Calgary Folk Festival
We are still almost 3 months and 500 miles from the Calgary Folk Festival but the buzz has already started in anticipation. The leaks of the week are checked on Monday (Yeah April 19th – Avett Brothers). Tour schedules are checked to see who has kept open dates for the weekend of July 22-25 and who is close enough to swing through for a day. Gosh only 2 weeks til the full roster is anounced.
We don’t take winter holidays as we wish to save our time off to participate in the different festivals offered in Alberta. The reason would be that the Festivals offer such blendings of culture and learning experiences that no holiday resort could take their place.
Contrast would be the word I would use to describe my experiences at the Calgary Folk Festival. In a city that is based on the use of motor vehicles, we can walk from our guest house to the Festival in 15 minutes stopping at an independent restaurant to pick up breakfast and an excellent cup of coffee. Even for those arriving by vehicle parking is not an issue which is a rarity in Calgary. You arrive and find your spot along the fence with everyone else waiting for the gates to open and join into conversations about last night’s show, the anticipation of seeing a particular performer or another festival in the future. This is a lot different than the hockey games we go to in the winter as everyone there arrives just in time to get their seat and doesn’t spend much time outside so as not to freeze their butt.
Once you have entered the grounds you can not help but look around and admire the green oasis that is Prince’s Island right in downtown Calgary. As you spend your four days there that admiration will grow as you will find no litter thanks to the efforts of the volunteers and the pride that such a beautiful area instils in the audience.
As you attend the workshops will it become the introspective workings of the songwriters or will become the fusion of talents we witnessed when Tom Russell, Laura Love and Ruthie Foster led their accompanyists through a rousing rendition of “Honky Tonk Women.” Maybe it will be a combination, such as Emily Wells trying to coax Ray Wylie Hubbard into a collaboration, with Hayes Carll coming to his defense saying, “You have to remember that Ray and I only know 4 chords between the two of us.”
And the food. Will we bring in supper in our insulated lunch kits or will we succumb to the varied temptations, especially when we smell the aroma of East Indian food wafting through the crowd? Will we stick to the tried and true or will we experiment with something exotic.
Nowhere are the contrasts more different than in the music offered. Last year Myrol performed “Mighty Peace” about the river that flows 40 feet from our house and we saw Juldeh Camara from Gambia perform with his home made one string fiddle that night. I have watched Glenn Campbell on television since you were a child and I saw Arrested Development whose music is totally foreign to my background. Cephas & Wiggins may sing four songs about their favourite foods or Mavis Staples might sing songs from her civil rights background. On the stage could be Danny Barnes with just his banjo or it could be the lush thematic performances offered by Loreena McKennitt.
As you sit and relax in the sun you can’t help but realize how laid back many of the performers are too. You may realize you are standing beside Alejandro Escovedo and he is appreciative of the comments made by his many fans. This is possible because they don’t have to pack and run as soon as their performance is over, as many stay for 3-4 days during the festival. But at the end of the music, there is a bit of a rush. You know you want to get home and some sleep so you can wake up early and come back again early tomorrow because you don’t want to miss anything.
So what will I write about if I am lucky enough to be chosen by No Depression to be the 2010 blogger. How close I go to the stage for the Avett Brothers, a workshop including old friends Ian Tyson & Tom Russell, new songs for Fred Eaglesmith, does Robert Flack still have that beautiful voice and definitely Steve Dawson’s Mississippi Sheiks tribute.
To those coming this year, enjoy and to those thinking about it in the future, I certainly recommend making it part of your summer.