Workshops are the cornerstone of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. They provide a chance to see musicians who otherwise may never have crossed paths sit on a stage and play together, creating moments that will never be replicated, but will live on in the hearts of folkies for years to come.
Workshops and daytime solo shows start on Friday and run through Sunday, and there are dozens of options to fill your musical calendar. To help guide you through, arts reporters Eva Wasney, Rob Williams, Jen Zoratti and Erin Lebar, as well as Winnipeg Folk Festival artistic director Chris Frayer, have revealed some of their can’t-miss workshops of the weekend.
Friday, 1 p.m., Big Bluestem
My Hometown workshop features four talented Canadian singer-songwriters joined by another from Australia to sing songs about their home. Join Ontario born artists Danny Michel and Hawksley Workman, Newfoundlander Tim Baker, hometown hero Taylor Janzen and William Crighton all the way from Australia for a memorable workshop!
Íslenskir tónar (Icelandic Sounds)
Friday, 2:45 p.m., Big Bluestem
With Manitoba having such deep connections with Iceland, we just had to include some incredible Icelandic artists this year. During our Icelandic Sounds workshop, you can catch FM Belfast, Lindy Vopnfjörð, MAMMÚT, Snorri Helgason and Ylja all discovered at the 2018 Icelandic Airwaves festival. Let their music transport you to Reykjavík!
Your Indie Heart
Saturday, 1:15 p.m., Green Ash
This one’s for the indie lovers! Enjoy music from passionate rockers Car Seat Headrest, the infectious five-piece band Mt. Joy and indie-rock prodigy Snail Mail when they all come together on stage for the popular Your Indie Heart workshop.
Finger Pickin’ Good
Saturday, 3 p.m., Big Bluestem
Enjoy award-winning guitarist Molly Tuttle, the pedal steel sounds of The Cactus Blossoms, orchestral flourishes of The Lone Bellow and the soul and rock music of The Sheepdogs all jamming together on a sunny afternoon at Big Bluestem.
Young & Bold: Celebrating 20 Years of YPP
Sunday, 11 a.m., Shady Grove
This year, we are celebrating 20 years of nurturing young talent through the STINGRAY Young Performers Program. This workshop includes past participants and 2019 lineup performers Jesse Matas, Roman Clarke, Taylor Janzen and special guests.
Friday, 2:30 p.m., Bur Oak
If you’re looking for a chill place to lay your head Friday afternoon, head to Bur Oak for the Free Trade workshop, featuring Winnipeg-based dream-pop band Living Hour, Philadelphia indie-folk five-piece Mt. Joy and British songstress Kate Stables, who goes by the alias This is the Kit. All three acts have catchy hooks and a retro vibe, which makes for the perfect soundtrack on a sunny July day.
Pete Seeger’s 100th B-Day Hootenanny
Saturday, 11:15 a.m., Bur Oak
May 3, 2019, was the 100th anniversary of the birth of folk icon Pete Seeger, and folk fest will be celebrating his life and career with a workshop featuring John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers (who also has spent a fair amount of time at folk fest), Eli Smith, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, Courtney Marie Andrews, Jim Kweskin, Steel City Jug Slammers and Eileen Ivers. Seeger was a regular patron of the Winnipeg Folk Festival in its early years, so this performance is likely to be full of stories, nostalgia and a whole lot of great music.
Three Minute Rule
Sunday, 2:45 p.m., Spruce Hollow
Saskatchewan-born country singer Colter Wall will team up with Tennessee singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews and one of Canadian music’s favourite ladies, Kathleen Edwards, for the Three Minute Rule workshop, where short songs rule the roost and quick wit is sure to follow.
Empty Pocket Blues
Friday, 11 a.m., Snowberry
It’s worth getting to the festival early on Friday morning for this mash-up of deep-feeling, powerful vocalists. Sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell of the gritty blues roots band Larkin Poe will play host at this workshop of artists from the United States of Manitoba. Fun fact: the sisters from Atlanta are descendents of poet Edgar Allan Poe. Gospel blues musician Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, local singer-songwriter Roman Clarke and folk singer Sunny War round out the stage for what will likely be a goosebump-inducing set.
Gichitwaawin Nagamon (Honour Songs)
Saturday, 4:15 p.m., Spruce Hollow
The best is often left for last. That sentiment rings true for this trio of contemporary Indigenous singer-songwriters tasked with drawing the curtain on Saturday’s daytime performances. Sit back and grab a slice of late afternoon shade and take in the eclectic voices of Juno Award-winning artist William Prince, from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba; Bebe Buckskin, from northern Alberta; and Samantha Crain, from Oklahoma.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m., Big Bluestem
This workshop should be a special one, with three accomplished female solo acts coming together on one stage. Winnipegger Alexa Dirks has been making charts and taking names as Begonia since 2017. She hosts this afternoon concert featuring Melbourne’s Julia Jacklin and Maryland’s Lindsey Jordan, performing as Snail Mail. Jacklin is known for her raw voice and intimate lyrics and Jordan, a recent high school graduate, is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Niger, New Orleans & Netherlands
Friday, 2:15 p.m., Snowberry
Tuareg guitar shredder Mdou Moctar — who has been dubbed ‘the Hendrix of the Sahara’ — will jam alongside Turkish psych-folk outfit Altin Gün (which hails from Amsterdam), Grammy-winning party starters Rebirth Brass Band (New Orleans), and folk-rock singer/songwriter Steve Gunn (Brooklyn) in what should be one of those quintessential, ‘only-at-folk-fest’ workshops. Don’t sleep on this one; I can all but promise this globe-spanning ode to the guitar will be one of the most talked-about sets of the weekend.
So Long Bannatyne, Hello Birds Hill Park
Saturday, 11:30 a.m., Green Ash
A diverse mix of emerging and established voices from the Manitoba music scene will converge for a workshop worth rolling out of your campsite early. One of our crown jewels, singer/songwriter Christine Fellows, will be surrounded by other such local gems as singer/songwriter Jesse Matas (Crooked Brothers) and dream-pop act The Living Hour. Newcomers-to-watch include R&B singer/songwriter Roman Clarke, who just dropped his debut album this spring, and 19-year-old Taylor Janzen, who was written up in the New York Times with favourable comparisons to the belles of last year’s festival, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker.
Sunday, 2:15 p.m., Snowberry
A mini-cultural exchange between Iceland and the UK, this buzzy workshop features Icelandic electropop outfit FM Belfast, Reykjavík indie-rock act Mammút (which formed when its members were just 13 in 2003) and This Is The Kit, the indie-folk project led by British musician Kate Staples. It’s a prime opportunity to see three acclaimed bands that wouldn’t ordinarily come to Winnipeg, plus it’s a chance to see two of Saturday night’s Big Blue headliners — FM Belfast and Mammút — during the daytime.
Niger, New Orleans & Netherlands
Friday, 2:15 p.m. Snowberry Field
Guitar shred meets avant-folk meets a wall of brass at this globe-trotting get-together. New York singer-songwriter Steve Gunn hosts the mid-afternoon party with Tuareg musician Mdou Moctar, who combines traditional Sarharian music with white-hot six-string solos; sextet Atlin Gün, which updates Turkish psychedelia from the 1970s with the addition of synths and a funky sensibility; and the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band, pillars of the New Orleans music scene that should have audience members at Snowberry Field up on their feet with its party mix of soul, funk and jazz.
Dropping Names and Playing Songs
Saturday, 11 a.m., Shady Grove
A songwriter’s workshop hosted by Danny Michel, who has made a name for himself in Canada over the past two decades with a body of literate work that showcases his unique view and sense of humour. He will be joined by fellow Ontario artist Hawksley Workman, an eclectic genre-hopper who can make you laugh one minute, and cry the next; John Sebastian, who led the Lovin’ Spoonful in the 1960s (Summer in the City, Daydream), played an unplanned five-song set at Woodstock and wrote the theme song to the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter; and Portland, Ore.-based Haley Heynderickx, whose 2018 debut full-length, I Need to Start a Garden, proved she has the skills to hang with this crew.
Breakfast of Champions
Sunday, 1 p.m., Shady Grove
Even Kurt Vonnegut would approve of this talented lineup of songwriters that includes Johnathan Rice, who portrayed Roy Orbison in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and contributed to the soundtrack; Rayland Baxter from Tennessee, whose 2018 album Wide Awake received universal acclaim; Cass McCombs, who has released nine adventurous albums in the past 16 years; and Snorri Helgason, from Reykjavik, Iceland, who has recorded in English and Icelandic, and has dabbled in movie and theatre scoring.