World of music: Folk Fest sets record for ticket sales

Posted by on 1 August 2006

Nick Lewis, Calgary Herald, Saturday, July 29, 2006

Excuse me sir, who is your favourite folk artist playing here today?

The man with dishevelled hair stands barefoot on the dusty path, having paired the carefree hippie look with brown dress pants, a pressed white shirt and a brown striped tie.

"Folk artist?" replies Andre Prefontaine. "I don't think there really is one playing today. But I guess that's what I like about it."

The "folk" tag in Calgary's favourite annual music event is increasingly becoming a broad term, but with a lineup this talented and diverse, few in attendance at the Calgary Folk Music Festival were grumbling about genre specification Friday.

But if "folk" can be described as the music of the common people, then Friday night's slate was the very definition of its new character in a globalized world. The lineup included Ohio-born neo-soul songbird Macy Gray, Toronto reggae-afrobeat act Bedouin Soundclash, Toronto bluesman-turned-jazzman Jeff Healey, Pennsylvania old-time country singer Robbie Fulks, Honduran Paranda artist Aurelio Martinez, and Louisiana's Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band.


"To be honest, I don't have any idea who any of these people are," admits Michael Conforti, visiting from Edmonton. "But I like that they're diverse, that's what makes it more interesting than Edmonton's folk festival. There's only so many singer-songwriters you can hear."


It seems most Calgarians on Prince's Island Friday agreed. Two days into the 27th annual event, the Calgary Folk Music Festival is already boasting its largest ticket sales figures ever. Friday night's event sold out, while tickets for Saturday and Sunday were gone long ago. Even opening night on Thursday was just a couple hundred shy of hitting the 12,000 sellout figure.


The storm-grey sky threatened to rain all day, and in the distance, a downpour dropped black tendrils of mist across the skyline for hours. But at the park, the grass was dry and the people were beaming.


Thousands of music lovers laid their tarps across the grass and sat in lowered lawn chairs, lazily patting their knees in time to the evening's entertainment. The sides of the park were flanked by a steady stream of dancers, twisting, twirling, swaying in rhythm to whatever beats were emitted from the stage.


"This is grassroots music, this is music for the people, by artists that play for their own fulfilment, not for money," observes Thomas Brown from the back of the grass. "This is a celebration of music, whatever music, and it doesn't matter if it's not folk because it all fits together really well."