Soggy conditions can’t dampen folk fest fun
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This article was published 09/07/2016 (2445 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It seemed inevitable, but still the rain was quite unwelcome at folk fest Saturday night. Though much of the day was overcast, there was very little drizzle, but the good luck couldn’t hold out forever — the first portion of main stage was a wet one, forcing many to crack out their brightly coloured ponchos that popped against the dreary, grey haze.
But, things moved on as they always do, with a jam-packed lineup that included the Paper Kites — an indie-folk group out of Australia that has some of the most dedicated local fans you’ll see — English experimental folk band Moulettes, the jig-inducing Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Gypsies, folk-pop darling Basia Bulat and Seattle folk outfit the Head and the Heart.
The site was noticeably more packed earlier Saturday, with massive crowds piling in for workshops at some of the bigger daytime stages.
It was an east coast party over at Big Bluestem, with Alan Doyle (who surprisingly hasn’t performed at Winnipeg folk since 1997) hosting a gaggle of musicians from Atlantic Canada including trio the East Pointers, singer-songwriter Matthew Byrne and honorary east coasters, Oysterband, who hail from England. “We share a love of traditional music, we drink too much and we wear black,” said singer John Jones, motioning toward the row of musicians entirely clad in black.
As one would expect, it didn’t take long for the jokes and digs to fly back and forth (in a playful way, of course). “I always say the East Pointers are as tight as their jeans — and that’s saying something,” Byrne laughed.
He’s right though, the PEI threesome are tight, barreling through classic, up-beat Celtic instrumental tunes with impeccable precision that forced many out of their chairs early on, drawing them to bust a move in the dancing area. Though all the artists on stage were excellent, the East Pointers stole the show.
One of the most anticipated workshops of the weekend, Native North America, took over the Bur Oak stage Saturday afternoon. Folk fest’s artistic director, Chris Frayer, was on hand to introduce the collection of six aboriginal musicians – five of which were featured on the Native North America: Vol. 1 compilation (which was nominated for a Grammy) along with local singer-songwriter William Prince—noting that the lineup won’t be happening at any other festivals this year.
Duke Redbird opened the performance with a collection of poems that touched on intense topics such as the residential school crisis and the recent suicide epidemic amongst young people in northern communities. “Poetry is to conversation as dancing is to walking,” he said, before asking everyone to turn off their cellphones and to hold their applause until the end. His words were incredibly powerful and delivered in a such a passionate, erudite way, it was impossible to let the moment pass without a standing ovation.
It wasn’t all heavy, though; many of the other artists had funny stories to tell, including Willie Mitchell’s yarn about the time Jimmy Page and Robert Plant gave him and his band a thumbs up out the window of a limo for their song Rainbow Climbing, the lyrics of which Mitchell says were wrote in the ’60s and are a “little acidy.”
But the highlight of the day was the Young Americans workshop at Green Ash featuring the Head and the Heart, San Fermin and Wild Child. Just the sheer number of musicians crammed onto the stage was astounding, and once the music got going, some truly magical moments were brought to life as the bands joined in on each others songs, creating a 20-person supergroup that produced such a tremendous wall of sound it was difficult to digest at some points. When Wild Child strummed the familiar chords of ’90’s hit Love Fool by the Cardigans, and the entire stage and crowd joined in (including one super happy dancing baby that made the day of everyone near me) it was immediately obvious we were witnessing one of the most memorable folk fest moments of the year.
Gates open at 10 a.m. Sunday, and the final main stage of the season starts at 6 p.m. with Artistic Achievement Award-winner Loudon Wainwright. Lucius and Lord Huron are also slated to perform, with Matthew Byrne, the East Pointers and locals Red Moon Road handling the finale at 10 p.m.
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