Tag Archives: live music

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.

Black Keys, briefly

Last night I met up with two friends and we went to Rexall Place for a concert.

The first act was Arctic Monkeys, whom I was listening to when I was in Kingston (they are energetic rhythmic rockers from England like Fratellis or Snow Patrol). Their music was good but the main guy with the microphone was kind of a twit.

The main act was The Black Keys, who had an even more energetic drummer. We were on our feet the whole time, and I was really happy afterwards to notice that standing up moving to the music with my feet standing still for two hours didn’t hurt at all.

Joel Plaskett Emergency

Last night I went downtown for a concert at the Winspear Centre. This business of going to see rock musicians while sitting in comfortable seats is growing on me. The opening act was a guy from Winchester England called Frank Turner, and I was thinking that he’d probably have fun at Folkfest. The main performers were Joel Plaskett Emergency, from Halifax. It’s so neat to be hearing someone perform in person when I’ve listened to his or her transmitted voice many times – like listening to Stuart McLean talk, or Mr Dressup when we went to his live show as children. The Winspear acoustics are so fabulous, and Joel was playing with just a bassist and a drummer and sometimes playing one of seven guitars himself, so his voice came through well.

I thought one of my friends was going to be there but I didn’t see her. The crowd was mostly hipster-aesthetic in their 30s, but lots of variation from that too. And almost everyone stayed sitting down during the sets. If I ever manage to buy a Winspear ticket for a rock act early enough that I get a great choice of seats, I don’t know if I’d pick the front, or pick one of the many seats with nobody behind me so I could stand up and dance. But it really might be a concert hall with no bad seats. (And of course they had no ban on knitting. I’m still thinking about whether I want to go to Sonic Boom this year. I’d go for sure if I had someone to go with, but going by myself with no knitting, hmm.)

Also as part of my middleclass middleaged privilege, after the concert I caught a cruising taxi, and beforehand I had supper at Zinc, the interesting restaurant at the art gallery. I had the catch of the day which involved pork belly. Also various amuse-bouche snacks and an architectural dessert.

City and Colour

Last night I went to see City and Colour at the Jubilee Auditorium.

I think it was the first time I’d been in the audience at the Jubilee Aud, although I’ve been seated on the stage for a couple of convocations. I couldn’t think how to work that into conversation, though. The audience included lots of people showing full-sleeve tattoos like Dallas Green the singer, or emulating his style wearing checked shirts or severe black-framed glasses.

The opening act was called Low Anthem. My friend W had been telling me she was more excited about seeing them than seeing City and Colour. Wikipedia calls them folk rock or indie folk, and I could see them fitting in well at Folkfest. They are from Rhode Island. But the cool thing, that I didn’t realise from listening to tracks ahead of time, is that something about their sound and their main singer reminded me a lot of some band we used to listen to in the old days. And I couldn’t think who. Clapton? Tom Petty? I thought of another group but couldn’t remember their name, and it distracted me all through their set, but a quick application to Wikipedia and a quick response to texts from a music fan in my family told me I was thinking of Traveling Wilburys, and so probably Tom Petty’s voice with the more country-like acoustic arrangements. Whew.

Dallas Green and his band were really good. He has good rapport with the audience, responding to shouted comments, asking very politely for one song with no electronic distractions (the one about a funeral) and getting it, with applause, and getting different sections of the audience to sing the backup bits on What Makes a Man, including knowing how to rehearse us (choral conductors do this well, rock musicians generally don’t). He played almost all my favourites from the earlier albums (except for Save your Scissors) and some from the new one I don’t know so well. The encore was Dallas singing alone while playing the piano on, I actually don’t remember which song now, and then with the rest of the band on Coming Home (wild cheers when he mentioned Saskatoon, even more when he mentioned Nova Scotia).

The “Jube” is an attractive comfortable hall seating about 2500 people. I was near the back of the first balcony, so not as engaged as I might have been but I still had good sight lines even with tall people in front of me. I noticed, though, that for both bands it was hard to distinguish lyrics that I wasn’t already familiar with. In comparison, when I saw the band Stars at the Winspear Centre downtown where the symphony plays, the lyrics were very very clear. (This is fortunate, since Stars has better lyrics!) And from what I read this morning, the symphony used to play at the Jubilee Auditorium until audiophiles and philanthropists were able to arrange a hall with better acoustics — so it’s cool that even I could hear that.

Headstones on New Year’s Eve

Partway through my friends’ New Year’s Eve party, I caught a bus downtown to the Headstones concert at the Shaw conference centre.

The last concert I went to there had an “all-ages” setup, with the draft beer confined to a standing-room cavern at the back. This time it was like my friend D had described, most of the room filled with round tables and chairs, and the back rows of tables even had friendly looking candles in glass as well as tablecloths. I got there during the second band of the night, Tupelo Honey. I hadn’t heard them before but they were local and I thought they were good, and also their lead singer looked like an old friend which is a plus. For the end of that set I was standing a few rows from the front, comfortable and dancing, so I decided to move up as I could between sets, until I had a tiny piece of real estate on the centre of the barricade. This wasn’t as comfortable, because there were a couple of drunk guys being a little aggressive with other and smarmy with me, and when the concert promoters came on stage to count down to midnight the one guy made a really creepy pitch for kissing strangers ‘and if you can’t get a kiss get a grope’ and stuff like that.

Still, I stuck it out and then the Headstones came on and started to play Tweeter and the Monkeyman and I was the closest fan to Hugh Dillon and he looked and sounded just like on television only right there in front of me sweaty and happy and full of energy and yelling “fuck” a lot. By then I’d worked out the territorial claims to my side, but as the show continued the crowd behind was dancing and thrusting forward and I kept getting elbows in my back and the barricade in my front, so after a couple of songs I found a friendly big guy behind me to swing me backwards and I got out of the standing-room crowd. The crowd was a funny mix of intent music fans and dressed up people out for a party evening, some dressed in little sparkly dresses and some dressed in Team Canada hockey sweaters. As I’d predicted, I wasn’t the only one in my age group, and there wasn’t as much cellphone-documentation up close to the stage as there was at Death Cab for Cutie.

I saw no appeal in paying concert-hall prices for a Canadian or Coors Light when I was working on not being hung over anyway, so my choices were basically a $3 Sprite or a $4 bottled water, both with the caps removed. I sat down and cooled down, then ambled back to the side of the crowd with my drink and got pretty close without being squished. I didn’t stay for the encore, (and I knew from earlier setlists that they hadn’t played my favourite song this tour).

I didn’t see any taxis and caught a bus from, whatever that big bus stop is called with the sliding-doors heated shelter (and where there was once a fatal altercation, although not when I was there), back to my little car and home before 2am. Big-picture thanks to the family member who recommended the Headstones to me in the first place back in 2007 or so.

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.

Death Cab for Cutie

Last night I went to see Death Cab for Cutie at the Shaw Conference Centre. It was downstairs, in a venue that I’d previously experienced as a large carpeted banquet room. I went straight from work, and my concertgoing experience started when one of the crowd of eight v. young people on my train car called out “Anybody going to Death Cab?” and I said “I am” as I walked to my seat and got out my e-reader. “Really??” they asked, and then asked which station to get off at and how to get there from the station, and whether I would tell them when the station was coming up. A disreputable fellow sitting next to me thought this was really funny, asked whether I was a teacher, and asked whether I needed his rolled up Metro paper to keep them in line. Then there were some questions like “Why do YOU like Death Cab?” and “What’s your favourite song of theirs?” and “Have you heard their new single?” (I hadn’t, I’m waiting to get the album) that amused me but also made me feel like a weirdo.

Crowd control measures in the Shaw included turning off all the escalators and letting people move off the stairs a few at a time. Pre-warned by a friend, I checked my bag with knitting in it. I didn’t get patted down, I bought a tour shirt at the merch table, and inside the venue I went through the ID-checking corral to get a wristband to let me enter the “beer garden” – a lighted space at the far back where adults could buy and drink alcohol. It was $6 a drink, and although I usually think it’s a good sign when the beer’s something I’ve never heard of, Molson Old Style Pilsner isn’t. At least they let me hold the can, rather than pouring into bad plastic, though. I talked to my pub-knitting friend Wendy and friends of hers, and then decided to head into the floor crowd before the end of the opening act Bright Eyes to see how close I could get.

Moving up slowly when other people left got me to within about 10 standees of the stage, where I stuck it out for more than half the Death Cab set until I got overheated and restless, so I watched the rest from the beer garden and the back of the floor. There were also shallow bleachers on both sides of the floor.

It was a good show. They didn’t chatter much, although they did thank the opening musicians, say that it had been too long since they’d visited Edmonton (5 yrs?) and remind us their new album’s coming out Tuesday. The sound quality was good enough that I could hear sufficient lyrics of the few unfamiliar songs to work out what they were afterwards. Ben Gibbard’s voice was very recognisable, but since I hadn’t done any homework I didn’t know which of the other guys were which. If you don’t know Death Cab for Cutie, I could say that they’re described as “alternative rock” or “indie rock”, but they seem to be on the mainstream end of that, not as hard-edged as some of what I listen to. They have clever sad singable lyrics.

Unfortunately I’ve lost my setlist and notes, but it turns out that now last.fm is linked with setlist.fm, so I have access to a consensus version. They didn’t do all their most famous songs, but it was a good mix across most of their albums.

My ears were not ringing at all afterwards. It didn’t seem too loud at the time even though I didn’t bother with earplugs, and my part of the crowd was quite civilised (an awful lot of them were young girls about my height, which was handy.) I love standing up close to the stage feeling the bass in my chest with just enough space to move with the beat – but as I’ve said before, I wish there were venues with the civilised comforts of Edmonton Folk Music Festival or Blue Skies and more of this kind of music. What I need to do next is to check out some of the bar venues, such as Starlite Room or Pawnshop, and I’ve been reluctant to do that by myself because I always feel horribly self-conscious and vulnerable as a demographically-atypical newbie.

More than at any of the other concerts I’ve been to, I was struck by the high level of smartphone use. When Bright Eyes had some technical difficulty for a minute, their frontman cracked “Just hang on a minute, go back to playing Angry Birds on your phones or else experience the real live 3-D music the way it happens.” I took some photos and video – and it was quite difficult to do so without anyone else’s iphone viewfinder in the way. I can see that it detracts from the sense of intimacy with the musicians in the days when everyone was just swaying and singing and waving lighters, and I could also notice in myself that the temptation to get the perfect setlist and best picture and video of a whole song were distancing me a bit from the sensation (but I’d still be doing the setlist thing with a pen, anyway). But everything that I was doing on line and everything I was close enough to read on other people’s phones was all about the concert. So … I dunno. Here are some pictures, though.

The picture of the set-up crew was basically to show how close I was and test whether it would be hopeless to try to take pictures of the band. Other patrons were using the digital zoom on their phones, but I try not to use digital zoom and just crop as needed afterwards, and that’s about as good as I got holding the phone at head level. My videos aren’t bad, but the sound quality is crap and I would keep forgetting not to move, so the picture bounces.

roadies deathcab3