Bainbridge folks at Folklife Festival: Local musicians perform at Seattle's big event

Johnny Bregar will be performing at 1:15 p.m. Monday, May 27 at the Fountain Lawn stage for the Folklife Festival’s Kindiependent Show! which will feature children’s folk bands for the whole family.  - Photo courtesy of Johnny Bregar
Johnny Bregar will be performing at 1:15 p.m. Monday, May 27 at the Fountain Lawn stage for the Folklife Festival’s Kindiependent Show! which will feature children’s folk bands for the whole family.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Johnny Bregar


Claudette Boudreaux - French Cajun vocals, accordion

Tami Allen - rubboard

Claudia Anastasio - fiddle

Rick Rice - drums

Alexina Boudreaux-Allen - bass

Doug Warren - guitar

Cajun, Zydeco

Good for dancing? Come an hour early for cajun, zydeco and two-step dance lessons from MaryLee Wilkes.


For Whozyamama, the Folklife Festival is almost like a family reunion. All the members have been involved with Folklife as performers for years. It’s where they met each other.

Core members Claudette Boudreaux and Tami Allen have been at it for 18 years, first with their Cajun band Les Femmes d’Enfer and now with their Cajun and Zydeco band Whozyamama.

Boudreaux and Allen met in 1994 at the American Fiddle Tunes music camp in Port Townsend. There they learned from Louisianan musicians how to play by listening, not from written pages, to songs that have been passed on for more than 100 years. That same year they attended their first Folklife. And since then they keep coming back for the biggest dance floor they play for every year and for the camaraderie of Folklife performers.

For the past 16 festivals they’ve been accompanied by their daughter, Alexina Boudreaux-Allen, who has been part of Folklife since she was a baby. She started as just family, now she’s family and a bandmate as she will be joining Whozyamama on bass.

“The whole Folklife, the same families come back every year,” said Boudreaux. “They watched Alexina grow up.”

Boudreaux, as Allen says it, is the Cajun in the group. She grew up in Deulac, La. under the spell of the Cajun and Zydeco tunes. Along with the accordion, she sings for the band in French Cajun.

Allen and Boudreaux have been on Bainbridge Island for 12 years, and Allen has worked as the Harbor Master since 2000.

Whozyamama plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Fisher Pavilion, Warren’s Roadhouse.



Alan Simcoe - guitar

George Schneider - flute

Alaina T’oadpipe - vocals

Karl Kirschhofer - accordion, flugel horn

Steve Newton - bass

Ian Turner - timbales

Rick Wood - Congas

Club house circa 1955 Bogotá, Colombia

Good for dancing? Bossa Nova, samba, salsa.


Folklife is known for giving space for listening, jamming and dancing to a whole range of folk influences, whether it be Persian, tango, English sword dance or Hungarian village dance. Alan Simcoe’s band Grupo Meridional is a reflection of that variety.

“We’re not authentically from Cuba or Brazil,” Simcoe said. “We’re not faking that. Instead, we’re hot-rodding that style of music.”

Grupo Meridional is a fusion of Latin American sounds circa 1955 – congas infused with cool jazz to make the Bossa Nova that was popular at the time.

“We found a comfortable way to play this music that fits and is enjoyable for our audience,” Simcoe said.

Meridional pulls on the rhythmic threads of rumba, samba and Caribbean salsa.

Ian Turner, the percussionist of the band, is something of a Cuban rhythm specialist and has contributed in Simcoe’s compositions by helping them move away from the flashy, loud sounds of a brass driven band.

Instead, Meridional’s instrumentation settles into the smooth sounds found in a 1955 country club house that still gets you wanting to dance; a sophisticated party.

Simcoe has been on the island for 20 years and is the owner of Village Music at Lynwood Center. Although this is the first Folklife show for Grupo Meridional, they just recorded their first CD and they’ve done local shows on and around the island for about two years.

“It’s now time for us to make the big jump over the water,” Simcoe said.


Grupo Meridional plays at 6:30 p.m., Friday at Fisher Green Stage.



Ben Doerr - vocals, guitar

Lydia Ramsey - mandolin, trumpet

Mike Sievers - accordion, piano

Alex Malloy - ukulele, autoharp

with Kale Lotton on bass and Jonny Gundersen on drums

French-folk instrumentation, neo-folk, nostalgia

Good for dancing? A sway-in-place type of jib.


St. Paul de Vence was forged out of personal history turned storytelling songwriting turned just plain magical. Bandleader Ben Doerr started the band from the raw idea to turn his grandfather’s stories of growing up in Nice, France during the World War II occupation into songs.

“When he asked me if I could write the stories, I sat down with him and interviewed him using a recorder,” explained Doerr.

“I said, ‘OK, start with your parents. Start with your birth.’”

Starting from the beginning, his grandfather opened up about a time that he never even talked about with Doerr’s grandmother or mother.

His grandfather joined the Free French Forces in 1944 and fought to liberate villages with them through to the end of the war.

And when the two visited France in the fall of 2011, they dropped in on a town named St. Paul de Vence. It was the first village his grandfather was stationed as part of the Free French Forces.

There, in this quaint, cobblestone village he showed Doerr the steps he slept on, and they revisited the memories together.

So at his grandfather’s request he started writing – not a book, but songs. Songs like “Pink Wine” and “Saints” came out of him. It wasn’t long before friends came together and St. Paul de Vence became a tangible thing.

“It was a real grassroots startup,” said Doerr. “With open mic sessions and people asking if we had an album they could get. We really just had to record something.”

Their self-titled album came out last year and has made a significant dent in the KEXP radio line-ups. This is their first year at Northwest’s staple Folklife Festival.

Born in New Orleans and raised in St. Louis, Doerr has been a transplant to Bainbridge for three-and-a-half years now.


1:50 p.m., Saturday at Fountain Lawn Stage for the Team up for Nonprofits.



Johnny - vocals, guitar & ukelele

with a collection of good friends to help

Children’s folk, for-family.

Good for dancing? Jumping up and down, swaying, skipping, clapping.


Bregar never envisioned himself as a children’s, for-family musician. But after having kids of his own and finding that there just wasn’t enough for them to listen to, he felt he had to do it himself. With his own equipment, he recorded his own music for his first son, Tobias.

It started with just a few songs. Then friends came over, heard the music and wanted it for their children. He did a few things just for them.

But it just kept going. Bregar now has three albums out, a strong following and is played regularly on XM Radio.

Bregar wanted to make music accessible to his two sons without making them listen to songs scoped only to parenting.

“The key is to not be preachy, not to tell kids what to do and don’t do,” explained Bregar. “Telling them what to do is not fun.”

Folklife’s Kindiependent Show!, that will be featuring Bregar, is a group of bands with a mutual respect for non-preachy children’s music. It’s regular music but with a children’s flavor.

Bregar’s music is rootsy, bluesy,  and bluegrassy but steers away from forcefully educating and focuses on engaging children with themes as simple as taking a walk, but thoughtful enough to get them asking questions.

“I love being in front of a group of 12 4-year-olds and seeing them dancing and participating,” Bregar said.

“When I can see people singing along, that’s just amazing to me and gratifying. That, ‘hey, I’m doing the right thing.’”

This is Bregar’s third time at Folklife’s Kindiependent stage.

He moved to the island two-and-a-half years ago from Ballard and was a Microsoft program manager up until three months ago when he pulled the plug on corporate life and decided to make children’s music his full-time job. Along with recording in his home studio, he has a full load teaching kids guitar and piano lessons. His two sons, Toby 9 and Jameson 6, are also shaping up to be quite the musicians.


Johnny Bregar plays at 1:15 p.m., Monday at the Fountain Lawn Stage for the Kindiependent Show!



Fingerpicking Guitar workshop

Sit in for a demonstration style workshop


Peter Spencer’s fingerpicking performances have, for the most part, always been limited to intimate shows and jam sessions. But the opportunity to teach brought Spencer to accept an invitation to host a workshop at this year’s Folklife.

The festival is in many ways the very opposite of intimate. There’s not going to be a quiet spot in the whole Seattle Center this weekend.

But Spencer’s workshop will give its attendees the little dose of intimacy and calm that the rest of the festival may lack.

This is Spencer’s first workshop that he will be leading at Folklife. As a musician and teacher at Dusty Strings in Seattle, Spencer’s specialty is fingerpicking guitar. And the workshop will offer the opportunity to sit in on a quieter, pseudo-performance where Spencer will explain his technique while demonstrating.

The workshop is open to all levels and types of musicians.

Spencer moved to Bainbridge from New Jersey in 2004. A former music critic for the Star-Ledger, he has his master’s degree in music composition and is currently working on a book about songwriting.

He didn’t know too much about the island before moving here, but, like a lot of artists on the island, he fell into the multi-generational, multi-stylistic music scene that has made it hard to leave.


Peter Spencer’s workshop will be at 2 p.m., Sunday at the Experience Music Project’s Learning Lab.



Adam Foley - guitar, vocals

Taylor Jensen - cello

Ethan Perry - backing guitar

Rivers Moore - bass

Karl Ronneburg - drums

bluegrass, Americana, neo-folk

Good for dancing? Close-your-eyes introspection.


Leo West is not quite new to Folklife. Last year the band showed up to the stage for the Experience Music Project Soundoff! battle of the bands.

This group of young but talented musicians won second place in front of a panel of judges. And as second-place winners, they have been invited back to the stage with their own Folklife time slot.

Just back from Bear Creek Studio working on their first album, the New Age folk band is made up of a raw strings and acoustic sound. And this, overlaid with Adam Foley’s back-of-the-throat twang, brings to mind a barnyard night.

Foley grew up on Bainbridge Island and, with his bandmates of fellow islanders, they are working on an album that pulls on the strings of the spirit.


Leo West plays 12:45 p.m., Sunday at Xfinity Mural Amphitheater for Folk, Redifined


Mary Anne Moorman is Auntmama.

Storytelling: “Humor and Working Work Stories”


Auntmama has been going to Folklife Festival since the ’70s when she helped hang lights and paint children’s faces.

She arrived in Seattle more than 40 years ago as a reporter for Richmond, Virginia’s Roanoke Times and in search of a story about alternative lifestyles. She found plenty of that and stayed for good.

Of course, she took the normal route of normal jobs and played adult in the corporate world her fair share. But all the while she told stories. Today, she is part of Folklife as the president of the Seattle Storytellers Guild and Auntmama. She pulls from stories of Virginia’s Appalachians and weaves them together with the Pacific Northwestern conscience, of liberal, left corner. They’re personal narratives from the voice of Auntmama that go back to the time of the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and America’s founding social movements and plops down into today.

Auntmama makes a quilt out of the memoirs of the Boomers, the foundations of Generation X and the optimism of Millennials.

At Folklife, Auntmama will be hosting two events.

She will be introducing the New Voices, New Storytellers showcase with a story told in a voice she’s never used (not Auntmama) and hosting a workshop, Humor and Working Work Stories where she will help new storytellers turn their stories of daily work life into an art.

“I love my stories but not nearly as much as I love everybody else,” Auntmama explained as she detailed the humbling, healing and helping practice of storytelling.

Mary Anne Moorman has lived on Bainbridge for more than 20 years. She hosts a show on KBCS.FM (91.3) called Walkin’ the Floor at 8:30 a.m. every Sunday and 3:20 p.m. every Monday. She also hosts a monthly story corner at the Starbucks in Madison Park.


Auntmama will be at 1 p.m., Monday at the Olympic Room “Humor and Working Work Stories”

And 3:05 p.m., Monday at the Folklife Cafe, New Voices, New Storytellers

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