The Vancouver Folk Music Festival – Saturday July 17, 2010
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Saturday July 17, 2010
By Doug Heselgrave
Saturday was the first full day of the festival, and like every year the roster is almost overwhelming. With over 200 acts to choose from, I often have a sudden attack of ADD and don’t know where to go and what to listen to.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that you wont’ read any indepth reports of any individual performances.
The day began around noon as my wife, daughters and I entered the park. (As an aside there are enough kid activities here to make this a family event – kids music, crafts, theatre, and a climbing wall that must give the festival’s insurance agent a panic attack)
As we crossed the first field, the sound of Tao Seeger ripping his way through ‘Send ‘em home’ – his anti war rant – was a promising start. I wasn’t that impressed with his latest CD, but to see Seeger doubled over wailing on his electric guitar – shows that even though styles have changed – the Seeger fire is very much alight. A fine performer – see him if you can.
From there, we visited Daniel Lapp’s fiddle workshop in the kids’ area – and it’s heartening to know that in this era of Gameboys and video entertainment that the simple sound of a Celtic reel can still get urban children dancing and twirling about.
Next, I checked out my buddy Steve Dawson’s stripped down Mississippi Sheiks tribute ensemble featuring Daniel Lapp, Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart, Bob Brozman and Jim Byrnes. No matter how many times I hear, ‘Sitting on Top of the World’ it’s a song I never tire of.
I hadn’t heard the Deep Dark Woods in a while, but in the year since last seeing them live, they’ve put together a rambling heartfelt show that is better than it should be. After all, these ragged bearded boys make no secret of their influences, but something in the alchemy of the way they blend Neil Young, The Band and Woody Guthrie musical textures works! A wonderful show from these young prairie boys.
After a long hot sunny afternoon listening to music – from headline performers as well as from the many amateur musicians who gathered together to form impromptu jams in secluded corners of the park – we took the kids swimming on the beach by Stage Six, and took in th Watcha amazing set. This young band from Marseilles, France played a heady mix of reggae, trance and world beats that was perfect for the late afternoon head.
As the sun went down, we took in Finley Quaye’s set by the lagoon. I hadn’t heard Quaye sing for over a decade and thought that the British soul singer had retired or settled into obscurity. A fine set from an older, more confident looking Quaye reminded me that he’s one of the best soul singers in the biz. I look forward to hearing more from him.
Many people obviously looked forward to Sarah Harmer’s mainstage set and the crowd responded very positively to her performance. Personally, I have always enjoyed her recorded music, but her live show failed to grab me at all. The songs were good, her voice was in fine form and her band was excellent, but the vastness of the park was not necessarily the right venue for her intimate songs.
Bettye Lavette on the other hand filled the park with her presence before she sang a note. If you have the chance to hear her live, do it. There aren’t many performers of her vintage left – and even fewer who can rip it up like Bettye can. Her live performance of George Harrison’s ‘Isn’t it a Pity’ was far stronger than the recorded version, and if she’d only sang that one song, I’d have gone home happy.
A wonderful second day at the festival that is just hitting its stride after more than thirty years.
Looking forward to Mr. Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder. He never makes it up to this part of the world, and to our Canadian ears a performance by a man of his vintage and reputation is just as exotic and otherworldly as performers from Mongolia or Tuva might be in your town. I can’t wait.