Review: Calgary Folk Festival

Posted by Gerry Krochak, The Calgary Sun on 25 July 2014

Rufus Wainwright FILE PHOTO

Rufus Wainwright (file photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

It really is the other most wonderful time of the year.

With the drunken buffoonery of the Calgary Stampede now a not-so-distant memory, the focus of fun, sun (sort of), great (but ridiculously overpriced) food and drink, and the most eclectic music variety possible, beautiful Prince’s Island Park is alive this weekend with the sound of the 2014 edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.

Following a Thursday evening main stage kick-off which included Trampled By Turtles, Valerie June, Hey Rosetta and the incomparable Andrew Bird, Friday featured Great Lake Swimmers, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Rufus Wainwright, Amos Lee and funk-punk pioneers Fishbone to set the stage for what promises to be a great weekend.

The weatherman did his best to co-operate … with a sky that threatened but never opened. Let’s face it: Great musical variety and the discovery of your new favourite band is even better when the sun is attempting to peek through, the wind is reduced to a light breeze and (later) the moon tries to shine through.

Under a semi-cloudy sky, in a park filled with good vibes and good people, multifaceted singer-songwriter and entertainer extraordinaire, Rufus Wainwright was a crowd favourite and can’t-miss performer during his first CFF appearance since 2007.

The debonair and charming offspring of Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III had the Friday evening crowd in the palm of his hand with a solo acoustic 90-minute set which included a wonderful cross section of his 16-year, 11 album career.

Eclectic and swirling indie roots act Great Lake Swimmers and Brooklyn soul revival Lee Fields & The Expressions were an exciting one-two punch to greet many Folk Fest revellers who started filing into the park presumably right after work.

In much the same way that Charles Bradley had jaws on the floor with his 2012 CFF performances, Fields and his Expressions made an, uh, impression with a stellar 75-minute early evening throwdown.

Later in the evening, Americana troubadour Amos Lee was a terrific roots and Americana bridge between Wainwright and the Friday night closing fury of Los Angeles veterans, Fishbone.

Some Friday side-stage entertainment featured a variety of musical workshops, as well as performances from A Tribe Called Red, Mary Gauthier, Debo Band and Jadea Kelly, among many others.

Nothing but a good time all day long, with the only downside being ridiculous parking, food, beverage and merchandise prices which make it all seem like a white collar Folk Festival — $15.75 parking, $7 beers, $17 dollar beef roti (including $2 plate rental) from Leroy’s Catering and $30, $32 and $40 (!) vinyl LPs from the merchandise tent — fine ‘folks’ or not … that’s called gouging.

In any case, Saturday’s main stage entertainment features The Lone Bellow, Arto Lindsay, Jason Isbell, the always wonderful Patty Griffin, Canadian folk icon Bruce Cockburn and Seun Kuti and Egypt 80.

See you all here! Eat and drink and shop before you come.

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CALGARY FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL

3.5 stars (out of 5)

12,000 at Price's Island Park