While most attending this past weekend's Calgary Folk Music Festival were seasoned Folkies, some enjoyed it for the first time. Entertainment editor Ryan Pike shares his first impressions.
Despite being a three-year Gauntlet veteran, this was the first year I managed to get down to the Calgary Folk Music Festival. I was told by several colleagues and friends to expect good food and good music. After spending four long days in Prince's Island Park in unseasonable heat, those expectations held true.
The food was uniformly good and the lines weren't overwhelmingly long despite the island being filled to near-capacity for all four days. The economist in me was flabbergasted as the price of water on the island actually seemed to go down as the mercury crept into the low 30s, a sign of folkie goodwill.
The music was almost like a buffet. The main stage featured more big-name acts on Thursday and Friday--highlighted by much-hyped performances by City and Colour and Neko Case--but the smaller stages were the place to be on the weekend. With few exceptions, most main stage performers also did a few workshops--meaning that Squirrel Nut Zippers and Hawksley Workman fans got to see their favourite acts jam with different artists in addition to their main solo shows. Saturday and Sunday's main stage line-ups weren't quite as flashy, but Great Big Sea and Don McLean kept people around until the very end.
For this newcomer, the challenge of the weekend was pacing. It was difficult to find time to see everything on the weekend--I passed up an Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir performance to join Ken at a Watermelon Slim set and missed out on Brett Dennen to join many others at Final Fantasy's last performance. Thursday and Friday were easier to coordinate, with the only real challenge being to find an open spot on a friend's tarp. A rigid Saturday schedule, which centered around checking out sets by the Cape May, Jamaica to Toronto and John Boutte while staying available to do interviews, was replaced by a nomadic approach on Sunday. Over the weekend I probably saw just as much great music by accident as I did on purpose.
Overall, the most striking part of my experience was the sense of collectivity. From Nathan's Keri Latimer borrowing a guitar from Chumbawumba and Old Man Luedecke gamely continuing to play "I Quit My Job" even amidst technical problems to Watermelon Slim taking requests and Jamaica to Toronto's Jay Douglas dancing with the audience, everyone at the festival was in the sweltering heat together. It only made sense to make the most of the situation.