Live music returns to Boulevard Music this weekend, with traditional folk trio the Folk Collection bringing some folkie standards with them. The band told the CCN what we can expect…
When did you start playing and performing? When did the band form?
The Folk Collection consists of Tony Unger (a Baptist pastor in Bishop, CA), Mike Sirota (a cantorial soloist at several L.A.-area synagogues), and Ed Labowitz (a Century City entertainment lawyer). Tony and Ed first started singing together in 1964 in the folk song club at Hollywood High School, when folk music and hootenannies were the rage. We went our separate ways for several decades, reunited, and then started jamming folk tunes at his house or mine with our wives and friends – including Alex Hassilev of the Limeliters and the late Joe Frazier of The Chad Mitchell Trio. Ed met Mike in 2001, when Mike was singing for children, including Ed’s 12 year old son, at a local synagogue. Ed invited Mike and Tony (who lived in LA County then) to my house because heI thought our three voices would work well together, and we all sang the same great folk tunes of the 1960’s. By the end of 2001, we were a trio, performing around L.A. and over the years we have played hundreds of concerts, including at performing arts centers and community concerts throughout the West and large-scale retirement communities in Arizona. We played every year at Boulevard Music from 2006 until 2019 but, because of the pandemic, this is our first show there since fall 2019.
Describe your sound/style?
We call ourselves The Folk Collection because our songs and shows are a tribute to the great folk music, songwriters, groups, and solo performers of the 1960’s and early ‘70s “folk era.” We encourage our audiences to sing along with us. And, our shows are full of good clean humor and jokes (what would you expect from a pastor, a cantor, and a lawyer?), and a great deal of smiling in the audience and from the stage, where we are having a grand time.
What are your career highlights so far?
Singing “Greenback Dollar” with Bob Shane, who was the last surviving member of the original Kingston Trio, at his home in Phoenix a few years ago, before he passed away in 2020; and performing Limeliters’ songs on stage, like the great Irish tune, “Whiskey in the Jar,” when the founder of The Limeliters, Alex Hassilev, was in the audience. (I am happy to report that Mike Sirota and I attended Alex’s 90th birthday party a few months ago in L.A., which was a fabulous folkjam session, with many current and former folk artists singing for and with Alex).
What recorded music is available — particularly the most recent?
We are most proud of our most recent album, Live at The Coffee Gallery Backstage, recorded at another venue we play at regularly, but which is in Altadena – not as geographically desirable for the folks on L.A.’s westside.
Have you performed at Boulevard Music before?
[As well as the shows mentioned above], in the summer of 2010 we played in the summer concert series held at in the courtyard of the City Hall in Culver City. We’d love to be invited back!
What can we expect from the set this time?
Such tunes as “This Land is Your Land,” a medley of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Where Have all the Flowers Gone,” and “ If I Had a Hammer,” John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and, our favorite, a medley our former bass player, Bob Packham.
What else do you have coming up?
We are in discussions about being an opening act for one of the great folk groups of the folk era, which is still performing in its third major incarnation.
The Folk Collection performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Boulevard Music. Go to boulevardmusic.com for more information about the show and thefolkcollection.com for more information about the band.
Elsewhere this week
The Culver Hotel will be hosting the likes of Sylvia & the Rhythm Boys, and Scotty Bramer. Go to culverhotel.com for more info.
There’s a full program of music at the Cinema Bar this week, as usual. The Hot Club of Los Angeles plays every Monday, and Wednesdays are singer/songwriter and open mic night. Other artists performing this week include Christopher Hawley Rollers, the Everglades, Michael Messina, the Rambling Pony’s, and Patrolled By Radar. Go to thecinemabar.com for more info.