Well, it’s festival season once again. And for the first time, I made it out to the Back 40 Festival in Morden last weekend.
As my friend Antero, along with my parrot Billie and I headed southwest on Highway 3, we were hoping the weather forecast of thundershowers later in the day would be wrong. The dark clouds in the sky ahead of us were a little ominous.
Indeed it was quite windy when we left the city. A few minor drops of rain fell from the clouds but as we got closer to Morden Park, the clouds opened up.
The one day festival features a variety of music as well as artisan booths, food and a kids tent. The festival highlights mostly Manitoba musicians.
Unfortunately we arrived later in the afternoon to the festival, which started just before noon. Yoga in the Bowl, introduced to the festival four years ago, brought out yoga practitioners at 10 a.m.
We caught the last bit of the Songwriters Workshop. Like other festivals, the workshop brought performers together on the same stage each performing a piece while others would join in once in a while. Featured today were David Lum, Raine Hamilton, Mika-Dawn and Nathan Rogers.
There was also a mini stage in front of the main stage where tweeners (musicians performing in between acts) would play a few songs while the next band set up.
A kid’s tent helped to keep the little ones amused throughout the day. A treasure hunt, face painting, craft table, bubble blowing and many more activities made sure no one got bored during the day.
This year’s emcee was the very talented and humorous Al Simmons. The always amusing Mr. Simmons pulled out a few props as he introduced the next act. A hit with the kids, his wacky humour also affected the adults’ funny bone.
The Hers consisting of sisters Katrina and Josee Shroeder did a tweener set of nice acoustic tunes.
They were followed by Jayme Giesbrecht, whose band performed a wonderful set of Gospel tunes. The powerful vocals reminded me of the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, at times. Their set included a very bouncy version of a ’70’s tune Movin’ On Up.
The New Lightweights should be called The New Heavyweights as their set proved to be anything but lightweight.
Former Back 40 Festival Artistic Director, JP LePage did a short, bluesy tweener. It seemed like a bit of a contrast to hear the blues man singing traditional blues with such topics as cell phones and texting … “Send me your picture, so I can talk to you face to face,” he lamented in one tune.
Al Simmons went into the audience clutching one of his many fish that he aways seems to carry with him. His introduction for the next band was very colourful as he persuaded the audience to do a countdown for Idrissa & The Peacemakers. At zero, his Rainbow Trout exploded into the air releasing multi-coloured streamers much to the delight of the children.
Idrissa & The Peacemakers set included the lead singer’s son on congas. The mellow reggae grooves were much appreciated as many got up to dance.
The first song of the set was sung in Idrissa’s native African tongue. They also did a very cool version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
After their set, emcee Simmons wandered through the audience where he singled out one of the many hula hoopers. He asked her to give him few quick hoop lessons. Seems like he now has another talent to add to his resume.
Nathan Rogers and Dan Brown’s set consisted of folky numbers with Dan playing a righteous fiddle. Nathan played guitar and his ‘kazoo horn’as well as demonstrating his spectacular throat singing skills.
While Nathan tuned his guitar, he got Dan to explain their next controversial tune written by Luke Jordan in 1927. Dan had a few disclaimers about the prohibition era tune which told the tale of how some pretty heavy drugs could easily be purchased for relatively cheap at a time when alcohol was banned in the States.
A draw was held for people who added comments and suggestions for improving the festival. Some of the suggestions included more food vendors while others said they liked the festival as it is.
One lucky winner won two tickets for next year’s festival, while two other draws were held for festival t-shirts.
Al Simmons announced Reckless Tram and The Frying Pan “traveled all the way from Winkler” to share their music before the headliner came on.
The Brent Parkin Band closed the show with a rockin’ blues set. Mr Parkin’s been playing the blues for some time now and is clearly a master of his guitar.
His rhythm section of Kerry Hannah on bass and Ken McMahon on drums provided a nice solid foundation for the axe man to tingle our musical senses.
Mostly originals, including a couple covers and instrumentals, their set was a perfect ending to a fine festival.
The trio did a very interesting instrumental interpretation of Gershwin’s Summertime. Kind of caught me by surprise, very sweet with a bit of a jazzy vibe.
Another cover they tackled and scored a touchdown with was Elvis Presley’s That’s All Right Mama. Better than alright, can you say fantastic.
The festival seemed very well organized and quite manageable. And of course, no festival is complete without the many volunteers who help with not only setting up and tearing down, but assisting festival goers. The army of volunteers were easy to spot wandering around the festival site in their bright yellow t-shirts.
Approximately 2,000 people attended the festival this year. Some of the regulars told me this year’s wasn’t the biggest turnout they’ve seen at the festival. Maybe the weather forecasters scared some folks.
It was a bit of a windy day, but the winds seemed to help blow away the dark clouds which threatened us every once in a while.
We made it through the day without getting rained on at the festival, and the only storm we experienced was a musical one, of many styles of music that rained into our ears and pleasantly showered our senses.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer
Videos by Doug QUIDAM
Jayme Giesbrecht- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (3:38)
The New Lightweights- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (4:14)
J.P. LePage- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (3:49)
Idrissa and the Peacemakers- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (Al Simmons intro) (6:21)
Idrissa & the Peacemakers- With You Were Here- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB (4:31)
Al Simmon’s One Man Band- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (2:22)
Rogers & Brown- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (6:14)
Brent Parkin Band- Back 40 Festival, Morden, MB 6.5.16 (4:17)