Review: Calgary folk fest Friday a loving and giving night
Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland of Whitehorse perform on the main stage at the Calgary Folk Festival at Prince's Island in Calgary, on Friday July 22, 2016. JIM WELLS / POSTMEDIA
A day in song.
It’s interesting, but year after year, festival after festival, it’s hard not to feel the mood associated with the day of the week in the music that’s being made on that particular day at the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
And whether or not it’s the feelings you walk onto the island with or the acts and the particular vibe they portray and convey, it’s rare that you can separate the two.
Sure, sometimes even the weather plays a role, feeds into those feelings, even mirrors them, but, again, day, artists, it all works as one.
For example, this year’s Thursday had that freshness, that hopefulness you get when that weekend finish line is in sight — not quite ready to let loose, but a kind of sunny optimism, and (not-so) far to go. It was made aural by such easygoing, not too overwhelming acts as the wonderful Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives, the light and poppy New Pornographers and Tallest Man on Earth, and the gently rocking Dudes.
Well, how does that saying go?
Friday’s child is loving and giving.
Yeah. Sounds about the sounds about sounds just right. And it was. It gave a great deal, and a great deal to love.
That started with the late afternoon workshops and concerts, which were added a couple of years ago as a nice way of saying thanks to those who are skipping out of work early anyways.
And those who did were welcomed with some nice ones, including an airy showcase titled Pep and Vinegar, which featured the sunny contrarian country of Carolyn Mark, the simmering roots of Gregory Alan Isakov, the clean, disarmingly pretty pipes of Adia Victoria, and the honeypot folk-pop of Aussies Oh Pep!. No, there wasn’t much interaction, or sharing and exchange between the artists onstage, but what they sent out individually was enough to lift anyone’s spirits, infect anyone’s hearts.
One stage over and immediately after, there was a collaborative Cancon connection between psych country fellers The Sadies, harmonious roots couple Whitehorse and previous evening headliners The New Pornographers, rounded out with Irish songster Foy Vance. This, on the other hand, really was an interactive affair, with it turning into a supergroup unto itself, some great, enjoyably noisy jams pulling things in one wonderful direction.
As that wrapped, it was time for the Mainstage and Twilight Stage to get geared up for some more generous giving.
On the big one, homeboy Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and his phenomenal band — led by similarly genuine and genuinely lovely human being, guitarist Russell Broom — aw shucked out a set that could not have been more likeable had a herd of newborns been saddled to a litter of lab puppies and sent wandering out into the audience.
Referencing a smaller show at a previous folk fest appearance, MBF admitted to being grateful for having been given a larger stage before proving he deserved it, owning it completely. His superbly crafted, catchy soft-pop, such as One Love, Follow and semi-shoulda-been-bigger hit I Want to Make It With You, put his heart right out there and sliced everyone a piece.
On the other side of the site, things were perhaps a little less welcoming, but still incredibly interesting and intriguing. Project Logic, the more experimental musical incarnation of Bronx native Jason Kibler (a.k.a. DJ Logic), put on a showcase of more cerebral and involved beats- and loops-based music. It made you move, yes, but it seemed more intent to make you think about what you were moving to, whether you were moving the right way, and what actually movement is.
Back on the Mainstage the Bros. pushed things a little more fittingly yet friendlier into the red for a Friday as it turned into a night. Winnipeggers The Bros. Landreth played a set of songs that came off as a slightly more alternative, little more bluesy, and somewhat softer classic rock version of Sasky boys next-door The Sheepdogs. (The Doobiedogs?) Tracks such as Tappin’ On the Glass, Angelina and dad — Wally Landreth — penned tune I Am the Fool had a pretty open and convivial tone to them, and the boys took back as much love as they gave out.
The same, and more, could be said for funkin’, groovin’ blues Barbarella Cécile Doo-Kingué who returned to Prince’s Island after winning it over as a lower-billed act last year. The Montreal-based artist and her band had a whole lot of fun and spread that through the 10,400 strong in front of her. She was light, she was upbeat, she shared all of that so lovingly, so willingly.
And if you want poster children for love from a Calgary audience, you need look no further than husband-and-wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, who wormed their ways into our collective heart with their Juno Week stint in the city a few months ago. They won awards, they sang, they engaged with the entire city whenever they could.
It was a condensed version of that at the folk fest — also sans award, save maybe for most charming couple on the island — with them showcasing those dramatic, acoustic, roots-pop skills, on songs such as Devil’s Got A Gun, with them duetting throughout their set effortlessly, beautifully and building the songs higher, fuller than they are in recorded form.
They came, they sang, they charmed, they conquered. Again.
L.A. indie folk act Lord Huron were given the pleasure of closing down Friday night and putting a loving close on a day in song before everyone went home, rested up and got ready for a full Saturday — one that, with anticipated headlining performances by Jose Gonzalez and the Canadian songwriting treasure Kathleen Edwards, will undoubtedly work hard for a living.