The sun continued to beat down on the Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Provincial Park Friday, but a good breeze and some great music kept folkies in high spirits heading into a stacked mainstage lineup.

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The sun continued to beat down on the Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Provincial Park Friday, but a good breeze and some great music kept folkies in high spirits heading into a stacked mainstage lineup.

Up first, Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter — the married duo that make up The War and Treaty — brought some old-school soul which sparked the first dance party of the night.

The Michigan-based pair are truly electric vocalists; so emotional and powerful in their delivery, but also able to harness a refinement and restraint in a way only seasoned performers can. Their chemistry on stage was palpable as they sang to each other as well as the now-adoring crowd, and their performance earned them a well-deserved standing ovation.

Canada's favourite Cape Breton fiddler, Natalie MacMaster, was next to take the stage, keeping the energy high and the dancers on their feet with her fun and passionate playing.

"I'm friggin' delighted to be here," exclaimed MacMaster, just one of many endearing moments of East Coast banter that peppered her 50-minute set.

It's been 20 years since MacMaster played folk fest and in that time, she married another famous fiddler, Donnell Leahy, and had seven children, the last of which was born just two months ago. But it was her seven-year-old daughter, Julia Leahy, who stole the show, exhibiting both her fiddling and step-dancing chops on stage next to her mom, earning her own standing ovation (Of course, MacMaster got one at the end of her set, too).

Boston four-piece Darlingside, huddled around one microphone, unleashed some sweet harmonies just in time for sundown. The all-male group embraces a lot of traditional folk aspects — including in their instrumentation, which included cello, mandolin and violin in addition to guitars — but also dabbles in electronic sounds which adds a layer of modernity.

Darlingside makes undeniably beautiful music, but their set felt sleepy after the high-octane performances of both MacMaster and The War and Treaty — not that the audience seemed to mind; Darlingside, too, were ushered off with an enthusiastic standing o.

At press time, Ontario indie-folk-rock group the Strumbellas were leaving it all on the stage in front of a packed audience. The band's name has become synonymous with a good time, and they did not disappoint; aside from producing catchy choruses and solid jams, there's a honest quality to what they do — both in terms of music and performance — and that shone through.

Later, Australian indie-rock singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett would also perform.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.