Oliver and I Join the Flying Folk Army
by Paul Kotheimer 6:06pm Sun Feb 18 '01
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"And then it's time for the Flying Folk Army. The dancefloor is immediately crammed shoulder-to-shoulder when they break into "Roundup Ready," a hoe-down square-dance two-step about (you guessed it:) Monsanto. They do "Popular Wobbly" as a lightning-fast swing number with everybody joining in on the choruses. They've updated "Casey Jones" to be about sexual inequalities and the division of labor--She wants to be...an engineer. Get it?

Their banjo player has a great tenor voice. The fiddlers are right on the money. The guitar player with the eye-patch is no mean picker. They do multi-part vocal harmonies with tight stops and counterpoint. They include a short piece as a string trio, with the bassist rosining up the bow and filling in as a makeshift cellist. It's obvious that the Flying Folk Army loves playing together, and that their audience is crazy about them--not as superstars, either, but as a part of the fabric of the community.

This anti-superstar stance seems particularly important: Because, especially in such a big city, where addiction runs rampant and living on the margins is such tough work, live music and performance are sorely needed in order to form human interconnections and to act as an antidote to alienation. The passive consumerism of art (including that of live music) goes hand in hand with the cult of the superstar, and the two do nothing if not alienate people further and further: from their own creativity; from the conversations they could be having through an interactive performance; from their own desires, even. I'm convinced that the V-Day Cabaret and the Flying Folk Ensemble are entirely aware of this dynamic, and that they are acting to fill exactly this needed role--as engagers, initiators, and decisively NOT star performers--so as to be a kind of social glue for the eclectic activist population of East Van. "