The inaugural weekend-long Folk 2 Funk Festival in Long Beach was a success before it even started. And not because of the turnout or talent -- although there was plenty of both in the Long Beach Public Library auditorium.
The success was in its diversity, its roots, its sound and its spirit – all of which were in abundance on Saturday, said organizers.
“We’re covering everything from folk, to reggae, to roots, to blues,” said Long Beach native Johanna Mathieson-Ellmer, producer of the festival which ended Sunday. “The roots music is important because it speaks to your soul. And we all have one.”
Festival opener Benoir did a fine job of weaving that common thread. In between numbers, Benoir, a local musician, spoke about his affinity for Native American culture and ideals. At the same time, he encouraged everyone to support local music and support the Long Beach Public Library.
“I came here to do some Native American research and came away with a band name,” said Benoir of his Dreamer Cult compatriots. “Just be a good neighbor, protect one another and the environment. That’s all you need to do.”
With that, Benoir whispered a four count as he and Dreamer Cult slipped easily into a languid, dragging blues that evoked Stevie Ray Vaughan at his mellow, intricate finest.
Singer, guitarist and festival sound engineer Howie Haber was looking forward to his own Sunday afternoon performance with the Breakaway Duo while enjoying Benoir’s smooth, introspective lead guitar work.
“It’s great to have an outlet for good, original music,” said Haber of Island Park. “It’s always integration. The inspiration comes from love, hate, sorrow, happiness. All of those basic things are always there – and music has always come from that.”
The headliner of the festival on Saturday night was Bethany Yarrow, daughter of folk legend Peter Yarrow. The chanteuse currently works with cellist Rufus Cappadocia and dancer Sheila, who marries exotic Haitian dance and percussion to the exploratory sounds of Yarrow and Cappadocia. The unique configuration exemplifies what Funk 2 Folk is all about; tapping the past to enhance the present – all with an eye on a collective future.
“We’re all connected by our humanity,” Mathieson-Ellmer said. “It’s important to find the rhythm, to find the heartbeat in the music. That’s what’s common to all of us.”
Pictured: Benoir, a Long Beach musician, performs during the Folk 2 Funk Festival at the Long Beach Public Library. (Feb. 12, 2011)