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Festival at Sandpoint wraps up this weekend

John McEuen, right, and Jimmie Fadden of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will perform Saturday at the Festival at Sandpoint.  (Associated Press / Associated Press)
John McEuen, right, and Jimmie Fadden of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will perform Saturday at the Festival at Sandpoint. (Associated Press / Associated Press)

MacMaster, Franti, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Spokane Symphony to conclude music fest

The region’s biggest musical party, the Festival at Sandpoint, continues this weekend with concerts that will transport you from Cape Breton to the Bay Area to the Appalachians to the steppes of Russia.

You can still buy tickets to most of these concerts – but not all of them.

Friday’s concert featuring Michael Franti & Spearhead, with a special dance configuration, sold every ticket before the festival even opened last week.

“People like to come and dance,” said festival director Dyno Wahl, in an understatement. The Franti concert moved 2,800 tickets.

Tickets are moving briskly for the other shows as well. Here’s the rundown:

Natalie MacMaster, today, 7:30 p.m. – This Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) fiddling virtuoso played the festival in 2005, and according to Wahl, fans “have begged for her to come back ever since.”

Her brilliant Celtic fiddling is the main attraction, but her show includes plenty of showmanship as well, including clog dancing, which she can do without missing a note. Her music has branched out as well, incorporating elements of bluegrass, jazz, Latin and country.

Expect a big contingent to arrive from the north: MacMaster is a Canadian superstar.

Another hot Canadian act, the Turtle Duhks, will open the show. The group includes members of The Duhks and Turtle Island (thus the name). Expect a spirited combination of Appalachian, Celtic, rock and funk.

This is the annual microbrew-tasting concert, which means that everyone 21 and over gets to sample microbrews before the concert (gates open at 6 p.m.). At least six different brews will be on hand. It’s free with your concert ticket.

Michael Franti & Spearhead, Friday, 7:30 p.m. (sold out) – Franti has been a staple of the Bay Area music scene for more than two decades – and his influence goes far beyond that. He has had a number of chart hits in the United Kingdom.

He’s also wildly popular on this side of the pond, as evidenced by the early sellout of this performance. Spearhead’s music has elements of political rap, soul, punk, reggae and funk.

It’s highly danceable, which is why the festival has created a special dance floor configuration for this concert. The area in front of the stage will be for dancers. Lots of fans will get an aerobic workout.

Franti’s appeal goes beyond the musical; he’s an outspoken advocate for peace and various social causes. He’s also known for being a yoga practitioner; in connection with the concert, a community yoga session will be held at Memorial Field on Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A $15 donation is requested, with proceeds going to Franti’s Stay Human project.

The opening act will be the Pimps of Joytime, a funk-rap-soul outfit with members hailing from New Orleans and Brooklyn.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with Crooked Still, Saturday, 6:30 p.m. – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band set the bluegrass blueprint for country crossover way back in the 1960s. They’ve been a longtime Sandpoint favorite, with festival appearances in 1999 and 2002.

They’re famous for their various “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” collaborations with country and folk-music heroes, but they have also had a number of pop and country hits, including “Mr. Bojangles” and “Long Hard Road.”

The opening act will be Crooked Still, familiar from previous performances around the region, who are, in their own words, “purveyors of the nu-folk, bluegrass movement.” Their instrumentation is distinctive: banjo, fiddle, cello and double bass.

This is the Super Country Saturday show, which means it starts an hour earlier and is super-sized.

Grand Finale Concert: Russian Masterpieces with the Spokane Symphony, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. – The festival’s traditional classical closer has a Russian theme this year, with highlights including Mussorgsky’s stirring “Pictures at an Exhibition” and the traditional fireworks finale, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

A pair of guest artists will provide some fireworks as well. Pianist Archie Chen, a former Spokane prodigy who now tours worldwide, will play Rachmaninoff’s famous “Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini.” Sandpoint soprano Hailey Fuqua will sing Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise.” Gary Sheldon will conduct.

This is the annual “Taste of the Stars” wine-tasting concert. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. for the complimentary wine-tasting for all ticketholders over 21. At least 36 different wines will be available.