If you’re persistent, you can learn and begin to conquer an instrument in about seven years. By using this same time frame and dedication, the Brooklyn Folk Festival is prepping itself for a scorching solo in this year’s recital.
Returning for its seventh edition, the Brooklyn Folk Festival has just announced its deep lineup, featuring a legally blind virtuoso, gospel monarchs, and a famous aerial attack on a banjo. Running the weekend of Friday, April 17–Sunday, April 19, the Festival is prepping for its biggest year yet, taking over Brooklyn Heights’ beautifully detailed St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church.
In remaining consistent with last year’s romp, 30 bands will play amongst daily vocal and instrumental workshops, film screenings, and a Sunday-evening square dance. Since the festival’s inception, the Down Home Radio Show and the Fabulous Jalopy Theatre have co-produced the event, with every year’s tickets selling out. This year’s move to St. Ann’s not only provides an exquisite backdrop (with William Jay Bolton–designed stained-glass windows) but also allows for a bigger space to accommodate a larger audience.
One artist whose name has reappeared for the past seven iterations: the folk music maestro Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton. The mid-twenties young gun — who can flip seamlessly through pianos, banjos, fiddles, and guitars to perform one of the thousands of songs he keeps in his repertoire — is set to play April 17. Earlier this year the Voice caught up with Paxton for an extensive profile on this Blind Blake–reincarnated marvel.
Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens return to the proceedings (they took last year off) on April 18 with their fiery mix of gospel and soul, a penchant mirrored by Shelton’s labelmates at Daptone Records.
The Banjo Toss, a Festival favorite and highlight, will kick off the final day’s activities on April 19. Last year’s Toss had instruments flying 75 feet into the air and landing in the Fourth Street Basin, and this year one winner will receive a prized banjo.
Eli Smith, the host of Down Home Radio Show, began organizing the event six years ago as a response to Brooklyn’s growing folk scene and as a way to showcase local talent. Now, with seven in, his creation has become a staple for the Brooklyn folk scene and a highly anticipated spring happening.
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At Just 25, Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton Channels the Spirit of a Bygone Era
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