Todd Snider's What the Folk Festival at the Levitt Shell this weekend might seem like something new, but if you were around for Snider's Memphis days, the name might sound familiar.
"I think we did six or seven of them," Snider says, explaining that it's really the return of an annual local event he started in the early '90s.
"The first one was at the East End, and it was me, Rivers Rutherford, Lance Strode, and Ross Rice. I think we made like 90 bucks for the Food Bank. But we felt like we did something and we had a good time doing it, so we just kept at it," Snider says. "And then we did another couple, and then I made an album, and all of a sudden we started getting ... I think Jerry Jeff [Walker] played one and Steve Earle. They got pretty cool. But then I just got on the road so much."
With Snider lately making the Levitt Shell an annual summer tour stop, he decided to try to bring the old event back as a shell fund-raiser.
"We were going to do the shell again this year, and I went to them and said, 'Hey, is it okay if I get the openers and bring some of my friends?'" Snider says. "We decided to just call it the What the Folk Festival again. It would be fun to get that cranked up again and make it a yearly event, as long as people are wanting to go."
Joining Snider this year are old Memphis bandmate and current Nashville singer-songwriter Will Kimbrough, ace Austin-based songwriter Hayes Carll, and the underrated Nashville songwriter and satellite radio host Elizabeth Cook.
The indie-not-alt country Cook splits the difference, stylistically, between folk-rock icon Lucinda Williams and mainstream stalwart Miranda Lambert. Her last full-length album, 2010's Welder, was one of that year's very best, featuring the devastating autobiographical showcases "Mama's Funeral" and "Heroin Addict Sister" amid more playful material.
Cook also partners with Snider in a sideline rock band called Elmo Buzz & the Eastside Bulldogs, which Snider says specializes in "Farfisa rock." ("We play like 'Woolly Bully,' 'Hanky Panky,' 'Tutti Frutti.' Any four-syllable shit.")
As for Snider, he'll bring his full touring band to town, featuring percussionist Paul Griffith, who puts such a sharp stamp on Snider's latest album, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables.
Todd Snider's What the Folk Festival
With Elizabeth Cook, Hayes Carll, and Will Kimbrough
Saturday, June 16th • 5 to 11 p.m.