This article was written and submitted by Lou Dominguez
What’s a NERFA?
When I first moved to Vienna Virginia in 2010, I began reaching out to some of the DC acoustic music scene movers and shakers. This, of course, led me to SAW and I began attending some of the various workshops and concerts that the group offers. From time to time I would hear someone refer to a thing called NERFA (“Are you going to NERFA?” “Wasn’t she at NERFA last year?” “Didn’t they have a formal showcase at NERFA last year?”), and I thought to myself (probably what many of you may be thinking right now): “What in the world is a NERFA and what does it have to do with me?”
I for one am glad I asked the question and, after heading up to my first NERFA conference in November of 2010, I made the claim that I could not see a reason other than poor health why I would ever miss one of these gatherings going forward. I am now one of the SAW members who say “NERFA” (not to be confused with the knights who say ‘Ni’).
NERFA is an acronym for Northeast Regional Folk Alliance. NERFA is the northeast faction of the larger Folk Alliance International (FAI). Other factions include Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA), Folk Alliance Regional Midwest (FARM), Southwest Regional
Folk Alliance (SWERFA) and Folk Alliance Regional West (FAR). Each of these sub-groups of Folk Alliance International hold their own annual conference. But these other regions are not important for our purpose here today. Our purpose is to introduce you to NERFA.
The Northeast Regional Folk Alliance holds a 4-day music and fun-filled folk festival/convention/conference in November every year. This year will mark the 20th and will take place on November 13th – 16th.
NERFA guests include singers, players, performers, DJ’s, concert promoters (from large clubs to small house concerts) all the way to die-hard music fans who all converge on the Hudson Valley Resort Hotel in Kerhonkson New York in order to share music, information, laughs, and sleepless days and nights which seem to blend into one another.
The schedules, performers and workshops offered change every year but can be found on NERFA’s website at www.nerfa.org
The basic schedule, however, is usually the same. Folks arrive on Thursday afternoon and early Thursday evening. Old friends greet and new introductions are made as people informally break out into song and/or find their hotel rooms. Thursday night starts with the Suzie Wollenberg DJ Showcase, where a Northeast based folk DJ selects an artist to play in front of the other regional DJ’s in order to expose that audience to more folk radio opportunities. Thursday evening is also the start of the Guerilla Showcases (these are literally concerts in Hotel Rooms that usually take place after 11:30 pm and go on until 3 in the morning).
Friday and Saturday are always filled with nonstop activity including breakfast, workshops and seminars, a cocktail hour, an open mic, dinner, then the Formal Showcases, followed by the juried Quadcentric show cases (four showcases going on simultaneously in the hotel) and then followed finally by the late night guerilla showcases.
This year’s official showcase main stage lineup includes:
Burning Bridget Cleary
The Don Juans
Tim Grimm Band
Cassie and Maggie MacDonald
Guy Mendilow Ensemble
No Fuss and Feathers Road Show
Shtreiml & Ismail Fencioglu
If this sounds like a lot of things going on at once, it is! But in the end you decide where and when to spend your time. Some folks spend most of the weekend in the lobby jamming, while some hop from guerilla showcase room to guerilla showcase room and stay up singing until the dawn.
Want to learn more? I hope you do, because this will be my 5th year in a row, and I have SAW to thank for introducing me to the NERFA world. Now it is strange and difficult to imagine my life without NERFA!
Aka Brother Lou
SAW member since 2010