Folk Fest Journals: Friday nights, hippie drugs and folk music

By Stephanie Shewchuk

Arriving at the Friday portion of this year’s Calgary Folk Fest, I immediately realized the festival was already ten times better than the Tim McGraw concert a week earlier. The overall mood was quietly exuberant, if not somewhat laidback, but the atmosphere shifted the minute Australian Xavier Rudd took the stage. His multiple didgeridoos sent the crowd into a frenzy as colourfully swathed, neo-flower children danced in the aisles. When I asked fellow Gauntlet writer Rachel why all hippies seem to dance the same way, she joked, “Because they’ve all done the same drugs.”

We decide to peruse the corridors surprisingly full of merchandise and spent nearly half an hour looking at leather-bound paraphernalia before Ron Sexsmith took the stage. Rachel and I stock up on french fries and mini doughnuts just in time to catch the second show. Though it didn’t get the crowd bouncing in the same manner as before, Sexsmith’s sedate performance was solid and uniform.

At the end of Sexsmith’s set, emcee Al Simmons begins to really grate on my nerves. His excessive enunciation and blithe antics make the time between performances seem endless. Luckily Latin artists Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca from Los Angeles are able to bring the action up to a level only rivalled by hardcore step aerobics.

Without a doubt, the highlights of the show were Canadian folk talents Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Chicago jazz legend Koko Taylor. Both proved after having decades-spanning successful careers, they were still able to rouse throngs of faithful fans.

Southern duo the Indigo Girls appropriately wrapped up the night with their gentle, rolling folk-sound reminscient of a lullaby. We then joined the thousands who poured out of the park, either eager for bed or a beer, but whose appetites were also equally whetted by the Folk Festival for more.

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