Sunday, February 10, 2008

Slumming it Grad-Student Style

Saturday night Aimee and I headed back to the University of Chicago for the 48th Annual Folk Festival. This festival is put on by the same crowd that runs the monthly contra-dances on campus and since we were first-timers for the festival, we volunteered to help out instead of actually ponying up some cash to see the bands. (That way if it was boring, at least it was free.)

The helping out turned out to be ushering for the show, which caused some major college flashbacks. I was completely at home there in the back of the house, and it was great to see that every school theatre has an uptight theatre manager running around dealing with mini-crises that are only really crises to him. The ushering gig wasn't so bad after all though, because once the crowd was seated, we were pretty much finished. We got to hang back in the back of the theatre and watch the parade of performers as they completed set after folksy set.

It was a great mix of music: we had a bluegrass band (Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice), an Irish band (Chulrua), a banjoer (Paul Brown), a blues band fronted by that guy who sings "Tough Enough" (Kim Wilson Blues Revue), a cajun dance band (The Lafayette Rhythm Devils) and a couple of random guys from a couple of different bands who just wanted to jam onstage. It was a pretty amazing show really.

Then, since we were volunteers, we were invited to the after-show party. The party was down the street from the theatre, in the grad co-op housing. It was the most ginormous college house you've ever seen. It was also right next door to the fraternities, so maybe it wasn't the biggest you've ever seen, just the biggest you've ever seen for students who actually attend every class. Seriously, there were like five fridges in there. I counted 24 mail slots. I think I would have seriously gone insane trying to do grad work there, but I was never really a hippie, so there you go.

The highlight of the party was that practically everyone who came brought their instrument and folksy jam sessions broke out in every available space throughout the house. People were wondering around with their banjoes and violins like gypsies between breaks to sample the grad-student gumbo (smelled delicious, contained unidentifiable ingredients) and the rest of us wandered around glassy-eyed at the idea that ten people all knew the same obscure but entertaining song for violin, bass, banjo and mandolin.

Since we are both girls with jam packed social schedules, (and okay, really just because of my impending trek back to the burbs) Aimee and I called it a night at the young hour of 1AM, while the party had lots of hours of jamming to go. It's definitely something that I will try to catch again. Maybe next time I'll even pay for my ticket.

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