Calgary's folk fest

Posted by on 17 August 2004

Review, Heath McCoy, Friday July 23, The Calgary Herald

Fiamma Fumana, a quartet from Northern Italy took the stage first.<>They sang Italian folk songs backed up with acoustic guitars, accordions and traditional Italian instruments.But in the pit of their exotic, foreign sound was a club culture, techno-beat that rose up to accompany the rootsy sounds.

It was the ideal opening for the Calgary Folk Music Festival on the event’s 25th anniversary. It was the perfect reflection of, not only where the festival’s coming from, (earthy roots music), but also how far it’s evolved. (Gasp! A funky techno-freakin’ DJ at a folk festival?)

For the record, the thumping electronic beats took nothing away from the cultural integrity of Fumana’s music. If anything it enhanced it.It made for another gem discovered at the Calgary folk fest.

Another little treasure from another corner of the world stage which would almost certainly have gone unknown to Calgarians if not for this annual gathering. That’s another tidbit that sums up the heart of the festival. Cultural and musical discovery is always a rewarding aspect of the event.

<>The pride of Alberta, the Corb Lund Band hit the stage next. Yep, the shining glory, and that assessment includes famous folks like Jann Arden, the Nickelback boys and Ian Tyson. Lund may not be famous beyond his cult following but since when did fame determine quality? This lad is the goods. He proved it with rootsy campfire honky tonks like Five Dollar Bill and the doomy No Roads here, which would do Johnny Cash proud. It was a set rich with Alberta-centric traditional country sounds but Lund’s freewheeling, unpolished style and his band’s raw energy reflected his rock roots nicely. (This is, after all the kid who used to play with local hard rock heroes The Smalls).


<>The evening officially became a blast, however, when the Taj Mahal Trio brought festival goers to their feet, grooving to the bluesman’s fine sounds.Appearing in his Hawaiian shirt and baggy, patched jeans, Taj played a warm, inspired set that incorporated country, folk, reggae and Cajun music into his bluesy broth.


<><>And talk about a loving following, when Stompin’ Tom Connors walked onstage with his black cowboy hat, guitar and piece of plywood for stompin’, people got giddy.

<>One fan even made his way to the media tent brandishing a dollar bill the Stomper signed in 1971. The guy wanted another autograph but my guess is he didn’t get it. Connor’s show was good, infectious fun with the Stomper singing his crusty, corny, fully beloved Canuck folk tunes like Bud the Spud, Tillsonburg and Rubberhead.


He also traded barbs with the crowd, a sly grin occasionally slipping past is grumpy demeanor.

 “I don’t know what you’re clapping for,” he grumbled. “you should see me at a party…I don’t know where I am most the time.”

At press time the country troubadour from Skinners pond, PEI had the audience cheering wildly, making Calgary Flames references in the Hockey Song.

The celebratory fireworks for the 25th anniversary were mere minutes away.

From all angles it was an event worth celebrating.