Sunday, July 10, 2005

Winnipeg Folk Festival - July 9, 2005

We were warned ahead of time - the temperature was supposed to hit around 32 celcius, and they recommended that people bring rubber boots, lest they get their feet wet with the wet grass and mud. We survived the heat, though, thanks to the cool breezes that were blowing. It turned out to be a really comfortable day. Attendence was 11,459.

I pity the fools who wore socks yesterday, given the preponderance of mud on the walking paths and in other generally well-troden areas.

First impression after arriving around 10:30 - lots of dragon flies and absolutely no mosquitoes, and lots of muddy bare feet. It appeared as if people gave in to the reality of getting their in contact with the mud and decided to simply go barefoot.

For the first time in a long time, we actually had our choice of where to sit in the otherwise jam-packed Shady Grove. Playing were the North End Klezmer All-Stars, emmceed by Myron Schultz (clarinet), Victor Scultz (violin) Danny Koulack (bass), Ben Mink (k.d. lang's producer and multi-instrumentalist) and accordionist Nicolai Prisacar. As usual, people were sitting in the trees, or right in front of the stage, in order to escape the sun. We sat to the left of the stage, partially in the shade. On of my co-workers joined us for a while, until the sun crept onto her.

The band are among the finest musicians around. Some are local, some play with Finjan, who in turn, have played with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Klezmer is an amalgamation of Eastern European Jewish music; Jewish jazz, is one way to describe it. The best response they received came when they played fast compositions. To the right of the stage, a few people were kicking up a storm, dancing the two-step, then all joining hands, when they were freestyling. Some of the songs started off fairly slowly, until, right on cue, all the fingers on stage began by fly as the band really picked up the pace.

Old Song, New Songs was the theme of the next show. Hosted by the Handsome Family and featuring John Sampson and Stephen Carrol (the Weakerthans), Cara Luft, Matt McHugh (the Beautiful Girls) and Martha Wainwright, this was a fine sounding show. Nothing spectacular. We pretty much resingned ourselves to the fact that we would more than likely hear the rest of the performances rather than actually see them. You can't get close to any stage, unless you were already there from a previous performance.

The highlight of the day for me was the Global Jam show. Hosted by Autorickshaw, a group that I never heard of before, I was immediately hooked by the opening notes of the tabla, played by Ed Hanley. Suba Sankaran's vocals were clear and accent-free. I get the feeling she was born here. The other performers, Lucia Pulido and Oliver Mtukudzi, didn't leave as much as an impression on me.

Pop Goes The World is probably the most mainstream workshop held in the history of the Folk Festival. Hosted by Novillero, and featuring the Rheostatics, Nathan and the Weakerthans, this show was all about playing favorite cover tunes from the 80's. Novillero kicked things off with Hall and Oates' "Maneater", which grabbed everyone's attention right away with it's contagious beats. They followed that up with the Clash's Rock the "Casbah".


Nathan contributed Toronto's "Ready To Make Up" and the Eurythmic's "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This." I honestly don't "get" Nathan. Having seen them perform live at the West End Cultural Centre, I don't appreciate the thin vocals or the old tyme sound. Once again, the thin vocals just didn't do it for me. The Weakerthans (or was it Novillero) contributed the Go-go's "We Got The Beat" while The Rheostatics performed some tunes from fairly obscure bands, save for The Replacements and a bit of Rush. Overall, it was a lot of fun, but it was also as far away from folk music as you can get.

After that, we were off to the campground for a shower. On the way out, we almost got stuck in the mud, and ended up driving down to a dead end, with cars blocking the way.

We missed Madrigaia but could here them as we walked back in. I missed most of Connie Kaldor as I made my way to the Homemade Music tent to buy some CDs. I ended up getting music by Autorickshaw, Martin Tielli (the guitarist for the Rheostatics), two Bill Frisell discs, the debut CD by Dan Frechette, the one and only CD by Rudimental and the Juno winning debut CD by Feist.

The Campbell Brothers played blues-based rock'n'roll and were amazing. They have a strong steel guitar sound and it just blew me away. I've never heard anything quite like these guys and hope to track down some of their music. We also heard Nathaniel Campbell, Lila Downs and Steve Forbert, none of which really caught my attention. Had we sat closer and braved the incredibly loud sounds, I may have been more into these groups. As we began to complain about the mosquitoes, and realized that they were only going to get worse, we decided to leave. My friend who joined me has artritis and felt unfortable having to sit for hours.

It was really interesting to see lineups for the East India Company but none for most of the other restaurants. Canadians obviously love their butter chicken. The lineup for water were also quite something. Being thirsty and having run out of ice water, I opted for a strawberry fruit shake. After having a shower, I bought a 32 oz cherry lemonade and a plate of butter chicken. Sajeet, the owner of the East India Co., reached over the counter to shake my hand, since I am a regular customer. The guy at the Fruit Shake stand complimented me on my tied died Grateful Dead t-shirt.

my Grateful Dead Carpet Ride t-shirt

I missed the final day, on Sunday, due to a headache.

Fiest - Let It Die

Martin Tielli


Bill Frisell - Good Dog Happy Man

Bill Frisell - The Willies

Dan Frechette - Lucky Day

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