One of the first things you notice is the sound. Upon entering the Westin, a grand and spacious hotel in Kansas City, you hear mandolins, banjos, and fiddles echoing and bouncing off every corner of the lobby while musicians tune up and rehearse for their showcases. This is the welcoming call for Folk Alliance International.

The event has to be one of the more unique music festivals in the world. The conference takes diverse folk musicians from across the globe, and stuffs them in endless hallways full of hotel rooms acting as temporary stages and performance areas. The week-long festival rang loud and proud this week. If you looked through the crowd, you could see tiny musicians carrying large double basses down the stairs, guitarists bumping their colorful cases into each other, and nothing but a sea of hats (SO many hats) as musicians and attendees scuttled between the shows. In a heartbeat, you could go from seeing your favorite local harpist playing to a room full of radio station representatives to Woody Guthrie’s grandson live streaming a Radiohead cover. If you were lucky, you saw a Norwegian flutist just after a Swedish percussionist playing a luggage roller— and of course, there was always time for an impromptu jam. There’s really nothing else like Folk Alliance, and it helps expand music-lovers’ minds to brands of folk they didn’t even know existed.

I Heart Local Music headed to the festival this week, and you can see photos and videos of some of the performances below (Mudstomp’s showcase pampered us with the largest amount of Lawrence love, with performances from Jenna Rae, Tyler Gregory, and The Roseline):

Photos by Fally Afani and Leroy Pristach

@troutsteakrevival getting down in a hotel room.

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Traditional Norwegian song. #fai2017

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Hey @calvinarsenia, check out this West African harp (a kora) from Sousou and Maher (amazing Swedish Senegalese folk act). #fai2017

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The Might Handful covering Gorillaz. Last year we showed this gal covering Beck. #fai2017

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Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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