City and Colour, Barenaked Ladies, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry and Blue Rodeo among Calgary Folk Music Festival performers for 2017

Posted by Eric Volmers on 22 April 2017

 Frontman Dallas Green of City and Colour. JACK BOLAND / TORONTO SUN/QMI AGENCY

There is always a certain amount of strategy that goes into programming music festivals.

But sometimes things just fall into place.

Take this year’s lineup for the Calgary Folk Music Festival. A quick glance at some of the headliners who will take the main stage at Prince’s Island Park for the July 27 to 30 event suggests a move toward tried-and-true, established acts, including festival favourites Blue Rodeo and City and Colour and veterans The Barenaked Ladies.

“A lot of it happens because of who is interested and available,” says artistic director Kerry Clarke.” Barenaked Ladies really wanted to play around at Canadian festivals. They contacted me back in June. (Blue Rodeo) reached out to us and it’s hard to say no to Blue Rodeo.  City and Colour, same deal. (Frontman Dallas Green) was looking to play this year. So it was a happy coincidence that it worked out that there were some really key, household-name headliners who were interested and available and fit with our programming and add to it and help illuminate what we do for people who may or may not be familiar.”

And for every Barenaked Ladies and Blue Rodeo, there are a number of artists that run in more underground circles. This year that includes acts such as electronica noiserockers Holy F—k, Toronto’s imaginative hip-hop and jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD and genre-bending Congolese ensemble Mbongwana Star.

The folk fest released its lineup on Saturday night at the Palomino in downtown Calgary, showcasing an eclectic mix of more than 70 artists from around the world. While there is unsurprisingly an abundance of Canuck talent, they run the gamut when it comes to genre. Other homegrown highlights this year include Quebec singer-songwriter Coeur de pirate, acclaimed Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, alt-pop folkie Basia Bulat, ex-Weakerthans’ leader John K. Samson, powerhouse Montreal vocalist Betty Bonifassi, Can-rock stalwart Barney Bentall and country traditionalists Lindi Ortega and Whitney Rose.

British protest singer Billy Bragg will be joined by producer and songwriter Joe Henry to headline Thursday’s main stage activities, presumably drawing on their critically acclaimed album of old railroad tunes, Shine a Light. They will be joined that night by L.A.-based folk rockers Dawes and Coeur de pirate. Friday night will be topped by City and Colour and Bulat, but also include British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka, gospel-influenced roots rockers Birds of Chicago and Australian indigenous singer-songwriter Archie Roach.

Americana veteran Dave Alvin and brother Phil will be a main stage attraction on Saturday before the Barenaked Ladies. Columbia’s Sidestepper, John K. Samson & The Winter Wheat and Mgonbwana Star will also appear. British roots singer-songwriter Yola Carter, Boston folkies Darlingside and soulful Irish alt-folk performer Foy Vance, who was a highlight at the 2016 festival, will play Sunday night before Blue Rodeo.

As always, the lineup includes a healthy dose of world music. Tuareg singer-songwriter FARIS mixes North African and American song traditions, Chouk Bwa Libete play traditional Haitian roots music and the aforementioned Sidestepper blend traditional cumbia and electronic dance music.

Indigenous performers will also be a highlight this year. Alongside Archie Roach, who Clarke describes as “indigenous music royalty in Australia,” and Tagaq, Calgary’s boundary-pushing Metis band Ghostkeeper, Mohawk electronic-music performer DJ Shub, Winnipeg singer-songwriter William Prince and Edmonton Cree indie rockers nehiyawak will also perform.

For a complete list of performers visit