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.