Calgary Folk Music Festival 2014: Lee Fields, Typhoon, etc. Calgary, AB, July 24-27

Posted by Kayla Beattie on 29 July 2014

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On a peaceful urban island, under the twinkling lights of surrounding skyscrapers and amongst hundreds of enchanted trees that have seen countless decades, Calgary Folk Music Festival (CFMF) provided the western Canadian city with four days of phenomenal performances and showed what festival superiority truly looks like.

This year marked CFMF’s 35th consecutive year and their experience and attention to detail was evident throughout. After last year’s floods, the festival’s primary venue of Princes Island Park was devastatingly damaged, but staying true to the Calgary way, festival organizers rose above and still put on a spectacular show. This year was no exception, reclaiming the grounds and bringing the festival back to its former glory with seven stages.

With thousands of attendees spanning every generation, from playful tots to wise elders, Calgary Folk Music Festival is about settling in to share in the communal enjoyment that great music can foster.

The only deceiving part of Calgary Folk Music Festival is the name itself. Contrary to what one might expect, this festival highlights much more than just folk artistry. The musicians on this year’s bill included indie-rock, afro-funk, tribal DJs, blues, soul, jazz, singer-songwriter, lo-fi pop and much more.

Kicking off the festival on Thursday evening, Tramped By Turtles burst onto the stage with their feverish banjo picking and enthralling bluegrass jams.  They were everything one could hope for in terms of a seasoned “folkie” band and were able to successfully start the festival on a welcomed high.

Andrew Bird & The Hands of Glory closed Thursday night on a peacefully dreamy note. With Bird’s ever-impressive instrumental skills, and angelic whistling that soars above anything that is of this world, he and his band put on a spectacular spectacle of contemporary yet classical ballads that were a blessing to witness.

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As the sun set on Friday evening, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan showed that they were, by far, the most theatrical band of the weekend. Donning intricate face paint, tribal instruments, massive fans and kimonos of Japanese origin, this five-piece band played electronic rock that incorporated soft female vocals with hardcore female screaming, and cultivated an outrageously impressive set that had the crowd rocking out harder than any other show of the weekend.

Lee Fields & The Expressions got sexy on Friday’s main stage, treating the crowd to that timeless soul train music that we can all appreciate. Fields has been making music in this genre since the late ‘60s and his experience is shown through the energy he brings to the stage, his smooth vocals and the gentlemanly attire that him and his band were wearing. It was one of the best generation-bridging shows of the weekend, leaving everyone’s souls and ears happy.

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Typhoon was also a standout of the weekend. With 11 members playing assorted instruments like violin, horns, electric guitars, two drum sets and bells, the sheer magnitude of their music was like nothing else. There was a shared feeling of wonderment on Saturday that radiated through the crowd while watching them, like we were all partaking in an unworldly experience that we never wanted to end.

Sunday afternoon featured enchantingly mellow sets by Astral Swans, Tiny Ruins and Mo Kenney, all of whom used their low-key demeanor and mega charisma to perfectly fill the lazy day vibes that the crowd was craving.

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Other CFMF acts worth mentioning based on their impressive talent and charged stage presence were Rufus Wainright, Chad VanGaalen, Sean Kuti, Boreal Sons, A Tribe Called Red, Great Lake Swimmers, The Deep Dark Woods and Hydra.

The weekend was also peppered with tons of workshop performances where four different bands would share the stage, sing their own tunes, and get members from other bands to join in and add to the sound. It was mesmerizing to watch so many talented individuals effortlessly collaborating and just jamming out to create new sounds that will never be heard again.

The 2014 edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival was a sublime weekend and a great number of those in attendance walked away having shared multiple moments of greatness that far exceed typical festival expectations.