Sunny days, folk music and beer

While students too poor to leave the city for the summer and scenesters in their skinny jeans both yearn for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, musicians are arriving in town and the 1,300 organizers and volunteers are seeing their year’s work come to fruition. There are many reasons to be excited for the Calgary Folk Fest. Whether it’s your love of music or the prospect of a weekend on Prince’s Island as your vacation from summer in the city, this year’s festival promises to stand up to the greatness of years past.

With a variety of headlining acts like Ani DiFranco, Kris Kristofferson, Matt Good, Broken Social Scene and Macy Gray, there’s not only something to appeal to each demographic, but with nearly 70 artists appearing over the four-day affair, there’s sure to be something new for every attendee.

“Diversity is the main guide in choosing the line-up,” explains Calgary Folk Music Festival associate producer Kerry Clarke. “The definition of folk has evolved and we’ve tried to keep up with it. We recognize a lot of types of music fall under the category of folk.”

Jazz, funk, classical, celtic–all have an independent spirit characteristic of folk music. And the styles multiply during the workshops on Saturday and Sunday, which pair unsuspecting artists, creating a veritable sonic cornucopia.

“We’re not classically trained,” says Mark Sasso of ‘death country’ band Elliott Brood. “So when someone asks us to play in, say, the key of E flat, it freaks us out, but they’re always full of surprises.”

Despite what people might say about the importance of music, what distinguishes the folk festival from other all day music extravaganzas is the audience.

“A festival is a reflection of the city it’s in,” says Clarke–something first time folkies will understand upon arrival. The Calgary Folk Fest isn’t filled with the same kind of dirty hippies one usually finds at music gatherings. Although there’s still tie-dye and people dancing with their eyes closed, there are also cowboy hats and shaved armpits, which certainly give a more accurate impression of Calgary.

If you’re worried about your own folk cred, forget about it. The audience is really as varied as the music. Families set up their tarps and blankets early in front of the mainstage, the tardy teens try and sneak up to the front when their favourites appear and the greasy-haired, patchouli-scented vagrants fritter away the evening swaying in the transient section. The theme of the festival is diversity, so embrace it. To be sure folk fest is as enjoyable as possible, though, there are things every attendee should know: Calgary weather changes, so don’t be afraid to layer and apply copious amounts of sunscreen; you can bring your own food, but there is an avenue of food vendors providing every kind of fare Calgary has to offer; plan to spend the whole day there–there’s a beer garden.

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