This past weekend, I had the total honour of being my fantastic friend, Kelsey’s plus one to the Calgary Folk Music Festival. As a sponsor of the festival, Kelsey’s employer was given passes for the whole weekend, and she generously shared with me. When I looked at the totally stacked line-up I nearly fainted. With the amount of incredible talent on the schedule, how were we going to choose which artists to see and which workshops to attend? On Thursday night, I donned my cutest festival outfit and head to the grounds.
We began at the beer garden to sit under the trees and plan our evening. We were able to see The New Pornographers, a band I have loved for years, and the last few songs of The Cave Singers, a band I had never heard before. We caught the first bit of The Dudes’ set, a band made up of four Calgarians, and finished our evening with The Tallest Man on Earth, a band from Sweden! It was during the Tallest Man on Earth that my friend said enthusiastically, “the best thing about folk fest is the nonstop killer vocal harmonies.” I agree! It was a brilliant day one of Folk Fest and I bicycled home with a giant smile on my face. Three more days of this?! Best. Weekend. Ever.
Our Friday began at the “Voice Male” workshop, featuring the Bros. Landreth, The Cave Singers, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Northern Beauties. A stage chalk full of incredibly talented and inspiring male singer/songwriters? How could we miss it? I am glad we didn’t. The songs that evolved from this workshop had me swooning and falling madly in love with the men creating this music. Once my legs became less jelly like, we wandered to the Mainstage. It was here that we saw Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, a Calgary legend, whose lyrics and music are as magical as his smile. The Bros. Landreth was on the Mainstage next. Another band I had not heard until this weekend, and my goodness, I count my lucky stars I was here to see them. Their music had my skin in goosebumps the whole set. To end the perfect day, we danced all evening to Lord Huron. I had not heard of them until I was standing in front of them, but I liked what I heard, and it was impossible not to dance!
Our Saturday began with the workshop “Do the write thing,” featuring Bobby Bare Jr., The Dudes, Foy Vance, and Bry Webb. It is so rad to see people on stage doing what they love and having a fantastic time with it. That kept us in the beer gardens for a while, where we met up with some friends, and made some new ones. The Calgary Folk Festival brings so many different people out, you never know who you might meet. It always makes me smile to see teenagers partying alongside sixty-somethings, only a few feet away from a family whose young children are also enjoying the music. With our passes, we were invited to sit in the artist lounge. It was here that I would meet Calgary meteorology legend, Darr Maqbool and his lovely wife Lynn (see? You never know who you will meet!). We chatted for a long while about the arts in Calgary and how this City is truly up and coming. Then Kelsey and I watched The Sadies from backstage. These guys know how to rock! The drummer kept spinning his drumsticks as he played— the coolest trick for us non-drummers to see— and the vocalists danced and partied like they were born to do so. José González closed off the night to a huge audience. It was a brilliant way to end a crazy and beautiful Saturday.
We arrived Sunday and caught the tail end of the workshop, “Idiom Savants,” featuring Bobby Bare Jr., Elizabeth Cook, Robbie Fulks, and Northern Beauties. I was sad we didn’t get to see more of their set, the music that emanated from the stage was just what I needed on a hangover Sunday. We found our way to the next workshop on our ‘to see’ list, “Defining Moments,” featuring Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Amelie Patterson, Colleen Rennison, and The Weather Station. It was so lovely to hear the stories each of the artists shared about defining moments in their life. MBF told us of the first time he played at Folk Fest in Calgary and how rad it was for him, and now eight or so years later, he took the Mainstage. How cool is that?! We sat in the artist lounge for a while to soak up some much needed shade (again, hangover Sunday). Kelsey and I had a hilarious conversation about being traveling musicians with the Bros. Landreth, when they came to eat dinner at our table, and we chatted about music and then politics with Robbie Fulks and his drummer. We marvelled at the drum beats of the Krar Collective, and closed our eyes to be swept away with Cat Power. We stood in the middle of the crowd for Cat Empire, whose music had everyone up out of their lawn chairs, dancing like crazy. The weekend closed with the infamous Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans, who had everyone singing along, and craving a bit of rye whiskey.
Music festivals in general are such a crazy and whirlwind way to experience music. It is always fun to see bands you love, especially bands like The Dudes who are total Calgary legends, or an international sensation like The Tallest Man on Earth. What I loved about this weekend too, is that I had the opportunity to see bands I had never heard before. I fell in love with multiple bands while they were on stage, like The Bros. Landreth and Lord Huron. Thank you Kelsey for bringing me, thank you to all the musicians who poured their hearts out on stage, thank you to the incredible volunteers without whom the festival would not happen, and thank you to everyone I met over the course of the festival. For this island in the heart of the City, for the great music, for the Alberta blue sky, thanks Calgary!