There was a break in posts for my absolute favourite weekend of the year: Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Four days in the sun (and a little rain Saturday night), 6 workshop stages, 1 main stage, 60+ performers, and thousands of music fans blanketing Gallagher Park.
There are a lot of reasons that I love Folk Fest, but it never ceases to amaze me how magical it feels every single year. Some frustrations with the tarp lottery and people sitting in the walking paths aside, people just seem nicer at Folk Fest. And nothing beats wandering around, hearing beautiful music, and seeing happy people everywhere.
Some of my friends were disappointed by this year’s lineup and decided not to get tickets, but to be honest I never worry too much about the lineup. I always discover people that I’ve never heard before who absolutely blow me away and there are always older acts that I’ve heard enough that I can sing along to. This year my discoveries were Imelda May, for fun, catchy rockabilly tunes; Sean Rowe, for his beautiful baritone and soulful sound; Des Temps Antan, for their toe-tapping Quebecois traditional songs and incredible stage presence; and The Deep Dark Woods, for their mellow, dreamy vibe.
I had some disappointments too – mostly in the form of missing artists like Wanda Jackson, The Once, The Secret Sisters, and the man everyone was just raving about, Matt Anderson. But I was also disappointed by the main stage performance of Noah and the Whale – a group I’d really been looking forward to. Des Temps Antan did a “tweener” before Noah and the Whale closed out Friday night (meaning they played while the crew rearranged the stage for the headliners) and the Quebeckers had most of the crowd up and dancing even though they were only playing from a corner of the stage – the music was vibrant, it captured the audience and kept everyone’s energy up. So much fun. In comparison, Noah and the Whale seemed to be playing more for each other than for the crowd and the performance just left me feeling…meh. As I tweeted that night, the songs were ok, but I was seriously underwhelmed.
And I had two “Folk Fest Moments” those moments at the festival where all the elements come together: the weather, the artists, the vibe of the crowd. Everything comes together perfectly and the result is utter magic. For me, this happens most often at workshop stages and one of mine was on Sunday afternoon at Stage 1 when Andrew Bird, a multi-instrumentalist from Chicago, played with Etran Finatawa, a group from Niger. The styles were completely different, but the artists were comfortable with each other and although they took turns leading the songs, everyone played on each song and the blend of styles was so much more than either group could produce individually (I just can’t do it justice with words – sorry!). Those are always good moments at the festival.
My other Moment was during k.d. lang‘s headlining set on Sunday Night. She has such great stage presence and she knows how to work a crowd. Hearing her sing her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was absolutely mind blowing. I can’t really say more than that.
So thank you to the organizers, all the artists, and all of the fans that made this weekend so special for me. Can’t wait to do it all again next year!
Pictures will come as soon as I can get them off my dad’s camera.