I have been putting this off forever because I have next to nothing to say. There are a ton of shows coming up that I am looking forward to seeing, and in a few cases, even looking forward to writing about. This was not that. But I unexpectedly find myself alone in Saskatoon on a Sunday night, mere days away from the next show and I hate review backlogs, so let's do this.
I'm sure I mention this every year, but I buy our Folk Festival tickets every December. There's a huge discount when you buy them that early, and part of the reason is that you don't yet know who's going to be playing there. I figure this is a smart move; by the time they announce the lineup, the tickets have gone up in price, meaning it's easy to sell yours if you don't want to go.
And to be honest, I kind of felt like selling mine. The lineup this year wasn't bad in any way; I just wasn't feeling it. There were no old favourites, and there were no names that I was really looking forward to. Not a bad thing, necessarily - I always discover someone new every year - but I just didn't have that anticipation that I'm used to.
Maybe this is just how I am, sometimes? One year, about five years ago, the Weakerthans played the Regina Folk Festival. I didn't have a ticket that year, but you can hang out in the park and listen for free. I went for 10 minutes, got bored, and went home. And I love the Weakerthans.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that we didn't even go to the Sunday night portion. Wasn't feeling it. I bet it was awesome, and I bet I wouldn't have thought so.
Man, this is getting depressing! I'm generally not this miserable-sounding, I promise. So rather than going act-by-act through two nights of shows that I barely remember, I am going to call attention to two standouts: Shad and Rich Aucoin.
Rich Aucoin, I had never heard of this dude. He only played a few songs since he was a between-sets guy (a "teaser," they're called) but he was energetic and fun and a little weird and he brought a parachute for the crowd to play with. I didn't get a great sense of his music but I was really intrigued and wanted to see more. He wasn't even playing one of the daytime stages over the weekend - just the teaser set and the afterparty, and I am too old to stay up concert-late most nights, to say nothing of afterparty-late. And I haven't listened to more Rich Aucoin since that brief set, but I will get to it someday! You can too at richaucoin.ca, which I only mention because the .com takes you to a website for a Massachusetts Libertarian of the same name.
According to one of his songs, Shad "hate[s] the catchphrase 'Canadian rap sensation'" so instead I will call him... Shad... that guy... who does stuff. I'm writing the review a month late and this is the best that I can do. Anyway, over the two nights, Shad was really the only guy who felt like he was actually playing for a large crowd. I hate to say "energetic" again but that's really what stood out for me. That, and the songs off his new digital EP "Melancholy and the Infinite Shadness," which I've probably listened to more than any other album released this year. I guess I really like Milli Vanilli samples?
Another teaser act, Regina's own Julia and Her Piano, seemed like one that I might enjoy hearing more of and I'll try to take her in sometime when she's playing somewhere a little cozier than a big downtown park.
The idea of "I'd rather watch this singer/band in a club" was one I kept going to. Maybe it's just that we were sitting pretty far back from the stage (though we sat in the same spots last year and didn't have this issue), but I often found that the music was hard to hear, like it wasn't loud enough and people were talking over it. The talking can certainly be an issue at any show, but it wouldn't be so hard to keep focused on the music in a smaller, more intimate setting. The Friday night opener, Cold Specks, really suffered from this. Her music is self-described as "doom soul," and can be dark and haunting. But here she was, playing in the sunlight, barely audible over crowds of people still getting their lawn chairs set up, greeting friends, buying dinner. I found it really hard to pay attention, and I felt that way through most of the sets this year. We saw Timber Timbre, Austra, Stars, and Great Lake Swimmers, and I'd struggle to say much of anything about any of them. We're seeing Stars again in a few months, opening for Metric, so we'll get some idea whether it was the bands (doubtful) or the venue (somewhat), or it was just me (99% this).
I don't really dig on being negative in reviews because I'm old now and the idea of being a jerk on the internet has mostly lost its novelty. Besides, I didn't even get super pumped for the kettle corn truck, so you know the problem was on my end. So I'll wrap this up by saying I still intend to buy tickets for next year and I'm sure there will be no bands I've heard of and I'm sure it will rain all weekend long and I'm sure we'll have a wonderful time. People are dumb and I'm people.
UPCOMING SHOWS - September 13: kd lang & The Siss Boom Bang - September 18: Sloan - September 29: Ben Folds Five w/Kate Miller-Heidke - October 3: Kathleen Edwards w/Jenn Grant - October 10: "Weird Al" Yankovic - October 30: Hawksley Workman - November 2: Dan Mangan w/Rural Alberta Advantage - November 16: Metric w/Stars - November 24: Red Hot Chili Peppers w/Rebirth Brass Band