Mike Bell, Calgary Herald: Music, weather, make for Folk Fest perfection

Posted by Johanna on 26 July 2011

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The Calgary Folk Music Festival ran Saturday night at Prince's Island Park. Attendance: 12,000.

If Thursday was a firestorm, and Friday was a washout, Saturday at the Calgary Folk Music Festival was . . . just right.

It was the baby bear of the weekend thus far, a day when that complainy B&E specialist (name withheld to adhere to the Youth Criminal Justice Act) would have not only eaten the whole bowl and napped in that soft but firm short bed, but also would have changed the locks and squatted for a month or as long as one can stand bear smell.

It really was just right. The mood was good and the music was amazing (please note: apparently weather reports are not part of this assignment nor appreciated, so any mention of the spectacular sun shining and the bluest of blue skies have also been expunged), and it delivered, quite literally, one of the single best memories and most memorable performances this event has produced in the past decade.

That would be the early evening side-stage concert by Seattle's The Head and the Heart. It was the personification of just right, everything that makes you love the festival and everything that makes you love music in general. The perfect mix of folk, rock, country and pop, the six-piece's set in front of the largest side-stage crowd, perhaps, in the history of the island, and the audience's appreciation as well as the reaction from the band was genuine and genuinely special.

There was no pretence, no posturing, just amazing material, pure musicianship, heaven-approved harmonizing and the unabashed joy of performing and exchanging energy with a mass of humanity.

Songs from their selftitled debut such as Ghosts, Down In the Valley and Lost In My Mind found their homes in the chest and in the minds of everyone - thanks to jangly guitars, Ron Sexsmith-esque vocals from the boys and an antiquated Samantha Savage Smith creaky purr from Charity Rose Thielen - making everything seem just about as sublime as you could hope things could be.

As for the rest of the day under (censored meteorological reference), which led up to the headliner performances, it delivered a great deal of goodness and another eclectic mix of talent and collaborative magic.

An early highlight that had the buzz building on the site was a workshop featuring Calgary escapees Braids performing with Cadence Weapon, Kris Ellestad and Elvis Bossa Nova, with the raves waving over the Braids willingness to play nice with others.

The same could be said about this year's festival extrovert Socalled, who animated a pair of amazing workshops throughout the day, including the klezmerfriendly Mazel Tov!, with Geoff Berner and Yemen Blues, and especially another funktastic showcase, which also featured Vernon Reid's Yohimbe Brothers, Cadence Weapon and Bernie Worrell's SociaLybrium. The latter was an event, thanks in large part to a sloppy, barely coherent cover of the dearly departed Amy Winehouse's Rehab, which, in its messy beauty, truly captured the spirit and the essence of a lost-too-soon artist.

A quick rundown of other afternoon highlights includes: Montreal wonder Coeur de Pirate's cheeky but heartfelt cover of Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl; American alt rock veterans Yo La Tengo's salute to their surroundings with a fabulous Alberta Bound; and anything 'Peggers Imaginary Cities did.

And once the night hit, the tug of war between it and the side stage began: legendary ska reggae guitarist Ernest Ranglin and his incredible playing pulling one way; a more subdued but still inspired Yo La Tengo pulling the other; the cool bastard son of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, The Felice Brothers yanking right back.

And, finally, closing out the night was k.d. lang, who returned to her provincial roots with her musical roots on full display, performing with her spectacular new band the Siss Boom Bang.

Right? You're bloody well right.


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