Folk festival brings variety of artists to Kent

Erica Crist

The Holmes Brothers (above) and John Gorka (right) will perform at the annual Kent State Folk Festival.

Credit: Ben Breier


John Gorka

Playing with David Francey

What? All ages concert

Where? The Kent Stage

When? 8 p.m. Friday

How much? Reserved tickets can be purchased for $20 at, The Kent Stage, Woodsy’s Music and Spin More Records in Kent and Little Mountain Music in Middlefield



The Holmes Brothers

Playing with Howard Street Blues Band

What? All ages concert

Where? The Kent Stage

When? 8 p.m. Saturday

How much? Reserved tickets can be purchased for $20 at, The Kent Stage, Woodsy’s Music and Spin More Records in Kent and Little Mountain Music in Middlefield

The 39th annual Kent State Folk Festival kicks off its marathon of concerts this weekend with a little bit of guitar playing, lyrical storytelling, three-part harmonizing, blues wailing and a whole lot of folk.

Presented by WKSU-FM, the Kent State Folk Festival will include the most musical offerings in its history from Nov. 11 to 19.

In addition to the main concerts at The Kent Stage, the Kent State Folk Festival also includes free folk music workshops and Folk Alley ‘Round Town, which offers free concerts of regional folk performers at more than 20 Kent clubs and coffeehouses.

The folk festivities start tomorrow at 8 p.m. with a concert at The Kent Stage featuring John Gorka and opener David Francey.

Saturday night at 8 p.m. The Kent Stage will have The Holmes Brothers in concert, with the Howard Street Blues Band opening.

“I love festivals because (they’re) more than one day and one place,” said Sherman Holmes, singer and bass player for The Holmes Brothers. “Festivals bring the whole community together – even the children. All ages are welcome because it offers so much to everyone.”

College students are a vital part of Kent’s community, and the folk festival is a perfect opportunity to support the city and its events.

“College students should use this as an opportunity to expose themselves to different types of music and musical personalities,” Sherman said. “College is a time of enlightenment.”

The Holmes Brothers and the Howard Street Blues Band seek to enlighten audiences with three-part harmonizing and blues wailing.

The Holmes Brothers (Sherman, guitarist/keyboar-dist Wendell Holmes and drummer Popsy Dixon) first started performing together in 1979, although brothers Sherman and Wendell, who were born and raised in Christchurch, Va., have been playing music together their whole life.

“Having my brother around is one of my favorite things,” Sherman said. “We’ve been to over 50 countries and all 50 states together. We’re family and we enjoy being together on and off stage.”

In concert, The Holmes Brothers combine the soul of gospel music and the heartache of the blues by using three-part harmonies. Wendell’s raspy voice, Popsy’s falsetto and Sherman’s baritone create a multi-layered sound.

“The most unique thing about our sound is our singing and harmonizing,” Sherman said. “We are able to cover a broad spectrum of American roots music.”

Howard Sonny Robertson, the leader of the Howard Street Blues Band, is a blues legend who was born in St. Louis. While working at the Fillmore East and West playing rhythm guitar, Robertson joined Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and many others on stage.

Robertson currently resides in Akron, where he formed the Howard Street Blues Band, which consists of drummer Dwayne Jackson, bassist Billy Hill, guitarist Mike O’Hara, harp player Jimmi Korminick and keyboardist Phil White.

John Gorka and David Francey are known for their professional guitar playing and lyrical storytelling.

Gorka was born and raised in New Jersey, and he got his first guitar as a Christmas present at age 10.

After winning the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk Competition in 1984, Gorka began recording the first of his next eight albums with Red House Records. His music has been described as “acoustic pop, but his favorite themes are familiar to any placard-waving folkie: freedom, faith, the environment and social justice” on

Francey was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, and moved to Toronto with his family when he was 12.

In concert, Francey establishes a personal rapport with his audience. His openhearted-singing style has earned him a loyal following. He is a three-time Juno (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) nominee and two-time winner. He has been described as “one of Canada’s most revered folk poets and singers. His songs are small and beautifully crafted pieces of work” by The Toronto Star.

For more information on the Kent State Folk Festival, visit

Contact ALL correspondent Erica Crist at [email protected].