2018 Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Jericho Beach Park, July 13, Day 1
by Paul Hecht and Elmira Kuznetsova
It’s the same heart-warming scene every year – small flocks of festival punters with their folding chairs in hand all around West Side, headed leisurely to Jericho Beach for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. There are old hippies rebelling in the sun, toddlers running around, their mums and dads licking fingers to wipe the dirt off of their faces.
After 41 years of running, tradition is what still defines this three-day gathering. And, judging by the happy faces, some things don’t require much change.
With doors open in the early afternoon, there were some musical treats for the early birds. The Boston string foursome Darlingside delivered some quirky indie folk to open the action on the Main Stage. The band were relieved to make it on time after a failed GPS led them to East Van. Three Women and the Truth took over with their three guitars, a soothing harmonica and the first political commentary of the day, as they mentioned the U.S. refugee crisis. The trio soon switched to a lighter banter about a recent realization that the acronym of their band name is, indeed, TWAT. “We laughed but decided to own it!”
With so many U.S. artists on the bill it was expected that things could get political, both on stage and in the crowd. A man wearing the “Not My President” T-shirt was walking in the middle of the audience just as James McMurtry – next on the bill – was delivering the opening lines of “Copper Canteen.” The song, as he proudly mentioned, was featured in last year’s New York Times guide of songs that would define where music is going – and for a good reason.
Known for his stories of small lives set against big issues, McMurtry sang of war veterans, farmers and small business owners, making jokes about baptists and fake news – quite a heavy load for a 45-minute show.
Over at Stage 3 the moods were brighter and more dance-friendly. Albertan Mariel Buckley provided a stellar guitar and lush vocal performance. But it was Little Miss Higgins that really got the crowd going. Her quintet fired up the stage with a mix of klezmer, creole and blues. There were all the necessary elements – banjo, upright bass and no-brainer stories about pregnancies and bargain hunting for panties. Hailing straight from Louisiana, Steve Riley continued with some soulful vocals and Cajun tunes.
Back to the Main Stage where the beautiful Neko Case headlined, taking the public’s gaze inwards. She humbly thanked the audience for choosing to watch her instead of the stunning sunset sky and ocean of Jericho, treating them to songs from her fresh album Hell-On. At that point there were probably just as many people watching the show from behind the fence. There were no boundaries to this summer celebration.