Emily and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Vancouver Folk Festival at Jericho Beach. We’ve gone every year since 2006 – which was kind of our first date, so we like to think of Folk Fest as our anniversary weekend.
This year was the first time we got full weekend passes. I enjoyed being there for all 3 days, because I had multiple chances to see the bands I as interested in. It also meant I spent over 25 hours in the hot sun on the weekend, now look like a Mexican, and was exhausted once Monday rolled around.
The musical highlights for me:
- Mark Berube & The Patriotic Few – the lead singer of the Fugitives (my festival highlight from 2 years ago) was back with a new band. With the same energy and powerful lyrics as the Fugitives, they were a joy to watch live. They also had the best line in their song Say It Ain’t So, “those songs that move up on the charts, sounding like teenage masterbation.”
- Dan Mangan – I had just heard Robots for the first time a week before the festival, and was excited to see him live. His performance was one of the best I’ve seen at the Folk Festival. The crowd was jammed into see him, mostly packed with young people. When he played Robots at the end, the crowd sung along to the chorus and Dan wandered through the crowd with his guitar. After a long standing ovation, the stage manager got him back to play an encore, which I’ve never ever seen at the Folk Festival. It was surreal. His duet with Veda Hille was also really cute.
- Basia Bulat – I discovered her album when it first came out and love it, and it was great to hear her live. She played a lot of unreleased music from her next album, which should be outstanding. One of the weirder Folk Fest moments this year was Basia singing the Log Driver’s Waltz (my video) with the Great Lake Swimmers, Dan Mangan, and Steven Page.
- Great Lake Swimmers – another amazing band that I was looking forward to seeing live. The lead singer has such a haunting voice. The Vancouver Folk Festival had a new artisitic director this year that did a great job of pulling in some popular indie bands.
- The Weakerthans – The Winnipeg kings and one of my favourite bands. I saw them live a few months ago, and much preferred them in a smaller venue to the large festival stage. However, John K. Samson was at a workshop on Saturday morning where he performed some new works for the first time, which is always cool to hear. Heart of the Continent (a follow up to One Great City) sounded great.
- Other acts that were great live included: Shari Ulrich – a folk singer with a beautiful voice. Paperboys – great sound and energy, but tough to describe. The first song they performed was an Irish polka salsa. Geoff Berner – the funny accordion player who shocked everyone with his Olympics song. Los de Abajo and Bellowhead who both put on great high-energy evening shows that everyone up and dancing.
There were a bunch of big changes at the festival this year – the first ever beer garden, the market stalls were moved into the grounds, and there were 2 evening stages. We tried out all the new changes, and I think most of them worked well. The beer garden was usually busy, but I didn’t see any obnoxious drunks. The 2nd evening stage featured a lot of indie bands, and it made it difficult to decide what to watch, but I enjoyed the choice. The West beach-side market layout was great, with its chaotic rows of booths. The East market near the main entrance was a bit too small and out of the way. They should try to get everyone in the same location next year.