Herald music writer Mike Bell’s Top 5 Calgary folk fest picks

Posted by Mike Bell on 24 July 2014

It’s pretty much a given that most everything you pencil in or stumble upon at the Calgary Folk Music Festival has a certain amount of can’t-miss-it-ness about it — there is quality, there is quantity.

That said, there are always a handful of musical acts that may or may not be on your radar, or perhaps familiarity may have planted a seed of apathy in your mind and have you questioning whether or not it’s something your really want to see again or for the first time.

The wonderful Basia Bulat is one such artist, but here are five more that are worth seeking out this festival weekend.


Doug Paisley (Thursday 6 p.m. at Stage 4 and workshops):

This T.O.-born singer-songwriter comes from the Townes Van Zandt school of music — beautiful, bourbon-y takes on life, love, loss and the rest of the bruising and scarring bits of the human condition. His latest album Strong Feelings is a work of sublime strum and twang, and has made him one of this continents most feted acts in the alt country world. See him, see him often and be moved every single time.


Fishbone (Friday at 10:30 p.m. at Mainstage and workshops):

Jamming the funk and punk into folk for a joyful, ungodly abomination, these veteran L.A. pioneers put on A Show that you won’t soon forget. Together in one form or another since the late ’70s, they’re now starting to get a second shot at the proper respect and accolades they deserve, thanks in part to the excellent 2011 documentary Everyday Sunshine. Like Michael Franti or Arrested Development who came to fests before, they will be the get-up-off-your-tarp and get-down-and-dance fave from this weekend. Guaranteed.


Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Saturday at 10:45 p.m. Mainstage):

That said, Seun Kuti might have something to say about that. The youngest son of Afrobeat originator and late, legendary artist Fela Kuti, sticks as close to his father’s legacy and carries on his name without merely riding those coattails. He takes his father’s torch and fronts his the mighty Fela’s band with a charisma that cuts his own course and should have everyone on the island remembering his name.


Hydra (Sunday at 6:45 p.m. Mainstage):

The prodigal daughter returns with a whole new band. Yes, when she left Calgary Leslie Feist had just finished fronting a scrappy little punk act named Placebo. On subsequent returns, she came as a solo artist, Feist, with a gorgoues, Grammy-courting take on indie torch-pop. Now, she arrives and arises in Hyrda as one of three known entities alongside fellow Canuckers AroarA and Snowblink. What it sounds like? Dunno. Great, probably. Even they can’t yet put it into words. You should probably see it and find out for yourself.


The Jayhawks (Sunday at 7:40 p.m. Mainstage):

They are one of the cornerstones of the No Depression movement — a band that countered the nu country contingent, tapping into the spirit of Gram Parsons, The Band, Townes and Messrs Kristofferson and Earle. In their first kick at the hound-dog, they released a couple of flat-out classics in Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass, both of which have subsequently been given precious re-releases. Currently, and in a modified form, they’re touring the re-releases of their latter-period albums including the perfect, just perfect, I mean it, perfect 2003 offering Rainy Day Music. Expect magic.


Bonus acts — The Locals (All weekend):

They are a part of things, not an add-on or a second thought. They deserve to be there, so, please, give them the attention and respect they deserve: Hello Moth, Kenna Burima, The Polyjesters, Astral Swans, Miss Daisy, Boreal Sons, Chadfreaking VanGaalen and, we’ll annex Airdrie, the mighty Art Bergmann. That, in itself, is a musical lineup not to miss.