an entire weekend of folk fest


The last five days have been dedicated to folk fest. Things are sort of back to normal but the younger sister and I are off to San Francisco on Wednesday so I'm sort of busy making sure that I complete a bunch of things before I leave. One if those things is this summary of my weekend at Folk Fest. This is sort of a lazy post, since I'm just posting the videos (and their brief descriptions) that I shot over the course of the last five days. But those videos took a bit of work to edit, so in the end it all balances out.


A friend of mine had a pair of tickets to Van Morrison's performance at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. What a windfall! It was the one night I didn't have tickets for. After work I met the gentleman at the university where we hopped on the bus at the park n' ride which took us directly to Gallagher Park. The line up to get in spanned three blocks, but the queue moved along quickly. Once inside we met up with some friends who had found a spot on the hill, then wandered down to get some eats. After our al fresco dinner we headed back up the hill, just in time for Van Morrison to take the stage.


This is the first time that I have taken in the entirety of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Over the past few years I've been able to attend a couple days, but this year I bought a weekend pass (and one for my younger sister for her birthday) and we planned to attend the entire weekend.

Well, not exactly the entire weekend. We didn't do the full experience, which would entail arriving early for the tarp lottery (we had very experienced and generous friends who were the appointed tarp-masters...). Younger sister and I are also a bit susceptible to the heat and sun, so we paced ourselves and went a bit later in the afternoon/evening, since she faints at the drop of a hat and I just get heat stroke.

Thursday night was just the right temperature. We walked to the festival grounds with our friend Lisa and then found the rest of our crew higher up on the hill. We positioned ourselves for the evening show. None of the Thursday performer's really dazzled me. Gord Downie was off and Ben Harper failed to ignite any enthusiasm in me. But the lovely thing about Folk Fest is, that even when the performers on stage fail to really excite you, you can revel in the company of your tarp-mates or neighbours on the hill and take in the gorgeous view of the crowd and the glowing downtown skyline behind the stage.


Friday night at the folk fest... younger sister and I arrived late. Headache earlier in the day (me) and post-work meetings (her) meant that we weren't going to make the six o'clock start time. We reached Gallagher Park just in time to catch the very tail end of what looked like quite the popular session on Stage 6. The sun was setting and bathed the sitting crowd in perfect pink light.

The tarp crew had secured a pretty good spot at the mainstage, so I was close enough that I could get some fairly decent shots of the stage with my super-zoom. The Levon Helm band got the crowd off their feet to dance, which was a good start to the main performances of the night. There was a brief appearance by Basia Bulat during the procession of the volunteer lanterns. Following Basia was Calexico, the definite highlight of my night. At the end of Calexico's set (which was awesome), they invited Bassekou Kouyate on stage to play during their last song. Then the cold started to set in and younger sister and I headed back across the river while Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba ended the night of music on the hill. We crossed over the bridge (which was dark), admired the view of downtown reflected in the river and then met the gentleman in Riverdale and were escorted home. The previous night there was a great shot of the hill lit up with candles (which I neglected to photograph at the time), but this evening all that we could see was the glow of the mainstage lights.


On Saturday the younger sister and I arrived later in the afternoon as we watched the Cariwest parade and visited the market briefly in the morning.

Our first session was "War and Peace" with Sarah Harmer, Basia Bulat, Jill Hennessy, and Terry Morrison on Stage 6, which always seems to feature the artists that I come to folk fest to see. Once that session was complete, we caught the very tail end of the concert with Debashish Bhattacharya, pioneer of the Indian slide guitar. Younger sister and I ran into my good friends Wade and Phil, who were almost always at different stages than I was. We parted company at that point, W&P off to the beer tent and younger sister and I to the food tent area, where we supped and then headed to the prime tarp location (thanks again to the tarp masters who stood in line).

And that's where we spent the rest of the night, ideally located for the evening's mainstage acts. The bare spots on the hill started to fill in during the four-part harmonies of bluegrass artists Dailey & Vincent and Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Toure. The threat of rain was made good during Sarah Harmer's set, but our tarp was soon retrofitted with umbrellas to provide shelter from the elements. Despite the rain Sarah Harmer managed to get people on their feet and once on their feet they could no longer resist the call to dance. The rain frightened some people away, but their premature evacuation proved to be a poor choice as Brandi Carlile was a quick crowd favourite. She even got the crowd to sing three part harmonies (it did sound pretty good on the hill despite the off-key groaning coming from the people standing behind me). Younger sister and I made our own exit during Colin Hay. We crossed the river while the pedestrian bridge was still lit up and you could still see the glow of the candles on the hill when you got to the other side. I managed to get a picture this time.


The younger sister and I arrived earlier on Sunday to catch a session with Alejandro Escoveda who we missed on Saturday. Alejandro was joined on stage by Basia Bulat and Dala as well as Brandi Carlile, so we got a bit of a reprise of the previous evening's mainstage performance.

We sought shade in the beer garden and enjoyed the midday mainstage performance by Te Vaka through the speakers. We were sitting close to Stage 1, so we were within earshot of the early afternoon performance by Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens. My parents were visiting so I wasn't going to be able to stay for the evening mainstage, but the younger sister and I had a little taste of the final mainstage at the 4:30 session on Stage 6 where Jakob Dylan performed with Colleen Brown, Brandi Carlile (she seemed to be everywhere) and Jimmy Rankin. It was a great session. The mood shifted from leisurely and relaxed to upbeat. During the final song of the set the siblings and I did not resist the call to dance.

It was a beautiful way to end the weekend. It was a hot and sunny festival, but younger sister and I managed to avoid heat stroke by pacing ourselves even more than we usually do. We tended to arrive late and leave a little bit early. We didn't see every act that we might have wanted, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. We left hydrated (cherry lemonade by Stage 6!) and slightly sunburned. No heatstroke or fainting for either of us though. Success!

Oh, one more thing. On Sunday as I was leaving the beer tent I heard someone call my name and looked around to see a couple sitting on the grass. The gentleman in the group raised his glass to me and said, "Raffaella... local celebrity blogger [insert interrobang here]"

"...yes?" I responded, curious because I had no idea who this fellow was and if I do get recognized for something rarely is it my rather unpopular blog (although thinking about it, I might have seen this couple sitting near some mutual acquaintances earlier so maybe I do know who they are but didn't recognize them from behind the brim of my sun hat).

"Keep writing," the gentleman said and his lady friend smiled. I laughed and nodded sheepishly and then wandered on my way.

But as you can see, I did follow the advice/request of this mysterious stranger and as evidenced by this post I have kept writing.