My Kind of Folk

It was another uncommonly beautiful day to be headed down to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, though, to be honest, it could have been hailing baseballs and everyone would have had a good time anyway.

As I sauntered over the now-familiar grounds of Jericho park, I couldn’t help but notice how much busier everything was. Yesterday, it was a patchwork of blankets on the grass. Today, it was as though some blades of grass had the misfortune to have grown on a bit of land that was so clearly made out of linen, and there was somebody on every stage, or in some cases, several somebodies.

It was as such that I found myself tapping my foot to the Singalong Jubilee – one of the many workshops featured throughout the day – with Stringband, Pharis and Jason Romero, The Littlest Birds, and Elephant Revival.

While the group – coming to a grand total of 14 people – was playing an appropriately stringy set, I found myself pulled away from the rip-roaring sounds coming from Stage One where Briga and Maria in the Shower were having an intense foot-stomping, accordion-heaving, frantic-singing jam session.

Though I only caught the end, I was content to reminisce and let my heart rate slow a little as Moira Smiley & VOCO got set up. It was a bit of a picky sound check, but to their credit, it was in perfect harmony. Turns out they didn’t even need the microphones because for their opening song, they let their bare voices ring out in a haunting melody that snapped everyone’s attention to the stage. From there, they continued to baffle us with their vocal ability covering a Bela Bartok song which was intended for bagpipes and two fiddles but was performed with nothing but voices and a cello.

A few people got to their feet only to sit right back down as Hannah Georgas, Tim Chaisson, Mo Kenney, and Aidan Knight popped their heads onto the stage and began to set up for their Going Bi-Coastal workshop.

Mo Kenney set up in about 30 seconds and stood awkwardly watching as everyone else bustled around her getting set up, plugged in, and ready to go. She was also the one to kick it off with a song she had written just two weeks ago. Each artist played one of their own songs and then it was back to Mo Kenney, only this time Tim Chaisson snuck in with his fiddle and we saw the beginnings of the jam session that was about to unfold. Soon enough, everyone was jumping in on choruses, riffing solos, and belting out harmonies left right and centre. Even the crowd joined in on the chorus to Aidan Knight’s “Jasper”.

They finished their set to a standing ovation – which could very well have been because we were all up and dancing, but we’ll never know – and I slipped off to the other end of the festival to catch Wooden Sky on Stage Five.

Wooden Sky got off to a bit of a rocky start. In fact, they weren’t having the easiest time getting a start at all, and half an hour later, they stopped their first song midway through with a charming apologetic smile and the promise that they would play for us, they just really, really, wanted to do it right. With a little more gear fidgeting, they started the song again, and man, they played it right. I only managed to stick around for the first couple of songs – which were impressively heavier than anything I had heard yet – before the rest of the festival pulled me away. Despite the technical difficulties and delay, Wooden Sky was definitely worth waiting for.

I spent some time milling around the various merch tents where they were selling the festival artists’ albums, local handicrafts, and a green solution for just about every occasion under the sun.

I made it back just in time to catch the opening of Cat Empire. Their energy was infectious, and had everybody up on their feet before the end of the first song. If the audience caught a case of their enthusiasm, their instruments had it bad. I never knew brass could sound so perky. It was an amazing show, and though I can’t describe it without lapsing into a coma-like reminiscence, I am happy to have ended my night on those notes (those ritzy, funky notes).

Day two at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival was full of hula hoops, peach beer, and lanterns. There were light breezes, warm grass, and a sea of feel-good vibes. There were twice as many things to do and thrice as many bands to see, but most importantly, everywhere you looked, there were talented musicians playing more good music with which to fill your ears.