Calgary Folk Fest Day Four in Review

Every year at the festival there’s that one band whose popularity grows throughout out the weekend — even though they started as a band that nobody had heard of and nobody will probably hear them again until they’re back. Latchikos was that band this year. Another strong couple of workshops on Sunday cemented that title for them as they worked with Danish polka band Habadekuk in the morning and Americana troubadours Dan Bern and Hayes Carll late in the afternoon. They fit in well with both and earned just as many if not more cheers.

That late afternoon set also featured Corin Raymond and was dubbed “Just For Laughs” so each of the four performers took the opportunity to sing about increasingly dysfunctional relationships culminating in Dan Bern’s song “Josephine and Ernest” about a necropheliac who falls in love with a narcoleptic. I’m sure the combination of Bern and Carll on stage had everyone dreaming about a tour.

Overall the Folk Fest did a great job this year of balancing acts. Unlike last year where there was a heap of older-leaning acts and one polarizing act aimed at the youth crowd (see: Jeff Mangum) the fest sprinkled in plenty of newer acts that would appeal to the older crowd. Sharon Van Etten Bahamas Sarah Neufeld and M. Ward all helped break down the divide. The only exception was Kurt Vile whose main stage act on Sunday was lovely but managed mostly to impress a large contingent of kids that were only there to see him. But the older crowd sucked it up sat through it and had the entire dance floor to themselves when Creedence Clearwater Revisited hit the stage.

I’ll save the jokes about it being a cover band. CCR delivered exactly what the audience wanted which was hit after hit after hit. Although singer John Tristao did attempt some sort of gyrating hip-motion dance that caused my friend to lean over and say with great concern “I don’t like new John Fogerty.”


I figured the last day of folk fest would be more difficult to navigate through than it actually was. The schedule had a lot going on and I thought I would be having to choose between two great shows or wander around aimlessly for hours until I found something interesting. I ended up starting the day off right by just hanging around stage 5 for a couple of shows.

The first act I saw was Grant Lee Phillips who played a solo acoustic set in front of a very appreciative crowd. He wad a pretty charming man and played wonderful ballads along with a great cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer”. I wanted to just sit there and listen to him for most of the day. When his set ended I was a bit disappointed until I noticed that he was going to be featured on the same stage a few minutes later for the “Those Other Decades” jam session!

The jam was pretty great and included wild soulful improviser Mary Margaret O’Hara Peggy Lee and Beautiful Tool as well as Garland Jeffreys and World Party . Each artist brought a very unique skill to the table as they each traded off playing their own particular songs with added improvisation from members of the other bands. It was pretty incredible with O’Hara belting out some of the most bonkers vocal styles I have heard since Mike Patton. World Party were a band I have heard of in the past but never managed to check out until stumbling upon this jam today. It was some of the nicest pop music I have heard in ages. Such catchy fun melodies. Blues vocalist Garland Jeffreys blew everyone away with his intensity and wild howls on the stage. For such a diverse group it was a great match.

When that finished I went over to the Local 510 Stage to check out the All Rebel Rockers jam which featured Samantha Martin and the Haggard Mexican Institute Of Sound Nomadic Massive and Saidah Baba Talibah . The whole thing was a mix of blues funk soul and hip-hop and the Nomadic Massive got the whole audience into it right away with some call and response audience participation and some positive French rap. My French is poor but man does it ever sound good on a rap track. It was a pretty positive experience to be there and all of the artists were going completely nuts. So many guitar solos.

Kurt Vile was the man I wanted to see but it was kind of a lackluster experience on the Main Stage. He was good but sometimes certain acts are better in a smaller setting. He had played a jam session earlier in the day and I am kicking myself for missing out on that. Vile did end up playing “Freak Train” off of the album Childish Prodigy which is a pretty special song.

As usual folk fest has been an unpredictable four days. Each year I am surprised by certain shows and I always leave with that great feeling of new artists to check out. For the most part it’s a pretty relaxing atmosphere easy to navigate and there isn’t a lot of downtime if you are someone who wants to see as many musicians as you can.