Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Friday's Folk Fest jam-packed with jams
Clouds part, sun shines, music reigns
BIRDS HILL PARK -- There was no escaping the music Friday at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
In the campground there were drummers and guitarists everywhere; on the trails leading to the main site and in the parking lots there were even more guitarists and singers.
And of course, the Birds Hill Park site the folk fest calls home was filled with an assortment of sounds ranging from pastoral to explosive.
The nightly mainstage is where the biggest names usually play, but it's the daytime workshops and concerts that provide the musical magic the Folk Fest is known for.
The seven day stages were filled with a hodgepodge of styles, with a little something for everyone -- from future local stars at the younger performers stage to a musical buffet of traditional folk, roots, world music, indie-folk and klezmer.
And if you were away from a stage buying a ticket at the gate or taking a break to eat, there was a chance of catching local bluegrass outfit the D. Rangers, who served as wandering minstrels.
The day started out with some rain and overcast skies with a nice breeze, but the clouds left by mid-afternoon and the sun came out to bake the crowd. Not that heat would stop this hardy audience.
The children's area was packed with families making arts and crafts, rolling giant dice, skipping rope, playing soccer, reading in a shaded tent, building solar ovens and taking stilt-walking lessons.
"It's really hard to balance. You can't help looking down," said Winnipegger Caiden Dann, 11, who was standing tall while helped by instructor Britt Hainstock.
There were yoga sessions, chances to get autographs from some of the performers, songwriter, harmonica and banjo lessons and installations by Winnipeg artists that provided a relaxing diversion.
The Gone Just Like a Train workshop was packed as Abigail Washburn, the Bill Frisell Quartet and Junior Brown collaborated on songs about trains, alternating between high-revving' free-for-alls and mellower material, like a jazzy cover of the Beatles' In My Life.
The Intergalactic workshop was a high-energy set of world funk with Ozomatli, Besh O Drom and Sidi Touré that had a large crowd grooving in the sun.
"That's what Folk Fest is all about: punk, gypsy and funk all in one," said smiling Winnipegger Natalie Marcoux after leaving the dance area.
The You Got to Fight for Your Right workshop featured world-class artists like Billy Bragg, Atomic Duo, Natalia Zukerman, Willy Porter and Emmanuel Jal offering up left-leaning anthems that even inspired the artists on stage.
"It's nice to hear the world socialism out loud. We're from Austin, Texas," said Mark Rubin of Atomic Duo.
A highlight of the 90-minute set was Jal's powerful poem about growing up as a child soldier in Sudan, which earned him a standing ovation.
More ovations came on the mainstage, starting with Touré's genre-bending world-folk and finishing with the blues-soul of the Tedeschi Trucks Band that had guitar fans worshipping at the altar of six-string hero Derek Trucks.
East Coast bluesman Matt Andersen earned one for his howling high-energy take on the acoustic blues, tossing in a snippet of the Pink Panther theme that built to a wild climax of furious strumming that showed why he was an audience favourite last year, earning a promotion to the mainstage.
Andersen's set was in stark contrast to the underwhelming low-key display put on by Beth Orton. The British artist made her name in the mid-1990s by mixing electronic beats with folk music. There was none of that trip-hop influence last night as she and a guitarist-violinist stuck to her more organic material, with the singer-songwriter switching from guitar to piano while being bothered by various flying insects.
The pace picked up again when Oklahoma's Junior Brown took the stage playing his custom made guit-steel, a double-necked hybrid with a six-stringed guitar on top of a pedal-steel guitar he used for slide work.
He and his band specialize in rowdy chicken-pickin' Texas swing, and offered up blazing country, heartbreaking ballads and surf rock that had the crowd jumping, dancing and swaying depending which way Brown wanted to lead them.
The action continues today with a full slate of music starting at 11 a.m. Tonight's mainstage lineup includes acclaimed stringband Carolina Chocolate drops, soulman Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, indie-folk buzz band the Head and the Heart and gypsy punk group Devotchka.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2012 A13
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