Pickin’ and Grinnin’: Our picks for this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival


Meta-fours: NQ Arbuckle, Altameda, Chad VanGaalen, Reuben and the Dark — Stage 6, Saturday 4:20 p.m.

Sweet and rootsy newcomers Altameda, ragged and rootsy oldcomers NQ Arbuckle, uncategorizable odd-comer VanGaalen, and anthemic hypersonic-comer Reuben and the Dark meet up in one of fest artist director Kerry Clarke’s patented, off-her-meds, matches made in heck. It’s incongruous. It’s offbeat. But will it work? Come hear it for yourself.

A Tribe Called Red — Mainstage, Saturday 10:20 p.m.

Saturday night post-sunset, the island is enchanted and surreal, which is the perfect setting for A Tribe Called Red’s show-closing set. Their ancient tribal chants juxtaposed with current hip-hop vibes will give you shivers while lighting a fire under your feet.

Guitars and Cadillacs: NQ Arbuckle, Leeroy Stagger, Ryland Moranz — Stage 6, Sunday 11:25  a.m.

Hail fellow well met – waving at each other across the alley from the bar and the meeting, all while strumming and stomping out songs of great Canadian wit and grit.

Business Casual: The Barr Brothers, Shovels & Rope, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, The Deep Dark Woods — Stage 4, Sunday 1:50 p.m.

Truckloads of melodies, harmonies, darkness and hope race each other to the finish line. Which will prevail? Stayed tuned for gorgeous moodiness.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers — Stage 5, Sunday 4:45 p.m.

Shook once described herself as “a vegan, bi-sexual, atheist, civil-rights activist, female in a country band in the south.” Her music’s a little harder to label; its uncanny, forthright images of addiction, beauty and despair stick to the melodies like flies on a no-pest strip. You can brag that you saw her here first.


Blackalicious — Stage 4, Friday 9 p.m.

Hip-hop on a positive tip. The duo of Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel have been making some of the music’s smartest, best and most thoughtful songs for the better part of 25 years. Seeing the Bay Area pair (plus some promised special guests)  under the big, beautiful and clear sky on the island will be something else.

Joe Jackson — Mainstage, Friday 9:45 p.m.

It goes without saying. But if you need any more convincing, please note that one less Mainstage act was booked for this night (and day — see what I did there?), so that the venerable Mr. Jackson could have a full hour-and-45-minute-set. Rock, jazz, classical, pop — there’s nothing this man hasn’t mastered. Just saying.

Boogie Chillen: Hubby Jenkins, Kevin Breit presents Johnny Goldtooth & The Chevy Casanovas, AHI, African Head Charge — Stage 4 Saturday, 11:10 a.m.

Get into the late-morning, hair-of-the-fest vibe with what could be a pretty spectacular bluesy, funky, fun and rousing workshop with an eclectic cast of characters — from dub pioneers African Head Charge to guitar wiz Breit and his new, “edgy” alter-ego. It should be a stone, cold groove my man.

Women with a Why: Copperhead, Mariel Buckley, Wallis Bird, BEYRIES — Stage 3 Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Two of the Calgary music scene’s best voices, biggest talents and most bad-ass broads (meant in the most loving and reverential of ways), Buckley and Copperhead’s Liz Stevens, take the stage with inspiring Quebecois chanteuse Amelie Beyries and honey-throated Irish artist Bird for another early morning event that should shake the dew off your brain and warm things up wonderfully for the rest of the fest.

Dark End of the Street: The Deep Dark Woods, Reuben and the Dark, Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers, Bahamas — Stage 4 Sunday, 4:20 p.m.

Brooding. Moody. And, yes, dark. Those words have been used to describe every one of the artists in this workshop. But they’re also so different in their delivery and sounds that you can imagine them all melding into some unique sonic abyss that sucks you in and won’t let you go.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival runs from Thursday, July 26 to Sunday, July 29. For tickets and more information, please go to calgaryfolkfest.com.