Ben Folds to rock Summerfest with his piano

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:45 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Ben Folds is performing Wednesday at the intersection of Ninth Street and Broadway for the second concert in the Summerfest series.

If you go

There are no outside beverages allowed except for sealed water bottles. Bringing pets and lawn chairs is also prohibited. Concertgoers are welcome to bring small bags, but larger bags and backpacks will be checked prior to admittance. Personal cameras are allowed, but not professional audio, video or photographic equipment without advance permission. Small umbrellas are allowed, but larger, golf-style umbrellas are not.

Concessions will be available, including The Blue Note's full bars and the Jamaican Jerk Hut. Restaurants within the concert's gates will also be open for business. These include 9th Street Deli and Coffee Zone.

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COLUMBIA — Tonight you can expect to hear some block rockin’ piano near the intersection of Ninth Street and Broadway as Ben Folds takes the stage for the second show in this year’s Summerfest, a series of outdoor street performances hosted annually by The Blue Note.

Folds, the 42-year-old performer whose last local show was at Jesse Auditorium in late 2006, is well known for smashing his palms on his piano during live performances and throwing his stool at his instrument of choice.

He is definitely not your typical singer-songwriter.

Folds plays his music like a contact sport, even suffering a concussion after falling off the stage during a past show, and has an extensive catalog of songs filled with clever lyrics laced with traces of profanity.

“Ben Folds has always been on the list of someone to bring to Columbia and it has been several years since he’s been here. We think he is an ideal artist for an outdoor setting like Summerfest and jumped at the chance to bring him to town,” said Peter McDevitt, a talent buyer at The Blue Note. “The goal of Summerfest has always been to present the community with artists that we think would be welcomed by Columbia and Ben Folds is a perfect fit.”

Although Willie Nelson attracted around 2,000 attendants to this year's inaugural Summerfest show, McDevitt is only expecting 1,500-1,700 for tonight’s concert.

However, those numbers don’t reflect the total number of people who experience these performances. A unique aspect of the outdoor concert series is that people are able to enjoy the show without buying a ticket. One can hear the music to varying degrees throughout the downtown area – from patios or rooftops of local restaurants and businesses.

Gates open at 6 p.m., and Rachel Unthank & the Winterset, an award winning folk group from England and the opening act, is expected to play a 35-minute set beginning at 7 p.m. Ben Folds is expected to begin playing at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase at the event or in advance from The Blue Note's box office for $24.

The event will take place rain or shine, and recent weather forecasts suggest a chance of showers.

The Summerfest series will continue on June 27 with Roomful of Blues and the Bel Airs, a free show. McDevitt said The Wallflowers will continue the series with a free performance on July 29 and The Wailers will play the last announced Summerfest show on August 26.

For more information on these shows, go to

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