Folk Alliance International’s 2021 Folk Unlocked Virtual Conference: Part 1 of 8

This article is the first of an eight-part series covering Folk Alliance International’s 2021 Folk Unlocked Virtual Conference.

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that performance artists, such as singer-songwriters, are among those who have been hit hardest by the covid-19 pandemic. But organizations such as Folk Alliance International (FAI) have been hard at work to support such artists in these trying times. FAI, a non-profit headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri and led by Canadian folk musician and arts organizer Aengus Finnan, produces an annual gathering of the folk music industry and community that is the largest of its kind.

This year’s festival, titled Folk Unlocked, was held virtually, on the event platform Pathable, for the benefit of FAI’s Village Fund, a grant program for folk artists and independent music industry professionals experiencing financial hardship. The festival, which began Monday Feb 22nd and concluded that Friday morning, included performances from 30+ countries, amounting to 800+ hours of music by 1,000+ artists, including Los Lobos, Terrance Simien, Cedric Burnside, Keb’ Mo’, Jim Lauderdale, Flor de Toloache, The McCrary Sisters, Jade Bird, and Katie Pruitt.

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Though each artist performing in the festival flew the folk flag, a stunning variety of genres and cultures were on display, from Americana to Alternative, and Icelandic to Irish. There was a similar level of diversity, too, in the career stages of the performing artists. But whether the album they were working on was their first or fifteenth, each artist performed with a degree of passion which made it clear that, despite the difficult circumstances they’d been facing, they would not go gentle into that good night.

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to watch even a tenth of the performances before the festival’s end, I chose to attend at least one full show per evening, and made my best attempt at having a diverse selection of artists to tune in to. Ultimately, I settled on the following performances: Brek, Culture Ireland Showcase (featuring Oscar Blue, Karan Casey, Dani Larkin, and Declan O’Rourke), Vienna Carroll, and Linda Marks.

In the next installment of this series, I will cover the performance of Icelandic four-piece Brek. Make sure to visit Big City Folks to check it out!