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Tucson Folk Festival celebrates 25 years downtown

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Music fest preview

Tucson Folk Festival celebrates 25 years downtown

California folk legends Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, Tucsonan John Coinman headline.

  • 2008 festival at the Pima County Courthouse
    Marilyn Stringer2008 festival at the Pima County Courthouse
  • Pedersen and Hillman surround legend Ralph Stanley, 2009
    Courtesy artist websitePedersen and Hillman surround legend Ralph Stanley, 2009
  • Tucsonan John Coinman
    Courtesy artist websiteTucsonan John Coinman

Throughout the last quarter century, amidst countless changes in the cultural landscape of downtown Tucson, the Tucson Folk Festival has remained a constant in a sea of variables. This weekend, the festival and its parent organization, the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association, commemorate their anniversary with a hefty roster of folk and roots music on four stages.

This year, the festival will feature approximately 115 acts on four stages, workshops, a New Artists’ Stage at the Tucson Museum of Art, featuring short, impromptu sets by festival players and others, and food and craft vendors, in addition to the headliners.

Roots rock veterans Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, the core of 80s/90s country outfit the Desert Rose Band, each have over three decades' tenure in American music. Hillman was a founding member of The Byrds in 1965 with David Crosby and roger McGuinn, and founded The Flying Burrito Brothers with fellow country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. 

Herb Pedersen, a guitar and banjo virtuoso, has for nearly four decades graced the stage and studio in support of an impressive roster of the best of roots music, including Tucson's own Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, John Denver and Jackson Browne. The pair take the Plaza stage at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Sunday's headliner is Tucson-based singer-songwriter John Coinman. Most famous for his work as music supervisor for 1990 Oscar-winning Best Picture "Dances with Wolves," Coinman has five solo CDs to his credit, as well as his own impressive list of past collaborators, including writer Michael Blake and Doors member John Densmore. Coinman takes the Plaza stage at 8 p.m.

A quick perusal of the remainder of the lineups yields much worth seeing. Of special note is Saturday evening's Old Town Artisans stage, where the best of Tucson's formidable female folksters take the stage in quick succession. Namoli Brennet, Leila Lopez and Kathleen Williamson are followed by Tucson's sweetest voice, Courtney Robbins, at 7:30. In fact, festival goers will have some tough choices Saturday evening; in the 6:30 time slot alone, Williamson plays at the same time as local songbirds Silver Thread Trio and Brazilian music from Tucson combo Batucaxe.

To celebrate their silver anniversary, Sunday's Plaza stage lineup includes a "Legacy Set" featuring some of the founders of TKMA and the festival. Sunday evening also features festival perennials Lisa Otey and Nancy McCallion.

For a complete schedule, artist bios and more, see the Tucson Folk Festival website.


If you go

  • Tucson Folk Festival, Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • El Presidio Park and surrounding stages, 160 W. Alameda.
  • Free and all ages.

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