1. For the first time in its 11-year history, the American Folk Festival starts the fun a day early. Thursday night, Folk Fest musicians will be in downtown Bangor for a laid-back sneak peek at what’s in store for the weekend. The Cool Sounds Concert Series in Pickering Square will host the Marshall Ford Swing Band (pictured), a western swing group from Texas, which will perform from 6 to 7:30 p.m., while the Outdoor Market goes on around it. Afterwards, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia fiddlers and dancers Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac will perform starting at 9:30 p.m. at Paddy Murphy’s (a 21 plus show), and at Hollywood Casino, Mississippi blues man Marquise Knox will rock the stage starting at 9. Let’s hope for a good turnout at all three events, so AFF artists can spend more time in downtown venues in future years!
2. When the fest starts officially on Friday, you can march in the annual parade, which starts at 6:45 p.m. in West Market Square. This year it features the Anah Highlanders – the Bangor bagpipe brigade, decked out in full Scottish attire. They’ll lead the way to the Railroad Stage, where Marquise Knox – who played the night prior at Hollywood Casino – will start playing right at 7:30. Folk fest veterans know that there’s another parade the next day at 6:45 again. They also know that juggling all the different musical acts can be a challenge – should we rock with the Malian band at the Dance Pavilion, or should we sit and enjoy bluegrass at the Penobscot Stage? Salsa dancing or doo-wop? Cajun music or swing? Did you know that besides the handy-dandy festival guides that we at the BDN print for you each year, you can also downtown an iPhone or Android app that will tell you all the fest details? Check out americanfolkfestival.com, or look it up on the iPhone App Store or the Google Play store. Neato!
3. The other big attraction for the folk fest besides music is, of course, the food. There are some new vendors this year, besides festival favorites like the amazing gyros from St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church (pictured), Smoked Salmon on a Stick and Dangerous Donuts. They include the Portland-based Pizza Pie on the Fly (who you may have seen in the BDN last week); Then & Now Native Food, who make Native American food like fry bread, venison stew and hunter tacos; and Hella Good Tacos, also of Portland, who make tasty tacos, horchata and agua fresca. It’s an eater’s paradise, that’s for sure – what do you get every year?
4. As one of the most family-friendly events in Maine all summer, the AFF every year has a wonderful and educational children’s area, set on the grassy area at the corner of Broad and Washington Streets. This year, you and your little ones can check out traditional Chinese dance of Mongolia, a Civil War-era broom dance, and, new this year, a Latino dance-along and a Girl Scout sing-along. There’s also lots of activities offered by the Maine Discovery Museum, including crafts and art projects inspired by cultures around the world. There’s also a booth set up by your friends at the BDN – come by and get a BDN Maine balloon!
5. Of course, for grownups, the festival fun doesn’t have to end at 10:30 p.m., when the last bands finish up on the big stages. In downtown Bangor this weekend, you can catch Mellow Endeavor on Friday and party rockers the Larks on Saturday at Paddy Murphys; Nocturnem Drafthaus hosts alt-rockers One Shot Nothing on Friday and Bangorians Rotating Taps on Saturday; there’s a dance party Friday night at Ipanema, and at the Big Easy Lounge at the Charles Inn there’s songwriter Blue Gene on Friday, and the high energy, Maine Blues Award-winning blues/r&b ensemble the Juke Rockets (pictured) on Saturday. Oh, and this weekend brings the highly anticipated opening of the new Half Acre nightclub, located on Harlow Street, next to the Federal Building. What a great weekend to be in the Queen City!