More folks Some choice picks for this year’s fest

Posted by Kat Dornian, FastForward Weekly on 24 July 2014

folk fest picks kaki king

Love it or hate it, Calgary’s Folk Music Festival goes beyond your traditional definition of folk, and 2014’s lineup is no exception. The diversity of quality acts truly boggles the mind, with everything from punk, to world, to experimental, and, of course, roots, Americana and folk.

What sets the folk fest apart from other music festivals are the workshop stages. While you might have seen acts like A Tribe Called Red or Basia Bulat take the stage before, you’ve never seen them life this. These collaborations are one-of-a-kind opportunities, and can leave the most lasting impressions.

The lineup is packed with high quality acts, but if you want a word of advice, these are the ones not to be missed. From The Good Lovelies’ perfect harmonies to Kaki King’s inimitable guitar playing, there’s an island-full of diverse and amazing music for you to discover.


This enchanting autoharpist and multi-instrumentalist draws good crowds every time she plays in Calgary. Her delicate music fills the air with a kind of magic that holds everyone rapt. While her recent album stirs an indie-pop quality, she sports a down-to-earth, acoustic and mystical sound in much of her songwriting. Her melodies will provide the perfect glow to any folk fest afternoon.


Kaki King is a remarkable and gifted guitar player who brings more to a single instrument than you would ever expect, and that very few can replicate. Rhythm, melody and layers all emanate from King’s acoustic six-string. Her songs are moody and rich; they demand attention and make it impossible to look away. The music goes far beyond folk, into corners of post-rock and psych, but mostly just defy genre altogether. She’ll be the talk of the fest that you won’t want to miss.


This four-piece Korean band takes traditional zither-like instruments and modifies them in extraordinary ways to achieve complex sounds and tempos. They sculpt melodies of all sorts, from the cinematically ominous to delightfully experimental. While the range of their offerings may sound weird, these incredibly talented musicians are crowd-pleasers for any and all musical inclinations. You’ll be astounded for sure.


The Good Lovelies craft perfect three-part harmonies accompanied by banjo, mandolin, guitar and keys. Their music charms and warms the heart. The three ladies share amazing chemistry onstage, and invite everyone in, giving every performance a familial air. Catching them in a workshop will be a must. Check them out to see what their harmonies can bring to a bigger collaborative stage.


Valerie June is a self-taught and church-gospel trained musician with a ridiculously beautiful sound that goes deeper than roots or soul. She’s heavily influenced by the music of the 1920s and 1930s, so you’ll hear blues, gospel and even country, as well as a whole lot of honesty coming from this powerful and rising songstress. It’s only been recently that the world started to pay attention to Valerie June, so don’t miss the boat.


No Joel Plaskett fan should pass up the opportunity to check out this brilliant young singer/songwriter who Plaskett sought out after catching her performance at a high school music event. Her songwriting is impeccable and her voice has a lovely rustic charm that partners perfectly with acoustic guitar. Her lulling music is great for that moment when you just want to lay in the grass and soak up some sun.


Sassy Little Miss Higgins does not fear a little fire in her music. She serves up saucy Americana that takes a bit of a vaudeville romp. She and her five-piece band bring energy to every stage they grace, straddling the line between silly and reflective. This is the show to bring your boots to, and get ready to have fun.


You won’t find anything else like Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Their music has an urgency and power to it; they don’t shy away from experimentation, but they do keep their music melodic and rhythmic. Their performance thickens the surrealism found in the compositions, complete with Asian-inspired robes and face paint. With YT // ST’s latest album, UZU, short-listed for the Polaris Prize, they’re a must-see this weekend.


This super diverse band brings a party every time they hit the stage. Band leader and saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, with vocalist Bruck Tesfaye, leads the band with a rich knowledge of Ethiopian heritage and musical skill that adds to the energy and thrill of the experience. Their songs are rich with culture, starting with a base of Ethiopian pop and layering on American soul and funk. The sound is completely irresistible, fleshed out by a stunning 11-piece band on brass, strings and an accordion for good measure. If you’re looking to dance, this’ll be the place to be.


For the punk-leaning crowd, veteran Art Bergmann brings his anti-establishment music to this year’s folk fest. After lying dormant in the music scene for over a decade, he resurfaced last year, bringing his gritty and destructive style to audiences around Canada. Now, he’ll be rocking the Calgary stage with his stick-it-to-you songs. You’ll sing along, you’ll pump your fist and you’ll be begging for more when it’s all over.