The 6 Best Acts We Saw at the Big Folkin’ Festival in Dallas

In the past few years, folk music has had a resurgence. Acts like Of Monsters and Men, Mumford and Sons, and The Lumineers, have successfully gained a place in the rotation on pop, rock, and even Top 40 radio stations. As the listening audience for folk music has grown, so has The Deep Ellum Big Folkin’ Festival 3. For the past two years The Big Folkin’ Festival 3 was held in one day, but the BFFs third year expanded to two days with a line up of 40 acts.

The Deep Ellum Big Folkin’ Festival

On March 28th and March 29th, four stages kept the music going non-stop. The intentional pun was carried onto t-shirts that read, “Go Folk Yourself.” There were, of course, a few cowboy hats and western shirts, but for the most part, jeans and t-shirts were the uniform of choice. The audience came ready to drink, dance, and get folked up.

For many people, the term folk music may conjure an image of Bob Dylan with an acoustic guitar. That would be a very narrow view of folk music. The breadth and variety of the music at the festival showed how much diversity there is in this American genre. Yes, there were acoustic performances, but there were also many loud, brazen electric performances as contrast. The festival purposely brings together and highlights acts that most people have never heard of. While all of the acts at the Big Folkin’ Festival were good, some stood out as not-to-be-missed.

1. The Dead Flowers:

The last band to take the stage Friday night, well after midnight. Those who stayed to hear the band play were well-rewarded. Lead singer, Corey Howe, was wearing a tank dress with a cat’s face screen printed on the front (a little advance notice that this is not your average band). The Dead Flowers played gritty rock with blues and country undertones with ferocious intensity. Their album, For You – funded through Kickstarter and self-produced – keeps the edge of their live performance.

2. Michael Donner & The Southern Renaissance:

An Americana/Alt-Country band from Dallas who can’t hide how much they love playing together on stage. The five members of The Southern Renaissance delivered perfectly worked songs from their album, No Better Time. Their songs have fantastic melodies accompanied by lead singer, Michael Donner’s, versatile voice. He credited Jim Croce as a big influence and got everyone dancing when they played Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

3. Seryn: 

A six piece band from Denton, TX with music that may remind listeners of the group Of Monsters and Men. Their multi-part harmonies seem effortless as they play together on stage. Their voices blend into one as they sing with the mesmerizing sweetness of lullabyes.

4. Goodnight Ned:

The kind of wonderful, undefinable, bluesy-roots rock that seems peculiar to Texas. With influences that cover eight decades, they can not be pinned down. Goodnight Ned is from Dallas and has a great song titled “Dallas,” which was greatly appreciated by the audience. On stage this five member band had incredible energy that kept the crowd dancing through their entire set.

5. Whiskey Folk Ramblers:

One of those rare, aptly named bands. Described as “folk noir” with rolling beats. Song titles like “Moanin’ Rag” and “Gambling Preacher and His Daughter,” give you a sense of the dark current that runs through their music.

6. Kirby Brown:

One of brightest spots of BFF. His soulful voice and candid lyrics make for a powerful combination. It’s easy to imagine him breaking into the indie charts with a second album. His song “Young, Young, Young” is especially captivating. On stage he is genuine and a pleasure to watch.

Other great artists at the festival were: Parallel Play, The Roomsounds, Frontier Ruckus, Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, Jamestown Revival, Hares on the Mountain, The O’s, Possessed By Paul James, and Pearl Street Riot.

Especially for those who think they would not be interested in this genre, The Deep Ellum Big Folkin’ Festival showed what a great spectrum there is in folk music.

One fellow festival goer posited the theory, “The longer the beard, the longer the hair, the better the music.” We’ll get to test this theory again next year at The Deep Ellum Big Folkin’ Festival 4.

Article by Kate McCrory

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