Just a regular day at the Calgary Folk Fest…

By Peter Hemminger

Get there at about 3. They have to call the media tent, because we don’t have press passes. Apparently, we’re supposed to have them before our arrival. They bring them to the gate and we are in. Al is worried we made a bad impression by arriving late, especially since Chris Tait, the photographer, got there early. Al can apparently perceive dirty looks so insignificant they don’t even register to me. Enough of that, though, as our first order of business is setting up interviews.

Scan through list of artists performing in the hopes of finding someone I’m familiar enough about to conduct a worthwhile interview. Nothing, other than the Weakerthans, who I interviewed for the previous issue. No good. Scan again…Scott Merritt. I remember his album, The Detour Home, being fairly good. Put in the interview request. Al requests Michael Franti, the headliner. So far, the Gauntlet hasn’t managed to pull through an interview on any of the previous days, so hopefully one of these will work.

Head down to check out Scott Merritt’s set to hopefully make the interview run a bit more smoothly. Catch the last five songs or so, and it’s quite good with just him and the bass player on stage. It makes for a fairly quiet set. The audience is sparse, but appreciative. I spot local musician Lorrie Matheson in the crowd but don’t say hi. I haven’t talked to him in a while and it could be awkward.

Wander in the general direction of the press tent to see if the interviews been approved. But we have to move past the play area with all the inflatable dinosaurs, which remind of howmuch of a family event the Folk Fest is.

Music from a nearby stage catches our ear, and as we’re trying to figure out what the band is, Al notices Chris standing by the stage. We chat a bit about how the music sounds good and the band’s attractiveness, and head back to the press tent.

Scott Merritt interview is confirmed, so I should come up with something to say. Al is still waiting on the Franti confirmation. Chris and I hea down to see the Weakerthans’ set. Quite good, as expected. I was hoping to hear "Futon Revolutionary", but such is life. See another couple of people in the crowd that know all the words to all the songs. A surprising number of teenage girls with good taste in music, which helps restore some of my faith inhumanity. Back to the press tent.

Al’s supposed to interview Franti at 5:30, my Merritt interview is set for 6:30. I wait with him, but his interview never shows up. As for Merritt, he’s a very nice guy– well spoken and thoughtful. I offer him an apple, which he politely refuses. Interview goes swimmingly. Tait takes a few pictures and calls it his "most relaxed photo session ever".

Over to the Megatunes tent, where we discover that their CDs are as overpriced as in their store. Good selection, but I don’t enjoy paying $20 per CD, so we just get some food. All three of us get the Big Combo from the Indian restaurant, and it lives up to its tasty reputation. We lay back and watch the sky as our stomachs settle, Earl Scruggs in the background. Scruggs is a master of the banjo and one of the highlights of last year. Now he provides perfect background music for people watching and digesting.

We watch performances by an impressive Latin group whose name I don’t catch, followed by Spirit of the West. During that set, an old man stands awkwardly beside me, giving me the occasional sideways glance and frightening half-smile. I look away for a minute and when I look back, he has disappeared.

The in-betweener before Franti’s set is a flamenco guitarist.. As he sets up, Al and I talk about which kind of wheelchair would be cooler: one that hovers, or one that has mechanical spider legs to instill fear in the hearts of all who see them. Get a dirty look from the person in front of us, this one I notice. It’s a cold look, as if we’ve offended him somehow. Maybe he knows someone who chose the hover chair and lived to regret it.

Franti plays an energetic set with political commentary interspersed. Amongst the many beautiful women gyrating before us, there is a lanky man in short shorts dancing ungracefully. We speculate he may be on ecstasy, but it could just be the music. The massive crowd loves the set.

Waiting for the train home, a girl presumably coming home from the festival looks like she’s going to miss the train. Helpfully, I press the button to open the door, and hold it for her. She’s about to get on when her slower friend catches up and points out it’s a city center train, not one bound for Dalhousie.

Al suggests I capitalize on my act of goodwill by hitting on the girl. He then proceeds to criticize her friend, describing her as the "thin lipped Russian peasant raised on cabage soup," but with "cute shoes." Though they are only a few feet away, he is positive they can’t hear him. I have my doubts, but don’t voice them.

The train ride home consists of him egging me on to hit on the poor girl, all the while criticizing the friend, saying he’ll "take the bullet" for me. My failure to do so seems to lower his opinion of me. I hope this doesn’t cost me any future assignments.

All in all, it’s been a successful day.

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