By Elmer Ploetz
Tyler Westcott likes to think of the Folkfaces Fest as a festival by musicians and for musicians.
Luckily for the rest of us, we get to go, too.
Westcott, who may just be the most active Americana-based musician in the Buffalo-Rochester area (although fiddler Sally Schaefer might give him a run for his money), started the event just that way — as a get-together for musicians back in 2017.
“The first one was at my mom’s place … in Livingston County,” Westcott said in a recent phone interview. “It started out as a little campout and potluck-crawfish boil with my friends and a bunch of bands who kind of just came out and played for food and a good time over the weekend. It was just more of a little private party.”
It was a three-day party, and on the final day, a Sunday, Westcott had Baby Gramps (who he describes as a “really strange and awesome kind of primitive blues and ragtime player” from the Pacific Northway) performing.
“Everybody was all hungover and tired, and it was really, really hot. And he showed up and was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ And there were dogs and chickens running around everywhere and hung-over people laying all about in the sun. But he had a great time, we had a great time and a festival.”
The following year the festival moved to the Cherry Hill campground, where it will be returning for Folkfaces Fest No. 7, “Above Hell/Below Heaven,” on Sept. 28-Oct. 1. The campground is at 1516 Sumner Road in Darien Center — so it’s literally across the road from the big Six Flags theme park.
The festival has been running ever since, even through the height of the Covid pandemic. Because it’s at a campground, they spaced people out and did a kind of “bubble concert” thing for a crowd of about 50 people, Westcott said.
(Pete Bernhard – Down the Line)
Westcott purposely schedules the event for the end of the festival because he doesn’t want to compete with other festivals. He grew up as a festival kid, going to events such as GrassRoots in Trumansburg (Finger Lakes) and the Great Blue Heron festival in Chautauqua County.
He has taken inspiration from those festivals, but he has his own vision for the festival.
“I’m trying to curate an experience like no other and have a very eclectic lineup of underdogs in the roots music scene. People trust me to turn them on to their new favorite bands, and also just have a wholesome community vibe, family-friendly folk festival vibe
“To just kind of showcase raw, real, living, breathing, folks, and then give them a stage and a platform. And I think by promoting what you like in the world, you create space for yourself.”
So even if you’re not familiar with some of the people on the bill, Westcott is confident you’re going to like them. Some of the highlighted artists include:
- Pete Bernhard: The guitarist in The Devil Makes Three, the long-running Americana band.
- Bruce Molsky: Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist, song preservationist and performer of hundreds of traditional songs from Appalachia and abroad..
- Bella’s Bartok: Polka-punk and Americana are just a couple of descriptors.
- Dirty Blanket: Bluegrass from the Finger Lakes.
- Ditrani Brothers: Gypsy jazz meets folk punk.
- The Brothers Wayfare: European folk and old-timey/ragtime music from Texas.
- Yes, Ma’am: New Orleans busking music.
- Rushadicus: Cello. Kazoo. Climbs trees.
Some local highlights include Benny Bleu (of the Brothers Bleu) playing with John Dady of the Dady Brothers; and Rochester blues legend Joe Beard, but you can check out the full list on the poster. It’s like a Western New York all-star lineup. You can get tickets HERE and also see the full list of artists.
Full festival tickets are currently available, but single day tickets will be released this month.
Part of the price of putting the festival at the end of the season is that weather can be a factor. Westcott encourages festival goers to remember minor details such as rain ponchos, warm clothing and maybe some extra socks. But it can also be a great time to be in the country.
“It’s a beautiful time of year to be in that part of the world and the trees are changing,” he said. It gets a little chilly sometimes, but sometimes it’s just beautiful. And sometimes it rains, but you can’t control the weather.”
The campsites at Cherry Hill each come with a picnic table and fire ring. Westcott said part of the fun of the festival happens after the official performances are over.
“Oftentimes, people will jam until the wee hours of the morning,” he said. “There’s a lot of jamming going on on the festival grounds because it’s kind of a musician’s music festival.
“So there’s a lot of picking, and it’s always fun to see who ends up hanging out with who. It’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I never thought of those two playing together!'”
The festival will also include morning yoga, a kids tent, film screenings, plenty of vendors and workshops and even a mycology hike (that’s the study of mushrooms).
The event is heaven/hell themed so there will be a costume contest, decorations and performers will be encouraged to do songs fitting the theme.
All of this sounds like a lot of work to put together, and it is. While Westcott has a team working with him on the festival, he’s the one who pulls it all together.
But if you’re attending, you’ll see that it’s Westcott’s mom who’s running the hospitality/food tent. It’s Gretchen Jackson who runs the Cherry Hill Campground, and she’ll have some chilly weather supplies in stock, if the occasion calls for it.
And the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation is among the sponsors, so you know the event has to be good, right?
Well-behaved dogs are welcome, but any resident chickens will probably be cooped up.