The Great Canadian Music Festival
I have played at a number of music festivals. From the smaller folk fests to hippie jam fests, and everything in between. These are the jewels in the crown of summer gigs. Usually they pay a little bit of money and provide you with some food and shelter. The biggest thing they offer is a dedicated audience of music lovers. People who buy tickets to music festivals are not haters. They tend to be the most enthusiastic vacationing music aficionados who pride themselves on being on the lookout for new artists. Or they just like to party. No matter how or why they got there, festival audiences are generally on your team before you even hit the stage. This offers artists the truly crucial opportunity to make friends with other artists and jam, creating the lovely musical web we all so deeply appreciate.
In my humble opinion, Canada gets a lot of things right. They offer their citizens health care. They extended the right of marriage to include same-sex couples in 2005. They give their folk musicians grants to make records and videos, and with which to tour. Another thing they do extremely well is that they put on excellent music festivals.
I have performed at Vancouver Island Music Fest, Islands Folk Fest, Canmore Folk Festival, and Calgary Folk Festival, both as myself and playing in backing bands for Carrie Elkin and Sam Baker. These festivals are usually very well put together. Artists are reasonably well paid. They offer really nice housing, transportation, meals, and a liason who helps take care of any extraneous needs. They book a lot of Canadian artists, but also a very good handful of music from the rest of the world. It’s a veritable melting pot.
The best thing they do is put together shows where four or so different acts get on stage together, play in the round, and collaborate. Each act pulls a different crowd and the energy is often undeniably electric.
At Calgary in 2012, I was singing in Sam Baker’s band and we got on stage with Serena Ryder, The Magnetic North, and Three Metre Day. Sam led “I Shall Be Released.” It was a magical moment. There’s a video of that show, and you can hear Anthony da Costa destroy the second verse. I am so far in the back, you can’t see me, which is fine with me. I was there and felt the magic. My husband, Andrew, is holding down the bass with a captain’s hat on.
These are the reasons we all do this job, to get on stage and be moved by music. Thank you Canada, for understanding that this has value. Thank you for supporting your musicians in the act of making music, as well as providing them a venue in which they can showcase their wares.
Photo of Calgary Folk Festival from VisitCalgary.com