how I lost my Calgary Folk Festival virginity
It took a magazine contest to get me to the Calgary Folk Festival.
We had been in Calgary for about five years, and I was just emerging from that musically bereft wasteland that often accompanies those years of child-rearing when cutting cheese into dinosaur shapes looms large, your days revolve around playground politics, and your musical adventures are of the Sharon, Lois and Bram genre.
The last time I had been to a folk festival, Stan Rogers was still alive, and I spent the weekend sleeping rough in Bird’s Hill Park outside of Winnipeg, as is only befitting a university student. Now a mother, I had been hearing tantalizing talk of this folk festival that our newly adopted home of Calgary had to offer, of the zen-like location that it occupied on an island in the river flowing through downtown, of the increasingly diverse line-up of performers that it had to offer.
So when a local magazine offered to send the winner of the contest for Best Calgary Folk Festival Playlist to the opening night concert, along with hotel and dinner accommodations, I thought it was time that I once again indulged my musical fantasies and enter.
Against all odds and with the following playlist, based upon musicians who were scheduled to appear at that year’s incarnation of the Calgary Folk Festival, I gobsmacked my friends, family, and, quite frankly, myself by scooping up the big prize:
1. Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist – Weakerthans [Fallow]
2. Words We Never Use – Ron Sexsmith [Ron Sexsmith]
3. Eat More Crayfish – CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisianna Band [Step It Up!]
4. Migrations – Christine Fellows [Paper Anniversary]
5. Smoke Baby – Hawksley Workman [Lover/Fighter]
6. Ashes to Ashes – Steve Earle [Jerusalem]
7. Come All You Sailors – Wailin’ Jennys [40 Days]
8. Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961) – Weakerthans
9. What’s Hardcore – K’Naan [The Dusty Foot Philosopher]
10. Basement Apartment – Sarah Harmer [You Were Here]
11. Wicked and Weird – Buck 65 [Talkin’ Honky Blues]
12. Vertebrae – Christine Fellows [Paper Anniversary]
13. I am Cow – Arrogant Worms [Dirt!]
14. Wild Goose – Kate and Anna McGarrigle [Variety Recordings]
Yes, the luxury hotel room complete with baby grand piano and two fireplaces, mere steps away from the folk festival, was a glorious indulgence that I can never again hope to recapture in my life. And yes, the spousal unit and I reveled in the dinner and lunch we were served at high end downtown restaurants, which were included in the winning package. But it was the experience of traipsing onto the green enclave that opening night of the festival that hooked me in and made me a folk festival addict.
Despite the fact that, as folk festival newbies, we had shamefully forgotten our blanket in the hotel room and instead spread our sweaters out as best we could amongst the tarps and chairs of the more experienced folkies, we felt a oneness with everyone else on the grassy clearing. As the sun slipped at last behind the trees, the air cooled, and the trio of throat singers made way for a heartfelt solo set by Jeff Tweedy, we knew we had found our tribe and that we would be back next year, and every year after that.