Stompin' stellar festival

Posted by on 30 July 2004

Calgary Sun May 11, 2004 - Preview Article by Mike Bell


Age has its advantages. This year, for example, the Calgary Folk Music Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary as an important fixture on Calgary’s cultural landscape.

As a result, the artists they are a-comin’ in droves.


And the festival’s associate producer Kerry Clarke says booking the 60 acts — a record number for the event — from all across the globe for the July 22 to 25 celebration on Prince’s Island went a whole lot smoother than past years.

“At one point about a month ago we had offers out to Taj Mahal, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Stompin’ Tom Connors,” says Clarke. “History says that maybe one or two of those will come through — and all four came through …

“Some of it’s just timing and it just turns out, and some of it’s when you hammer away at people for years and they know who you are, and they know that you can pay them, and they also know you have a good site, and they’re going to have a good time.”

Other acts who will share in and contribute to the good times include Olu Dara, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Spirit of the West, James Keelaghan, Corb Lund, Corey Harris, Youssou N’Dour, the Rankin Sisters, Earl Scruggs, The Weakerthans and North Mississippi Allstars.

Many of the names are ones that regular visitors to the festival will recognize, which Clarke says was partly by design considering the milestone it’s reaching.

“But we weren’t methodical about picking one person from each year or one person from every three years or anything like that,” she says.

“We picked some of the people we really liked from the last more recent years, and then a few from earlier years like Spirit of the West and James Keelaghan.

“And, of course, the Wild Colonial Boys are very 25th anniversary because they were some of the founders.”

While all of the familiarity and the memories it’s sure to bring may make celebrating a quarter century all the more poignant, one side-effect is that it also may breed complacency or discourage those looking for something different to bring them down to the Island over the weekend.

Clarke says when she sat down and looked at the lineup that was on her mind — she worried it may have been too conservative. But ultimately, she thinks the depth of this year’s event, as in previous years, is strong enough and eclectic enough that no one will be disappointed.

“And actually we’ve found the average audience member wants people back,” she says.

“It’s us that get more critical — both the festival and people who see a lot of music …

“We get a lot of feedback that … the sort of folk fest tried and true audience actually want to see people again and again and we sometimes stop them from that.”

Early bird tickets for this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival go on sale today from Ticketmaster, the festival office or by calling (403) 233-0904.