Conversational quips from the cream of the Folk Fest crop

The Calgary Folk Music Festival is less a musical event than a social occasion. It’s a chance for Calgarians to abandon the hectic pace of life in the midst of the “Alberta Advantage.” The small rituals — the running of the tarps the search for the shortest food line — are as much a part of what brings nearly 12000 Calgarians to each day of the festival as any of the individual musicians. For many of those musicians the festival provides a similar retreat. Freed from the normal routine of 20 hours on the tour bus four hours in the venue mainstream and alternative artists alike take part in jam sessions relax backstage and finally get a chance to enjoy a bit of the outdoors even if it is in the city centre. Fast Forward was fortunate enough to catch up with some of the festival’s top acts and couldn’t resist sharing a few choice quips. New Orleans jazzman John Boutte on life in his home state: “Other than more people coming to line their pockets I’ve been seeing families being displaced the culture of New Orleans attacked and buried because of this new gentrification of the city. People with means are the ones that are back. Nothing against the rich but you never get much art out of the rich. Art comes out of suffering and oppression so we gonna have some great art out of New Orleans soon.” Folk revivalist William Elliot Whitmore on the politics of folk: “I don’t have overt political themes in my songs but they sneak in there metaphorically. Anybody who claims they aren’t into politcs are involved and don’t even know it. The decisions made by the higher ups affect us no matter what music you sing. If you can use your musical soapbox to speak about it it’s an important thing. Ben Harper to Bob Dylan everybody has those undertones.” Sixty-one-year-old soul diva Bettye LaVette on her best memory of the festival: “Leo Nocentelli from the Meters was on the first tour of my life. He came up to me last night and said ‘Do you remember one night when me and you Barbara Lynn Clyde McPhatter and “Frogman” Henry were in a rooming house in South Carolina?’ I said ‘I will kill you.’ No one has ever said those words to me before. He just validated my first three weeks of being Bettye Lavette. I just started to cry.” Singer Sharon Jones on sharing a stage with Bettye Lavette: “I did one of her songs and I didn’t know. ‘What Condition My Condition Is In’ Bettye Lavette did that song way back. When I went to do the cover it was her I heard. I always remembered that song. I pray that when I’m 61 I can move like her. She’s looking all slim and trim and I’m all thick.” Singer-songwriter Jeremy Fisher on the meaning of folk: “I think the only thing that folk music is is music for folks so whatever brings people together. To me a folk festival is just a family atmosphere. I look around and see people having so much fun it becomes about joy as much as it is about music. I suppose it used to be that folk music was kind of separate from commercial music but the world is so damn commercial now you can’t even buy a concert ticket without there being an ad on the back.” Piano pixie Sarah Slean on her dream workshop: “Ooh la la. Tom Waits. Joni Mitchell. And I’m going to have to go two guys and two girls so I’ll say Leonard Cohen and Marlene Dietrich.“ What do you think that would sound like? I think maybe Leonard Cohen and Marlene Dietrich might end up making out and I might have to make out with Tom Waits. Hick-hopper Ridley Bent on what he’d do if he were playing a show on the last day of human existence: “Acid.”