Review: Calgary Folk Fest Saturday night lineup challenging, beautiful, eclectic

Posted by Eric Volmers on 25 July 2016

James Blood Ulmer plays at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. GAVIN YOUNG, / POSTME

From lightning-fast punky bluegrass, to strange “droney mantras” to straightforward runs through the songbook of one of Canada’s best writers, Saturday’s mainstage at the Calgary Folk Festival was as eclectic as has come to be expected from programming at the festival.

“We have 20 songs to play in 50 minutes” said Dallas Good at one point, exaggerating a touch but generally summing up the stunning efficiency of his Sadies, one of the country’s most solid live acts and the one chosen to open the mainstage festivities Saturday night at Prince’s Island Park.

The band — fronted by second-generation guitar-slingers Travis and Dallas Good — have been treating their time at the 2016 Calgary Folk Music Festival not unlike they have treated their career for the past 20-plus years, where they’ve worked with everyone from Neko Case, to John Doe to Gord Downie. The Toronto four-piece have been an ubiquitous presence at Prince’s Island Park the past couple of days, backing the Mini-Mekons and playing in a variety of workshops. 

Given their own set, the boys let loose with a powerhouse performance highlighted by their punk-surf take on bluegrass, somehow played with both breakneck speed and focused precision. The Good brothers’ prowess on guitar, and their otherworldly synchronicity with each other on stage, often means their songwriting talents are overlooked. But their chops are just as solid in that area, as evidenced by the gloomy dark-twang tone poem Tell Her What I Said, the menacing So Much Blood and the melancholic country ballad Sunset to Dawn. The act has perfected an onstage routine — complete with Dallas’ charmingly laconic, country-gentleman banter and a handful of dizzyingly accelerating instrumentals — that they haven’t had much need to alter in 20 years. 

Travis Good of the Sadies

Travis Good of the Sadies plays at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Saturday July 23, 2016. GAVIN YOUNG / POSTMEDIA

From lightning-fast punky bluegrass, to strange “droney mantras” to straightforward runs through the songbook of one of Canada’s best writers, Saturday’s mainstage at the Calgary Folk Festival was as eclectic as has come to be expected from programming at the festival.

“We have 20 songs to play in 50 minutes” said Dallas Good at one point, exaggerating a touch but generally summing up the stunning efficiency of his Sadies, one of the country’s most solid live acts and the one chosen to open the mainstage festivities Saturday night at Prince’s Island Park.

The band — fronted by second-generation guitar-slingers Travis and Dallas Good — have been treating their time at the 2016 Calgary Folk Music Festival not unlike they have treated their career for the past 20-plus years, where they’ve worked with everyone from Neko Case, to John Doe to Gord Downie. The Toronto four-piece have been an ubiquitous presence at Prince’s Island Park the past couple of days, backing the Mini-Mekons and playing in a variety of workshops. 

Given their own set, the boys let loose with a powerhouse performance highlighted by their punk-surf take on bluegrass, somehow played with both breakneck speed and focused precision. The Good brothers’ prowess on guitar, and their otherworldly synchronicity with each other on stage, often means their songwriting talents are overlooked. But their chops are just as solid in that area, as evidenced by the gloomy dark-twang tone poem Tell Her What I Said, the menacing So Much Blood and the melancholic country ballad Sunset to Dawn. The act has perfected an onstage routine — complete with Dallas’ charmingly laconic, country-gentleman banter and a handful of dizzyingly accelerating instrumentals — that they haven’t had much need to alter in 20 years.