Mike Bell, Calgary Herald: Soggy fans find a few reasons to celebrate

Posted by Johanna on 26 July 2011

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The Calgary Folk Music Festival took place Friday night at Prince's Island.

Attendance 11,450.

There are very few good reasons to stand shivering in the pouring rain.

Lazy hygiene. Voyeurism, perhaps. Kissing an upside down Spider-Man, maybe.

That said, Friday night at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Prince's Island Park provided a few more. And a couple less.

Whether it was a 24-hour delay on Reverend Peyton's musical proclamation on Thursday night that it Sure Feels Like Rain, or whether Mother Nature was offering her opinion of the evening's, on paper, meh mainstage lineup, Day 2 of the four-day event kicked off under the wettest of weather and the coldest of conditions (fact: in late July, your pee should not steam).

Fitting then, that the Rev and his Big Damn Band should be given the opportunity to make the dripping masses forget about the elements by kicking off the festivities as part of a sidestage workshop. Joining the larger-than-life country bluesman were local boys Hollow Brethren, grizzled roots artist Morgan O'Kane and Haitian musicians Ti-Coca and Wanga-Neges. It was one of the great instances of all of the players on stage getting it, coming together to make some incredible music.

The opposite was happening over on a different stage, with the dreary workshop Fables of the Reconstruction, which featured City and Colour, and Calgarians Raleigh and Kris Ellestad. Nobody really provided anything worth the soaking - rain was coming from every direction including up - and where Dallas Green's act seemed all inclusive the previous evening, Friday night he and his songs just came across as sullen.

Luckily, there were a few more late afternoon highlights to provide an upbeat antidote, including another magical, collaborative workshop with The Herbaliser, Socalled and Patrick Watson, free-forming on some jazz and hip-hop action.

As for former local act Braids, and their return to the festival that started them off - frontwoman Raphaelle Standell-Preston won the folk fest songwriting contest four years ago - their set was a little patchy, sadly, with their gorgeous, shimmering pop slightly lost in the soundmix. Perhaps the only blessing with the weather was that the rain made them seem that much more British.

At this point in the evening, the two competing stages got underway, and the contrast in the music featured on both couldn't have been greater.

On the mainstage was New Brunswick native Matt Andersen, whose huge voice cut through the Maritime weather, and his folk and blues, unremarkable as they were, were perfectly at home at the festival by the Bow. Same for the artist who followed Andersen, the wonderful country classic Nanci Griffith, who's own voice is as clean and pure as the traditional songs it sings. She was perfectly pleasant.

On the other stage was some entirely nasty, and perhaps the bravest and most unfolk act the festival has ever seen. Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid was going off with his sample, scratching and soloing project Yohimbe Brothers, with fill-in turntablist DJ Excess and P-Funk legend Bernie Worrell sitting in (prior to his pretty wild show with his act SociaLybrium). It was bat guano crazy electro-jazz-funk fusion, that, once you wrapped your head around it, was an outthere delight.

Back on the mainstage, Will Oldham and his Bonnie (Prince) Billy project walked out to the first dry skies of the afternoon, although at that point the damage had been done (how much more wet could you get? The answer is none. None more wet).

But, like the bluish hue on the horizon, his set had a calming and optimistic effect with his songs such as Go Folks, Go and a delivery that had a pretty great, retro country-rock Flying Burrito Brothers feel.

Closing out the evening were Canadian cabaret rock artist Patrick Watson and U.K. groove kings The Herbaliser.

Followed by a hot bath and a Lagavulin. Two of the best reasons to get out of - and two of the best remedies for - the cold, pouring rain.



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