Over the weekend I attended the Square Roots Festival in Lincoln Square. The festival raged with folk music, over 30 craft beers, street food, music workshops and children’s dance-and-sing-along songs. Upon walking into the festival on Lincoln Ave, between Wilson and Montrose, there were volunteers asking for a $10 donation. The donations help fund the Old Town School of Folk Music scholarship programs and Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce farmers markets and concerts. Many of the musicians performing over the weekend were students and teachers of the school.
It was rather hot on the street and lots of families had taken to sitting against cool buildings in the shady sides. It was crowded with people as well as 12 food stands and four beverage stations. To make any purchases, I had to trade my cash for tickets. Outside were two stages: North Stage and South Stage. Some of the activities and music of the festival was actually inside the Old Town School of Folk Music building, but I preferred to stay on the street. There was so much to do here and several acts that were almost simultaneous.
The first thing I wanted to do was get a cold beer in my hand, but the selection was vast and I had never tried any of the beers offered before. So, I took a bit of time choosing and eventually ended up with a Lagunitas Dogtown Pale to cool off with. It seemed all the adults had the same idea and there was a small crowd in line for drinks.
Next, with a refreshing beer sweating in my hand, I headed down to South Stage to see Congress of Starlings. This group was rocking. There were women dancing in the front, lots of bearded men standing along the sides of the street to take advantage of the shade and a row of people standing the sun in the street, listening and bopping to the tunes. The band was fantastic and fun to watch. It was clear the audience held a bunch of fans and the music transitioned from fast folk with gorgeous harmonies to something psychedelic in feeling. The band is made up of front ladies Andrea Bunch and Aerin Tedesco. When I went home later I found their website and listened to more of their songs streaming online.
When the set closed to loud applause, I wandered back down Lincoln to find some food and landed on sweet potato fries, a personal favorite. I took these to the North Stage, which seemed to be the family stage as there were small children and strollers abundant. There was no shade here, but little stand-up tables to eat from and watch the act on stage. Next up were the Jazzettes, a group that demonstrated some jazz moves and then allowed the audience to try it for themselves. Little girls everywhere were squeeling with delight over the uniformed pink dancers.
Getting too hot and finishing my fries, I went off to find another drink and shop at one of the many crafty tents. On the bustling street there were the typical festival tents selling tie-dye, jewelry, long dresses and home products. Also, a few local businesses were promoting their services. I didn’t buy anything, but these kinds of places are always fun to browse.
My next drink was recommended by a volunteer, a Hinterland White Cap. It was very light and delicious. The Rabbit beer tap was just about the coolest piece of metal I had ever seen and I regretted not trying one.
On the street I encountered a group of five musicians all playing strings. The focal point of this group was the young boy they had playing with them. It was really fun and people were stopping in the middle of the street to clap along.
Finally I decided I wanted to try something else and bought a bacon sausage from Big Fork. The staff was wearing hilarious shirts of a unicorn and pig, depicting the mythical way the delicious food is made. This, too, was fantastic and very filling.
While I was eating, another group of three young men started playing more music with a makeshift drum, a guitar and great vocals. These guys were soulful. Everywhere I walked little groups of musicians would crop up on the sidewalk, playing to anyone walking by and many garnered groups around them. To me, this music is very honest. It’s right there on the street waiting to be heard, and I was very happy I had come to listen. This is a corner of Chicago I don’t often visit, but to many, this is obviously a heartland of great folk music. The family-oriented festival really had something for everyone, and I got a great taste.
For more information about the Old Town School of Folk Music, visit http://www.oldtownschool.org/
To check out Congress of Starlings, visit their website at http://www.congressofstarlings.com
For a full lineup from the Square Roots Festival, see http://www.squareroots.org/