Though it garners less attention than some of the summer's hipper or more-hyped music celebrations, the Chicago Folk & Roots Festival sponsored by the Old Town School of Folk Music always has some of the most diverse and surprising bookings, as well as by far the most family-friendly vibe.
Though there was some concern earlier in the year that the economy might sideline this year's event, the 12th annual festival will take place as always in Welles Park on Lincoln Avenue between Montrose and Sunnyside Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10, and it once again boasts a promising lineup. Here is a closer look at each of the main-stage performers, as well as a run-down of some of the other acts and activities.
SATURDAY, JULY 11
Midwest Invitational Fiddle Championship, 12:55 p.m.
Who needs "American Idol"? Sponsored by the Chicago chapter of the Fiddle Club of the World, this invitational competition features a diverse roster of fiddling champs vying for a $1,200 prize: The Fiddler and the Hoofer, Rick Veras with Reggio McLaughlin (swing); the Hatfield Sisters (Irish); Los Pichardos (Mexicano); Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Ensemble (Greek Islands) and Dr. Hojka's Medicine Show with Rebecca Unger (Americana and clogging).
Lamajamal, 2:05 p.m.
The latest album by this Chicago quintet is titled "Gypsy Surf," but that only begins to hint at the eclectic sounds in its globe-trotting mix, with influences ranging from Bulgaria to Morocco, Greece to Egypt, and Paris to Wicker Park.
Dan & Rayna Gellert, 2:45 p.m.
Indiana native Rayna Gellert, an extraordinary violinist and veteran of Uncle Earl! For Folk & Roots, will perform with her biggest inspiration: her father Dan, a renowned fiddler and banjo player.
Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole, 4 p.m.
Cajun music doesn't get much more celebratory than as practice by Watson, and his band, which follows the sound's geographic and historical roots back to Africa and the Caribbean.
Caleb Klauder Country Band, 5:25 p.m.
Fronted by Portland singer and songwriter Klauder, the Country Band uses pedal steel, fiddles, mandolin, acoustic guitar, upright bass and drums to merge elements of honky-tonk, Cajun and Western swing music.
Honey Honey, 7 p.m.
The pop duo of singer and Suzanne Santo and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jaffe evoke a hip, postmodern version of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, 8:30 p.m.
Much better suited to this festival than Lollapalooza, where they'll perform on Aug. 7, Austin singer Lewis and his seven bandmates aim to update the classic blues, soul and R&B grooves of Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Sam Cooke, among other greats.
SUNDAY, JULY 12
Young Stracke All-Stars, 12:55 p.m.
Named after Old Town School founder Win Stracke, this ad-hoc combo of students aged 9 to 12 represent some of the most impressive young talents from recent classes.
Woodstock Boomer Band, 1:25 p.m.
Old Town instructors Cathy Norden and John Mead will lead the school's Woodstock ensemble as it flashes back to the sounds of 1969 and "3 days of peace & music." [CQ; that's how it read on the famous poster]
Maestros del Joropo Oriental, 2:10 p.m.
A Venezuelan musical style resembling the waltz and steeped in local folklore, though it also draws from African and European influences, joropo takes its name from a Spanish word for "party." The style of joropo oriental adds guitar, mandolin and other instruments to the traditional bandola llanera, and Maestros del Joropo Oriental are considered to be the music's prime ambassadors.
Mbolo Moy Dolle, 3:25 p.m.
Organized by the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, Mbolo Moy Dolle (Together We Are Stronger) is a celebration of West African music and dance embracing traditions from Guinea, Gambia, Senegal and Mali.
Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, 4:55 p.m.
More spicy Cajun sounds from this Louisiana band, led by a drummer turned accordion player with a rep as one of the most exciting live performers in zydeco.
Watcha Clan, 6:30 p.m.
Based in Marseille, this young group has a polyglot sound that does that famous French melting pot proud, with enigmatic vocalist Sista K singing in French, Arabic, Hebrew and English and the mix of traditional and electronic sounds touching on everything from Algerian blues to American hip-hop to Sufi trance music.
DJ Warp & Friends, 7:45 p.m.
Dedicated to "People of Rhythm," to borrow the name of his record label, percussionist and DJ Brian Keigher celebrates grooves without boundaries. He'll be joined at this performance by "Bombay Beatbox" DJ Radiohiro, vocalist Gaurav Venkateswar and Indian Bharatanatyam dancer Anjal Chande.
Karsh Kale and Timeline, 8:30 p.m.
Tabla player and DJ Kale mixes ancient musical traditions and cutting-edge technology for a sound that is utterly timeless, and which has led to collaborations Paul Oakenfold, Sting, Bill Laswell, Norah Jones and Herbie Hancock, among many others..
In addition to the high-profile acts on the main stage, the Folk & Roots Festival always seems to have at least three other offerings going on at the same time in other corners of the park. Here is a list of the other offerings.
Dance Tent, Saturday: Family Hula with Lanialoha, noon; Bhangra with Shamila, 1:05 p.m.; Rumba dance lesson, 2:10 p.m.; OgundaMasa, 2:40 p.m.; Welles Park Folkloric Dancers, 3:55 p.m.; Latin dance lessons with Saladeen, 4:15 p.m.; Papo Santiago & Infra Verde, 4:45 p.m.; Square dance open band, 6:30 p.m.
Dance Tent, Sunday: Jazz dance with Jeanette, noon; Waltz Across Chicago, 1 p.m.; polka lesson, 3:30 p.m.; Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones, 4 p.m.; hip-hop dance with Boogie, 5:20 p.m.; two-step lesson with Nicolle, 6:30 p.m.; Hoyle Brothers, 7 p.m.
Kids' Tent, Saturday: Wiggleworms with Little Miss Ann, noon; Ecuadorian Folk Dance with Carmen, 12:50 p.m.; Cowpoke Sing-along with Annie, 1:40 p.m.; Storytime Dances with Jen, 2:30 p.m.; Laura Doherty, 3:25 p.m.; Kids Rhythm Circle with Lenny, 4:35 p.m.; Special Music by Special People, 5:30 p.m.
Kids' Tent, Sunday: Wiggleworms with Julie, noon; Hip-Hop Kidz with Lyn, 12:50 p.m.; Remember the '80s? with the Swing Sets, 1:45 p.m.; West African Drumming with Rick Neuhaus, 2:45 p.m.; Erin Flynn Band, 3:40 p.m.; Zumba for Kids with Isabella, 4:40 p.m.
Staff Stage, Saturday: V (Virat Thakkar), noon; David & Marian, 12:30 p.m.; Guitar Army 2 with Sandra Adrian, 1 p.m.; the sheathens with Vanessa Vincent, 1:30 p.m.; the Lexie Bloor Group, 2 p.m.; the Jeff Hunter Ensemble, 2:30 p.m.; Angry Panther with Eric Unger, 3 p.m.; the Bitter Optimists with Shelley Miller, 3:30 p.m.; WAZO County Warblers with Paul Tyler, 4 p.m.; the Ryan Project with Tom Ryan, 4:30 p.m.; Joel Styzens & Katinka Kleijn, 5 p.m.; Typhanie & Neal, 5:30 p.m.; the Rust Belt Ramblers with Joe Tessone, 6 p.m.; It's A Girl with Miki Greenberg, 6:30 p.m.; the Steve Levitt Project, 7 p.m.; Charming Axe with Rob Newhouse, 7:30 p.m.; Congress of Starlings with Andrea Bunch, 8 p.m.
Staff Stage, Sunday: Ghost of a Fist with Erin English, noon; Dahui with Rick Neuhaus, 12:30 p.m.; Dale Petersohn & Jessica Coe, 1 p.m.; the Seams with Ed Tverdek, 1:30 p.m.; Strictly Jug Nuts with Skip Landt, 2 p.m.; Lanialoha, 2:30 p.m.; Light, Sweet & Crude with Bau Graves, 3 p.m.; Rosenpalooza with Steve Rosen, 3:30 p.m.; Los Adminos with Eric Delli Bovi, 4 p.m.; the Barehand Jug Band with Jonas Friddle, 4:30 p.m.; Rod Gingrich & Friends, 5 p.m.; Lenny Marsh & Harlan Terson, 5:30 p.m.; the Lindsay Weinberg Band, 6 p.m.; Elk Heart with Jeremy Babcock, 6:30 p.m.; Julia Storke and Mambo Blonde, 7 p.m.; John Mead & Friends, 7:30 p.m.; Unibrow with Dan Fulkerson, 8 p.m.
Welles Park Gazebo, Saturday: Old Time Jam with Dan & Rayna Gellert, noon; African Drum Fete with Michael Taylor, 1 p.m.; Voice of the People with Andrea Bunch, 2 p.m.; Brazilian Ensemble with Paulinho Garcia, 3 p.m.; Fandango with Raul Fernandez, 4 p.m.; Woodstock Ensemble with Cathy Norden and John Mead, 5 p.m.; Soul Sing-along with Alton Smith & Bill Brickey, 6 p.m.
Welles Park Gazebo, Sunday: Family String Jam with Maria McCullough, noon; Woody Guthrie Folk Jam with Mark Dvorak, 1 p.m.; Bluegrass Jam with Colby Maddox, 2 p.m.; the Third Half with Scott Besaw & Dan Fulkerson, 3 p.m.; Mellow Gold with Steve Dawson, 4 p.m.; Grateful Dead Ensemble with Steve Levitt, 5 p.m.; Beatles Ensemble with Steve Levitt, 6 p.m.
Nuestra Musica, Saturday: Roberto Ferreyra, pre-Colombian flute-making demonstration, noon; Monsterrat Alsina, Calavera workshop, 1 p.m.; Fandango with Son del Viento, 2 p.m.; Ric Salazar, jarana-making demonstration, 3 p.m.; Ogunda Masa, Afro-Cuban rumba, 5 p.m.
Nuestra Musica, Sunday: Corn masa-making workshop with Maribel Castro, noon; Umbral Ecuadorian Andean Music, 12:30 p.m.; Bomba drum-making workshop with Nuestro Tambo, 1:30 p.m.; Tambo workshop, 2 p.m.; Ngoma Alegre Afro-Latin Ensemble, 3 p.m.; Maestros del Joropo Oriental, 4 p.m.; Marimba Ixchel, 5 p.m.
Chicago Folks & Roots Festivals
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday [July 11 & 12]
Welles Park, 4400 N. Lincoln between Montrose & Sunnyside
Suggested donation $8 suggested, $4 for seniors and children
www.chicagofolkandroots.org; (773) 728-6000