Hyperlocal Music Fests : All Songs Considered Family-friendly branding, combined with the promise of all-local musicians, isn't always electrifying. But All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen sent the show's new intern on a mission to discover a local festival in Maryland.
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Hyperlocal Music Fests

Ladle Fight, one of the many local bands that performed at the Takoma Park Folk Festival in Maryland. Photo by Sally Xorissa Ravitz, courtesy of the artist. hide caption

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Photo by Sally Xorissa Ravitz, courtesy of the artist.

On my first weekend in town as the new All Songs Considered intern, host Bob Boilen recommended that I go to the Takoma Park Folk Festival. Typically I would have low expectations for this sort of thing. Family-friendly branding, combined with the promise of all-local musicians, isn't always electrifying. But the suggestion came from my esteemed supervisor, so I had high hopes and dragged NPR Music intern Erik Myers up there with me to check it out.

We opted for an eclectic experience, and between sampling deep fried Oreos and chicken teriyaki right off the grill, we caught a handful of very different acts. We were constantly amazed by the possibilities. You could have easily caught Delta blues, Algerian folk music, and teenage rappers, or attended a contra dance, all within the span of an hour. While there were several standouts for me, including an afternoon session of Appalachian folk music, the biggest surprise was a showcase of performers under the age of 25.

Most of the buzz was surrounding a band of 8th graders called Ladle Fight. As we waited in the woodsy alcove for the quartet of barely-teen boys to take the stage, a crowd of similarly aged girls began to gather. At this age, most girls are still taller than boys, and the simple act of walking feels like an awkward experience. It was great seeing a gaggle of them in the rain, with frizzed hair, oversized shirts and chunky jewelry, squealing once the music began. (Here's Ladle Fight's official video for their song "Take It Easy")


Outlasting a lot of better-known pop bands, Ladle Fight has been together for five years and plays all-original music. If the members make it another five to ten years (or at least to the point where they grow facial hair) they could easily become indie darlings. They've got wonderfully soft voices and surprisingly thoughtful lyrics (which will undoubtedly become more sophisticated as they grow) and make pleasant pop.

Watching the crowd was just as much fun. In addition to the swaying, swooning girls, adults and teens alike were screaming out requests for songs from deep into the band's repertoire, a catalog that stretches back to when they were in 3rd grade. There was even one fan bootlegging the show on his iPhone.

So despite any initial reservations we may have had, not only was there plenty of talent, but the willingness and enthusiasm of the community to come together and seek out talented musicians and performers from their home was truly remarkable and inspiring.

This led us to reconsider the concept of "hyperlocal" music communities. That is, ones that are place-based down to a very narrow, specific location. I thought about what other hyperlocal festivals would look like, and how they reflect their communities.

Tell us about your own experiences. Have you ever been to a hyperlocal festivals? Are there are any cool ones in your area? Did you discover some amazing band at one?