OutLoud2015-AmplifyLetterhead-2

Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015: Thrill ride to the other side

July 29, 2015

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BuffySainteMarie-Workshop-CalgaryFolkFestival-1-crBrandonWallisCanadian icon Buffy Sainte-Marie performing during Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

If you’ve been to other folk festivals, you’ll understand that Calgary Folk Music Festival really has some of the most thoughtful and risk-taking programming among its counterparts. Four days of music that’s revelatory and unexpected, it’s been a thrilling ride to the other side.

Thursday and Friday

While day one had its moments, the festival had a bit of a tepid start. Among the day’s highlights were DakhaBrakha (a.k.a. that Ukrainian band whose name no one could remember or pronounce), and that exciting scene-by-scene moment when the tarpies were briefly overcome by a hoard of frolicking barefoot dancers during Shakey Graves’ “Roll the Bones.”

But it would take until the second day to really find my groove. And The Budos Band, Daptone Records’ purveyors of afro-soul, were probably the only ones capable of getting me there.

If the Megadeath and Black Sabbath t-shirts worn by members of the band were any indication, The Budos sound is sort of a darker, heavier interpretation of funk and soul: Gritty funk, exploitation film funk, heavy metal soul with some flickers of ‘60s exotica.

TheBudosBand-CalgaryFolkFest-3-crBrandonWallis
TheBudosBand-CalgaryFolkFest-8-crBrandonWallisTheBudosBand-CalgaryFolkFest-5-crBrandonWallis
The Budos Band. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

There were mighty horn blasts led by saxman Jared Tankel, organ swirls, and driving percussion with each member of the nine-piece band masterfully contributing to the vibe.

Also noteworthy was Thomas Brenneck’s quick guitar work and bassist Daniel Foder—one of the most exciting performers stylistically—playing with his bass pointing upwards in a sort of tango with the instrument.

Elsewhere, menacing cuts like “Black Venom” and “King Cobra” held the crowd rapt. Like a snake charmer’s flute, when The Budos Band pulls you into their groove, it’s hard to coil out until it’s over.

An hour later, renowned turntablist and former NMC Artist in Residence Kid Koala appeared on the same stage with more than just records.

Changing into a koala suit a few tunes in, he deftly maneuvered scratches over four turntables, along with cuts off his 2012 release, 12 Bit Blues, and other tracks, such as Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” the Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want,” and Outkast’s “The Whole World,” later leaving his decks to cast paper airplanes off of the stage.

KidKoala-CalgaryFolkFest-8-crBrandonWallis
KidKoala-CalgaryFolkFest-9-crBrandonWallis
KidKoala-CalgaryFolkFest-5-crBrandonWallis
Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

In addition to his aerobic turntablism, four vaudevillian dancers coloured tracks with oversized props and puppets, illuminating a childlike spectacle befitting for a five-year-old. And that makes sense given the fact that the DJ’s young son inspired the show, fittingly titled Vinyl Vaudeville.

Even better though was the participatory element that included a gigantic conga line, a limbo session and one dancer crowd surfing all the way to the back row, making the whole thing a wonderfully weird yet accessible hour.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any sillier, beloved banger and Pilsner enthusiast Terry from cult film FUBAR appeared on stage to play his kazoo.


Terry from FUBAR, everybody. 

In what was one of the most anticipated sets of the festival, Father John Misty made his Folk Fest debut on a dreamy note, opening with the weak-in-the-knees “I Love You, Honeybear,” perfectly timed as darkness fell over Prince’s Island Park.

Father John Misty (a.k.a. Josh Tillman) has an effortless presence and gooey songcraft that speaks to the heart-struck, especially on the make-out-inducing “True Affection,” with its light electronic flourishes and Tillman’s warm caressing coos.

FatherJohnMisty-CalgaryFolkFest-5-crBrandonWallisFather John Misty performing “True Affection” at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Above photo credit: Brandon Wallis.

A couple kissed near the stage unaware of anyone around them, letting the blissful sounds wash over them. For those yearning for a rocking closer after some committed time in the beer garden, Tillman’s chillness may not have resonated. But this was not a set for them, anyways.  This one, so it seemed, was for the lovers.

Saturday

The children at Stage 4 had polarizing feelings about Colin Stetson’s set. Amid the droning wolf-like howls emitting out of Stetson’s sax, one toddler happily twirled until he collapsed, while another hid behind his parent’s leg, put his hands over his ears and started to cry. “That should be his next album cover,” one friend joked.

ColinStenton-CalgaryFolkFest-3-crBrandonWallisSax virtuoso Colin Stetson. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

Indeed, the sounds that Stetson is capable of producing can be otherworldly, and maybe even a little terrifying, but certainly always gripping. As well, his circular breathing technique is a marvel to behold, begging the question: How was he blasting at his sax and making those whale sounds at the same time? As if communicating with another species, each humming squall served as a counterpoint to the bursts of sax.

To conclude, he braced his massive baritone sax, creating reverberations so intense they could be felt buzzing from the outside in with the force of a passing train.

Over at The Write Wing workshop, a row of master songwriters sat perched on their chairs. Soft Boys alum Robyn Hitchcock was sharing some darkly humourous monologue about death, before seguing into “When I Was Dead,” punctuating each note with that eloquent Cockney accent of his.

RobynHitchcock-CalgaryFolkFest-1-crBrandonWallis
Robyn Hitchcock during The Write Wing workshop. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

Next up was fellow Brit folk-rocker Richard Thompson, nimbly plucking at his guitar to the eerie grief-stricken, “Broken Doll,” about mental illness.

Leave it to Buffy Sainte-Marie to lighten the mood with her ode to the under five set. “They like leaves and bugs and secondhand bubblegum…That’s what little kids do,” she sung through a toothy grin, as a group of children stared at her inquisitively while cavorting near the front of the stage.

Later that evening, Sainte-Marie returned for a headlining slot on the main stage with a full band in tow. Wearing a magnificent multi-coloured fringe jacket, she doled out catalogue benchmarks, such as “Universal Soldier” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” along with the revved-up set highlight “Cho Cho Fire” and songs from her latest critically acclaimed album, Power In The Blood.

BuffySainteMarie-CalgaryFolkFest-10-crBrandonWallis.jpgBuffy Sainte-Marie. Credit: Brandon Wallis. 

Her lyrics, sung in that signature quiver, conveyed political ire, joy and exhilaration, with her powerful presence holding the audience’s gaze—be it hardcore devotees or the recently converted. One of the most fascinating singer-songwriters of the last half century, she has an ability to remain relevant by taking risks both in her music and her activism, and we’re all just a little more awake for listening. 

Sunday

With grey skies closing in and Sam Lee’s dirge-like gospel tune winding down, many at Stage 5’s To Eire is Human workshop were starting to pack it up to take cover.

But when John Mann (of Spirit of the West) returned to the stage, announcing that he would be playing a song about drinking too much, they all stopped to listen. And then the chords of his former band’s 1990 Celtic-stomper “Home For a Rest” rang out with an urgent furiousness.

Given Mann’s recent diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lines “You’ll have to excuse me I’m not at my best” seemed to carry more weight than ever.

Using an iPad to help him remember the lyrics, Mann sung with reckless abandon— save for the iPad, all signs of the illness were lost in that moment. With people leaping off of their tarps to sing, dance and clap along despite the rain, it was at once joyous, heartbreaking, and bittersweet.

“I’m not sure how to follow that,” said Simon Ward of The Strumbellas when it had all come to an end, the rain now falling faster than before. “I think I’m just going to play another song.”

Nothing was going to top that, and no one was going to try.

 

— Julijana Capone

Wanna talk music? Email me at julijana.capone@nmc.ca or follow me on Twitter @thejulijanaruin.

 

Photo Gallery

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Buffy Sainte-Marie at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Colin Stetson at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Father John Misty at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Father John Misty at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Father John Misty at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Father John Misty at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Father John Misty at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Kid Koala's Vinyl Vaudeville at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Robyn Hitchcock at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Robyn Hitchcock at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    Tyler Stewart at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

    The Budos Band at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

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About the Author

Julijana Capone

A Calgary-by-way-of-Winnipeg writer and publicist, Julijana's bylines have appeared in HuffPost Music Canada, BeatRoute, and Winnipeg’s now defunct alt-weekly Uptown Magazine. She is also NMC's publicity coordinator and a senior editor of Amplify.


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