Body of evidence
by Mike Bell
Calgary Sun
2003-07-27

Posted by on 10 May 2004

It’s always tough to perform an autopsy when the body isn’t even cold, let alone when it won’t stop moving. Such is the case trying to assess this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival early Sunday afternoon when there are still so many potential highlights left.

It’s always tough to perform an autopsy when the body isn’t even cold, let alone when it won’t stop moving. Such is the case trying to assess this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival early Sunday afternoon when there are still so many potential highlights left. Nevertheless, festival general manager les siemieniuk and associate producer Kerry Clarke were asked to carve into the body and comment on its bottom-line success.

“It depends how you measure success,” says siemieniuk. Financially, he says, this year’s event left the festival in great shape for the future, thanks to Saturday and Sunday sell-outs and near capacity for the other two days. The weather also cooperated, with almost uniformly beautiful days. And artistically, it was another year where the mix of big-ticket artists (Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Daniel Lanois, Ricky Skaggs), mid-range performers (Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards, Jane Siberry, Ian Tyson), and prior unknowns (Backstabbers, Jolly Boys and Petrona Martinez) seemed almost perfect.


“Very exciting, challenging, diverse, lots of surprises,” says Clarke, assessing 2003. “I was the only one that heard of Horace X before they came here, now there’s 10,000 people who know who they are.


“Some of the more challenging and out-there programming has been really loved and that makes me really excited … “I was in the food area and I heard this humongous cheer, and it was for these 70-year-old Inuit women throat singing,” she continues, recalling Saturday’s main stage appearance by Alacie and Lucy.


 “That’s what makes me happy …” Costello had such a great time, he broke some of his own rules and accepted the white hat from our mayor, signed autographs for fans and expressed his desire to return sometime soon. DiFranco cancelled her flight so she could remain on the Island Sunday and take in workshops, reportedly sitting in on one with her friend Siberry in the a.m. There were a couple of hitches but ones the fest has been dreaming of for most of its 24 years.


 “We faced a number of problems that we’ve never faced before because we’ve never been sold out in advance,” he says, sitting by the Bow watching the incredible crowd that had been shut out of the event and so had gathered across the river to get a dose of Rodeo. “It was interesting to see scalpers, clever punters and devious others who are trying to figure out cracks in our system. “We found them, we’ll fix them next year.”


Also the addition of an extra side stage created unwanted sound overlap, signalling that next year the site and space between stages will have to increase. But, again, siemieniuk says he welcomes those kinds of difficulties. It means the major hurdles have been overcome and it’s now a case of simply tinkering to get things perfect. Then again, there are 30,000 people who might just argue it already is.