Family folk ends fest on high note, Calgary Herald July 25, 2005

Posted by on 26 July 2005

By Alexandra Burroughs

Music festival love-in attracts 41,000

After four days and four nights of hard core folking, those in attendance at the 26th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival ended on a high note Sunday as one big, periodically wet, but happy family.


"That's Allison Moorer, everybody," announced singer/songwriter Steve Earle following a duet with his girlfriend.


"Believe me, that will not be her name the next time you see her."


Just like that, the legendary troubadour casually announced his plans to marry the songstress to a crowd of thousands like we were all just bidding our fond farewells at the same intimate dinner party.


That camaraderie is what's great about the folk festival. Strangers dance together. No one fights over spilled beer. Tarp space is shared. Shy kids get up and dance. And some of the most talented musicians in the world let fans into their lives for intimate and interactive performances.


"People say there's a special feeling on the island," says folk festival general manager Les Siemieniuk. "There's a mellow excitement that builds throughout the weekend."

Despite Sunday morning rain, more than 10,500 people took in the festival on its last day. The four day total hit 41,000 thanks to a soldout crowd Saturday of 12,000, a record for the festival.


"The rain hurt our walk-up," admits Siemieniuk.


"It happened at the wrong time. At 9 a.m. people are planning their day, they look out and its pouring. Still, hundreds of people were out with their umbrellas at the early morning workshops. The performers were astounded."


First time folkies who came looking for Woodstock-inspired naked mudsliding were met by a sea of super-prepared Calgarians dressed in rain pants, a generous amount of Gortex, toques under rain hats and rubber wellies.


Many carried umbrellas and an extra tarp to keep their main tarp dry.


Morning and early afternoon weather made for intimate workshops. But by the time Sarah Harmer took the stage with Thea Gilmore, Justin Rutledge and Wendy McNeill for a jam session entitled Outlaws and Dreamers, the drizzle had dried up and folkies were shedding their layers.


Alongside outstanding acts from around the world the Calgary contingent of singer/songwriters more than held their own. No Guff, a duo of John Rutherford and Dan Tapanila, brought the crowd to their dancing feet with a No Guff foot-stompin' bluegrass blend. Chad van Gaalen, another fan favourite, brought alternative flare to the alt-country songwriter series featuring Ron Sexsmith and Justin Rutledge.

By press time, Oscar Lopez had not yet taken the mainstage. His pristine but soulful guitar work, however, was celebrated at several workshops throughout the weekend. It's great to have him back.


Earle took the mainstage in early afternoon carrying his acoustic guitar and dressed in jeans and old blue 1970's sports jacket with white leather sleeves. Without a word to the audience he launched into I Ain't Ever Satisfied, a love ballad lapped up by the audience.


Accompanying his guitar with a harmonica hooked to a stand around his neck, Earle's set included Taneytown, My Old Friend the Blues and Warrior, a fan favourite from The Revolution Starts Now album.