Calgary Folk Festival: Pet-a-Palooza and storytellers add a little something extra

Posted by Steven Hunt on 26 July 2015

The one thing the Calgary folk festival has always lacked – dog energy – has been resolved.

That’s not because dogs are allowed onto Prince’s Island Park, where the music fest found itself in fine form Saturday afternoon, as thousands of folkies strolled and lingered and occasionally boogied away to a workshop – no. Dogs are a no go over there.

But the folk fest has spread its wings over the past couple of years, extending its reach over to Eau Claire Market, where there’s a free stage set up, featuring a variety of acts, including , Kid Koala, the scratch DJ and graphic comic artist who performed a Saturday morning workshop alongside Dragon Fli Empire, Leftover Cuties and Petunia and the Vipers.

What makes it doubly sweet this year, at least on Saturday, was the presence of Pet-A-Palooza West right next to it.

That was the name of the west’s largest dog festival, (including an event called Running of the Bulls, which may explain why Eau Claire was teeming with lumbering (but sweetly-so) bulldogs Saturday).

OK – no connection to folkies – but then the heavens opened up around 3 p.m., and hundreds of folkies, and dog owners who opted to not adhere to Eau Claire’s no-dog policy all poured into the mall, creating an impromptu jam session of singer songwriter and mutts of every imaginable shape, breed and temperment – and their pets.

That kind of unlikely mashup of genres is really what folk fest is all about, whether it’s musical, culinary, or oratorical, which is exactly the sort of word you might have heard emerging above the din of blues guitars and New Orleans horn sections wafting over the treetops of Prince’s Island Park Saturday afternoon, coming out of the Talk Tent.

Inside the tiny tent, which seats about 40, a variety of standups and storytellers opted for the oral tradition to spin their particular yarns.

Quebec standup Derek Seguin explained how cussing in English differs from cussing in French (French cussing usually involves Jesus). A (single) father of three kids, Seguin riffed on how high maintenance our children have become, particularly the plague of peanut allergies – and gluten intolerance – that make it kind of nuts that the main fundraiser for schools still seems to be bake sales.

“I can smoke right outside the door,” he said, “but if I want to eat a Snickers bar, I have to leave the neighborhood!”

Seguin must have hit the right notes with the folkies, because it wasn’t long before the place was packed, with a large crowd standing outside the tent roaring along as to him ridiculing helicopter parenting.

“This folkie crowd is different (than playing a comedy club),” he said. “You laugh in different places.”

But laugh they did.

Derek Seguin performs in the Apache Talk Tent at the 2015 Calary Folk Festival.

Derek Seguin performs in the Apache Talk Tent at the 2015 Calary Folk Festival.

Seguin was followed in the tent by Happy Endings, a storytelling show that features local comics and non-comics who are just good at telling stories.

Host Jeff Kubik, a folkie lifer – he’s been a tarpy for a decade now – explained the term tarpy for the uninitiated, while expressing gratitude to the folk fest for allowing him to perform at one, even though he can’t sing or play a musical instrument.

Ayla Stephens told one about being trapped in an elevator with a drunk woman. Christina Kraven told how she played full contact rugby with boys for three months as a ten year old, because they all thought she was a boy named Christina. Scoot Laird told one about the summer of ’96, the worst one of his life, when he ended up on Salt Spring Island, where his wheelchair-bound, verbally abusive grandma got drunk, told everyone what a failure her son (Laird’s dad) was, then vomited on him.

His mother and father split up a week after they got home from that trip.

“I guess the old saying is true,” Laird said, “being old and awful and full of seafood and drunk doesn’t mix.”

There are a bunch of other intriguing storytellers at the talk tent this weekend, but they weren’t always at the talk tent.

Instead, standup Martha Chaves could be found out on the riverwalk, by the service entrance where the artists get driven onto the island.

She was due to perform a set at the Talk Tent, but there was Chaves, like some kind of political fangirl, shooting a selfie with the first folkie himself – Mayor Nenshi, who ditched the suit and tie for shorts and a shirt you could roll around in the dirt in.

Chaves unapologetically defended her right to take a selfie with the mayor.

“I have to be at Talk Tent,” she said, “but nothing can stop me from taking a selfie with the mayor.

“Otherwise,” she added, “nobody in Nicarauga will ever believe I met the mayor.”

Was Mayor Nenshi, she was asked, big in Nicaragua?

“Of course they know the mayor,” she said. “The mayor is a superstar everywhere.”

Calgary Folk Festival through Sunday, July 26