MIke Bell, Calgary Herald: Mike Bell's best bets for Saturday's Folk Fest
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Wait. Which is the one where you run for six hours and always get beaten by that skinny, shoeless guy from Nigeria or wherever?
It’s that one. The Calgary Folk Music Festival is that long, hilly race, where strangers put beverages in your hand as you pass by, where you’re exhausted when it’s all done, and, more importantly, where pacing yourself is key (including in the hydration department). That’s especially true on the weekend, when all of the stages — and the entire Island in turn — come alive with workshops, concert performances and some of the most eclectic sounds you’ll ever hear.
It’s something of a help, then, to know how to navigate yourself through Saturday and Sunday, to have your route marked out for you, so you can maximize your time on the festival site and the excellent music you can consume.
So, as the gun goes off to begin the Saturday leg of the 2011 edition of the Calgary folk fest marathon — and that Kenyan is already halfway to the finish line — here’s a little route you might find to your liking.
10:30 a.m. Stage 5 Your Indie Heart
David Wax Museum, Imaginary Cities, Lightning Dust
A nice breezy and poppy way to ease into the day. It’s hard to imagine there will be a great deal of collaborating between the acts, but song to song, artist to artist, should still make for a light, eyelid and earhole opener.
11:45 a.m. Stage 2 Ecstatic Truths
Jon Brooks, Matt Masters & The Gentlemen of the Rodeo, Portland Cello Project, Jenny Whiteley
An incredibly interesting collection of artists, this pairing of roots, country and classical acts walks the fine line between inspired programming and insanity. Give it some time to figure out which.
12:40 p.m. Lunch from Pizza Prana
Pacing comes to the eats, too, so grab a fresh slice of gooey pie from the wood-burning oven. Not too heavy, not too light. A good base for the day ahead.
1:05 p.m. Stage 3 Funk of Ages
Harrison Kennedy, Carl Hancock Rux, SociaLybrium, Ti-Coca & Wanga-Neges
The title says all you need to know. If you’re in the mood to dance, grab yourself some turf in front of the stage (elbow a hula-hooper out of the way if need be). If you’re as rhythmically challenged as most Calgarians, perhaps you’ll want to grab a table in the far end of the beer garden which provides a pretty great view of the stage. Oh. And beer.
2:05 p.m. Stage 2 Alpha Wave Generation
Braids, Inhabitants, Elisapie Isaac, Jim Moray
Gorgeous voices highlight this collection of young artists, including former Calgarians Braids, and U.K. singer Moray who has the infinite good taste to wonderfully cover XTC’s All You Pretty Girls (note: the same doesn’t apply to the Crash Test Dummies for their Peter Pumpkinhead abomination). It could be a great afternoon refresher.
3:20 p.m. Stage 5 Beat Down
Cadence Weapon, Socalled, SociaLybrium, Yohimbe Brothers
A pretty brilliant assembling of hip-hop, jazz and funk artists at one of the site’s most intimate and shaded stages. It promises to be one of the best workshops of the entire weekend, one that will be Tweeted about and talked about for fest’s duration and beyond.
4:20 p.m. Stage 6 Some Assembly Required
Joseph Arthur, The Felice Brothers, Imaginary Cities, Yo La Tengo
From one of the best to one of the less best (?), the tented, easternmost stage fills up quickly, can get a little cramped and little stuffy. But, you’ll want to brave it for another solid workshop of alt rock acts. Arthur and Yo La Tengo together, alone, would be worth a full day’s admission, but the addition of the bluesy Felice Brothers and Manitoba poppers Imaginary Cities makes this another can’t miss.
5:15 p.m. Dinner from Ship & Anchor
Beat the rush and your thirst with a beer and burger from the pub’s tent, which — well, will you look at that — handily opens into the gardens.
5:30 p.m. Mainstage Ernest Ranglin
The ska legend brings the sound of the islands to the sounds on the Island with what should be a pretty breezy early evening showcase of his masterful guitar work.
6:20 p.m. Mainstage The Flatlanders
The set from Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock should be another nice, laid-back affair with some added blister and bluster. The longtime Tex-Mex country pals can ramp it up when need be, but their songs and interplay might be a little on the mellow side for this fest appearance. Either way, it’s a win.
7:20 p.m. Stage 4 The Head and the Heart
Jaunty is not normally a word associated with Seattle, but these superb roots-rockers have that quality in them. As well as some darkness. Some depression. And sadness. Loneliness. Hell, maybe they are the perfect Pacific Northwest band? Take a break from the tarpzis and wander over to the site’s second biggest stage for what might be a revelatory performance from these less arty Decembrists and less surly Swell Season.
8:45 p.m. Stage 4 Yo La Tengo
Keep your hip butt seated for the New Jersey alt rock icons. Seriously. Don’t move. Unless it’s to see better. Because the trio and their feedback pop are something else.
10 p.m. Refreshment
Of your choosing. To get you primed and ready for the angel who has recently rediscovered her lariat.
10:20 p.m. Mainstage k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang
Having released one of her finest efforts in ages — and one of the best albums of the year, period — k.d. comes home with a rollicking country band in tow to close out Saturday. On record, they work beautifully together; but live there should be some rough, sloppy edges that make the music even that much better. And that voice? To hear her cover Hallelujah under an open sky will probably make every deity above and under the stars weep with pure joy.