I've been remiss in getting this up in a timely manner. Luminiferous Ether already has a good post up, so this may be redundant to you, my loyal reader, but, if you can manage it, get your butt on down to the Memorial Union for Folk Ball 2008, (Friday, 1/25 - Sunday 1/27.) I'll be playing with two different groups this year. Friday night (9:00 p.m.) with Veseliyka, a village-style, all acoustic balkan band, and Saturday night (sometime after 11:00 p.m.) with the Reptile Palace Orchestra, a high octane, eclectic electric ethnic group. Dance and singing workshops throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, and dance parties Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Of course, there is also the opportunity to buy stuff, from music to "ethnic" clothing.
Folk Ball is a very cool event. People come from all over the midwest and beyond, it's very family-friendly (although there is an occasional sourpuss - there's at least one in every crowd) and it's just cool. Live music and dancing until the wee hours, no alcohol is served on the premises (although you can go downstairs for beer if you're so inclined, and some of the crowd is) so the people in attendance aren't the type who have getting drunk and stupid as their primary goal.
I already mentioned the two groups I'll be playing with, but I also heartily recommend Madison's Yid Vicious, Milwaukee's Izvor and Sloboda as well as the Twin Cities' Orkestar Bez Ime. I'm not too familiar with the other groups on the schedule, but I imagine they'll be worth checking out, too. Regardless, it is a rare event that offers so much good music and for free, at that (donations are encouraged.) For a full schedule, check here.
In true village style, the boundaries between bands will get kind of fuzzy. I'll be playing with two groups, reed player Greg Smith is a member of both RPO and Yid Vicious. David Kantor and Yuliyan Yordanov will be playing with Veseliyka as well as doing a duo performance on Saturday. And, of course, you can expect to see a lot of Harley Schoville (drummer and percussionist for Izvor and Sloboda) and his brother, Robert (drummer and percussionist for The Reptile Palace Orchestra). It has become something of a Folk Ball tradition for the Schoville Brothers to play percussion together in all three groups. The Schoville Brothers make a truly monstrous percussion duo; it's worth the price of admission by itself. Harley will also be filling in for Yid Vicious on Friday.
Anyway, Folk Ball is a true community gathering and celebration in the very best sense. I always enjoy it, at least.