Tag Archives: folkfest

Edmonton Folkfest 2013

I’m a relative newcomer to Edmonton Folkfest, having only been to four of them (I first moved to Edmonton on the Monday morning after Folkfest 2008.)

Every year the folkfest people tinker with some aspects of the festival to make the well-run thoughtful weekend even better for more people.  Some of those little changes are easy to be grateful for right away – for example, the closing of Stage 4 in order to give good sound quality on Stages 3 and 5, and leaving the Stage 4 area as a place to enjoy shade and relative quiet in a loud busy weekend, and moving the lower tarp lottery to behind the Muttart Conservatory where there is also grass, shade, and a little space to spread out and make a bit of noise early in the morning.

But sometimes the little changes are harder to get used to.  This year, I was disappointed in the new location for the bike lockup.

I love the Folkfest arrangements for a lighted supervised bike parking area with claim checks.  Since I worked out a cycling route to get from my home in Ritchie to the Folkfest site without challenging hills or busy streets, I’ve almost always gone to Folkfest by bike.  It has always seemed easier to me than learning where to park nearby and carrying my chair and other gear to and from the parking, or travelling by bus also with a significant amount of walking-uphill-with-chair.    But with the bike lockup at the Bennett Centre, just outside the main entrance, it was never quite big enough and getting out of there in the dark through the congestion of the taxi stand was always challenging.  So this year the bike lockup was set up on top of a hill behind the Muttart Conservatory – near the top of the Stage 6 viewing area, but of course there are some fences in between.  It’s a great setup.  Except that with my limited energy, I have to walk the bike up the final hill and rest before unpacking my gear, and then I have to walk most of a kilometer to the gate (1.2 km total from the bike corral to Stage 6) carrying my stuff, and at the end of the night there’s an uphill walk again.  And I can’t do it.  Not and have fun all day and have energy to dance.   I still love the idea of biking to Folkfest, but on Saturday and Sunday I took taxis.

Once I got in the gate, everything was great.  Interesting tasty food, good friends, musicians both familiar to me and unfamiliar, and good weather as long as I stayed.  (I didn’t stay long enough on Sunday night to encounter the thunderstorm.)   My favourite new musical discoveries of the weekend were Good for Grapes, from Surrey BC, and The Head and The Heart, from Seattle.  I also loved dancing to Delhi2Dublin (whom I’ve heard at previous Edmonton Folkfests and at Blue Skies in rural Ontario) and I loved being swept into memories by Bruce Cockburn’s voice in his mainstage show.

Photos: Sean MacKeighan of Good for Grapes, dancer and singer of Niyaz, box office with their job done.

good for grapes 6 dervish 2 box office done

More photos:  Makana, Langhorne Slim

makana langhorne slim 3

Folkfest 2012

This year I don’t really know why, but I mostly didn’t go listen to musicians from cultures other than North American ones. Maybe another year with more energy I’ll seek more of them out again.

Also, I noticed that when I drifted in to a session late and missed the introductions, I didn’t end up that engaged. It had more to do with that than whether I was sitting close. I will try to remember that, and try leaving early instead.

So here’s a list of who I saw, I think, edited once to add some I forgot.

Arlo Guthrie – Guthrie Family Reunion – This was fun, because there seemed to be a whole bunch of relatives including small children who were comfortable singing into a microphone. The best parts were listening (and seeing from up close) to a very familiar voice doing City of New Orleans, and getting to sing along to This Land is Your Land, with no question except that it would be with the words I learned as a child (and was shocked to learn later in life that they weren’t original).
Emmylou Harris – I didn’t stay very long because I don’t really like her music and I wasn’t enjoying myself enough to expend spoons.
La Bottine Souriante – This was a fun mid-afternoon mainstage performance of traditional-style Quebecois music, with fiddle, guitar, a brass section, etc and a joyful wiry-middle-aged-looking stepdancer/ percussive dancer named Sandy Silva.
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder – a bluegrass band. I don’t like bluegrass. I guess they were good.
Mary Chapin Carpenter – She did not do Passionate Kisses in this concert or in the session I went to, but I enjoyed her performance
James Vincent McMorrow – Oddly awkward Irish singer with a guitar.
Jim Cuddy Band – singer from Blue Rodeo. I saw part of the set from our farther-back tarp and don’t remember much
Mavis Staples – more of a gospel set than I’d expected from the writeup. She got Bonnie Raitt to come out for the singalong Will the Circle Be Unbroken, which was fun.
Bonnie Raitt – I liked her performance a lot more than I expected to.
Wool on Wolves – This is a local band billed as folk-rock but they use a lot of the chords and rhythms that I call “my kind of music”. I will definitely watch for future local gigs.
The Dunwells – a new rock band from Leeds who are GREAT.
Johnny Clegg Band – For this concert and the next one, I mostly sat off to the side in the sliver of shade at Stage 3, except when I needed to dance. He told stories of his life and musical collaborations through the changing times in South Africa.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – They did “Homeless” from the Graceland album.
Dry Bones – By the time I went to their concert I’d seen them in a couple of sessions and played their album at home and while cycling to and from the festival site. So it was no surprise that I had a great time. Besides Nathan Rogers (who should probably get a whole post to himself, I have such a crush) his bandmates were also good especially Leonard Podolak who was funny.
TNile – She’s a singer-songwriter from Gabriola Island. I watched the end of her concert while standing up in the shade at the back of stage 7. That is where I learned that I can dance and knit at the same time and enjoy both, because I couldn’t help dancing.

Sessions with the following combinations of musicians
Dry Bones, Lindi Ortega, The Barr Brothers, David Wax Museum – David Wax is a weird twitchy dude. Lindi Ortega (hmm, I thought I’d seen her in three sessions but this list is only two) did “Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” twice, which was too many, but was otherwise interesting to listen to and look at.
Rose Cousins, Jim Lauderdale, Pokey LaFarge, New Country Rehab – I liked Rose Cousins quite a bit, but was kind of bored with Pokey LaFarge and New Country Rehab.
Valdy, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lori McKenna, Suzie Vinnick & Rick Fines – This was a neat session. I can’t remember specifics though.
Dry Bones, The Dunwells, Lindi Ortega – This morning session was called “Question Box”, and it started with Nathan Rogers (of whom, yeah) going into the audience with a box with pen and pad of notepaper attached, for people to write questions for the musicians. I took the box from him to write a question but couldn’t come up with a very amusing one; still, though, it was fun to have it read out and answered. This was my first glimpse of The Dunwells. Nobody else was dancing at that stage and I wasn’t quite sure where to dance on our side of the stage, so that was the only time during the weekend that I wanted to dance and didn’t.
Geoff Berner, Wool on Wolves, Scott Cook, Kim Beggs & T. Nile – This was another of the sessions that I came late to so wasn’t very engaged, and I didn’t get to hear much of Wool on Wolves. I liked the others, but had trouble figuring out who was who. Kim Beggs is from the Yukon.

Unlike last year, I stuck around to the very end of the finale, where the volunteers go on stage and everyone sings Four Strong Winds. Last year it was neat to hear the song as I re-packed my bicycle and headed out through the neighbourhood to the path home, but this year I wasn’t feeling impatient so it was neat to stay on the tarp singing with some of our crowd.

Folkfest 2011

I didn’t go to everything. Well, nobody can, because for half the time there are six stages going on at once. But also, I chose to pace myself by leaving early a few nights, arriving late one day, and skipping a couple of sessions to have down time.

For lots of the side-stage time slots, they schedule sessions, three or four acts together with some theme, and they take turns or jam together playing each other’s songs or covers or old standards. This is sometimes really fun to listen to and watch, and it looks like it’s fun for the musicians too. When I had a choice between a session like this and a concert, I almost always picked a session.

My notes are a jumble of whether they were good, whether I enjoyed them, whether they are my kind of music, and stuff I barely remember. I think that there are lots of musicians who do great live shows, but whose recordings I’m not likely to enjoy as much; I’m not entirely resolved on how to figure that out though.

The concerts I saw:
Angelique Kidjo – I got there partway through and wasn’t quite into it but she seemed really lively.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – very lively, neat harmonies. Someone I talked to Friday didn’t like them but I did.
Gipsy Kings – they were great. I knew of them before but hadn’t really listened.
Lissie – impressive young woman
Taj Mahal Trio – old bluesman. To me the blues is more drinking music, and I’m not so fond of it in concerts.
Noah and the Whale – these ones I had pegged from the description as “my kind of music” and I wasn’t far wrong. Young, English, indie-rock, conscious-hipster suits and hairdos. I hadn’t heard of them before so I was thinking “I bet their music’s been on the soundtrack of “Being Human”, but oddly it hasn’t been yet. So far, I actually liked their concert better than their CD.
Kíla – I think this was my favourite first-time listen. They sing in Irish and play traditional instruments but their sound is more hard-driving rock-ish. I loved watching their bodhran player, and I hope that I manage to express that much joy and energy in anything I do.
Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band – a mix of instrumental jazz and bluegrass, which I have to admit made me sleepy.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings – Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing, Tom Wilson. Were also great.
Deer Tick – the only side-stage concert I saw. They were new to me and good.
Andrew Bird – violin, guitar, and whistling – I actually didn’t listen to him that much, although I was sitting there for the whole set. Oops.
Lyle Lovett and his Large Band – Everything this guy said between songs was weird, or an unfinished thought.
kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang – k.d. lang was really in fine form. I have never seen her in concert before. A friend said that she used the same setlist at Calgary folk festival. She played some of her old familiar songs “Miss Chatelaine” and “Constant Craving”, some other people’s songs, Neil Young’s “Helpless”, a Talking Heads song, and “Hallelujah”, and I forget what else. She seemed relaxed and comfortable and funny on stage.

Sessions I went to and short sets between mainstage acts:

Clancy, Bracken, and McCarthy, Delhi2Dublin, and JP Cormier – I loved Delhi2Dublin at Blue Skies, and I sought them out here so I could dance. It was also neat to see how they combined with the traditional Celtic musicians and traditional Cape Breton fiddler, doing some jigs and reels together and then playing backup on each other’s songs.

The Once, De Temps Antan, Jeremy Fisher, and Amelia Curran – I got there after the introductions, so I’m not positive that the woman whose voice I loved was the woman in The Once.

James Keelaghan, Tim Robbins, Sean Rowe, Mary Gauthier – This was the best session I attended, with a theme of “And they call it democracy”. James Keelaghan was the host. He is like another Stan Rogers – he looks like my favourite university librarian and he made me cry. Mary Gauthier was fascinating, and her backup fiddler Tania Elizabeth was extremely cute. And one of Tim Robbins’ backup guitarists looked very familiar to me. I never did place him, except to guess that maybe I just think he looks like the TV character John Munsch.

Colin Linden, John Rutherford, Amos Garrett, Matt Andersen – I loved Matt Andersen at Blue Skies, and I still think he’s great. But I was mostly overwhelmed and should probably have taken a break, since I don’t remember much about this session.

Bill Bourne, Kat Danser, Ky Babyn, John Rutherford, Kayla Patrick – this session of Alberta musicians was recorded for a CBC radio show, so it was more polished and programmed than most. Kayla Patrick and Ky Babyn are both very young local singer-songwriters and I imagine I’ll run into them both again. Bill Bourne is sort of a weirdo. Kat Danser is a local young woman with a huge powerful bluesy voice and songs full of unsubtle innuendo, like a younger Georgette Fry.

Serena Ryder, Brandi Carlile, Jeremy Fisher, and Deer Tick – this was a good session and my only chance to see Brandi Carlile whom everyone was talking about. Serena Ryder is hilarious.

Tweeners I saw/heard between main stage sets included Matt Anderson, Mighty Popo, Kat Danser, and some more I forget.

Musicians I missed: Brandi Carlile on mainstage, Garnet Rogers, The McDades

Musicians I bought recordings of: kd lang, Kíla, Noah and the Whale, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, James Keelaghan, Mary Gauthier, Blackie&the Rodeo Kings, delhi2dublin, Kat Danser.

Folkfest 2009

Thursday night mainstage: Breabach (missed start), Kathleen Edwards, Steve Earle, Boz Skaggs (missed end) and some ‘tweeners.
Kathleen Edwards is one of those Ontario singers who has played the Grad Club and played with other artists I like, but I’d never seen her before.
Steve Earle is an older famous American guy. “Copperhead Road” is his song. Also, as an actor, he played Walon on The Wire, and in real life he’s been in jail.

Friday sessions:
David Francey and Dave Swarbrick, Alex Cuba, Chloe Albert, Joel Plaskett and his father Bill, a bunch of backing musicians. Alex Cuba is an impressive Cuban-style musician who now lives in BC. Chloe Albert is local and young. I already knew and loved David Francey and Joel Plaskett. David Francey was the host of the session. It was called Influences, and one amusing bit was a sort of mashup of Robbie Burns and Bob Marley.
Kathleen Edwards, Neko Case, Chuck Brodsky. All good, no memorable moments.

Friday mainstage: The Wailers (reggae), Neko Case, then I left. Neko Case is called alt-country, but also sings with New Pornographers. I don’t know why I didn’t buy anything of hers; I liked her.

Saturday sessions and small stage concerts:
Niamh Parsons, Old Man Luedecke, Ashley MacIsaac. Ashley MacIsaac didn’t appear to be as big a jerk as his reputation suggests. Niamh Parsons seems like a person I’d like to have a cup of tea or a beer with, but she didn’t sing all that much (I heard her later as a ‘tweener too). She was the session host. Old Man Luedecke was … well, he’d played the Grad Club and other Kingston folk/alt venues but I’d never seen him. See, I had him confused with Gentleman Jim who opened for Stars, whom I didn’t like at all. He’s a banjo-playing storytelling songwriter from Nova Scotia who actually reminded me a little bit of Stan Rogers. And in a later session he sang about him and his wife being infertile. (I am not entirely sure but it seemed like the song had a happy ending. It made me cry though.) Ashley MacIsaac had a very young guitarist with him, a boy who seemed impressive in jumping into other people’s songs and sounding good.
The Northern Cree Singers. I loved these guys. They are local, and since they’ve been on the road for a while they had no CDs left. They mostly “contemporized” their songs to be in English. I want to see them again.
Cara Dillon, John Mann, Eivor. I didn’t like John Mann. He had a good voice and I like his kind of music, but his lyrics and patter sounded annoying and sexist and kind of trite. Cara Dillon is young and from Northern Ireland, mostly singing in English, typical Celtic-ballad singing but not sean-nos. Eivor (must edit to put slash through o) is from the Faeroe Islands and looks like a … some kind of magical creature, with long straggly white hair. She has a high strong voice (much richer than Robyn) and sings in Faroese and English and plays guitar and a drum. I liked her but didn’t manage to see her again or buy anything of hers (must consult about which recordings).
Lynn Miles, Old Man Luedecke, Great Lake Swimmers. This was another good session. I had never heard of Lynn Miles but I loved her and the things she sang about. GLS, another Ontario indie band I hadn’t managed to see before but knew I would like, and I was right.
Chumbawumba Acoustic. These people were great too. Rob recommended them as being anarchist. They are from the UK, political and clever, with some timely songs and some old old English class/labour movement songs. I loved “Add Me” about creepy people wanting to be your friend on social networking sites. Unfortunately, no CDs available. Must find.

Saturday mainstage: Here is where we had the really great tarp placement.
Oysterband did the afternoon mainstage show. I don’t know how I’d missed knowing this band — they have been around a long time and I loved their show. They are from the UK, and they sing some political stuff and other melodic rock stuff. They are handsome charismatic middle-aged guys dressed in black — and two of them jumped in the audience and were singing one tarp away from us.
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit
Patty Griffin