Calgary Folk Music Festival day two in review

Posted by Fast Forward Weekly on 25 July 2014

Friday at Folk Fest seems to be when things start really kickin’. More of the jam zones start happening, and there seems to be a bit more variety. When I arrived, it was already fairly busy around the park. Luckily, I was in time to see Lee Fields and the Expressions. That show was wonderful. Lee Fields knows how to put on a show. The soul was resonating through the crowd (at least the people dancing on the sidelines, I don’t know about the people snoozing in the middle of the crowd, on their tarps). It was a ton of fun, and even the audience participation was pretty much mandatory in the dance zones. Fields may be one of the best performers of this weekend. He has been a soul performer for so many years, and it is definitely time that he gets recognition.

I made it to see a bunch of A Tribe Called Red after that set, and it was out of control! I am not used to such a club atmosphere at Folk Fest but it was right in my face before it was even dark out. These guys know how to please the crowd, by mixing many different electronic genres, as well as traditional music into their set. It was a well-rounded set that even included a sample from Louis C.K. about where the “indian” word came from. A Tribe Called Red were funny, engaging, had a positive message to convey, and didn’t stop with insane beats. It’s no wonder these guys sell out shows all of the time. 

After the mini rave, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan followed on the same stage. It seems hard to follow such a wild dance party, which was true for me. I had seen this band before at Sled Island last year, and I enjoyed my time. This time, it seemed very different. The group was more into certain theatrics that didn’t mesh too well with a lazybones outdoor atmosphere. One of the members was wearing a glorified garbage bag, which was pretty funny. Some of the songs were straight psychedelic jams, which were great, but some of the yelping seemed to make the 10,000 babies at the festival cry. I am all for heavy jams, but it was a strange line-up for that stage on this night. 
                                                                                 — JEREMY CURRY


Calgary Folk Fest, I love you, but you need to figure out your lineup problem. It takes a serious commitment of both time and energy to accomplish pretty much anything at the festival, whether it’s getting a beer, going to the washroom, eating for the first time in nine hours, or hiding behind a port-o-potty to smoke a cigarette. Just give yourself some leeway. Don’t wait to go lineup for a bathroom break until it’s a near-emergency, because that’ll turn into an emergency. 

Speaking of emergencies, a folk fest first for me was seeing fire trucks and ambulances stream down the walking paths during Rufus Wainwright – apparently a food truck caught on fire. Somehow no one was hurt (as far as I know), and the sight caused Wainwright to crack, “Hopefully my songs didn’t kill anybody.” He immediately regretted saying that, just in case, you know, someone had died. I enjoyed Rufus’ set, he has a tremendous singing voice, but more than one person remarked to me that he seemed to be rushing to get it over with. When he was here a few years with a full band and a pair of lederhosen, it was a bit more of an engaging show, for sure. 

But lineups and Rufus Wainwright concerts make for strange bedfellows. While waiting to get into the beer gardens, I discussed with a group of very intoxicated strangers whether or not it’s depressing for Wainwright, whose first album came out 16 years ago, that the majority of the crowd really only wanted to hear him play someone else’s song (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). The debate was cut short when we got to the front of the line and were released into the garden, causing my friend Trent to exclaim, “Let’s go find another line to stand in!” Also, whose version of “Hallelujah” is better, Rufus Wainwright’s or k.d. lang’s? What’s your opinion on these pressing issues? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

The earlier part of the day was dedicated to The Good Lovelies’ incredible harmonies; The Lone Bellow killing it in a workshop alongside Hey Rosetta!, Doug Paisley and Basia Bulat; and, according to many, a set from A Tribe Called Red on the Twilight Stage that wasn’t to be missed. I missed it. 

As day three approaches, I’m just thinking about my long-lost friends from the beer garden line. If you guys read this, come find me! My name’s Nathan. I’ll probably be standing in a line somewhere. 
                                                               — NATHAN ATNIKOV