What’s up at Folk Fest
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The daytime stages at the Winnipeg Folk Festival are ripe for musical discovery. This week’s What’s Up is dedicated to the must-sees before the headliners.
Kurt Vile and the Sadies
Green Ash, Friday at 1 p.m.
Music fans and artists were shocked and saddened earlier this year when the Sadies’ guitarist-vocalist Dallas Good died on Feb. 17 from a recently discovered coronary illness at the age of 48.
Along with his brother Travis Good (multi-instrumentalist-vocals), bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky, the Toronto quartet released more than 15 boundary-pushing albums since 1998, combining traditional roots, surf, punk, garage, bluegrass and spaghetti-western soundtrack flavours together into its own genre-bending stew.
The Sadies quickly evolved to become one of the best live bands in the country whose can’t-miss shows were as unpredictable as they were exciting (and could go as long as three hours). Their genre-shifting talents made them the go-to band when artists such as Neko Case, Gord Downie, Robyn Hitchcock, Andre Williams or Joe Doe — to name just a few — wanted a backing band that could handle anything thrown at them.
Despite the emotional toll of Dallas’s death, the band is continuing on, sharing the stage Friday with frequent collaborator Kurt Vile, who has earned a name for himself with his take on the Americana songwriter tradition by adding touches of neo-psychedelia, pop melodies and indie-rock into the mix. The celebrated Philadelphia native — a founding member of rock band the War on Drugs — also plays the Big Blue @ Night stage Thursday at 9 p.m. with his band the Violators.
— Rob Williams
Sat., July 9, 4:45 p.m.
Green Ash stage
Best-known for his role as guitarist and backup vocalist for indie darlings Big Thief, Buck Meek is sure to please those who might have hoped the Brooklyn quartet might take the stage at this year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival.
Born and raised in Texas, the 34-year-old Meek’s sophomore solo album, 2021’s Two Saviors, was recorded with Big Thief engineer/producer Andrew Sarlo in New Orleans in under a week, recording live and with no playbacks or headphones in the studio. Like Big Thief’s music, Meek’s songs bring a delicate, heartfelt quality that feel like they’re teetering on the brink of collapse, but which persist with subtle, often-understated precision. Meek’s music adds a slightly twangier component than Big Thief that add welcome warmth.
In addition to his Saturday afternoon show at the Green Ash stage, Meek will take part in the Your Indie Heart workshop at noon that day at Big Bluestem stage with Andy Shauf and Leith Ross, as well as the Your Roots are Showing workshop on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. at Snowberry Field stage with Fruit Bats, Jeremie Albino and Slow Leaves.
— Ben Sigurdson
Mitch’s Sunday Feast
Feat. Leonard Podolak, Al Simmons, Allison de Groot, Andrina Turenne, Nathan Rogers, The Duhks and more
Sun., July 10, 3:15 p.m.
Spruce Hollow Stage
There has not been a live edition of the Winnipeg Folk Festival since its co-founder, Mitch Podolak, died in August 2019 at the age of 71, which means there hasn’t really been a chance to honour him at the special place he helped create — until now.
His son, Duhks banjo player Leonard Podolak, will host this special workshop honouring his dad and other festival friends lost in recent years. A host of Podolak pals will take the stage, including, of course, folk fusion band the Duhks, as well as clawhammer banjo player Allison de Groot, roots singer/songwriter Scott Nolan, former Chic Gamine chanteuse Andrina Turenne, folk singer/songwriter Nathan Rogers — whose dad, the late, great Stan Rogers, was a dear friend of Mitch’s — children’s entertainer Al Simmons, bluegrass banjo picker Tim Osmond — who co-founded Home Routes with Mitch and his wife, Ava Kobrinsky — fiddler Jeremy Penner, and many more.
Expect songs, stories and jokes — and maybe a few tears, too — at what is sure to be a fitting remembrance of a man whose legacy continues to live on in the musicians he inspired and the community that still forms every second weekend in July.
— Jen Zoratti
About Last Night
Feat. Cadence Weapon, Moontricks, Pachyman
Sun., July 10; 4 p.m.
Snowberry Field Stage
When the sun sets over Birds Hill Park, a choice emerges: to join the tarps at Main Stage or set down roots at Big Bluestem. While the two evening stages usually feature very different lineups — with Main Stage hosting the festival’s major headliners and Big Blue offering all manner of dance music — a bevy of good music can make for difficult decisions. (The third option, of course, is running back-and-forth between stages to catch snippets of every act.)
This year, the festival has made the decision a little easier. For one night, at least. Saturday’s Big Blue lineup of Cadence Weapon, Moontricks and Pachyman will reunite on Sunday afternoon for what promises to be a fun workshop at Snowberry.
Toronto-based, Edmonton-born rapper Cadence Weapon — real name Roland “Rollie” Pemberton — won the 2021 Polaris Music Prize for his fifth studio album, Parallel World, and his work has often been met with critical acclaim. His music blends genres and his lyrics deal potently with political and social justice issues. His memoir, Bedroom Rapper, was released in May via McClelland & Stewart.
Nathan Gurley and Sean Rodman are the duo behind Moontricks, a folk, blues and electronic outfit from British Columbia. The band has been making the rounds on the Canadian and international festival circuit for years with their brand of toe-tapping music.
Pachy García (a.k.a. Pachyman) is a university-trained musician from Puerto Rico. An obsession with old school Jamaican dub recordings has led to a breezy, upbeat sound infused with Caribbean influences and electronic production.
About Last Night offers a cure for FOMO (fear of missing out) and an opportunity to relive the party.
— Eva Wasney
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.