Spinner.com coverage

Posted by on 28 July 2010

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 All articles by spinner.com's Jonathan Deker.

Stars Open Indie-Rock Floodgates at Calgary Folk Festival
July 23, 2010

Michael Franti Overcomes Adversity to Headline Calgary Folk Festival
July 27, 2010

St. Vincent, Man Man Underwhelm at Calgary Folk Fest Workshop
July 27, 2010

St. Vincent Dazzles Calgary Folk Festival-Goers With Technical Wizardry
July 27, 2010

Roberta Flack Kills 'Em Softly at Calgary Folk Festival
July 27, 2010


 Stars Open Indie-Rock Floodgates at Calgary Folk Festival

By Jonathan Deker, July 23, 2010

http://www.spinner.ca/2010/07/23/stars-calgary-folk-festival


"It's folk music if it's for the folks, right?" Stars lead singer Torquil Campbell mused to the crowd as his decidedly non-folk band Stars played the mainstage at the first day of the Calgary Folk Festival.

The Montreal-based dream poppers are the first major act in a long line of un-folk groups to both appear at and headline the 2010 edition of the just over three-decades-old festival. Acts as diverse as St. Vincent, the Swell Season, DJ Logic, Laura Marling and Roberta Flack will also take the stage throughout its four day run.

Rousing the audience with stirring versions of hits from their catalogue as well as select tracks from their recently released album, 'The Five Ghosts,' the group managed to balance levity with brevity by delivering sincere lyricism with heavy-handed bravado.

Campbell -- sporting a T-shirt featuring the mug of friend and Metric co-founder Jimmy Shaw -- did much of the preening for the group, emoting and engaging the audience while female vocal foil Amy Millan, juggling rhythm guitar duties as well, mostly laid low.
Of the new songs, lead single 'Fixed' was played with the sharpest precision, with Millan's ethereal vocals washing over the audience as the menacing grey skies above issued light showers.

Through no fault of their own, some of Stars' uptempo tunes fell flat against an audience who were mostly glued to lawn chairs and cheering loudest for slow burners like 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead.' While such a response is contrary to the doctrine of most music festivals, it seemed to make sense at this one.

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 Michael Franti Overcomes Adversity to Headline Calgary Folk Festival

By Jonathan Deker, July 27, 2010

http://www.spinner.ca/2010/07/24/michael-franti-overcomes-adversity-to-headline-calgary-folk-festival/

A year after he was forced to cancel his appearance at the festival due to surgery for appendicitis, Michael Franti took the stage Friday night at the Calgary Folk Festival to a hero's welcome.

Along with his band Spearhead, the good-vibing Franti played a spirited set that interwove hip-hop, funk reggae and folk with danceable, upbeat rhythms and smooth harmonies to produce an intoxicatingly funky result.

Explaining to the crowd how he felt lucky to be back, Franti channeled his newfound energy into the show, electrifying the excited audience and pulling them into a tizzy as he bounced around the stage, working the crowd like a master entertainer.

Franti and his band have been flirting with crossover success for over fifteen year now, and early indications suggest that with their upcoming album 'The Sound of Sunshine' and its infectious single of the same name, they are finally poised to do it. If Friday night's set and the audience's reaction are any indication, expect to be hearing the sound of sunshine blaring out of every car in the very near future.

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 St. Vincent, Man Man Underwhelm at Calgary Folk Fest Workshop

By Jonathan Deker, July 27, 2010

http://www.spinner.ca/2010/07/27/st-vincent-man-man-calgary-folk-festival-workshop

The Calgary Folk Festival closed out its Sunday daytime program with an eclectic combination of indie, dance and African rhythms, as Man Man, St. Vincent, DJ Logic and Etran Finatawa joined together under the ambitiously-named 'Mysteries of the Universe Unravelled' workshop.

It was the conclusion of a day program that showcased rare musical collaborations, including the 'Face Down, Feet First' workshop that featured reinterpretations of Neil Young songs by Ohbijou, Timber Timbre, local heroine Samantha Savage-Smith and Mercury Prize nominee Laura Marling, as well as the middle-eastern-tinged 'All Funked Up' workshop, featuring Israeli funksters Coolooloosh, Belgian Natacha Atlas and New York's DJ Logic.

The 'Mysteries' jam was one of the most anticipated workshops of the fest because all the artists seemed keen to create new collaborative music rather than just showcase their own songs, but it ultimately fell flat.The gathering got off to an awkward start when clean-cut Annie Clark (aka New York singer/songwriter St. Vincent) set up beside the tribally-garbed members of Niger's Etran Finatawa before sharing an uneasy glance of acknowledgment.

Things continued in a similarly uncomfortable vein throughout the session, which began with Honus Honus of experimental Philly band Man Man trying to cajole the group to jam in the key of B minor, and ended nearly an hour later pretty much the same way. Because Clark was playing the main stage soon after, the indie starlet rested her voice, focusing on her impressive guitar skills and essentially forcing every jam to become a prolonged instrumental.

Under the best circumstances, this kind of showcase would provide an opportunity for interesting cross-cultural interplay, but because none of the members were familiar enough with one another to take the lead, most of the numbers fell into a repetitive loop that kept the audience engaged, but failed to live up to the potential that the participants' pedigrees would suggest.

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 St. Vincent Dazzles Calgary Folk Festival-Goers With Technical Wizardry

http://www.spinner.ca/2010/07/27/st-vincent-calgary-folk-festival/

By Jonathan Deker, July 27, 2010

Indie sovereign St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) took the stage at the Calgary Folk Festival Sunday night for one of the biggest shows of her career. Playing to a sold-out crowd as the undercard to headliner Roberta Flack, Clark performed with the grace and self-assurance of a seasoned pro.

The New York-based Clark focused almost exclusively on songs from her latest album, 'Actor,' whipping up a mighty storm of guitar pedal theatrics and technical wizardry, and dazzling a crowd that had spent much of its day either dancing to African grooves or pumping their fists to eastern Canadian fiddle music.

Taking a page from headliner Roberta Flack's book -- the soul legend has a Beatles covers album in the pipeline -- Clark pulled out her customary cover of 'Dig a Pony,' stretching out the song's punchy verses and alternating between screams and whispers.

A quick glance at the audience made it clear that many didn't quite get the cacophonous musicianship Clark unleashed intermittently during her well-crafted songs. But as a testament to their commitment to the festival and its philosophy of open-mindedness, everyone stayed in their place and gave a respectably loud cheer at the end of her set.

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 Roberta Flack Kills 'Em Softly at Calgary Folk Festival

By Jonathan Deker, July 27, 2010

http://www.spinner.ca/2010/07/27/roberta-flack-calgary-folk-festival/

Legendary R&B singer/songwriter Roberta Flack brought the 31st Calgary Folk Festival to a close with a note-perfect set that provided a common ground for the various generations of fans that gathered at Prince's Island Park over the previous four days. Described by Festival general manager Kerry Clarke as the only "household name" at the event, Flack managed to please both ardent and casual fans with some classic hits and a surprise Bob Marley cover.

Flack, an effervescent and spry 73-year-old, didn't shy away from the hits that made her a chart regular across three decades. She pulled out the big guns early and often, including her 1983 hit (and Peabo Bryson duet) 'Tonight, I Celebrate My Love' and her signature tune, 'Killing Me Softly.' As well, her smooth cover of Bob Marley's 'No Woman, No Cry' could be interpreted as a nod to the Fugees, who also covered the Marley classic and revived Flack's career with their own version of 'Killing Me Softly' in 1996.

While her band sometimes flirted with cheesy musical interplay, Flack's astounding voice and piano virtuosity never let it slip into casino act territory. And, though she may have lacked the bravado of the weekend's other headliners, the legendary diva brought the festival to an end with elegance and class.

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