Looking back, while pushing things forward.
It’s always been a rather unspoken theme or motto of the Calgary Folk Music Festival, an organization that’s proud of its past and many accomplishments, particularly the memories they have made for Calgary music lovers over the years, the otherworldly experiences they’ve provided.
But it’s getting a somewhat more tangible display and acknowledgement as the fest gets set to celebrate its 40th anniversary this summer with the annual Prince’s Island event, which takes place July 25 to 28.
In myriad ways.
First and foremost, there’s the full lineup which was unveiled Thursday, April 11 with an event at their Inglewood home, Festival Hall.
It’s a predictably eclectic, typically intriguing, yawningly exceptional collection of artists from around the globe who will take the many stages on the island, including: Scottish indie vets Belle and Sebastian; breakout Canadian acts such as The Strumbellas and The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer; reunited ’80s T.O. literary art-rock crew Rheostatics; electro artist La Force, who is also currently a member of Broken Social Scene; Montreal melodic alt-folkers Half Moon Run; festival fave Jon Langford with a pair of projects, including his iconic punk act The Mekons, who’ve also been around for four decades; Boston bluegrass band Della Mae; prairie country gentleman Colter Wall; and endearing former local pop act Fast Romantics.
They join previously announced headliners Weaves, Sharon Van Etten, Asleep at the Wheel, Sheila E., Lucius, iskwē, and Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats.
Again, keeping things fresh and exotic while also giving a nod to the comforting and familiar.
“Exactly,” says artistic director Kerry Clarke. “That’s our game, that’s our game.”
In keeping with the always well represented world music scene, there is also, she notes, a “really strong Latin American contingent, especially Latin American women,” which includes Cuban drummer Yissy García with Bandancha (“She’s going to be famous — mark my words,” Clarke says) as well as Argentina artist and “powerhouse” Sofia Viola.
Closer to home, there’s also the usual generous serving of current Calgary acts including T. Buckley, Samantha Savage Smith, I Am the Mountain and Lab Coast.
Which brings us to another folk fest exercise in past and future, which is their 40th anniversary vinyl project.
It’s a pretty fabulous initiative, which features handpicked area artists performing songs from past notable festival attendees. The covers were recorded in the studios of Studio Bell for a fall vinyl release, with the CD to be available during this year’s summer fest.
Some of the truly inspired pairings include: Copperhead working their magic on David Byrne’s Heaven; Sargeant and Comrade giving an update to Gil Scott-Heron’s classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised; local hip-hop heroes Dragon Fli Empire taking their turn at Arrested Development’s Mr. Wendal; dirt-rock wonders The Dudes givin’ ’er on Macy Gray’s Try; Michael Bernard Fitzgerald asking the perennial Elvis Costello/Nick Lowe question (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding; Reuben and the Dark letting loose on The Weakerthans’ Left and Leaving; and Corb Lund, naturally, paying tribute to his mentor Ian Tyson on Road to Las Cruces.
That, along with their photo exhibition currently on display at Studio Bell, are the two biggest projects to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the folk fest, Clarke says.
As for what else will be fresh this summer besides what’s on stage, well, one of them will be a stage location.
This year, there will be a one placed “just over the bridge from Eau Claire … and not far from the bike lockup” outside the gates just to the right as you walk over towards the festival. It is something of a nod to the recent past, when the 2013 floods necessitated a temporary stage put up on the concrete outside of Eau Claire Market for a couple of years, allowing the music to come to the people, albeit in a less inviting manner.
“The Eau Claire stage was great in lots of ways, but it was psychologically far,” Clarke says, noting that the new one is much more workable because of its proximity to the site while rectifying the problem where Stage 1 and Stage 2 on the island were a little too close together with sound bleed between the two.
“This is perfect, it’s really exciting. And it’s free as well.”
The rest of the fest, however, isn’t, but as always is well worth it for the memories that will be made for years to come. Tickets and festival passes are available now from https://www.calgaryfolkfest.com.
Here is the complete list of acts performing at the 2019 Calgary Folk Music Festival:
Asleep At The Wheel
Belle & Sebastian
Boots & The Hoots
Charlotte Day Wilson
The Devil Makes Three
Eekwol & T-Rhyme
The Garifuna Collective
Half Moon Run
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer
I Am The Mountain
Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls
Los Pachamama y Flor Amargo
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Revel In Dimes
Samantha Savage Smith
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Sharon Van Etten
Shelley Bean & The Duckety Muds
This Is The Kit
We Banjo 3
Yissy García & Bandancha
The Young Novelists