I'm not sure what to do with these reviews. I'm starting to feel like I'd like to just go to concerts and not have to worry about documenting things after the fact, especially when said documenting mostly amounts to "I saw some bands and had a decent time." Maybe I'll stop reviewing shows once I hit the next milestone, or once the year is up. October 9 of this year marks 15 years of SLCRs, but I can't possibly give up before my return match with SLCR nemesis Big Sugar (supported by longtime SLCR favourite Wide Mouth Mason).
In true winding-down fashion, I feel like I should stack this write-up with as many of my old familiar jokes and references as possible. After a while, it's not repetition, it's a throwback. But Xylon wasn't here, and I didn't order any chicken fingers (I'm more of a butter chicken guy these days, which is both a good thing and a bad thing). I'll have to just stick to not talking much about the actual music.
To that end, I'm not going to go artist by artist through the weekend. That sounds like a whole lot of grasping for content and exposing the many areas in which I know nothing. Let's hit the highlights and the lowlights and the food and the CDs and be done before the album I'm listening to ("Nice, Nice, Very Nice" by Dan Mangan, one of the discoveries and highlights of this year's festival).
DAY ONE: FRIDAY
My very first tweet from the Folk Festival grounds - properly hashtagged with #ThingsIThinkEveryYear - was "First Regina Folk Festival thought: getting in is a disorganized mess." There were multiple unmarked lines. One was for us, people who had weekend pass tickets and needed to exchange them for wristbands. However, we waited in two other lines before figuring this out. Our wristbands gave us admission to the main stage area, but we waited in two additional lines before figuring out that we didn't need to.
I thought that all the rigmarole was going to make us late, but we got our chairs set up just in time for our opener, completely negating the point of that previous paragraph. And said opener? Fred Penner. THAT Fred Penner. Playing Fred Penner songs. He even came out of a log on stage, which means nothing to me as I am just a hair too old to have any real nostalgia for Fred Penner. He sang vintage Fred Penner songs - I mean, I assume he did, I don't really know - and it was pretty cute to see the little kids dancing at the front of the stage. But as I wasn't really the target audience, I took this time to track down our supper (butter chicken with chickpeas and rice).
Looking back on it now, the rest of day one was pretty uneventful. Polaris-nominated Braids were up next, and I liked them well enough. They were followed by Etran Finitawa, who hail from Niger. I keep wanting to say they are Nigerian, because that would make sense what with them being from Niger, right? Apart from being completely wrong.
And that's as much as I wrote. Now it's a month later, and I have nothing better to do on a Sunday night but finish this up. I don't like Sunday nights anyway.
Andrew Bird played a whole lot of violin and generally sounded kind of odd, in a way that left me thinking that I bet I could really get to like his music if I heard more of it. And we didn't stick around for much of KT Tunstall because we are old, and with kd lang and Hawksley Workman closing out Saturday and Sunday respectively, I knew we would be there right until the bitter end both nights.
Also, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald played a teaser set in between acts and I liked him. I can be easily won over by Baby Got Back, I guess.
And I ate the first of three bags of kettle corn.
Oh oh oh! I almost forgot. At one point, Slow Down Molasses was playing a teaser set and it was dark out and the sky was clear and the northern lights were out and that was really cool. I recommend that particular experience.
DAY TWO: SATURDAY (WHICH YOU KNEW BECAUSE YOU GET HOW THE ORDER OF DAYS WORKS)
Skipped the daytime stages and showed up just in time for the rain to hit. We'd packed well, by which I mean we packed a lot. Umbrellas and jackets saved the day, though we still wound up damp and chilly for the rest of the show. At least we missed the hail. Next year we pack a heater. And a generator. Or maybe just some fire.
Dan Mangan, Marco Calliari, Shakura S'aida, Taj Mahal, and kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang: all good. Some of my coworkers talked about coming to the Folk Festival all weekend long, and none of them did (that I know of), and this was the night they really would have loved. Just a diverse range of super-talented musicians that should have been heard and appreciated by people you neither know nor care about.
Mangan did the singer-songwriterly thing that I seem to be a fan of. I wish I could describe why I really like a Dan Mangan or a Hawksley Workman or a Danny Michel, and why there are others that just don't appeal to me at all.
The highlight of the evening for me - apart from the deep-fried perogies and deep-fried pickles - was this old dude who decided that applause was for suckers and, instead, would yell "HOHOHOHOHOHO" to show his appreciation. It got to a point that at the end of every song, he'd do it and everyone around him would giggle.
kd lang was presented as the biggest star of the festival when the lineup was announced, and it was pretty clear that everyone there saw her that way. During her cover of Hallelujah, it was the only time when there was stone silence from the audience. No talking, nobody walking around, just everyone listening intently. It was so quiet you could hear Aaron's seething rage from two provinces over. She got a standing ovation, which you would have expected, and the whole thing kinda left me wondering why she sang it so early in her set. It made everything else a bit anticlimactic. Having said that, if I was going to complain about anything, it would be that her set felt too short. It ran for the allotted time and we got two encores, but I was left wanting more.
Speaking of wanting more, the teaser set of note was by The Secret Sisters. 15 minutes wasn't enough, but we weren't around for any of their daytime stuff. Too bad, I liked them.
DAY THREE: THURSDAY PSYCHE IT WAS TOTALLY SUNDAY
Since Hawksley Workman was doing daytime shows, we were downtown for pretty much the whole day. The first was called The Happiest Day Is A Tokyo Bicycle, named after a Hawksley song and featuring Hawksley with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and Indigo Joseph. The theme of the set was "moments of joy," which makes me wonder why he played Autumn's Here, a song about winter and dying. Maybe he just wanted to make fun of the line about the sweater, which he called the cheesiest line he'd ever written.
After several days of eating junk - the Folk Festival is really my state fair equivalent - I was glad to get some vegan citrus bruschetta for lunch. We won't talk about the frozen cheesecake on a stick that followed. Or the picture that one of my coworkers took of me, which inspired my fat ass to buy a treadmill (which doesn't even work, but that's a whole other issue).
The next set we watched was For Him And The Girls, named after a Hawksley album and featuring Hawksley and ladies; namely, Coeur de Pirate, Ashleigh Ball, and Cris Derksen. All I really remember from this one is Derksen covering Girls by Beastie Boys, followed by Ball singing I Kissed A Girl (the famous one, not the better one).
As for the main stage acts, the most interesting part for me was getting to see two local bands, Rah Rah and Library Voices. I have the most recent CDs from both bands, and thought that Rah Rah's was much better, though that opinion doesn't seem to commonly held. Live, however, I thought the Library Voices set was great, and Rah Rah was pretty weak. It wasn't a fair fight - Rah Rah didn't seem to have all of their members (or maybe they did? what do I know, really) and Rah Rah only had a teaser set as opposed to the full set from Library Voices. Still, it did shift my allegiance somewhat in this rivalry that probably isn't a rivalry at all.
Fred Penner was the host for the main stage, which led to amusing lectures about picking up our garbage and whatnot. But the best part was when he said something about MySpace and he said it in such a way as to indicate that he had no idea what it was or if it was even a thing (to be fair, it may not be a thing anymore). For some reason, I found this hysterical, and Mika and I spent roughly two hours texting (or BBMing, to be precise) computer terms back and forth to each other. Somehow, I got sidetracked and eventually sent her a lot of Tom Hanks movie titles. And that's why I can't really tell you anything about Aurelio Martinez's set.
I did pay attention to Hawksley, of course, though it was one of those shows where he's only going to play the same songs he plays every time out. I still enjoy those songs and the stories, but it would be nice if he played something I wasn't expecting. After 12 shows, I guess I'm hard to surprise.
At the end of the night and the festival, Fred Penner came back out and brought with him everyone he could round up, including Hawksley, The Sojourners, Shakura S'aida, and as many festival volunteers that they could cram on stage for a show-closing rendition of This Little Light of Mine.
As a whole, the weekend was pretty much what I expected. Some bands I knew and some I didn't (including some delightful new discoveries), delicious foods (at one point, I threatened to marry the kettle corn truck), and weather that may or may not cooperate. I assume we'll go back next year, or at least buy the early weekend passes and sell them if we wind up with something better to do. I've got this down to a science.
I did bring my camera and record all of the Hawksley stuff (and a few other songs from other folks), but I doubt anyone reading this cares enough for me to bother with setlists or anything. I wound up with 25 GB of video by the time the weekend was done, so if you're wondering why I haven't shared it with you yet, that's why. I'd need to fill, like 8 DVDs just to back it all up. Still not sure what to do with it. Batch-convert it down to a reasonable size and throw it all on the YouTubes, maybe?
Possible upcoming shows (I have tickets for the shows with asterisks): - Sept. 28: The Besnard Lakes w/Malajube and The Soft Province * Sept. 30: Arctic Monkeys w/Smith Westerns * Nov. 2: Big Sugar w/Wide Mouth Mason - Nov. 16: Chad VanGaalen - Nov. 23: Austra * Dec. 6: Stuart McLean w/Hawksley Workman