun weekends I’ve ever spent. You can hear some of the music at SteelBridgeRadio.com
So, as I type, the Wisconsin basketball team is having its way with Boise State, 44-29, early in the second half. Again, a good day.