March 24, 2009
Questlove’s Folk Alliance Showcase Widely Assumed to Be Hoax
MEMPHIS — Questlove, the most celebrated drummer in all of folk music and a cornerstone of the Philadelphia folk group the Roots, recently made a surprise appearance at the 2009 International Folk Alliance Conference where he baffled and confounded the attendees with his presence.
Despite an apparently serious full-page advertisement for Questlove in the official Folk Alliance program, most conference participants seemed completely unaware that a Questlove concert might actually be happening.
“What the hell would Questlove be doing at Folk Alliance? I assumed that was a joke, or a misprint, or maybe someone was f—king with us,” said old-time fiddler Matt Brown.
Folk Alliance, the annual industry convention for folk music professionals, takes place for one week each February in Memphis, TN.
Folk music experts have hailed it as “the world’s largest open mic night” and a “very ingenious” way to write off a weeklong party on one’s federal taxes.
Every year, thousands of musicians come to the convention, where they outnumber the sum total of promoters, booking agents, managers, festival representatives and all other professionals by at least twelve-to-one.
“Is it really only twelve-to-one? I would have guessed quite a bit higher,” said one aspiring singer-songwriter from Boston.
For four days, these numerous musicians perform in hotel rooms, foyers, stairwells, balconies, utility closets, elevators and bathrooms, hoping to somehow attract a paid performance opportunity, or gig, for later in the year.
The musicians’ aspirations, however illogical, seem to take root in the unverifiable rumor that a four-piece band once got a gig by playing at Folk Alliance in 2004.
“Yeah, that’s totally true. Group called Crooked Steel, or something. I heard they totally blew up right after that, too” said nyckelharpa player Bronwyn Bird, whose band Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers was showcasing at Folk Alliance.
During Questlove’s showcase, the drummer repeatedly dazzled the crowd with his undeniable rhythmical abilities.
Then, as part of a brief question-and-answer session, he delivered a cogent, insightful, perfectly worded and altogether brilliant address on the musicological relationship between folk music and hip-hop.
Finally, he jammed with banjo player Bela Fleck whose intricate finger patterns soon hypnotized the drummer, ending the showcase in a triumphant moment for folk music.
Despite the success of Questlove’s showcase, some attendees remained skeptical.
“I know it’s tough times and all, but if Questlove is desperate enough for gigs that he feels the need to showcase at Folk Alliance, we’re all screwed,” said Nashville fiddler Billy Contreras.