Columbia, Missouri's True/False Film Fest Part 2: Music and More

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Part 1 of our coverage of this year's True/False Film Fest (T/F) focused on telling you about the documentary films that screened during the event; here in Part 2 we look at some of the other fun things that occurred during T/F including parties and opportunities to hear great music.

The True/False Film Fest is one of the country's premier documentary film festivals that takes place in Columbia, Missouri and in 2024 it happened Feb. 29 - March 3. A big part of the fun is the music that's provided by "buskers" who perform before and between film screenings as well as at parties and late night showcases at some of Columbia's favorite live music venues. Always an eclectic bunch, this year's performers were well-chosen and some shows we're absolutely stunning, like the show put on by Chicago's Ben Lamar Gay. Gay is a cornetist but it is a disservice to think of him as only a cornet player. Performing instrumental music, Gay played the cornet over programmed accompaniment and amazingly, an electric diddly bow, the one-stringed instrument that is normally only played by those performing old time blues. Playing it like a slide guitar Gay coaxed incredible sounds out of the instrument that added to his ethereal take on jazz. As if that wasn't enough, Gay also played another oddball instrument, the conch shell. Conch shell players are normally one-trick ponies that blow into the shell to create a cool honk that fits nicely with tropical music. Gay on the other hand actually played the conch, like a reed instrument, creating a lively and unique melody as he soloed.

Ben Lamar Gay plays the diddly bow

Another busker that wowed his audience was Richard Edge, a 12-string guitarist playing instrumental cuts whose style often reminded of the late great John Martyn. One of Edge's tunes was called "Janice" after the character from the television show "The Sopranos." Played by Aida Turturro on the hit show, Janice is a complex character and indeed Edge's composition was complex too and would be difficult to replicate for a lesser-talented guitarist.

Richard Edge plays 12-string guitar

Also very impressive, BSA Gold played several shows around town during the festival including a performance before the screening of "Alien Island." Fronted by flautist Baredu Ahmed, BSA Gold plays jazzy instrumentals (with some understated vocals from Ahmed) in trio form utilizing drums, keyboards and sax. It's the kind of music that often has an eerie edge and that's easy to get drawn into and mesmerized by.

Baredu Ahmed of BSA Gold

Other performers turning in stellar performances included J2M, Thao (of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down), regional favorites the St. Louis-based Tristano, Balkan funksters Gora Gora Orkestar, hip-hop duo They Hate Change, R&B crooner Tre. Charles, Randall & Rehm from the Hooten Hallers and dozens of others. Late night music showcases took place every evening at one venue or the other including Eastside Tavern, Rose Music Hall, Cafe Berlin, and in one special early show, at Hitt Records which was also the only place where fans could buy releases from most of the buskers.

Joey Ferber of J2M on stage at Eastside Tavern

St. Louis trio Tristano

Adding to the festival's fun were a host of parties including the opening night Jubilee where attendees, many in costume and wearing masks, were treated to complimentary appetizers, beer and wine, and the much-beloved Reality Bites event that had tons of food and drink for the taking, all of it made in Columbia and the surrounding area.

Goodies galore at Reality Bites

Wine from Blufftop at Rocheport sampling at The Jubilee

The March March, taking place on March 1, was a joyous parade through the downtown area featuring bands, dancers and lots of folks in quirky costumes.

Masks are worn by many at The Jubilee

One band, Columbia's own Mobile Funk Unit, pleased fans by continuing to play after the parade ended, giving True/False fans a great send-off to next year's fun.

Columbia's Mobile Funk Unit entertains a big crowd

Speaking of which, tickets and passes tend to sell out so those interested in attending in 2025 should monitor the event's website for ticket on sale dates here.

Columbia is a very vibrant city where there's always something going on; find information on other events and activities here.

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