Calgary Folk Fest Day Three in Review

To spare you another day of “then I did this then I did that” I decided to hand the morning of day three of the Calgary Folk Fest over to my three-and-a-half year old nephew Max. Letting him point to a random spot on the schedule and deciding what stage to hit from there was actually a nice way to see some stuff I wouldn’t have chosen. For instance instead of Hayes Carll first thing in the morning we ended up taking in Irish fusion band Latchikos who combine spoken-word with traditional Gaelic violin and rhythms. They were a great find even prompting Max to weave his way through the crowd after the set to thank the band’s leader Aindrias de Staic. He also excitedly ate a handful of grapes.

Max then stomped right through the kids’ play area which includes a bouncy house because he was determined to catch Cat Empire jamming with Minor Empire and Royal Canoe . Here a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was the snack of choice but it didn’t stop Max from bouncing his leg in rhythm with the entire show which I didn’t even know he could do. The bands jammed together beautifully and Cat Empire showed their skills as improvisers because Royal Canoe’s performance later that day left their partners — Elliot BROOD T he Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer and Michael Hearst’s Unusual Creatures — completely befuddled.

After Cat Empire it was time for Max to head home and Uncle Nathan to spend the rest of Saturday meandering from one stage to the next. The undisputed star of the day in my mind was Sharon Van Etten and her starring turn on the twilight stage was the perfect place for a much more intimate performance than the main stage could’ve provided.

Tomorrow is simply known as Kurt Vile day although there’s every chance that a strong set from Creedence Clearwater Revisited could remind us all why classic rock radio plays the hell out of those songs.


Today was the day of many artists coming together many of whom had never met one another. It was the day of many improvised jams. It has been happening for many years and it could be really amazing or be a complete dud but the majority of what I witnessed was pretty nice. It is also the day that the beer garden lines are completely out of contol. I saw a man in line for beers with a baby and the line had to be at least two hours long. Do not bring your baby into the beer gardens.

The first set I saw was basically set up to be a cheesy Putamayo World music compilation but it turned out to be much more than a simple get together of world musicians. Fatma Zitan held it down for a lot of the showwith traditional Arabic vocals that got a lot of folks on their feet early in the day. A tie dyed man was brushing up dust with his fast footwork during this show. Trinidad musician Anthony Joseph added some positive grooves (and a whistle) to the jam. They mixed together quite well but it was Aziz Sahmauol at the end of the set that got everybody going. The grooves were hard to ignore and the group was eager to keep the party going.

I was excited to see what would happen after this show. Unfortunately I couldn’t get into it. Over the Rhine was the band that followed on the Local 510 Stage and it was mostly mellow alt-country tunes. They were laid-back but hard to deal with when you have the rest of your day ahead of you.

Fortunately following that was another jam this time with Alasdair Roberts and Friends Grant Lee Phillips Amelia Curran and John Fullbright . Roberts was one of the highlights for me yesterday so it was sure to be a great show. All of the musicians were on top of their game and most of the contributions were stellar although Amelia Curran didn’t do a lot. She may have been shy around these other musicians but then she requested that she play a song solo without anybody backing her up. I think that is pretty lousy for a jam session. Other than that it seemed to come together pretty well. John Fullbright had just played a solo set earlier but still managed to bust out some wild country-fried jams.

Rachel Sermanni started off the evening at the main stage. She had a minimal band backing her consisting of only bass and a keyboard but she was an amzing vocalist and kept it clean and simple. Sure the vocals were pretty dark and mysterious but that is part of the fun right? Unfortunately it was on the main stage in the early evening which is when I assume most people are just settling in. There are many big names for people to sleep around for later on in the evening.

I went for a little walkabout and ended up at Sharon Van Etten . It was one of the highlights of the festival. She has such powerful emotional vocals that get stuck in your brain and are hard to rattle out of there. She has such soul and is a very powerful musician.

I had to leave after that. My feet are in pain. I think I need a new pair of shoes.