With his lilting rich Irish brogue, red hair and twinkling blue eyes, Niall Connolly indubitably is a Cork-born-and-raised lad, but his passionate love for the peninsula, relentlessly drove him and his fellow raven-haired folk singer/songwriter and musician, E.W. Harris, to finally bring the Big City Folk Music Festival to Rockaway — and folks, according to these gregarious raconteurs — get ready to experience musical magic.
For the first time in its 11-year history, the Big City Folk Festival, founded by Irish international folk sensation, Connolly, will come to the Rockaway Artist Alliance’s (RAA) sTudio 7 Gallery space in Fort Tilden this Friday and Saturday. The two-day festival, will feature more than 25 acts from across the U.S., Ireland, Canada, the U.K., and Australia, and of course, there will be some of your Rockaway favorites on stage.
With this lineup, there is something for everyone:
On Friday, June 22, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., get ready to feast on Rockaway locals, Patsy, Blame Mercury and Rattrap Bumpkin, plus Niall Connolly, May Cheung, Silbin Sandovar, Caves and Clouds, Clare Sands, Fully Human (Liv Hally from Oh Pep!), John Cathal O'Brien, A Valley Son, Karen Dahlstrom and The Healing - Open Jam with house band, The Travelers.
Then on Saturday, June 23 from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., the chock-full music fest continues with more of Rockaway’s finest, John Simonelli, and Hyland Brunnock, plus Fond Farewells, Chris Michael, Ryan Morgan, Jasper Lewis, Amy Sheehan, Mississippi Cotten, Lara Ewen, Chris Q. Murphy, Belle Skinner, Warren Malone, Ricky Stein, Jaimee Harris, Graham Weber, Neko Peoples, August Wells, Matt Cranstoun, and Maude Gun.
Connolly, though today a well-accomplished musician with more than 15 years of international touring experience and eight successfully-acclaimed studio albums, still feels the need to develop a storytelling music collective to help other artists. “In 2007, shortly after moving to NYC, I formed the Big City Folk collective. I missed the community of musicians at home. I started a song club to invite artists to experiment their art in front of an audience. I held events in bars, clubs, basements, all across NYC, and saw there was a niche that needed to be filled. Though I have toured all over the world, I wanted to create something special that would support fellow songwriters and musicians who all, like myself, had stories to tell,” Connolly said.
Then the Big City Folk Festival was born. “My fellow artist and dear friend, E.W. Harris, and I, wanted to take the movement statewide. We traveled everywhere doing the festival once every two years. However, in my heart, I knew we had to figure out how to bring it to Rockaway,” Connolly said.
Connolly said his love for Rockaway was ignited not with just its beautiful beaches, but with his wife, who is a local. “I'm from Ireland, but I have very strong Rockaway connections. My amazing wife is from Rockaway and my aunt lived on Beach 130th Street until Hurricane Sandy. I experienced Sandy, and saw how the community came together. It was so inspiring and awesome on a multitude of levels I could never describe. Even the local musicians, who also lost a lot, all came out to help each other recover and rebound. There’s something magical about Rockaway, and I fell even more in love with it after Sandy,” Connolly said.
Connolly’s fellow storytelling musician, E.W. Harris, said this Festival took countless hours to plot out, and is zealously looking forward to the dialogue, not just between the artists, but attendees. “We have a lot of amazing storytelling artists performing, so between each set-up, the stage is going to rotate from indoors to outdoors and vice versa. Once one set is done either inside or outisde, attendees can take a breather by walking on the beach, striking a conversation, and then come back for more. Also, on Saturday, we are going to have a round-robin setup, where each artist will do a call-and-response, where they will each tell a story and respond to each other. It’s definitely going to be a comedic barrel of laughs,” Harris said.
There is a suggested $10 donation at the door for the event, but according to Connolly and Harris, it’s all going toward defraying costs incurred with the event. Connolly said, “We are not hosting the event to get rich, this is just an opportunity for all the artists to tell a story and perform, and also importantly, for attendees to appreciate the art of storytelling in music. There’s absolutely no reason, not to even musically taste the Festival. Fort Tilden is steps away from the beach, and with the rotating stage, there will be something for everyone. I’m really proudly of this lineup. It’s both international and local. There will be something here for everyone!”
In addition to the performances, this will be the last weekend for the RAA’s latest gallery exhibition featuring paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Jason Novetsky, titled, “Conundra - Mapping the Limits of Reason.”
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