This Saturday, November 16, a group of energetic local leaders have collaborated to create the first Long Beach Folk Revival Festival. Starting at 11AM, nearly two dozen acts will grace two stages. Headlining the show is Rose's Pawn Shop, an LA based band that's been touring the country in advance of their upcoming album release.
Their first album, The Arsonist, came out in 2006 and, with changes the lineup in 2009, they released their second album, Dancing on the Gallows, a year later. Lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paul Givant admits that the genre of Americana came late to him.
"I grew up more with rock, alternative, pop, and even jazz, but when I was in my late teens, I started getting into more American roots/folk artists. It started, first, through Grateful Dead's more folk oriented stuff, which led me to Bluegrass artists like Bill Monroe and Flat and Scruggs. I listened to a lot of Woody Guthrie and folk revival stuff like early Dylan, and more modern throw-back roots stuff like Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show.
"Eventually, the idea that came along for me was to create old time American music, but give it a more aggressive rock approach with drums. Similar to what The Pogues, first, and later groups like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys did with Irish music. We're not quite as punk as those groups, but the energy is similar on a lot of our stuff."
The band stood out in the L.A. rock scene, and garnered lots of positive attention.
"We'd be the only band on bill doing the kind of stuff we did. but we'd always get a lot of love and positive feedback from people because of our energy and for being unique, but still holding our own amongst the other rock groups. However, we soon discovered there was a lot of folk revival, Americana, and alt-country stuff happening all over L.A. and we fell in with a lot of those bands. That scene is still pretty strong in L.A. today.
"Truth be told, L.A. is a tough town for music. It's just so saturated. We always felt the most love out on the road, in other parts of the country. And in places like Washington state, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, even Virginia and Tennessee, that's where we've been able to build up the majority of our fan base."
American folk music never really died. The form has been discovered, rediscovered, and renewed continually since it's early origins. Givant agreed that the term 'revival' is a bit misused.
"Folk music, or what's been labeled Americana, has been going on throughout the America for longer than there has been recorded music, and it hasn't stopped. These so-called 'roots' artists have always been there. It's just that, every 20 years or so, it pops back up into the mainstream in some way or another, and then it's called a revival. But this type of music has never gone anywhere. The fan base for it, and the lovers of this type of music, never go away. It's the musical subculture that never dies, as far as I can tell."
When it comes to the art of songwriting, Givant tries to create music that transcends form.
"Maybe the genre influenced my songwriting more in the beginning, but I feel, in the last few years, that I don't really try to write in the Americana genre. I feel a lot of my songwriting is more in the vein of the folk-rock singer-songwriter approach, more influenced by Elliott Smith and The Beatles than, say, Hank Williams. But then we take those songs and kind of put them into Americana folk, sonically, with the banjo, fiddle, upright bass, etc. Usually, our songs start with a melodic idea that creates a feeling in me that i can relate to, and they grow from there."
Growing up, Givant's family played music for fun.
"My father played clarinet a little bit, and he'd take it out of the closet now and then and play, but it was just a hobby for him. My mother played a bit of piano and organ, and we'd sing holiday songs while she played at Christmas, but both my parents were never huge music lovers like I became.
"Music was one of my escapes in junior high and high school, and something that became supremely important to me in a way that it wasn't for the rest of my family. I did have a great-grandfather, who lived in Minnesota back in the day, who was a band leader of several working bands, including a polka band and a mandolin string band. I have some old pictures of him with his bands, so maybe that's where I get it from."
Givant took up the drums, and took great pleasure in playing live with bands, but it was a high school romance that inspired him to write his first song.
"It was pretty horrible. I remember, more, the feeling of writing my first song that I thought was pretty good. It felt amazing to actually feel like I expressed something that was true, for me, in a song and have it come pouring out in that way.
"I remember my first gigs as a singer and songwriter as being pretty terrifying, and being really nervous to the point of shaking. It was so much more exposed than being a drummer, but I remember feeling good about it, and proud that I did, once it was over."
Givant and the band have been crafting new material while they've been touring, and expect their new album to be released early next year.
"Our fans have had our last album now for over 3 years. They're ready to hear the new stuff. We've been playing a lot of the new stuff, and its been well received. We're excited about it. We're also really excited about the Long Beach Folk Revival Festival. Its the first year they're doing it, I understand, So I'm excited to see how it all comes together. There are a lot of amazing bands and musicians involved, so we're honored to be a part of it. Anthony, from Hillgrass Bluebilly Los Angeles, is one of the organizers and has great taste in bands. He's pulled together a lot of great people, so I think it should be a pretty amazing event."
Rose's Pawn Shop performs on the main stage at 9PM. Tickets, and information about the festival, including a $40 Farm To Table lunch catered by Primal Alchemy, can be found at FolkRevivalFestival.com. For music, photos and lots of other band info, visit RosesPawnShop.com.