Folk Fest Journals: Two days of folk

By Rachel Betts-Wilmott

I arrived at the Folk Fest later than Garth and Ken, though the people in the press tent said they still haven’t made it here. I called Garth and he says they’re in the beer gardens. I figure it shouldn’t be too hard to find a tall skinny guy with big blonde curly hair, then I realized it’s the folk fest and Garth-like figures make up the majority of the crowd.

After a very happy set, the Kawa Brass Band leader expressed a very folk fest sentiment when he announced, “The sun is rising with the love.” At which point the sun came out from behind a cloud and I shone directly in my eyes.

After being told to look less settled in the “transient” area, I felt extremely nervous about looking too settled. I looked over at the girl with ugly pants and saggy boobs who is dancing with her eyes closed and think maybe I don’t want to be less settled.

Ken returned from the photo trench, only to be upset he couldn’t stay to take photos of the belly dancer and the guy spinning golden bicycle wheels on his feet.

I’m pleased with Buck 65 right off the bat because he’s wearing a yachting outfit, however Garth is a little disappointed he’s not accompanied by Tortoise. Buck 65 is soon joined by a back up singer girl who looks a lot like an opera singer I went to high school with. Her name turns out to be Claire and she’s from Paris, not Ilana from Toronto, but it doesn’t really matter, I can barely hear her over Buck 65’s booming voice, and I question her sincerity, much as I did Ilana’s. To finish off, he held a hoedown for the Calgarians and the girl in the ugly pants in front of us danced very awkwardly to the Clarence Ashley inspired diddy.

Next up was Instinkt, the band leader explained about the hirdy girdy and I got my first mosquito bite of the festival while thinking to myself, ” Danish people sound very much how I thought they would.” For their finale, Instinkt was joined on stage by a group they’d met at the folk fest in Yellowknife, garnering them the first standing ovation of the night.

Hawksley Workman managed to fill the stage very well. Not only with his impressive girth but with his more impressive and important voice. I look forward to telling my mother, who has a crush on Hawksley Workman, he played “Striptease” with finger cymbals and piano.So far, he has best managed the air of spontaneity expectd from a folk fest. his ad-libs and witty banter didn’t come off as contrived at all.

We all clapped for Jeff Tweedy, but then nothing happened, so we clapped again and he finally came out. I imagine Jeff Tweedy has rather pretty eyes. From where I stood I couldn’t quite see them, but judging by the song he was singing, it seems likely. He saved his most energetic song for last; I’m assuming to help the thousands of people seated in front of him to find the energy to get up and go home.

Garth, Ken and I went out for beers afterwards and a very drunk older gentleman buys our rounds for us as his corporate party teeter dangerously close to getting kicked out.

Friday began with Steph and I panicking over our missing photographer. Finally we decided to experience the more cultural side of the festival. Meaning we split our time between the beer garden, the food alley and the arts and crafts grove.

We listened from afar to the many didgeridoos of Xavier Rudd and discussed the proper spelling of said instrument. Not to mention the continuous chatter about dirty footed hippies, which was probably unfair considering it really wasn’t that bad-at least not nearly as bad as the day before. 5:45 p.m. marks the first time we see a hippy playing with a piece of bark, though we are sure there will be more to come.

Steph and I took a walk through the art market, which smelled vaguely of vomit, musty tarps and patchouli.

I found the sort of things being sold more or less what I expected, a lot of natural fibres and some hand-blown glass. What surprises me most is the tent selling splatter-painted, clay baby head candle holders-which I thought seemed rather demonic. What pleased me most was the guy who hand bound books in a variety of leathers. I bought two and told myself I’d send one to my sister as a birthday present. Steph got very excited about the general merch store, then waffled over whether to buy a raffle ticket or not.

So as to avoid the annoying emcee we perused the food options and vowed to share Buffalo fries, which are certain to give us heart attacks. As Steph and I sat down at the back to eat some thoroughly unhealthy fest fare, Ron Sexsmith took the stage and I thought I saw Ken being shepherded into the photo trench, which comes as a great relief.

We ran to the press tent to escape the barefooted girl dancing with a golden hula hoop and the impending rain. At the tent, Ken’s arrival is confirmed. I think I heard Steph say “I love fat people,” when in actuality she said “latin,” referring to the band set to follow Ron Sexsmith’s beautifu.l though quieter act.

As Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca start to play, we began to feel increasingly guilty about hiding from the “rain” in the media tent. We settle on going to get mini doughnuts. During a particularly nice song about the bandleader’s father, I started to feel bad about not being barefooted and Steph becomes annoyed by the people swaying even while there’s no music.

Kate and Anna McGarrigle took the stage, giving Friday night’s line up its ironclad folk credentials. The sound system, which had previously behaved beautifully, acted up for the set I was most looking forward to. When one of the McGarrigles announced folk is sexy, few members of the audience seem to agree. I take that to be a bad sign for the rest of my night. During an acapella rendition of “Dig my Grave,” I became very paranoid about mosquitoes.

We stayed where we were, waiting for Koko Taylor. I become very anxious when I didn’t see Ken taking photos-for the past two days he’s spoken of nothing other than Koko. When Koko appeared on stage she looks like a little old lady, but as soon as she opened her mouth it’s obvious her voice has not aged one bit. The audience went wild for Koko and it wasn’t long before the standing areas to the side of the stage were more packed than I’d seen them before.

I marked down 9:55 p.m. as the time the first angry lesbian wandered off to complain about the transient’s invasion of the seated area.

We met up with Ken after Koko Taylor, he now only has seven shots left for the Indigo Girls. Much to my surprise, an overwhelming majority of the audience stuck around for the ’90s girls. Steph, Ken and I talked for a while and then go our separate ways, wishing Ken luck as he headed towards the green room, where he hopes to meet his beloved Ms. Taylor.

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