Magical Folk Fest makes for enchanted weekend

Review: Winnipeg Folk Fest @ Birds Hill Provincial Park (July 2017) PART 2 OF 2

(STOP! If you haven’t read Part 1 of this review, click here first.)

Up next was a short pilgrimage through shaded trails to see Choir! Choir! Choir! at the Spruce Hollow stage. A friend recommended them and I had no idea what to expect.

Even though there were quite a few people and the trail was narrow, the trek was lovely and I almost gasped when I saw the stage.

It was situated in a clearing, with large trees all around so there was ample shade. The sun was streaming in through the trees and the whole thing just looked magical. I half expected to see fairies fluttering about.

I quickly found a spot on the grass next to a tree stump because the area was filling up fast. This show was a must see for a lot of people.

Nobu Adliman and Daveed Goldman took the stage and humorously told us what was going to happen. Bruce Cockburn was going to come out and sing “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” and we were going to accompany him while he sang. In other words, we were the choir and we were going to perform…for Bruce Cockburn.

Waving our arms during Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” sing-a-long. /ANNE MARTIN

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. I go to shows and festivals to discover entertainment and to be entertained, not to be the entertainment. I wondered what I was missing on the other stages.

Song lyrics were passed to all of us and Nobu and Daveed warmed us up by getting us to sing Sheriff’s “When I’m With You” (haven’t heard that song in years), Bryan Adams “Summer of ‘69” and audience member Margo, got up on stage and helped us with Corey Hart’s “Never Surrender”.

My desk during Choir! Choir! Choir! /ANNE MARTIN

Then it was time to learn our three part harmony to Bruce’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”. They split us into two groups and we learned our parts. Nobu and Daveed joked the whole time, but the process took awhile and people were restless.

Once we started singing though, something interesting happened. Despite our different levels of talent (or lack thereof), our ooooooh’s sounded like they were softly weaving through the trees. Nobu and Daveed sang and guided us through Bruce’s parts and we accompanied them.

Then Bruce came out and we were on. He sang the song, we harmonized with him and the finished product was actually quite beautiful. It was a massive sing along, but soft and delicate, a truly enchanting experience; complete with a gazillion red ants who threatened to chew a hole through me if I didn’t get away from their tree stump.

And now I can add “sang backup with Bruce Cockburn in a forest” to my resume. Here’s a snippet of our talent:

Right now…with Choir! Choir! Choir! and Bruce CockburnAt Winnipeg Folk Festival

Posted by Ticketmomster on Friday, July 7, 2017

All that performing made me hungry, so I went back to the food vendors and bought a ridiculous amount of vegetables for one person and then did a bit of shopping. I resisted the urge to buy all the things and then caught part of Begonia’s set at the Big Blue stage.

St. Leon Gardens’ Veggies. /ANNE MARTIN

I had seen Begonia before, but I wasn’t that blown away by her. However, I saw a few videos of her after that show and she sounded amazing, so I decided to check her out again – maybe the show I saw was an off show for her…or for me. Thank goodness I did, because she was GREAT.

What a spectacular voice and she’s from Winnipeg! At one point she told the audience she was so proud to be from Winnipeg that if she thought about it too much, she wouldn’t get through the next song. I LOVE THAT.

What a treat it was to see Begonia and so many other talented Manitoba musicians. /ANNE MARTIN

Unfortunately, I was sitting near the back of the field and there was a lot of talking in my area. But I’m extremely interested in seeing her at a smaller venue so I can really listen to her and I’m hoping a full Begonia review will appear on this page in the near future.

Boon Burger while watching John K. Samson. /ANNE MARTIN

Near the end of her set, I weighed the pros and cons of letting my bladder explode in the middle of the field instead of subjecting myself to the horrors of another porta potty experience. I decided on the porta potty instead. Gross again.

The sun was down by this time and it was getting cooler, so I trekked back to my car and changed out of my shorts into jeans in the backseat. I remember that experience being much easier in my 20’s.

Then I stood in line again for dinner and made my way over to the Main Stage just as John K. Samson started “One Great City”.

I was living abroad and completely missed The Weakerthans rise to fame. When I returned to Winnipeg, the band was already on hiatus and people were losing their minds. So my goal was to listen to John’s set to determine why they are so loved by this city.

Here’s what I came up with:

John is an incredible lyricist. He held my attention for the remainder of his set with his smart, funny, honest, relatable lyrics and when it was over, I felt a little more connected to Winnipeg and thankful for Winnipeg talent. Man, we have some amazing musicians in this city. It’s incredible. Here’s a tiny part of his set:

Right now…John K. SamsonAt Winnipeg Folk Festival

Posted by Ticketmomster on Friday, July 7, 2017

City and Colour is who I came to see, or more appropriately, Dallas Green. I has seen an acoustic set of his earlier in the day, but I was looking forward to his Main Stage performance the most.

Dallas came out with his guitar, sat on a chair and sang “Forgive Me”. I experience a visceral reaction whenever I hear Dallas Green’s voice. It always surprises me that I love it so deeply because I gravitate towards male baritone voices and I am not a fan of the male falsetto. To me, falsettos almost always sound like a woman singing horribly and I always think, “You couldn’t just get a woman to sing that part?”

But Dallas’ voice is different. There’s a comforting/angelic feel to it even though most of his lyrics are incredibly sad and/or depressing. It’s absolutely lovely and makes me feel almost hypnotic.

“Two Coins” and “Friends” came next and it was such a pleasure to sit in that field, watch the kids throw beach balls in the audience and listen to that voice. I was comfortable and completely content.

“Like Knives” is one of my favourite City and Colour songs and it was lovely, but I wished Dallas had put more effort into the lyrics “Can I have you?” at the end. It’s so moving on the album, but this time it fell flat. Whatever, not a big deal.

Matt Kelly came out to accompany Dallas on the piano and they played “If I Should Go Before You”.

Judging from Dallas’ comments before “We Found Each Other In The Dark”, it sounds like social media (and maybe people in general) are wearing on Dallas. Before he sang the song, he asked that people not tweet anything mean for the duration of the song. Sometimes I feel like that about Twitter too.

Matt moved to the pedal steel guitar and they played “Hello, I’m In Delaware”, which was my favourite song of the night. During the lyrics “But I will see you again, a long time from now”, Matt’s guitar drew out the moon. I watched it rise inch by inch above the stage and took a deep breath, letting the fresh forest air full my lungs… Watch the moon rise here:

This is who I came to see…City and ColourAt Winnipeg Folk Festival

Posted by Ticketmomster on Friday, July 7, 2017

I could have sat there enjoying my Dallas Green daze for days, but after half a dozen more songs, it came to an end. The night air was cool and damp and my notebook paper was wet as I scribbled the words “Sad, slow set for Dallas – Loved it”.

I wrapped my blanket around me a little tighter and settled in for Ukrainian Contemporary Folk band, Dakha Brakha.

I found them jarring after my Dallas Green lull with their vibrant outfits, flashing lights and shrieking. I think under different circumstances, I may have really enjoyed them (people were loving it), but I had been subject to “the wilderness” for 12 hours and I think I hit a brick wall.

I packed up my stuff and lugged it over to the Big Blue stage to hear some familiar Rock from Cracker and after two minutes, my brain went “Nope, that’s enough; time to go”.

The crowd had thinned out by this time, but I never felt unsafe because there were always people around. When I got closer to my car, there were very few people and it was pitch black. But I had a flashlight, and there was a golf cart coming towards me which looked like it was patrolling the parking lot, so I still felt safe.

Glorious weather during the day was followed by spectacular evenings at this year’s Folk Festival. /ANNE MARTIN

As I got into my car, I felt a tinge of regret that I didn’t do this when I was younger. But I quickly snapped out of it when I remembered I’m the person who hates camping and dirt. So maybe I wasn’t supposed to do this when I was younger. Maybe I was supposed to do it right now, when I could appreciate it.

I followed a car out of the parking lot and another car followed me and the three of us completely missed the signs to get out of the park. We completed one lap around the park, in the dark, before we found our way out. After that, it was smooth sailing.

My shower felt extra nice that night and after checking for ticks, I slept like a log.

Spoiler alert: I will be doing this again next year. I’d like to be an honorary “Folkie” and if you have a crown of flowers for me, I’d gladly wear it.

Good night!

P.S. Shout out to Chosabi, St. Leon Gardens and Boon Burger who fed me delicious, energizing, healthy meals far above and beyond what I’d consider “festival food”. Most impressive and deeply appreciated.

TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here:

Anne Martin


TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here:

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