The Moab Folk Festival, now in its 12th year, will be hosting its first annual benefit concert featuring nationally acclaimed “Zen Cowboy” Chuck Pyle, at Star Hall on Friday, May 30 at 8 p.m.
The Moab Folk Festival has been providing a venue for live folk music since 2003. Festival director and founder Melissa Schmaedick, grew up attending music festivals and wanted to create a space for “the magic and sense of community,” that she felt at those events.
“Music has always been such an important part of my life,” Schmaedick said. “It’s an avenue for expressing how we all feel. To bring people together to share that experience has always been my goal.”
Since its inception, the Festival has consistently brought in a high level of musicianship. Featured artists over the years have included Bruce Cockburn, Peter Rowan, Suzy Boggus, Patty Larkin, Cheryl Wheeler, Tim O’Brien, and Michael Martin Murphy, among others. This year features folk-legend Richard Thompson and returning People’s Choice artists John Fullbright and Ellis. Most of the music during the Festival is performed outside on the grass, in the heart of downtown Moab. The usually mild, sunny days of early November make for an excellent time to enjoy live music in the red rock canyon country.
The Festival is well attended by the Moab community and it also draws many folks from out of town. The event sold out in 2013, but ticket sales only cover 50 percent of the costs required to produce the event.
“We are a nonprofit in the true sense of the word,” Schmaedick says.
The Festival has only one part-time employee on staff, and the rest of the help, including Schmaedick’s tireless efforts, are all volunteer. Last year, a series of setbacks including a last-minute artist cancellation, turned out to be very costly, and Schmaedick realized that they needed a rainy day fund to weather unforeseen circumstances.
The idea for a benefit concert in May came from a surprising source.
“Out of the blue, we got a call from Marley’s Ghost, who played at the festival last year,” Schmaedick said. “They had so much fun playing here, that they wanted to come play again and do it as a benefit.” Dan Wheetman, front vocal man for the band says that, for Marley’s Ghost, the Moab Folk Festival is in the top three nationwide for overall vibe and audience support. “It’s one of those crowds that makes you feel like you’ve been invited into their living room,” he said. “You can just be yourself and have a good time with everyone.”
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Schmaedick attributes Marley’s Ghost’s generous offer it to the magic and strong sense of community that the Festival has generated.
Unfortunately, an unexpected medical issue will prevent the group from performing the benefit concert that they helped spur into existence. Nationally acclaimed singer songwriter Chuck Pyle has graciously agreed to perform in their absence.
“This is another example of the sense of community and supportive network that the Festival and the Moab community have created,” explained Schmaedick. “When I put out the call to past performers that we were having a benefit concert and that Marley’s Ghost unexpectedly had to cancel, the offers to help find a solution flooded in.”
As luck would have it, Chuck Pyle was available and happily offered to take the stage for the first annual Moab Folk Festival Benefit Concert at Star Hall on Friday, May 30.
Chuck Pyle has won high praise from both fans and peers alike. When reviewers first gave him the “Zen Cowboy” moniker, he decided to, as he says, “always ride the horse in the direction it’s going,” and took the nickname to heart, shaving his head and blending his upbeat perspective with old-fashioned horse sense. He mixes infectiously hummable melodies with straight-from-the-saddle poetry, quoting bumper stickers, proverbs, world leaders, and old cowboys.
An accomplished songwriter, Chuck’s songs have been recorded by John Denver, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Suzy Bogguss. Country fans know him best for writing, “Cadillac Cowboy”, recorded by the late Chris LeDoux, and “Jaded Lover”, recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker.
While fans love his recordings, they adore Chuck’s live performance. A nimble guitarist, critics say his sense of rhythm is more like a fine classical, or jazz, soloist, his songwriting musically sophisticated yet full of uncluttered space. The Chuck Pyle Finger-Style approach to guitar has distinguished him as a true original, earning him invitations to teach across the country. His music has also made him a favorite of Bill & Melinda Gates who have had him play at their home in Seattle.
His 11th CD, “The Spaces In Between,” features Chuck’s finger-style guitar out front of a crackerjack rhythm section. The embellishments are elegant, with everything from fiddle to uilleann pipes, grand piano to ukulele; each song’s a hummable melody guaranteed to make you tap your inner feet. The songs are classic Chuck Pyle truth-telling; one man’s outlook seen from a life-in-motion as he continues to gather traction and gravity.Tickets for the Moab Folk Festival Benefit Concert are on sale now at Back of Beyond Bookstore, 83 N. Main St, and at Canyonlands Copy Center, 375 S. Main St. Tickets are $18 in advance, and $20 at door on the day of the show.
“More than anything,” Schmaedick said, “I hope we can fill Star Hall and continue the magic that has propelled the Festival and the community forward for the past twelve years.”
For more information go the Moab Folk Festival website at www.moabfolkfestival.com or go to their Facebook page.
“Zen Cowboy” Chuck Pyle to play Star Hall Friday
“When I put out the call to past performers that we were having a benefit concert and that Marley’s Ghost unexpectedly had to cancel, the offers to help find a solution flooded in.”
Who: Chuck Pyle
What: Moab Folk Festival benefit concert
When: Friday, May 30, 8 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
Cost: $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Tickets are available at Back of Beyond Books and the Canyonlands Copy Center.