Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recap: NABC & Upland at the Ohio River Valley Folk Festival, 2008.

"I used to think I was an artist. Come to find out I'm a beer salesman."
James McMurtry (shown below with John Campbell)

McMurtry’s inspired set closed the 3rd annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival on Saturday, May 17, and NABC’s contingent was once again delighted, intoxicated and utterly exhausted to have been a part of the scene. For three years running, we’ve shared the beer concession with Upland Brewing, our friends from Bloomington. In 2006, we sold four kegs on Friday night and most of the day Saturday; in 2008, we fell just shy of eight kegs dispensed, and like the festival itself, such steady growth is reckoned by us to be a very good thing.

To date, what has made the ORVFF so special is the commitment of the organizers to the principle that the conceptual basis of “folk” music – admittedly, an elastic definition encompassing Ireland, Texas and Vevay – is very much localized, and as such, should extend to the whole range of the experience for those in attendance.

In practical terms, this means local vendors and reasonable terms of participatory engagement for them. While there is little doubt that big brewery sponsorship money would grow the folk festival more quickly, and moreover, that there are some in Madison who’d be in favor of this, it’s also a foregone conclusion that the fest’s considerable charms would surely be compromised with too rapid growth and commercialization.

Speaking for all of us, we hope the concept stays consistent with the gist of the music. For NABC at the ORVFF in 2008, Flat Tyre Amber was the biggest seller, followed by 15-B Porter, and with Kaiser 2nd Reising Pilsner in third place. We sold a full keg of our new Saison, and roughly 2/3 of a keg of St. Radegund ESB. Response was overwhelmingly favorable, and it wasn’t until McMurtry’s appearance neared that we began hearing a smattering of requests for mass-market swill. The fact that both NABC and Upland brought pilsners surely helped forestall complaints from the unadventurous, and there were far fewer expressions of disappointment than in 2007.

My knees disagree, but I’m still looking forward to 2009.

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