Smaller stages, big moments. Those daring to wake and make 10:30 a.m. workshops got to the see full-blown hangovers, impromptu jams and one-time only moments.
Howe Gelb one-upped Gord Downie Saturday, plunking out a grab bag of musical eccentricity. Giant Sand's ringleader played two stages, doting each one with a folk implosion of loops, odd stories and pure charisma. Gelb was at first dumbfounded, but then he captivated the crowds and almost went over most folks' heads.
Bocephus King went over at almost every workshop. His Tom Wait's style of storytelling was a draw from stage to stage as was fantastic originals and covers, including a take-you-higher version of "Papa was a Rolling Stone." You almost had to play eenie-meanie-mynie-moe to choose what great workshop to see.
The choice was even harder Sunday. The Singularly Obsessed workshop saw the Handsome Family and Christine Fellows muse about dead or broken things while Big Sandy perked the crowd alive with tales of wine, women and song. Handsome Family just got weirder with each irony-filled country set, both grim and funny.
The self-proclaimed "chick workshop," Ponytail Express, saw snippets of Tori Amos waifishness, satire and the relaxing bluegrass pop of The Be Good Tanyas. Despite playing on no sleep, The Tanyas' vocals were again outstanding, taking onlookers back 100 years to old school mountain music. Even host Carolyn Mark was in awe, politely refusing to play with The Tanyas.
The Something Blue workshop was something straight out of The King Eddy, sweet solos and all. Gordie Johnson and Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar, Corey Harris, Lester Quitzau and Bill Bourne brought the jam to the fest and levelled the crowd with amazing musicianship.
Lastly, the Armadillos, Whales and Reindeer workshop took folkies on a drug-worthy trip. Carolyn Mark, Howe Gelb, The Rheostatics and throat singer Wimme meandered into unknown musical territory. The result? A long play soundathon with wailing, jamming and memory-lane moments.
The coolest moment being when Rheostatic Martin Tielli asked "Would anyone like to come up and play?" A fan replied with a love song to end a brilliant set. Ah, the kinship of folk music.