The Ark’s Ann Arbor Folk Festival Makes Welcome Return to U-M’s Hill Auditorium
After three years away, it felt heartwarming to attend the 46th annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival on January 28.
As a regular past attendee, there was something special about going in-person again to celebrate The Ark’s largest concert and fundraiser of the year.
For once, the entire show occurred before a live audience without any COVID-19 cancellations (aka 2022) or virtual alternatives (aka 2021). (January 27’s sold-out Friday Night Folk: BanjoFest also featured in-person performances with Valerie June, Thao, Yasmin Williams, and Michigan’s Rachael Davis at The Ark’s Ford Listening Room.)
A renewed sense of gratitude filled the air as a lineup of emerging and established folk acts—including Ani DiFranco, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Patty Griffin—took the stage at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium for five hours of folk-inspired and folk-adjacent music.
Alongside co-emcees SistaStrings, singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey uttered the words everyone had waited to hear since 2020: “Omigod, we’re finally back!”
After that emphatic greeting, festival attendees encountered a slew of promising newcomers: Norman, Oklahoma roots-rocker Jared Deck (who featured Ypsilanti bassist Daniel “Ozzie” Andrews as part of his band); Nashville, Tennessee folk-soul singer-songwriter Kyshona; Belfast, Maine folk-pop sibling duo Oshima Brothers (who demonstrated their antique moving panoramic device called a “crankie” on “Love is Tall”), Austin, Texas Latin-folk singer-songwriter Gina Chavez, and special guest singer-songwriter Parker Millsap.
The crowd also enjoyed performances by headliners DiFranco (who performed a few ‘90s favorites and newish tracks from 2021’s Revolutionary Love), The Broken Bones (whose frontman Paul Janeway removed his colorful sequin sneakers and licked one of the shoe’s soles), and Griffin (who claimed to be the “marshmallow fluff” between her two bandmates, the talented duo of guitarist David Pulkingham and percussionist Michael Longoria).
The festival closed with DiFranco and several other artists covering Woody Guthrie’s 1944 song, “All You Fascists Bound to Lose.”
You can read festival recaps by The Oakland Press’s Gary Graff here and Detroit’s WDIV-TV here. And here are some more festival photos, courtesy of ann arbor's 107one.
Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.