'A lifelong goal;' Yolanda Sargeant joins Calgary Folk Fest 2017 line-up

Posted by Aaron Chatha on 17 April 2017

'A lifelong goal;' Yolanda Sargeant joins Calgary Folk Fest 2017 line-up

Yolanda Sargeant, with her signature sunglasses, is one of six Calgary bands joi

‘I put on the sunglasses and know it will be okay’

The pre-show

It’s two minutes until show time and Yolanda Sargeant is breathing deep on the side of the stage.

The Calgary musician has been dreaming of performing at Folk Fest since she was a little kid – it’s been a staple event in the city so long, she’s not alone in her aspiration, except this year, she’s made it.

“I know a lot of performers, before they go on stage, think about the audience,” she explained. “I think about the task.

“I think about the message of the music. It’s not about me. I focus on letting the music speak for itself.”

She’s spent the day practicing her set, and seconds before hitting the stage, there’s only one part of her pre-show ritual that remains: a pair of iconic, oversized sunglasses.

“I put on the sunglasses and know it will be OK.”

Of course, none of this has happened yet. Calgary’s Folk Festival isn’t until July, but this past weekend officials announced this year’s line-up, and Sargeant’s name, along with her band Comrade, made the list.

And she’s already pumped for it.

Folk Fest 2017

Prince’s Island Park will play host to some 68 musicians at this year’s festival. Rather than compete with Pet-A-Palooza at Eau Claire, the organizers have moved the entire event to the island.

There are some big names coming this year, including Blue Rodeo, the Barenaked Ladies, Coeur de Pirate, City and Colour and a few local acts like Lindi Ortega and Forbidden Dimension.

With artists coming from as far away as Haiti and the Congo, the organizers have put together a very diverse lineup for this year.

“Someone once defined folk music as – it just depends where your folks are from. By its definition, it embraces all cultures. Folk music is often grassroots, but its evolution to more sophisticated performances is one of the things really showcased at the festival,” said executive director Debbi Salmonsen.

Like last year, there will be something for everyone from eight to 80 to enjoy, and organizers are setting the same high standard for environmental practices – last year they finished the festival with zero per cent waste on the island.

New this year will be a free concert celebrating Canada’s 150, which involves festival artists performing songs from Canada’s history.

“Particularly the last 70 years,” said artistic director Kerry Clarke. “So you may have a folk artist doing a blues song, or an indigenous artist doing an old Cape Breton song – or a hip hop artist doing an indigenous song.”

The post-show

“It’s a big relief,” said Sargeant. Folk Fest is a blast, but it’s also work. Sargeant’s already putting together an eclectic set, which runs from soul and reggae to jazz and funk.

But months from now, after the set, Sargeant is looking forward to walking off stage, cheering crowd behind her, pulled back the sunglasses and just kicking it with her band mates for a few hours.

Because they’re her favourite people.