July 30, 2015


Music

Folk Fest performers crank up the chemistry

 Ben Harper plays guitar on the Folk Fest's Main Stage Thursday night. He is touring with blues harmonica musician Charlie Musselwhite.
 Ben Harper plays guitar on the Folk Fest's Main Stage Thursday night. He is touring with blues harmonica musician Charlie Musselwhite.
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite headline Folk Fest Thursday night.
Claire Waters and Danny Heinrichs gobble up some famous Whaletails at the festival eating area. The Winnipeggers say they expect to eat at least seven of them before the end of the weekend.
Brittany Roginson dances with her hula hoop at Folk Fest on Thursday. She is performing in the fire shows at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Chantal Dick attends Folk Fest for the fourth time, dancing to Chic Gamine on Thursday night.
Greg Allan feels the love as he delivers free hugs at Folk Fest on Thursday.
Della Mae performs Thursday night at Folk Fest.
Della Mae performs Thursday night at Folk Fest.
Chic Gamine performs Thursday night at Folk Fest.
Candace Froebe and James Penner attend Folk Fest on Thursday. Penner says he is most excited to see Ben Harper at this year's festival.
The Village Tower on the opening night of Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014 at Birds Hill Park.
Kids spin light toys during Bonnie Raitt's set.
Festival goers dance to Bonnie Raitt's headlining set on the opening night of Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014.
Bonnie Raitt headlining the main stage on Wednesday evening.
Blues legend Bonnie Raitt on Main Stage.
Mary Houston and Ian Naften share a moment in the crowd during Bonnie Raitt's set at the main stage on Wednesday evening.
Bonnie Raitt on Main Stage.
Festival goers ride the Seven Earthstones see-saw art project by Tonya Borgeson on the opening day of Winnipeg Folk Fest Wednesday.
The Bros. Landreth perform on Main Stage.
Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers on Main Stage.
Elliette Fast points out bubbles atop her father Reynold's shoulders on the opening day of Winnipeg Folk Fest.
Kids play in the crowd on the opening day of Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014.
Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers on Main Stage.
Michel Julius carries the essentials in the rush to get a campsite.
Volunteers Jeanne Harrison, left, and Denise de Decker gave Folk Festival visitors a warm welcome for the festival's opening on Wednesday.
The day began with the bike ride to the park, hundreds of participants  rode their bikes to the Birds Hill Park to get priority entry to the Winnipeg Folk Festival on Wednesday.
Folk lovers began their Wednesday, July 9 with a drive or bike ride to Birds Hill Park to get priority entry to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Thousands of cars , trucks and RVs rolled directly into the park toward campground parking in a streamlined process free of  previous years' delays.
Bring your bug spray and sunscreen: Thomas Beever has both in preparation for the Folk Festival's start.
At left, Melissa Russell leads a group of loaded-down friends to a camp site upon arrival at the campground Wednesday.
Three-year-old Briar MacDonald runs around as her mom and grandmother set up their craft sale tent at Winnipeg Folk Festival. The popular music festival starts tomorrow.
Briar MacDonald, 3, and her mom Devaki MacDonald, from Collingwood, Ont., have fun setting up their craft booth in preparation for the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
John and Mike Wolchock set up the Pollock Hardware fix-it-shop in the Birds Hill Park campground.
Stage hands set up the festival's Main Stage a day before the festival opens.
Iain Graham of Sound Art puts up the speakers on Main Stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The popular music festival starts tomorrow.
Ben Harper plays guitar on the Folk Fest's Main Stage Thursday night. He is touring with blues harmonica musician Charlie Musselwhite. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Ben Harper plays guitar on the Folk Fest's Main Stage Thursday night. He is touring with blues harmonica musician Charlie Musselwhite. - Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite headline Folk Fest Thursday night. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Claire Waters and Danny Heinrichs gobble up some famous Whaletails at the festival eating area. The Winnipeggers say they expect to eat at least seven of them before the end of the weekend. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Brittany Roginson dances with her hula hoop at Folk Fest on Thursday. She is performing in the fire shows at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Chantal Dick attends Folk Fest for the fourth time, dancing to Chic Gamine on Thursday night. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Greg Allan feels the love as he delivers free hugs at Folk Fest on Thursday. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Della Mae performs Thursday night at Folk Fest. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Della Mae performs Thursday night at Folk Fest. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Chic Gamine performs Thursday night at Folk Fest. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
Candace Froebe and James Penner attend Folk Fest on Thursday. Penner says he is most excited to see Ben Harper at this year's festival. - Sarah Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press
The Village Tower on the opening night of Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014 at Birds Hill Park. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Kids spin light toys during Bonnie Raitt's set. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Festival goers dance to Bonnie Raitt's headlining set on the opening night of Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Bonnie Raitt headlining the main stage on Wednesday evening. - Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press
Blues legend Bonnie Raitt on Main Stage. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Mary Houston and Ian Naften share a moment in the crowd during Bonnie Raitt's set at the main stage on Wednesday evening. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Bonnie Raitt on Main Stage. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Festival goers ride the Seven Earthstones see-saw art project by Tonya Borgeson on the opening day of Winnipeg Folk Fest Wednesday. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
The Bros. Landreth perform on Main Stage. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers on Main Stage. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Elliette Fast points out bubbles atop her father Reynold's shoulders on the opening day of Winnipeg Folk Fest. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Kids play in the crowd on the opening day of Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014. - Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers on Main Stage. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Michel Julius carries the essentials in the rush to get a campsite. - KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Volunteers Jeanne Harrison, left, and Denise de Decker gave Folk Festival visitors a warm welcome for the festival's opening on Wednesday. - KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The day began with the bike ride to the park, hundreds of participants rode their bikes to the Birds Hill Park to get priority entry to the Winnipeg Folk Festival on Wednesday. - KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Folk lovers began their Wednesday, July 9 with a drive or bike ride to Birds Hill Park to get priority entry to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Thousands of cars , trucks and RVs rolled directly into the park toward campground parking in a streamlined process free of previous years' delays. - KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Bring your bug spray and sunscreen: Thomas Beever has both in preparation for the Folk Festival's start. - KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
At left, Melissa Russell leads a group of loaded-down friends to a camp site upon arrival at the campground Wednesday. - KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Three-year-old Briar MacDonald runs around as her mom and grandmother set up their craft sale tent at Winnipeg Folk Festival. The popular music festival starts tomorrow. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Briar MacDonald, 3, and her mom Devaki MacDonald, from Collingwood, Ont., have fun setting up their craft booth in preparation for the Winnipeg Folk Festival. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
John and Mike Wolchock set up the Pollock Hardware fix-it-shop in the Birds Hill Park campground. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Stage hands set up the festival's Main Stage a day before the festival opens. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Iain Graham of Sound Art puts up the speakers on Main Stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The popular music festival starts tomorrow. - BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

BIRDS HILL PARK — Thursday night’s mainstage show at the 41st annual Winnipeg Folk Festival could be summed up in one word: chemistry. All four of the headlining mainstage acts had it in spades — especially blues-folk singer/songwriter Ben Harper and harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite.

Chemistry is no doubt why the duo picked up a Grammy in January for the collaboration Get Up! — an acclaimed album that gave both men a creative shot in the arm and announced the arrival of a white-hot new blues act.

Friday night headliners Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite delight Folk Fest crowds.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Friday night headliners Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite delight Folk Fest crowds. Photo Store

And chemistry is what the pair brought when it finally took the stage a half hour later than scheduled, opening with the title track off Get Up! The two obviously enjoy playing with each other — and off each other — with Harper’s languid solos complementing Musselwhite’s harmonica riffs. The blistering I Don’t Believe A Word You Say followed, Harper shucking his hushed folkie vocals for deep, soulful pipes with power. Musselwhite took over the mic for The Blues Overtook Me. Consummate bluesmen, both.

From the steamy slowburner When It’s Good to the sweaty, swaggering I’m In I’m Out I’m Gone, Harper, Musselwhite and their backing band turned in a muscular set of blues rock tunes. The appropriately raw Blood Side Out was followed up by the Musselwhite-led Homeless Child, before the pair slowed things down with the weighty I Ride At Dawn, a solider’s lament, and a mammoth cover of Muddy Waters’ Long Distance Call. The musicianship on display was absolutely jaw-dropping; Musselwhite’s laid into a harmonica solo that was nothing short of scorching.

The band closed its main set with an electrifying cover of Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks that more than a few dancers were, like, really into, man.

Wood Brothers hit their stride

Before Harper and Musselwhite lit the place on fire, Americana/blues trio The Wood Brothers — actual brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, along with Jano Rix — had us feeling all right with their high-and-lonesome brand of back-porch twang. You could picture the sweating glasses and lazy flies — especially during their take on the Los Lobos drinkin’ song I Got Loaded. While their set started slow, the Brothers quickly hit their stride. Honeyed harmonies and funk grooves were the order of the night; Chris’ upright bass solo on Atlas was a crowd pleaser, as was the rocking Is What It Is.

The Wood Brothers are extremely technical, virtuosic musicians, but they’re not hemmed in by that fact; while the performances were tight, their set had loose, jam-like vibe. By the time set closer One More Day rolled around, The Wood Brothers had attracted quite a congregation of dancers.

Chic Gamine debuts sublime new sound

Earlier in the evening, local soul/R&B outfit Chic Gamine made a big splash with its bold new sound during its stunning mainstage debut. A lineup change spurred the new sound; founding member Ariane Jean left the group earlier this year, and Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks, Annick Bremault and Sacha Daoud welcomed Benoit Morier to the fold. Chic Gamine 2.0 sees the Juno-winning band eschew a cappella arrangements — without ditching those indelible girl-group harmonies — for more fleshed-out, full-band soundscapes. The results are sublime. Everything sounds fuller, bigger, deeper.

All three women are strong vocalists in their own right, and when they come together, it’s intoxicating. Still, it’s hard not to single out Alexa Dirks, who is such a commanding force onstage. She’s easily one of the best vocalists we’ll hear from all weekend.

The 12-song set included a bunch of newer songs — including the sassy R&B number Girlfriend and the arresting Dirks-led I Could Be Your Girl — fuelling excitement for a new record. Of course, there were some older tunes, too, such as the soulful Motions, from 2013’s Closer. Jean reunited with the band for Tristesse Suspendue — also from that album.

Chic Gamine closed its set with the sexy stomp of All Night.

Della Mae delivers a soundtrack to friendship

Nashville bluegrass quintet Della Mae initially came together as a joke. "I would just get a bunch of girls together and we'd play high-testosterone bluegrass music and wear power suits," fiddle player Kimber Ludiker told Rolling Stone in 2013. They dubbed their music "mangrass." It wasn’t long, though, before they realized they had a real connection — and their energy on Thursday night was infectious. It was like listening in on a jam session among five very talented (and adorably dressed) BFFs.

The string band’s toe-tapping set drew heavily from 2013’s Grammy nominated This World Oft Can Be, which was recorded at Johnny Cash’s Cash Cabin Studio. Della Mae’s arrangements are strikingly beautiful, a point underscored by songs such as Paper Prince and Heaven’s Gate. Primary vocalist/guitarist Celia Woodsmith has one of those gritty, gutsy voices that suits both the blistering barnstormers and the whiskey-soaked love songs.

The band's rendition of The Low Anthem’s To Ohio was a set highlight, serving as the perfect soundtrack to suppertime conversations between old friends who haven’t seen each other in a while. Fragments from their catchups — "How was your winter?" "Did your sister have her baby yet?" "It’s so good to see you" — were carried by the breeze, mingling with the heady scent of sunscreen, bug spray and a certain plant, along with the iridescent bubbles blown by sunhat-clad toddlers. You don’t get much more Folk Fest than that.

 

 

Full-day festival programming starts on Friday with seven daytime stages hosting concerts and workshops. Buffy Sainte-Marie will get things started on the mainstage at 6 p.m. South Carolina folk duo Shovels and Rope, new-roots act Hurray for the Riff Raff and Swedish Americana trio Baskery are also among Friday night’s mainstage performers.

 

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 11:23 PM CDT: Replaces slideshow.

12:04 AM: Updates after Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite's set.

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