Calgary Sun coverage
Articles and photo galleries by staff writer Lisa Wilton and staff photographers.
Variety spice of festival's life
By Lisa Wilton, Calgary Sun, July 21, 2010
City savours locally grown folk talent
By Lisa Wilton, Calgary Sun, July 25, 2010
Photo Gallery - Singers 'n Strings
Photo Gallery - Folk Fest fills Prince's Island Park
Photo Gallery - Variety spice of festival's life
Lisa Wilton, Calgary Sun, July 21, 2010
For many Calgarians, the annual Calgary Folk Music Festival is the highlight of their summer.
Now in its 31st year, Folk Fest is one of the longest-running music festivals in Canada, and certainly one of the best.
There’s no big secret as to why the festival has remained so popular.
“I like to think we only book great artists,” says artistic director Kerry Clarke.
“We have a formula that works.”
That formula includes mixing big-name acts with traditional folk veterans, hip indie bands and emerging local artists.
“I try to balance things out,” explains Clarke, adding she always looks for variety when booking headlining acts for the mainstage on Prince’s Island Park.
“We don’t want all of our headliners to be roots/country-ish. We want someone like Roberta Flack, who’s blues and R&B, then someone like Corb Lund and Stars who are indie and Michael Franti, who is more funk. It is a music lover’s festival. It’s about discovering new music.”
While there may be a lack of household names in this year’s lineup, the Folk Fest still boasts an amazing array of performers, including multi-instrumentalist St. Vincent, hypnotic Congolese thumb-piano players Konono No. 1, respected songwriter and producer Joe Henry, acclaimed indie folk singers Frank Turner and Laura Marling, Academy Award-winning duo The Swell Season and American roots-rock band The Avett Brothers.
“I was really happy about getting The Avett Brothers,” Clarke says.
“They’re pretty popular among the different age groups. It’s seen as quite cool, even though it’s got a real folk base.”
This year also sees the return of festival favourite Michael Franti & Spearhead. Franti was booked for the 2009 fest, but the singer suffered a burst appendix and had to cancel.
“He didn’t have to come back, but he’s a loyal guy,” she says.
In previous years, the ever-popular side stages — where artists collaborate on songs — have run only on Saturday and Sunday. This year, three extra stages will be holding jams and small concerts on Friday starting at 3 p.m.
“They’re lining up at 9 a.m.,” says Clarke.
“So they might as well get in a few hours earlier and hear some music."
Lisa Wilton, Calgary Sun, July 25, 2010
There were a few people who missed church Sunday morning to catch the last day of the 2010 Calgary Folk Music Festival.
But Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, David Essig, Linda Tillery & the Cultural Heritage Choir and Shakura S’Aida made sure the crowds got their gospel fix during the soul-stirring workshop, Under the Banner of Heaven.
It was one of many magical moments that occurred during day four of the popular annual festival in Prince’s Island Park.
Angelic sounds rang out from Stage 5 as English songstress Laura Marling joined Timber Timbre, Samantha Savage Smith and Ohbijou for an hour of beautiful, intricate indie folk.
Led by Belfast-born singer-songwriter Ben Kyle, Minneapolis-based roots act Romantica was one of the weekend’s more pleasant revelations.
The band’s sweeping western melodies evoke the earthy sounds of Gram Parsons, The Band and Bob Dylan, but a slight touch of Celtic folk and British pop sensibilities help them stand out from other roots acts.
While headliners Roberta Flack and St. Vincent wrapped up the Folk Fest on a mellow note, several of the afternoon concerts and workshops were raucous affairs.
Ukraine folk punks Haydamaky had the crowd jumping up and down to its frenetic mix of traditional Ukrainian music and reggae/ska and Congolese likembe (thumb piano) players Konono No. 1 wowed the audience at both their excellent workshop performance — where they shared the stage with the equally impressive blues rockers Hill Country Revue, Nigerian group Etran Finatawa and Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya — and their mainstage performance.
The group hypnotized the audience with its propulsive rhythms and unique electronic sounds.
Konono was one of the breakout acts from this year’s fest, which also turned local music fans onto British punk poet Frank Turners, gospel singer Shelton and genre-bending Israeli funk group, Coolooloosh among others.
Artistic director Kerry Clarke says introducing audiences to music they might not otherwise search out is one of the most thrilling aspects of her job.
“You know people are going to get excited about Michael Franti,” says Clarke, referring to the energetic reggae/funk singer, who performed to a sold-out crowd on Friday night.
“But I don’t know if people are going to like Konono No. 1 or Coolooloosh. And when they respond really well to these acts, that’s much more exciting to me.”
Though the 2010 Folk Fest was about 1,500 tickets shy of a complete sell out, there were still more than 48,000 people who took in the event.
In addition to great international and national performers, this year’s festival saw more local acts play than ever before.
“The majority of people here have never heard of us,” said Chris dela Torre, singer and guitarist of Calgary band Axis of Conversation.
“Or if they have heard of us, they’ve never listened to us, so it’s great exposure. We’ve signed a few autographs, which is super weird but flattering. This is the music festival that matters. They’re able to pull from every demographic.”
Local singer-songwriter Chris Gheran shared a workshop stage with Axis on Sunday and said he felt a lot of pressure to live up to the Calgary Folk Fest’s high calibre.
“It’s totally been the most important weekend of my life,” Gheran gushed. “You work so hard to get up to this level and this is your one shot to impress people. It was awesome. Except there’s too much temptation to drink. But I haven’t been drunk for any of my shows. Maybe next year.”