It’s pretty incredible when you think about an event like the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
This community of music lovers takes over a Provincial Park, Birds Hill in this case, moves in for four days, more than 70 bands play on the various daytime stages and the main stage in the evening, and there’s a certain energy in the air that sighs, “As much crap that’s going on in the world right now, everything’s gonna be alright.”
At least for this weekend it’ll be alright.
Yeah, that positive energy you feel as you approach the festival grounds, that colourful car ahead of you with a cool mural of a bird paint job on it brings a smile to my face.
Then there’s the colourful people you stand in line with at the gate. The even more colourful main stage area with tarps, blankets and lawn chairs staking claim to your piece of ground for an evening of musical delight.
There are only three bands playing on this Thursday opening night, but there are also ‘tweeners’, smaller acts who play a few songs while the next band sets up.
So, I get there and The Small Glories are playing, local musicians extraordinaire, JD Edwards with his acoustic guitar and Cara Luft on banjo. Wow, nice stuff seeing these two playing together.
Keep running into people I know, keep running into people I haven’t seen since last year.
Carly Dow is the first ’tweener.’ She’s accompanied by acoustic guitarist Logan McKillop who also sings along. Okay we’re getting nicely warmed up.
Washington native Brandi Carlile and her two bandmates on acoustic bass and acoustic guitar are up next. They also brought along two ’stomping blocks’ for some foot stomping good times.
Brandi talks about playing the Edmonton Folk Festival and says that we (Canadians) seem to know how to do it up here. She seems genuinely impressed.
They all look pretty happy as they end their 75 minute set with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Going To California’. Awesome, blew me away.
Aoife O’Donovan is the next ’tweener.’ O’Donovan was the singer for The Crooked Still when they appeared at the 2006 and 2007 WFF.
The Shins traveled all the way from New Mexico to entertain the folks at Bird’s Hill. About halfway through their set, the people in the tarp section (there’s a tarp section for chairs and tarps and there’s a dancing section to the right of the stage) can’t resist getting on their feet and grooving to the music.
At times, The Shins’ very hyper three guitar set is also punctuated by some mellower moments like during their encore when three violins provide a wonderful wind down kind of moment.
On the way out I spot Lorne Collie, parked where he’s been parked the last few years. Right beside the many bike racks on the edge of the parking area.
Lorne’s an interesting fellow; he makes stringed instruments out of axes, rakes, pick axes and deer and moose horns. He’s brought them along again and he’s also brought some amps so people can play them. He tells me that quite a few very talented musicians have sampled his instruments tonight.
Looking forward to Day 2 of the Folk Fest Friday (should be fun, it’s my birthday… what an awesome birthday present… to be in a musical paradise all weekend).
Like I said earlier it’s pretty incredible this music community that’s planted itself in the park.
Haven’t heard of a lot of the bands in the program but that’s how it is every year… and I always go home with a few more new favourite bands.