Lisa Wilton, Calgary Sun: Rip-roaring start for Folk Fest

Posted by Johanna on 26 July 2011

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The Calgary Folk Music Festival kicked off Thursday and proved once again why it’s one of the most successful music festivals in the country.

Though folk purists may balk at the lack of traditional folk acts playing the Folk Fest in recent years, artistic director Kerry Clarke has kept the four-day event thriving by attracting thousands of new audience members with artists that push the genre’s boundaries.

Thursday night was a great example of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s ability to please the younger music fans, who will become the next generation of Folk Fest goers, while not leaving behind its core audience.

Headliner City and Colour, aka Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Dallas Green, certainly appealed to the young crowd, many of whom looked under the age of 20.

Green’s soaring vocals set him apart from other similarly emotive singer-songwriters, and the park was the perfect backdrop to his mellow indie folk melodies.

Before City and Colour took the stage, Nova Scotia singer-guitarist Joel Plaskett entertained the crowd, which had started to gather in the roped off ‘dance area’ at the sides of the stage.

He chatted amiably, name-dropping Calgary live venues and reminiscing about past appearances in the city.

Plaskett pulled songs from throughout his career, from earlier solo indie pop hits such as Maybe We Should Just Go Home to tracks from his ambitious 2009 Polaris Prize-nominated triple album, Three.

While Green and Plaskett charmed with their melodic acoustic pop, Montreal rapper and klezmer musician Josh Dolgin appeared to confuse some of the 12,000 attendees with his hip hop/pop/klezmer/dance hybrid, Socalled.

But Dolgin managed to win over the skeptics by the end of his energetic and fun set.

Joined by a tight five-piece band, Dolgin performed several songs from his latest album, the very excellent SleepOver.

Keeping with the theme of SleepOver, the curly haired, bespectacled Dolgin appeared on stage wearing bright red pyjamas.

Although Socalled’s dancier numbers got the crowd moving, it was the group’s rendition of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl’s folk classic Springhill Mine Disaster, featuring the gorgeous vocals of Katie Moore, that was the set’s highlight.

Starting off the evening was Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, which isn’t really so big at all.

But they do they make one heck of a huge, wonderful racket.

The Indiana country-blues trio, led by the burly, charismatic Rev Peyton, performed a sensational set of swampy blues and hillbilly stomps.

Peyton’s wife Breezy nearly stole the show with her sensational washboard scratching and thumping skills.

They may have sang Sure Feels Like Rain, but luckily any storms that were brewing held off, making for a memorable first night.

lisa.wilton@sunmedia.ca

Attendance: About 12,000 sold out