Saturday night at the Calgary folk festival goes down easy like Sunday morning

Posted by on 26 July 2015


NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 14: Joey Ryan (L) and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids and perform during the 2015 Americana Honors & Awards Nomination Ceremony at Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 14, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

So this is what it feels like. 

This is life the day after.

This is how the world is once you’ve known Father John Misty and have to move on.

Shall we designate it some way, should we mark our lives as BFJM and AFJM?

Yes. Let’s.

So. How is it Day 1 in an AFJM world?

Well. Fine, I guess. You wake up. You get dressed. Maybe have some coffee. Shave, if you do that sort of thing. Pat your dog. Kiss your significant other. You get on with your life.

But. There’s … something. Something missing. Something not quite right. It’s a sense, really. Everything is as it was, everyone is as they were, but there’s a feeling you just can’t shake. It’s as if time has perhaps skipped a beat, the universe is a little off, in some way.

It’s like, well, it’s like tomorrow came a little early. It’s like the day you were expecting is not the day you were getting, if that makes any sense.

Here, let me give you an example: Saturday at the Calgary Folk Music Festival was Saturday at the Calgary Folk Music Festival, yes. But it didn’t feel like Saturday at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. It felt, instead, like Sunday at the Calgary Folk Music Festival.

The day was a lazier, the mood mellower, the music softer.

While generally great, the schedule during the day, as spotlighted here, was still somewhat more subdued than most days, on the stage and in the audience. If you weren’t looking for it or tuned into it, you probably didn’t notice.

But it was impossible not to once the Mainstage kicked into gear.

The lineup was not a Saturday night Calgary Folk Music Festival lineup, it was a Sunday night Calgary Folk Music Festival lineup.

Which is most certainly not a complaint. It was nice. It was pleasant. It was enjoyable. It was quality through and through.

But it was Sunday. That’s especially true when you compare it to the actual amazing Sunday on tap, with artists such as Steep Canyon Rangers, Rhiannon Giddens, Lucinda Williams and The Mavericks — Saturday artists. Not Sunday artists. Like those on Saturday.

Take opener Adam Cohen. His set wasn’t one to get the crowd riled up and ready to rage, it was a glass of brandy to warm you, put you in the mood, lay you down and love you just right.

The artist has, finally, accepted his birthright, given into his artistic DNA, and embraced his daddy’s approach and delivery. He’s sex, style, cigarettes, poetry, sophistication and smoulder, updated for today. Call him the Instagram Ladies Man.

From songs such as Put Your Bags Down and Swear I Was There to an extended Love Is, Cohen expertly worked his suave and cool on the island crowd, while his equally as stylish band backed him up, were the musical equivalent of wingmen and women.

And if the fact were living in an AFJM world wasn’t entirely apparent beforehand, the singer made it known, professing a mancrush for Mr. Misty, dropping the fact that they had a hang on Friday night, and then asking the audience to join him in a Vine saying hello to his newfound friend.

Ultimately, he was entertaining, they sounded great and we were all transported to a lounge in the wee hours of the Sabbath a.m.

Which made the fact that Cohen was followed by California’s Milk Carton Kids all the more feeling. The phrase “easy like Sunday morning” was coined for the duo and their sound. Harmonies so sweet, songs so fresh, playing so sweet, you can almost smell the fresh cut grass from the laziest chore on the laziest of days.

The pair of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, strummed, Simoned and Garfunkeled their way through pretty, seaspray songs such as The Ash and Clay, Charlie and Heaven. It really was lovely.

But that was only half of their show, as the Kids’ between song banter lifts it higher, the two casually and hilariously charming, with new dad Ryan delivering a long, very funny walk through the childbirth experience from the father’s perspective, before Pattengale introduced their tune Snake Eyes with, “This is our song about death.”

They were a delight.

As was folk giant, guitar genius Richard Thompson, who, in keeping with the Sunday theme, left electric at home and did it all acoustic and solo. Again, he was an understated wonder, in every way, save for that playing — any and every person who’s ever picked up a stringed instrument was awed into a coma with his musicianship.

The legend went down just as easy as the Kids who came before, with material such as Ghost of You Walks, Josephine, Rumour and Sigh classic 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and new tune Beatnik Walks, and a demeanour that was affable and magnetic, not showy — again, save for that playing.

By the way, if at this point you’re wondering where are the reviews of the Twilight Stage acts, Colin Stetson, Thao and The Get Down Stay Down and The Strumbellas, well, that was way over there at that stage. Kinda seemed like a lotta effort to get there. So. Mainstage.

Which, after penultimate performer Esperanza Spalding and her current project, may have seemed like a bad choice. Not punishment, per se, but a lesson hard earned.

The four-time Grammy-winning bassist’s show, billed as Esperenza Spalding’s Emily D+Evolution, was an out-there, performance art, jazz-funk journey with her band that seemed more like a Bataan Death March. OK. That’s probably unfair. Musically and artistically it was admirably adventurous and skilfully sound, but any day of the week it was also a tough slog, a baffling, confounding, esoteric and challenging listen where they beauty was buried way down deep.

You had to search to find it and, frankly, that became less and less a desirable prospect as the minutes noodled on. Which they did. And on. And on. And on.

Until finally it was all over and it was time for the evening’s headliner, Buffy Sainte-Marie, who, again, couldn’t be a greater example of the Saturday gone Sunday motif.

Of course the 74-year-old Canadian folk icon would put the capper on a sleepy day by strumming politely and respectfully, maybe offering the crowd the musical equivalent of some hard candy from her handbag.

Of course she’d be the pat on the head, the kiss on the forehead, the warm glass of milk to send everyone on their way.

Yeah. Um. No.

Sainte-Marie’s set was one of the more rocking one’s on this day or any other day. Enjoying a renaissance and some renewed hipness thanks to her latest, Polaris shortlisted album Power In the Blood, the Canadian Cree artist and activist came out like she’d been waiting all week to kick some ass and take some names.

It was exhilarating.

Opening up with It’s My Way from her newest, she and her three-piece stormed through a remarkable, mainly uptempo set of Aboriginal-infused rock numbers, including Darling Don’t Cry, Cho Cho Fire, Generation and We Are Circling.

Anyone who’d been ready for bed suddenly had a little more life they needed to live on this night, as the guitar, percussion and her powerful, powerful voice celebrated up there on stage.

And the highlight was a cut early into her closing party, as she introduced a track by relating that, as a young child, while she was supposed to be ironing her school uniform in the basement she was, instead, listening to rockabilly radio and tunes by artists such as Carl Perkins and Lonnie Donegan. This, she said, was at long last her first attempt at a rockabilly song — and it was a great one, all snarl, swagger, hips and wiggle.

It’s name? Blue Sunday.

But it wasn’t. It was Saturday. The first day of our lives AFJM.

Let’s see what Day 2, the Saturday on Sunday has in store.