Tune in to the Calgary Folk Music Festival: What you need to know
Oh. Hey. Look. The sun has come out to play.
Knocking on every wooden object within reach, we’ll hope that it sticks around for the rest of the week and blesses the city’s second greatest (in calendar only) outdoor show on Earth with the wetless weather that it requires.
Yes, it’s time for the Calgary Folk Music Festival to take over Prince’s Island Park Thursday through Sunday and fill the air above it with sweet, sweet sounds.
Be you a newcomer to the city’s summer staple or a hardened vet with many a fest under your tarp, hear are five things you need to know about the folk fest.
The lineup: Musically, it’s another case of something for everyone. That’s what folk fest is. And among the lineup are some familiar names and intriguing possibilities, with the weekend sure to yield some new faves from previously unknown entities.
Leading the charge of this year’s headliners is a strong Cancon contingent, including the wonderful Kathleen Edwards, Southern AB boy Corb Lund and his Hurtin’ Albertans, pop supergroup the New Pornographers, Juno champs Whitehorse, and country fried cowboys The Sadies. The world, though, is artistic director Kerry Clarke’s hunting ground, so the list also includes: American country vets of the traditional, Marty Stuart, and alt, Bobby Bare Jr., varieties; Swedish singer-songwriters Jose Gonzalez and The Tallest Man on Earth (a.k.a. Kristian Matsson); Aussies folkies Oh Pep! and jammers the Cat Empire; and other notables including Cat Power, The Weber Brothers, James Blood Ulmer Trio, San Fermin, The Cave Singers, Jerusalem In My Heart, Mini-Mekons and Robbie Fulks. That, of course, is only scratching the surface, so check out the rest of the cast on the website and dig deep.
The locals: If this is your one and only exposure to local music a.) smarten up, and b.) it’s an excellent class this year, so you’re lucky. That starts with two of the scene’s most beloved bands The Dudes and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, who get much-deserved spots on the Twilight Stage and Mainstage respectively. It will also be an opportunity to catch Evan Freeman, who released quite possibly the best album of the year, with his debut Luna. Calgary’s first-ever poet laureate Kris Demeanor is also back this year, as part of a collective with West Coasters, country honeypie Carolyn Mark and the incorrigible Geoff Berner. Local legend Ian Tyson will also be returning to the grounds, taking his easygoing cowboy tunes to a smaller stage on the Sunday afternoon. Other folks from around these parts include Northern Beauties, Carter Felker, Nancy Laberge, Banff-based artist Amelie Patterson, Edmontonians Braden Gates and Ben Spencer. And finally, we’ll also include recent Juno-winners Braids on the list of locals as the Montreal-based band started their careers here and, well, hell, we still take a certain amount of pride in claiming them as our own.
The workshops: The best way to sample the festival and all of its musical offerings is to keep busy on the Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday by hopping between the different stages and seeing some of the interesting pairings that are thoughtfully tossed together under a theme that is either entirely ignored or fully embraced. The same should be said for the collaborative nature of the workshops, with some fully getting into it and others artists choosing to merely treat things as a songwriters’ circle, chatting a bit and sticking to their own tune. Either way, when you can see that much and often diverse talent sharing one stage — such as The New Pornographers, The Sadies, Foy Vance, and Whitehorse, for example — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. (Check back as in Friday’s Herald we’ll have the must-see workshops for the weekend.)
New this year: Beer and boarding. No, it’s not a recommended combination, but for those who like one or both there’s good news for this year’s folk fest. First, the suds: There will be more. Or rather, there will be a larger area for which to consume it, meaning smaller lineups to get in and quicker to get quenched. The Big Rock beer garden (a.k.a. “Meet me at …) has now been expanded and will now take up the entire space in front of Stage 3, the Field Law Stage, raising the capacity from 2,000ish to 3,500. Here’s hoping this is one step toward licensing the entire island and allowing beverage consumption to be paired with musical consumption at any of the areas. As for the boarding part of that initial equation, this year there will be a skate ramp set up in the north part of the festival grounds — beside the Family Zone — for any would-be wheelers to hang-ten or pop a wheelie or whatever it is kids do on their banana boards nowadays. In any case, those who like beer and those who like boarding should be so stoked, my dudes.
Etc.: What’s left to say, really, other than the festival runs Thursday through Sunday at Prince’s Island Park. Single day tickets and festival passes are still available from calgaryfolkfest.ticketfly.com, in person at the organization’s home Festival Hall (1215 10 Ave. S.E) or by calling 303-233-0904. You can also go online check out the complete schedule, view the site map and have any and all of your questions answered. Well, except maybe not about the weather. For that, maybe you should check the skies, hope and knock wood.
The Calgary Folk Music Festival runs Thursday through Sunday at Prince’s Island Park. For tickets go to calgaryfolkfest.ticketfly.com.