Don't let the title of this article mislead you. I am the least qualified person to evaluate and report on the talent that came to the Westin Hotel in Kansas City for the 2014 International Folk Alliance Conference. The problem is not my judgment of talent. On that end, I think I'm pretty good! The problem is that I was just so damn busy. The conference was a total trip, but that doesn't change the fact that there's still only 24 hours a day and that that's not an adequate amount of time to hear everything. Yes, Graham Nash was there. Yes, I had every intention of hearing his keynote speech. Was I able to catch him? No.
That said, it was impossible not to hear great musicians 24/7. Literally impossible. You could walk through the Westin lobby, ballroom, mezzanine and bar and there would be a 100% chance of hearing either an organized performance, impromptu jam session or an acoustic guitarist riffing around like a maniac by the elevator. And in the elevator—and in the men's room.
One thing's for sure:
51 weeks out of the year this would never fly. If this wasn't a contracted thing, literally every single registrant would be kicked out of the hotel for totally valid, repeated noise violations. To call this a liberating musical experience would be an understatement. If for some reason you were a grinch who hated folk music, this conference would be hell. At noon you would be suffering. At midnight you'd be suffering. At 5 am? You better believe you'd be suffering. For people like me though, this was heaven. Albeit a very busy version of it.
But when I wasn't busy I heard some great music by some great artists. Below are just some of them. I recommend you check them out.
The Appleseed Collective
Star and Micey
The Midnight Roses
And, of course, Gangstagrass—the reason I was even there.