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Five acts not to miss at Calgary Folk Fest

By Sean Sullivan, July 24, 2014 —

This weekend thousands of folk music fans will descend on Prince’s Island Park, running with their tarps to nab the best spots to sit and listen to some of the finest folk music the world has to offer.

There’s a lot going on at Folk Fest, so to help you decide what to see, the Gauntlet has picked five performances you shouldn’t miss.

Basia Bulat — Thursday, July 24 – Stage 4 – 7:00 p.m.

Since her debut album Oh, My Darling made the 2008 Polaris Music Prize Short List, Canadian singer / songwriter Basia Bulat has gained a steady following as one Canada’s most versatile folk musicians. Combining powerful vocals and a plethora of instruments — everything from an autoharp to charango and hammered dulcimer — Bulat’s music is haunting and uplifting.

Her third album, Tall Tall Shadow, was released last September. She co-produced with Arcade Fire’s Tim Kingsbury — who share a spot with Bulat on this year’s Polaris Music Prize Short List.

A Tribe Called Red — Friday, July 25 – Stage 4 – 7:35 p.m.

The three DJs from Ottawa — DJ NDN, DJ Shub and Bear Witness — exploded out of the gate in 2012 with their self-titled debut album and mix of traditional aboriginal music with EDM. Their debut album garnered them a nomination to the Polaris Music Prize Long List in 2012, which they repeated in 2013 with their follow up album, Nation II Nation, which was shortlisted that year.

With the band’s combination of aboriginal drumbeats and vocal chants mixed with EDM and hip hop, A Tribe Called Red should get many Folk Fest fans up and dancing on Friday night.

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan — Friday, July 25 – Stage 4 – 8:55 p.m.

It’s difficult to define Montreal-Toronto based band Yamantaka // Sonic Titan because they’re many things at once. On one hand they’re a band that combines Japanese pop music with heavy metal. On the other they’re a theatre troupe performing Japanese Kabuki and Noh theatre.

The self-described “Asian, Indigenous and diasporic art collective” has captured a loyal following of fans — and Polaris Music Prize Short List nominations for each of their two albums. Expect a performance you won’t soon forget.

Chad VanGaalen — Saturday, July 26 – Stage 4 – 8:55 p.m.

Local Calgary musician Chad VanGaalen has been releasing his strange and haunting music for over a decade.

With a combination of catchy beats, surreal melodies and the occasional shocking or morbid lyrics, VanGaalen’s music is fantastically bizarre.

VanGaalen has accumulated many accolades over the years, including a slew of Polaris Music Prize nominations — he received one this year for his latest album Shrink Dust — and a Juno nod. With his roster of traditional and handmade instruments, VanGaalen will have you mesmerized.

Hydra — Sunday, July 27 – Mainstage – 6:35 p.m.

Hydra is the multi-headed supergroup made up of Calgary-raised singer Feist and the two husband and wife duos AroarA and Snowblink. The project came together when Feist performed at the 2012 Polaris Prize awards and has taken off. Any three of them would be worth seeing perform at Folk Fest, but all together they’re sure to impress.

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