Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Friday fest brings emotional tributes to legends

  • Print
Fans rock out as Dr. Dog plays on the Big Blue stage Friday.


Fans rock out as Dr. Dog plays on the Big Blue stage Friday. Photo Store

BIRDS HILL PARK — When Nathan Rogers took the Winnipeg Folk Festival mainstage early Friday evening, you knew you were about to become a part of something special. Something important. Something historic.

In fact, many people had already turned up for the 6 p.m. start time. Attendance for Friday was pegged at 10,034.

You see, the Canadian singer/songwriter was up there honouring the work of his father, Canadian folk legend Stan Rogers, who tragically died in a fire aboard an Air Canada flight in 1983 at age 33 — the same age Nathan is now. Despite a career cut short, Stan’s influence on Canadian folk music is enduring. He wrote some of the genre’s most defining songs, including The Mary Ellen Carter, which is still sung at the Sunday night finale. Stan played the WFF’s stages five times.

Who better to carry on the Rogers legacy than Nathan, whose baritone is a dead ringer for his dad’s. His rich timbre frequently belied his young years, especially on a stunning, standing-ovation-earning a capella rendition of Flowers of Bermuda. Still, his set never sagged under its gravitas; an emotional closing performance of Stan’s most famous work, Northwest Passage, was absolutely celebratory.

While Nathan paid tribute to a Canadian folk great, Lindi Ortega paid loving tribute to the icons of high-lonesome country. Rocking her signature red cowboy boots — she named her 2011 breakout album Little Red Boots after ’em — the Toronto-via-Nashville songbird delivered a powerhouse set that pulled mostly from her killer 2012 Polaris Prize-longlisted album, Cigarettes & Truckstops.

With a great, big, soul-stirring soprano that’s often a dead ringer for Dolly Parton’s, Ortega proved once again she’s a true student of her genre, particularly on the rollicking romp The Day You Die and the ink-black, gospel-imbued ballad Heaven Has No Vacancy.

"You guys like Johnny Cash? Me too. He inspired me to wear black," she quipped before launching into a sultry cover of Ring of Fire. It’s obvious the Man in Black inspired more than that, but Lindi is no pale imitator. Her tales of outlaws and underdogs sound incredibly fresh.

Three-time Juno winner Danny Michel travelled to Belize to record his 10th album, 2012’s Black Birds are Dancing Over Me, with the Garifuna Collective, an Afro-Amerindian cultural group. The record is a deep groove-based, Caribbean-flavoured tapestry crafted from turtle shells, donkey jawbone, Maya guitar, and traditional Garifuna segunda and primero drums, which Michel and the collective effortlessly recreated in the lazy evening sun. (It’s a good thing they got those turtle shells across the border.)

It’s hard not to bring up Paul Simon’s Graceland because it’s hard not to think of it when listening to these songs. That’s a compliment, not a slight; Black Birds are Dancing Over Me is easily one of Michel’s best efforts.

Live, though, it’s something else entirely. Watching him jam with such seasoned musicians — and perform such joyous music — was a real thrill.

At press time, Montreal act Patrick Watson — the eponymous band of singer/songwriter Patrick Watson — was wowing with his ambitious baroque pop. Perennial folk fest favourite the Cat Empire was set to hit the stage at 11:05 p.m., but the night’s real draw was over at Big Bluestem. Lots of festival-goers were leaving the mainstage to catch Ottawa’s trailblazing A Tribe Called Red and its electrifying re-interpretation of traditional First Nations music.


Saturday’s daytime stages will play host to a ton of must-see workshops. You’ll want to snag a spot at Bur Oak early for 1974, which features a host of players who played the first Winnipeg Folk Festival, including Sylvia Tyson, Ken Whiteley and more. mainstage action kicks off at 6 p.m. with Habadekuk, while Big Blue @ Night gets going at 7:30 p.m. with the Dunwells.


Alyx Monteith of Regina, Sask. is silhouetted against the sky at dusk while hula-hooping.


Updated on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 11:36 PM CDT: adds slideshow.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg police comment on two officers that resuscitated baby

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese fly in the morning light over Selkirk Ave Wednesday morning- Day 22– June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.

View More Gallery Photos


Has your opinion of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec changed given his latest winning streak?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google