Hippie Christmas: A Sneak Peek of the 55th Philadelphia Folk Festival


Photo Courtesy of PFS.org

The weekend of August 18th-21st is probably the most wonderful time of the year for me. It’s the one weekend where everyone around me drops what they are doing, and enters into a state of euphoria so serene that they radiate with warmth. It’s the one weekend when I’m in a place that allows strangers to love each other, and not care how disgusting everyone actually smells. This is the Philadelphia Folk Festival, or as I like to call it: Hippie Christmas.

Ahh, Philly Folk Fest: where the bandanas are always colorful, the tapestries are always trippy, and the people are always happy. At Fest, the music is always incredible, but even if the headliner were Scott Baio blowing too hard into a clarinet, the audience would all cheer him on. “You can do it! We’re all supporting you!”

Hippie Christmas is a time when the stockings are filled with kale, and the gifts people exchange aren’t material, man (unless it’s doobage). It’s a time when hippies of a previous day can tell all the kids about what Woodstock was like, and how they saw Neil Young and Joni Mitchell in a bar once back in the seventies.

The headliners on Friday, August 19th will be The Lone Bellow and Bakithi Kumalo & The South African All-Stars. The Lone Bellow are an emotional Brooklyn-based folk trio who gets their roots from southern heritage. They’ll most likely be ripping out tunes from their most recently-released album, Then Came the Morning. I’ll be listening for their tight vocal harmonies, corresponding with the energy they emit from their performances.

Bakithi Kumalo & The South African All-Stars will focus on the groove-tacular bass lines brought on by Kumalo himself, which stem from traditional African sounds, interpolated with some modern funk inspiration. Needless to say, I will be dancing so hard to this.

It wouldn’t be Folk Fest without really, really good bluegrass groups punching you in the face with a banjo and a mandolin. One of those countless groups is Del & Dawg, one of Saturday night’s headliners. Del McCoury and David Grisman have been playing bluegrass together since the sixties, so they’ve had 50+ years to learn how everything about each other, making for some solid musical compatibility. 

All I’ll say about Sunday’s headliner, Los Lobos, is that they’re known for “La Bamba.” I swear to Father Sundborg, I am going to lose my s**t when they play it.

However, these performers don’t even begin to scratch the surface of how diverse and dynamic the acts of folk fest are. There are 8 stages providing incredible music all weekend, as well as public conversations with performers, workshops, craft markets, excellent food, and even a naked foot-race. If Folk Fest were a colony, I’d drop out of Seattle U and sign on the dotted line to join.

So, if you find yourself in the Philadelphia area from August 18-21, come and celebrate life with us. Come and celebrate peace, love, and happiness on the happiest weekend of the year: the 55th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival.

A Hippie Christmas to all, and to all a groovy night.


(Look under Next Gen Folk on Friday @ 11 AM for a real good ugly dude)

JASON McCUE | Chips Von Freewheelèr | KXSU Reporter


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