Local fans of fiddles, festivals and folk music are faced with a tough decision on Saturday. Two festivals, both with folk and bluegrass in their names, are taking place within 45 miles of each other: Here in D.C., the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival returns for a seventh year; in Baltimore, the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival is back for its fourth edition. Which one should you attend? Let us help you decide.
Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival
Kingman Island, 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE; Sat., noon-8 p.m., $25.
Headliners: Spirit Family Reunion, the Brooklyn-based string band that plays old-timey music in a new fashion, with no ties to any particular regional tradition — making it a perfect mascot for the festival’s full spectrum of folk music.
Under-the-radar acts: Lowland Hum, a North Carolina-based husband-and-wife duo with intimate, sparse folk songs; Bumper Jacksons, a local band whose brand of horn-enhanced string music would sound at home on the streets of New Orleans.
Local bites and brews: Atlas Brew Works will be slinging drinks alongside craft behemoth Sierra Nevada. Food trucks on-site will include The Big Cheese, Feelin’ Crabby, BBQ Bus, Popped! Republic, DC Empanadas and Goodies Frozen Custard.
Setting: Kingman Island, a scenic recreational park on the Anacostia River near RFK Stadium.
No. of stages: Six, with big acts on the aptly named Bluegrass and Americana stages.
Twang for your buck: Music runs from noon to 8 p.m. with more than 40 acts slated to perform (though you’d need to clone yourself to catch every set).
What else can you do? Take a free motorboat tour of the Anacostia; purchase wares from local artisans, bring an instrument and pick your way through the Jam Tent.
Can you get there on the D.C. Streetcar? Yes! The new streetcar line ends at the Oklahoma/Benning Road stop, which is a short walk from the festival’s gates, located through the RFK parking lot.
Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival
Druid Hill Park, 3100 Swann Drive, Baltimore; Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m., $57.
Headliners: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. The mandolin player has spent a career keeping country bluegrass alive, performing such songs as “Highway 40 Blues,” “Uncle Pen” and Nashville hit “Honey (Open That Door).”
Under-the-radar acts: Cabinet, a Pennsylvania bluegrass band that played Kingman Island last year and injects a jam-band mentality into a classic sound; Cris Jacobs, a Baltimore native who will trade his rock and soul band for some of the city’s best pickers.
Local bites and brews: Baltimore’s Union Craft Beer created Country Boy Wit, a Belgium-style witbier with orange and lemon peel, just for the festival. Baltimore’s The Local Oyster, Mother’s Grille and Otterbein’s Bakery will serve up eats.
Setting: Druid Hill Park, a bucolic 745-acre park in Northwest Baltimore that’s home to the Maryland Zoo.
No. of stages: Two, with acts alternating between them.
Twang for your buck: Only nine acts will take the stages throughout the 12-hour festival, but it is feasible to catch every one.
What else can you do? Keep the folk fun going at the 8×10 (10 E. Cross Street, Baltimore; Sat., 8 p.m., $18) with an after-show featuring Grand Ole’ Ditch and Love Canon.
Can you get there on the D.C. Streetcar? No, but you could theoretically take the streetcar to Union Station, then take the MARC train or Amtrak to Baltimore, if you’re so inclined.
More things to do in the D.C. area: