Five things about the Calgary Folk Music Festival
For most folk, we’re about to hit the midway point, the dog days of summer.
For Calgary folks, we’re heading into the only four days that matter.
Once again, it’s time for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the annual oasis in the sun that delivers more music and memories in its four days than one could hope to otherwise experience in a full calendar year.
Kicking off on Thursday, here are five things you need to know before happily diving headfirst into the oasis — that is, if you, like most folks don’t already, hadn’t been waiting, planning and counting on since the last fest ended.
1. The basics: The fest runs from Thursday through Sunday in the couldn’t-be-lovelier downtown, outdoor setting of Prince’s Island Park. Every day is a different day, with a different schedule and times, so make sure you’re hep by heading to the festival’s website calgaryfolkfest.comand scouting out the specifics.
And if you haven’t got your tickets or passes, you’re in luck — there are still some to be had for single days or four-day passes for the entire event itself from the gate, online or by calling 403-233-0904.
The folk fest audience take in a performance by Trampled By Turtles at Calgary Folk Music Festival in Calgary, Alberta Thursday, July 24, 2014.
2. The acts: It’s why you go. Right? Where most of those memories come from. And this year, among the 70 artists from 14 different countries, there are some amazing acts to catch in almost any style of music you could require. You want a quick and highly subjective list of can’t misses? Sure. Make sure you circle on your schedule the names: John Butler Trio, Jr. Gone Wild, Reuben and the Dark, Robyn Hitchcock, Black Joe Lewis, Embassylights, The Milk Carton Kids, Jennifer Castle, Copperhead, SAVK, Lucinda Williams, The Mavericks and, last but not least, Father John Misty, whose Friday night headlining set, alone, should be worth the price of a full weekend pass.
(As a side note: Montreal musician Patrick Watson had to cancel his Thursday night appearance due to laryngitis and pneumonia. Shakey Graves will take his spot on the Mainstage.)
Father John Misty will headline the main stage of the folk festival on Friday evening.
3. The workshops: Should you not wish to trust the judgment of others, the weekend workshops on the six side stages are like tasters that should give you a sense of what you like and what you should seek out the rest of the fest. Taking place from Friday through Sunday, they feature artists with commonalities but who could be remarkably different, thrown together on one stage to see what happens. Some play separately, merely preview what you’ll see should you catch their showcases, and others, well, others open up and jam together, which can make for some memories that are of the once-in-a-lifetime sort. Some advice: Grab a program, pre-scout, navigate wisely, and don’t be afraid to throw all plans out the window should a workshop let you down or deliver the kind of magic you just can’t pull yourself away from.
Phil Wade with The Wilders performs during a workshop titled Hoedown Throwdown on stage four on the final day of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Sunday, July 28, 2013.
4. The other stuff: Yeah, as always, there’s lots of other stuff should you have your fill of the music: there’s the Family Zone area with entertainment to amuse the young ones; there’s the Apache Talk Tent featuring comedy, improv and spoken-word performances which, this year includes stories from veteran Canadian music industry giant Richard Flohil and standup from comics Adora Nwofor and Martha Chaves; food from a variety of local food trucks and restaurants, whatever your taste of digestive abilities; the merch tent where you can truly show your approval of the musicians you’ve seen; and, of course, the Big Rock Beer Garden, which has proven to be a magnet from which few can escape.
The sun sets on the main stage crowd at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Saturday evening July 26, 2014.
5. The changes: For those who make the pilgrimage annually and are familiar with the way things run, organizers have announced a couple of things to make the fest experience, hopefully, that much better. One of them is that the dancing area on the left hand side of the main stage has been expanded and reconfigured allowing for more room to move. They’re also asking tarpies for a little help by enforcing a 6′ x 8′ maximum tarp size, and encouraging people to “share space so that artists aren’t looking out at lots of empty spaces when people are away from their tarps for extended periods.” On a more important note, some improvements have been made to the beer garden, including reducing the size of the tables and increasing the number of taps pouring the suds, which should make lineups smaller and the space roomier.
Amanda Prokop dances to the workshop titled Cross Border Shopping at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Friday, July 26, 2013.
For those who are new to the festival — again, there’s a beer garden. Nuff said. Enjoy the oasis.