The Northwest Folklife Festival is a Seattle institution, as synonymous with Memorial Day weekend as drizzly barbecues and traffic on I-90. For the past 40 years—long before Sasquatch elbowed in—the fest has celebrated both the folk sound of the region and our ethnic flavor, with staples like polka, Peruvian dance, and taiko drumming sharing the same stage.
But the team behind Folklife 2012 has decided to jazz things up a bit…literally. Here are five new offerings to check out at this year’s festival:
1. All That Jazz
When Monktail’s Sounds Outside concert series in Cal Anderson Park was canceled last year it left a void in the local avant-jazz scene. Folklife attempts to (at least partially) fill that gap with the brand new Legacy of Northwest Improvised Music showcase, featuring some of the region’s top improv jazz players. May 25 at 7, Center House Theater
2. (Authentic) Indian Summer
Bollywood dance performances aren’t new to Folklife, but this is the first year there’s a dedicated Bollywood showcase. We’re talking six different groups of Indian dance pros, with plenty of sequined saris and hip shaking. May 25 at 8:30, Exhibition Hall
3. Better Than Guitar Hero
Those looking for the polar opposite of the traditional world music showcases should check out the Chiptune and VJ Showcase at EMP. For the uninitiated, chiptune is a genre of music where the performers hack old gaming systems (Game Boys, Commodore 64s, etc.) and manipulate their on-board sound chips to make new electronic music. The chiptune bands will be joined by VJs, which apparently means artists who combine video and music and not Carson Daly or Kennedy. May 26 at 1, EMP Sky Church
4. SIFF Film Center
Folklife’s newest venue—SIFF Film Center—is the place to go for a quick study in Seattle history. All weekend long the site will host events exploring the making of the 1962 World’s Fair, including lectures by Paula Becker and Alan J. Stein, authors of The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and Its Legacy, and a performance of Book-It Rep’s stage adaptation of the book.
5. Oh the Places You’ll Go, Oh the Songs You Will Sing…
Whether it be with a Lorax, Sneetches, Whos, a hatted feline, or oddly hued breakfast food, the imaginative world of Dr. Seuss has long been rich fodder for adaptations. The book-nerd songwriters of the Bushwick Book Club join Folklife to interpret the whimsy of the author’s stories with original songs. May 27 at 1, Folklife Cafe.
Northwest Folklife Festival
May 25–28, Seattle Center, free