Vancouver Folk Music Festival culminates amid scorching heat

Photo by Mariko Margetson

The third day of the Vancouver Folk Festival was the hottest, and the abundance of sun took its toll on both performers and the audiences.

The heat-induced apathy dominated Stage 3 where Art Bergmann, the ‘70s punk rocker turned angry working class commentator, delivered a shaky yet honest set. There was a lot of swearing in between, re-tuning, arguments with the soundboard, teasing comments over folks failing to respond to his calls to cheer or clap, and some leaving early. Whether this was due to sun, as Bergmann claimed, or to his ever-discontent punk past, is an open question, but in the end he admitted that it was “lovely to be had… and heard.” There was also beautiful, empathic stories set to some ten-minute long songs, and it seemed that the more dedicated listeners were left rewarded in the end.

The acts were arguably more energetic at the Main Stage that night and more versatile than ever, with a lot of big soulful voices. Canadian banjoist Jayme Stone was accompanied in his new project – an attempt at making folk songs relevant in contemporary music –  by Moira Smiley who added juicy accordion and vocals.

As the sun was setting letting some cool breeze in, the public was finally ready to dance it off to Ranky Tanky from South Carolina. The ensemble was giving it all night through deeply passionate, heartfelt songs originating in the slave era in the US South East. One of the singers spoke about the need to feel united and realizing and embracing similarities between people, and that this understanding often comes through experiencing pain. The message was a contrast with the upbeat tunes, but the audience responded eagerly – perhaps because this is what soul music is all about.

Even the headliner – scratchy-voiced Ry Cooder – summoned some vocal help courtesy of the famed trio The Hamiltones. The resulting blend of folk, soul and Americana was this year’s Folk Fest in a nutshell: something olde, something new, something borrowed, and something blue(s).