The first of two full days of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival was great. The morning performances on the multiple eight stages showed a wide variety of talent, music. and interesting tidbits that is only found in a folk festival.
Starting the day, we visited a stage that compiled multiple singer-songwriters to talk about how a few of their songs came to be. Big names in attendance were Kathleen Edwards and Hannah Georgas, along with Mo Kenny, Aidan Knight, and a few others to round out the line up. It was great hearing the stories of how they crafted their tracks, and the different song-writing techniques are not only useful, but inspiring. Aidan Knight was the highlight of the round-robin setlist with his amazing performance of “Jasper”. I’ve seen him live on multiple occasions and I’ve never heard this song live so finally getting a chance not only excited me, but the entire crowd who were screaming and clapping along with the whole song.
We also got the opportunity to try out different food vendors, and without a doubt, a little tent called “Perogies and Sausage” makes the best, well you know, perogies and sausage. I’m not a food critic, but the line-up to the vent can prove how amazing these bite sized balls of dough and cheese tacked on with a roll of pork really are. Say goodbye to my figure.
During the main stage performances, I was in utter shock and awe to a few groups. The first being Danny Michael with the Garifuna Collective. Danny Michael is an Ontario singer-songwriter who has compiled a collective of Belize musicians to back his band, and now the odd mixture is touring. I cannot describe the energy and joy the band has, and they created a phrase that describes their setlist. “Snowballing”, they call it. Mixing two songs from Danny Michaels discography, and two songs from the backing band, the group has a wide range of world-beat and traditional folk songs with an international flair. I highly recommend seeing these guys.
If there’s one group that shocked me, it was Whitehorse. This husband-wife duo of famed songwriters are true ass kickers. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland might seem like folk artists on their album, but live, it’s a totally different story. I compare their sound to Ty Segall, The White Stripes, and even Japandroids with their garage-rock sound. It’s absolutely amazing how much power these two have. They loop their tracks to create amazing atmosphere, and use an outstanding number of odd ball instruments to create that fuzzy, distorted sound that’s found in more traditional garage rock. McClelland even used a telephone for a song, which alone reformed me into a fan.
The following performer was an interesting mix of Bhangra and rock. Named the Raghu Dixit Project, this band has performed for the Queen at the Diamond Jubilee, and has the highest selling album outside of Bollywood in years. What caught my attention was how interesting and crazy their music was. They took the traditional sounds of Bhangra and through in mainstream North American music into the mix. They touched on electronica, rock and roll, folk, and even pop music that gripped the audience into a trance of dance and joy. “It’s amazing to be here. We appreciate it very much,” Raghu yelled, “We’ve been trying to get here for years, and we finally got our visas!”. It was this sort of light-heartedness that was to be found throughout the set.
After that, the moment the entire festival weekend has been centred around finally arrived. The cult icon and world-class visionary Steve Earle took to the stage with his band, The Dukes. There was a sudden shift in atmosphere the second he arrived to the scene. An entire cult following of fans arrived and the attendance rose for his name alone. Dawning a cowboy hat and untrimmed beard, he controlled the crowd with ease. “I thought Toby Keith would record this song and I’d get rich,” He announced before playing “Calico Country”, which is one of few fan favourites. After an onslaught of great folk rock and real classic rock and roll, he blasted into “Copperhead Road”. It was an experience that will last a lifetime, seeing this historical moment of music right in front of my eyes. The man himself playing a song for the ages. It’s the beauty of the folk fest. I could have had one second of that song and be happy for the weekend.
Be sure to check up for our Sunday round up!