I’ve just purchased my four day pass for this year’s folk festival and so I thought I had better review my archives on last year’s events because the experience was a little different and very special in a number of ways. I just didn’t take the opportunity to sit and reflect on any of it. The program got shoveled into a pile with other papers and I just left the experience to marinate in my heart and my mind. Folk Festival is a special event for me.
For 2015, initially, I had hoped to travel the Trans Canada Highway for a long visit with Dad in Ontario, but as it turned out, after teaching a long contract up until the end of June, Max-man injured his ACL in one back leg and days later, I broke my foot. It was a calamity that sent me into a bit of an emotional tail spin because I was so looking forward to a big road trip. (I enjoy the experience of the Canadian landscape while cranking up CBC radio.)
Things weren’t going well. After two weeks of being confined to one level of the house, Max began to heal and later that first month, with follow-up Orthopedic care, we received the news that he did not require the prescribed surgery. That was awesome! As his mobility increased, I met Steve of Red Rover Pet Care and felt relieved that Steve was someone who would give Max the exercise he needed through my own convalescence and at the same time, be a happy and positive daily force in our lives.
The difficulties of Summer 2015, however, were not over!
Not much time had passed when my upstairs en suite plumbing led to more chaos and money that I had set aside for travel, ended up being poured into renovations. Crazy! I DO try to find the positive side of events and as it turned out, through the water issues, I met a truly amazing young man, Trevor…such a professional and efficient plumber, on the recommendation of friend, Dino. Trevor went well beyond the call of duty, given his fix-it knowledge and his kind heart. Since then, I have learned so many good pointers from Trevor, where general renovations and handling fix-it problems are concerned.
In the midst of all of this, my daughter said, “Mom, if you can’t go on your trip, why don’t you buy Folk Festival tickets?” I couldn’t imagine it! Okay…well, I was blessed with a walking cast, but I still couldn’t picture getting around the grounds! In the end, though, it all worked out. Every night, I was a little more than tired! I’m grateful to Erin who really did organize our food and snacks, very generously, so that I was basically just responsible to get myself together.
There were some real surprises at Folk Festival…and there always are! Let me see if I can pull up some photographs of my favourites.
We have our folk festival rituals, one of them is to pour over our programs and mark our priorities/mapping out preferences. I love this photograph of Cayley. It has that Folk Fest feel about it! Love the rubber boots! And yes, this was a year that we had to run for it, a couple of times (cover up) and this involved me pulling a plastic bag over my cast.
Musicians that I took in last year included (in no particular order because too much time has passed): The photographs are all mine…I did the best I could. It would be nice if you asked to use them before you use them.
Aqua Alta out of Halifax, NS
Alright, so anything labeled as a Dreamscape, is likely not really for me. A surreal sensibility in music, for me, is tolerable, but not a preferred experience. I’m posting here, a sampling that is more literal than most pieces. To be fair, one would have to say that the layers are very interesting. I like the percussive layer.
Bombino from Niger A huge ball of energy, life, light and carrying with him, a truly remarkable narrative, Bombino was one of the highlights for me. I guess, classed as World music, one could not help but get up to this stuff and dance. I remember feeling truly inspired by the guy. Much evidence throughout his commentary and his music that he is in the world to create goodness! Highly recommend! I remember feeling this same way the first time I heard K’Naan.
Sera Cahoone out of Seattle, Washington Sera has a big voice for a little girl. Her writing is good. When I heard her, I was thinking that these twangy ballads will take people time to latch on to. But, she’s a solid performer! A lady with a pile of love songs in her heart. A nice voice to have sitting on a workshop stage.
Jennifer Castle; Toronto, Ontario Jennifer spent a good while singing in a basement tavern in London, England and is said to have been influenced by British folk tradition in her songwriting. I guess I don’t know enough about that to really get it. I find her work a bit dissonant. (she describes her music as being unsettling)
I heard her sing this number and liked it a lot.
Kim Churchill; Australia Truth: this guy was just plain handsome…my daughters would roll their eyes at that initial remark, especially since today I turn 61. If I were you and you had a chance to see this guy perform, I would encourage it! I liked it a lot…and I’d never heard of Kim Churchill before in my life! If you don’t take a look at any of the videos I post here, look at this one. He shares some musicality, especially with the strong percussive underlying beat with Xavier Rudd. Kim Churchill probably hates that comparison being made…but, I felt it so I’m writing it.
EMBASSYLIGHTS; Calgary, AB/Iceland I love love loved these guys! I liked that they were such family-people! Demonstrating a versatile knowledge of instrumentation, I really thought EMBASSYLIGHTS was wonderful. Indie or magic-light music, this couldn’t keep you going all folk fest long, but a restful respite on an otherwise-busy workshop stage.
Father John Misty; New Orleans, LA Supposed BIG NAME and a must-see, I saw, but in the end, felt that Father John Misty was such a darned PERFORMER, that it was all SHOW and not enough about the authenticity of the music. Do you know what I mean? Contrary to the content of his biography and despite the interesting things he has done, I didn’t feel it in the gut!
Frazey Ford; Vancouver, BC I had been listening to Frazey Ford’s radio voice for some months before the Folk Festival. She was a must-see on my list. In the end, I don’t know if the sound techs had that stage worked out by the time she performed. I just felt that her big voice with amazing and surprising nuance was not coming through. She has such a quality of voice. I chalk my disappointment up to the venue (main stage) and not to her performance. I just really like her.
Jenn Grant; Halifax, NS Yes! Lots of mellow…chill…music. We noticed that also. That’s why, in the end, there are some people who really stand out! Strong writing and truly beautiful, warm music. Not to be poo pooed.
Robyn Hitchcock; England Here was a stand out for me! I really enjoyed Robyn…saw him on a workshop stage with Buffy Ste. Marie and then again on Main Stage. Really liked him. He had stories and a powerful connection with place. Labeled as a surrealist…his work is innovative and a little unexpected for its character. Confidence, not arrogance, came through in his performances. He felt seasoned. That’s important sometimes. This wasn’t for everyone. lol
Kids Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville; Montreal, QC Pure entertainment! Kid Koala just had us all in stitches, while also entertaining us with his amazing abilities! This was surprising and very very entertaining! Layers of sound, music and effects. Set way in the back of the early morning workshop group, his creativity and innovation came through! Smiles spread over the crowd!
Lake Street Dive; Boston, MA Such good music! These guys are professional! Listen to this woman’s pipes! Great stand up base!
Leftover Cuties; Los Angeles, CA This was the best workshop stage I attended…a great bunch of people who didn’t mind really jamming. Sometimes people don’t get that approach and don’t cross into other performer’s genres…this was a wonderful stage and the Leftover Cuties were great sports.
John Mann; Vancouver, BC I’m so grateful that I had opportunity to listen to John Mann perform even a few songs on a workshop stage. It was a privilege. All these months later, John has performed his farewell concert and of course, it saddens all of his fans.
Milk Carton Kids; Los Angeles, CA Pure musicality and entertainment. Wow! I really am glad that I had the chance to enjoy these two. They create fantastic harmonies with songs that are well-written! Their transitions and monologues were uber-entertaining!
Oh Susanna; Toronto, Ontario More the twang of a country singer here. Strong voice. Again, a very subdued feel to her performance.
Lynn Olagundoye; Calgary, AB Wow…jazzy…rich…warm. A very beautiful voice. It was surprising to me that this was a voice coming out of Calgary! This workshop stage was so diverse in its styles, there were some struggles where good jamming could happen. I enjoyed the individuals that came through, however.
Petunia and The Vipers; Vancouver, BC These guys also shared my favourite workshop stage. Much fun! Daughter, Cayley, appears in a music video produced by this group.
Buffy Sainte-Marie; Hawaii My sister-in-law, Karen, had joined us on the tarp for some music at the main stage on our final evening. It just happened to be that a friend of mine was leaving early and had been sitting the whole folk festival, on the golden tarp at the front of the main stage. She came to talk to me as I waited my turn for the biffy and offered us the tarp. So…off I went to see one of the most iconic female performers I know of, front stage! I had also caught her sharing a workshop stage, so this was extra special! What can I say? Grateful!
A footnote here, Buffy has the most amazing percussionist ever! I love the guy! If you ever have the chance to truly observe Michel Bruyere, take the opportunity! So beautiful!
Shakey Graves; Austin, TX One of my favourite performers was Shakey Graves! He was passionate about his music, an excellent guitar player and was full of energy throughout his performance! He was a great surprise.
Sarah Jane Scouten; Montreal, QC Very folky sounding. I’ve got to say, this year, the selection was built for a folk festival. I love well-written ballads performed sweetly. I would have enjoyed hearing more of Sarah.
JJ Shiplett; Calgary, AB JJ shows up on Calgary bills, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see him performing. I’m going to have to track him down. Honestly, I love the rich warm sound of his guitar!
I’m not even going to post a comment about Esperanza Spalding. I really didn’t understand her performance piece and regretted not moving from the stage. It was evening and about supper time, so I just stayed plunked!
The Stray Birds; Lancaster, PA It’s nice to hear from International musicians…to check out what’s happening beyond our borders. I enjoyed the clarity of their music and the versatility of their instrumentation. A very positive feeling to The Stray Birds.
The Strumbellas; Toronto, Ontario A terrific six member band coming out of Toronto, with strong connections in Northern Ontario. Their beats get people up dancing. A very nice energy.
Richard Thompson; England As I said before, it’s a great thing when these festivals integrate some seasoned song writers. Very upbeat and sensational in betweener stories. Lots of humour and great music.
Loudon Wainwright III; Westchester County, NY Another pleasure to watch, for his humour and his experience, Loudon Wainwright III! If you enter his name into Youtube, a hundred titles show up! Quite a song writer and it was really a treat to listen!
Hawksley Workman; Toronto, ON Hawksley was a power house. Lots of energy…he danced and sang across two stages. I really liked this guy. He put on a great show!
Adam Cohen Son of Leonard Cohen, I liked Adam’s work. If you’re thinking that you’re going to hear similarities in his vocals…you’re wrong. Quite a different experience. A fun time at Main Stage on this one.
Oh my, there were others…but, I’m leaving this now.
Yes, indeed! Dawning my air cast, I took in all of this fabulous music and while we were just saying over breakfast this morning, that it was a very chill line up last year, I’m looking at this list and remembering some phenomenal experiences! The thing about Folk Festival is that you are exposed to artists you might not have ever connected with who produce stuff that is MORE than appealing. It was a great folk festival…now that I’ve created this list, I’m going to go back and add some meat to the bones, so to speak.
(Okay….so that was quite an experience of music! 2231 words later!) I hope that my readers have enjoyed the odd bit. I’m not going to be waiting until a year later to document 2016 Folk Festival…so looking forward to it!