8:17 a.m.: Can I write an entire concert review on my phone? While the festival is going on? No. That would be dumb. But I can do everything but the conclusion and the final editing on my phone, and maybe this thing won’t take three weeks to get posted.
Here’s what we all need to know about this year’s festival:
- Sinéad O’Connor was scheduled to headline, but cancelled a few weeks out, leaving the festival scrambling for a replacement. They got Blind Boys of Alabama, who I’m sure will be good, but I was really looking forward to the bizarre novelty of seeing Sinéad O’Connor singing in a park in downtown Regina after being introduced by a shitty children’s entertainer. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP
- I am most looking forward to seeing Bahamas, Jenny Lewis, Blue Rodeo, Basia Bulat, Andy Shauf, and the Karpinka Brothers (one of whom I went to high school with)
- I don’t know what a Vance Joy is but I gather he was a big “get”
- I need to remember to put in the bullets for these here bullet points
- Kettle corn is rad
5:20 p.m.: We are in our usual chairs in our usual spots. The grass is damp from days of rain, but it’s not swamplike as I was expecting so I’ll take it. Too many wasps around, though.
Probably should have charged my phone this afternoon.
Expected attendees: Mark and Arlette, Other James, Glenn and Shelan, Colin, and surely some cameos from work and Toastmasters folks.
Mika wants me to tell you that she carried both chairs from the car to the entrance line and that I am very thankful.
5:58 p.m.: I went straight to the park from work and I finally managed to take my bag to the car. Already bought a Bahamas record (Pink Strat). You know, since I had to put stuff in the car and all, it only made sense to do some early shopping.
Ran into Other James and made a joke about his predilection for snarking at people to keep the walkway clear. I can’t make too much fun; I already did some of that too. Plus he was kind enough to murder a wasp with his bare hands for us.
The host is Jeffery Straker. His mic is too loud but he seems fine otherwise. Energetic and charismatic.
6:52 p.m.: Got rained on. Am cold and damp. Not bringing a jacket was a poor choice.
Forgot to mention that the line to get in was much more organized this year. So, kudos! I like to think it was all because of my perpetual whining in previous years.
First band was The Dead South, a local bluegrass four-piece. Played all originals, as far as I know. They were real good! Would see again. There was one very loud superfan down in front and he was a nice added bonus.
Danny Olliver is playing a teaser set right now. I’ve seen him before and liked him too. Successful evening so far.
Good sound for the music. I still think the volume is turned up a bit high for the talky parts though.
I find that on the phone, I feel justified in saying very little about each individual act. I trust this will continue. Also, I have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the text file every time I open this. Minor irritant.
SO many babies in ear protectors. The one nearest us has the best sweater. I want it in my size.
Alysha Brilla up next.
7:57 p.m.: If I go to jail for murdering the loudass stupid unfunny fucker behind me, know it was deliberate and enjoyed and I would happily do it again.
Until then, I’ll get you caught up. Alysha Brilla seems like a very nice person. Very positive and earnest. Almost aggressively so. Her music wasn’t really my thing, though. Upbeat pop with a horn section and a keyboard too. After a while, we each left for food. Mika got Afghani and I went for Indian. It was lovely but eating curry in the wind might have rendered this shirt splattered and unwearable for work. I hope not. I like it.
I came back with dinner as Brilla got people to cheer for equality. Would have been awkward if they didn’t, I guess.
Little Criminals’ teaser set (as we speak) is pretty good. A local two-piece, guitar and violin, both singing. I really want the joke about them winning a Kenaston Grammy to be secretly, amazingly true.
Basia Bulat is up next. She once opened for a friend of a friend’s band at Amigo’s, which seemed odd at the time and downright insane now. Will I finally learn how to pronounce her name?
8:17 p.m.: “basha boo-la,” apparently
9:04 p.m.: Nope, “boo-lot.”
She was quite good but it was just her and whatever instrument she was playing at any time (guitar, keyboard, Autoharp). It sounded a little sparse for this big park. Would have been great in a more intimate setting but I was finding it awful hard to remain attentive. Was still good though.
Have chatted with Other James, Mark, and Colin so far. Waved at Arlette and Dan. Saw Paul and David and one of my former neighbours. None of those names mean anything to you.
4:06 p.m.: The problem with my phone concert review plan is not the battery (it held out) or the rain (we waited it out), it’s that it gets chilly at night and I was not about to bring my hands out from under my blanket until it was time to leave. If I didn’t even spend time with my one true love (kettle corn), I’m not about to take time to write to you. Sorry, but you should never have expected otherwise. Anyway, I’m playing catch-up on the computer now.
So yeah, the guy behind me was a giant d-bag. He was only there to see the Sheepdogs, which he said repeatedly and loudly. Actually, he said everything repeatedly and loudly, including his ace-in-the-hole #1 joke: that there were a lot of people at the festival who look like the guy from Coldplay. He said this one over and over and was very proud of himself every time. “I think he thinks that’s what hipsters listen to,” said Mika, who added that she didn’t see a lot of guys who looked like Chris Martin unless you loosened the definition to encompass “men with t-shirts, jeans, and haircuts.”
The dude immediately to Mika’s left was giving the loud guy a run for his money in the obnoxious department. A stumbling slobbering drunk who once went fifteen whole minutes without visiting the beer gardens, this dude would not stay seated for any length of time, so he was always falling into people (literally). And when he was in his chair, he was always kneeing/elbowing/leaning on someone. Usually Mika, though he did try to break my chair at one point when gravity got the best of him. I texted Mark about my murderin’ plans and he graciously offered the use of his shovel. That’s what friends are for!
Bahamas is one of my favourite guys, but I don’t have a ton to say about his set. It was real good and he played most of his bigger songs (no Hockey Teeth, but pretty much anything else you’d expect), though I didn’t know the D’Angelo cover. He said that Regina has a very nice Hudson’s Bay store, which may have been the biggest lie ever told. He didn’t talk a lot, though, which is a bit of a shame. I know he had limited time (it felt like his hour flew by) but his stories are always delightful. And if you’re wondering what Jason Tait is doing in his post-Weakerthans career, he’s drumming with Bahamas. And presumably doing lots of other stuff too, that dude was always busy.
Steph Cameron played a teaser set before Bahamas and I liked her well enough. Would see again. Her one song, Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, seemed really familiar to me; not sure where I would have heard it before. Colter Wall played a teaser set after Bahamas and I thought he was decent, though it didn’t help that there were folks onstage setting up for the Sheepdogs while he was playing. I expect he’ll be in a ton of future reviews; it does seem like this kid is playing all over the place these days. I’m sure his last name has nothing to do with anything.
Finally, the evening ended with the Sheepdogs, who I could not care less about. They got a ton of hype in their/my hometown of Saskatoon for winning a contest to get themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone. I have heard a bit of their music and it sure is music, alright. 70s-inspired rock that I’m just not interested in. Plus it doesn’t help that I’ve noticed a distinct correlation between people who are really into the Sheepdogs and people who could die in a ditch as far as I am concerned. It’s not 1:1 but there’s something there that’s beyond coincidental. We stuck around for three or four songs and called it a night. Mark and Arlette did the same. Actually, there seemed to be a significant post-Bahamas exodus.
And now I need to put on some proper pants and find a jacket and head back out for Day Two.
7:08 p.m.: Son of a bitch of a phone crashed and died and ate a paragraph. Paragraphs are time consuming on this thing!
ANYWAY. Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was saying that the theme of the night thus far has been distant brushes with fame. The first act was Birds of Chicago, one of whom is Mika’s cousin’s cousin, or something to that effect. They were followed by the Karpinka Brothers, and as I mentioned, I went to high school with one of them (Shawn). We weren’t close pals, but I remember him being a decent human being, which put him far above most people there, myself included. I think the last time I talked to him was probably a decade ago at one of these here folk festivals.
I thought Birds of Chicago were pretty great, continuing a trend of really enjoying the first band of the evening. The pressure’s on for tomorrow, Andy Shauf! I don’t know how I’d describe them, because I am bad at my self-assigned job, but they were quite enjoyable. Would see again.
The Karpinkas were two guys with guitars and sounded like two guys with guitars. Nice harmonies. I’d say that I’ll think about coming down for their full band show tomorrow morning, but I suspect that seems like a better idea right now than it will when I’m laying in bed tomorrow.
Cécile Doo-Kingué is playing now and is singing about an ass whipping so I should probably listen.
7:57 p.m.: I got Thai pork skewers and injured myself on a skewer :(
Aside from that, I’m enjoying The Mariachi Ghost’s teaser set. They put “mariachi” right in their name, saving me from having to describe them to you. How kind!
Zarqa Nawaz from Little Mosque is our host. She’s a little stiff but not nearly as loud as Straker was, so take your pick. And while I was writing that sentence, she disappeared? It was like she stopped mid-introduction and got raptured and now Vox Sambou is playing. Either that or I got so into writing this that I lost time. Either way, time to join the Guilty Remnant.
Sambou is in Nomadic Massive, who I really liked two years ago. I didn’t know this until just now, so that’s a delightful surprise.
10:34 p.m.: Did you guys know that Jenny Lewis ruuuuuuuuules? Best set of the festival so far. Great voice great band great songs the best. Mika thought I only knew one song but I knew THREE like some sort of G D music expert (Portions For Foxes, One of the Guys, Rise Up With Fists). But they were all great. Must get albums. Hopefully Mika already has them?
I asked and she’s checking.
Yay, she’s buying the newest album so I don’t have to!
They sent a bunch of giant balloons into the crowd and Lewis said “balloons are so fun!” and that’s a bigger lie than saying our Bay store isn’t a dump. Though to be fair, everyone in the Boogie Zone seemed to enjoy them.
She also said something like “We’re going to play a new song for you, it’s called ‘Girl on Girl'” and a voice from behind me said, curmudgeonly, “I don’t approve,” and I didn’t see who said it so I can’t say with 100% certainty that it was a big name in local politics. But 99% certainty? Sure, I’m good with that. Was he joking? I don’t know. He didn’t sound like it but speaking as a guy who is often taken seriously when not meant that way, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Some of us just have the male version of resting bitchface. (And the song didn’t even mean it in THAT way.)
Whoever that guy was, he also really enjoyed Jeffery Straker’s teaser set. So if he wasn’t kidding, well…
Also they hauled some screaming crying drunk lady out of here and she was fighting and then sobbing and hollering and it was some kind of scene. I had no idea Jenny Lewis attracted such a rough crowd.
Vox Sambou was really good too. Super energetic. And like I said, Jeffery Straker played a teaser set and he was pretty good. I have also decided that he was the better emcee of the two nights.
I still haven’t had any kettle corn. I don’t even really feel like any. I got a popcorn ball instead. Is something wrong with me? I find this confusing and frightening. Should I go to the library and get a book to explain these weird feelings?
Mike Edel is playing right now and he’s pretty good! Singer songwriter stuff, two guitars and a violinist.
Blue Rodeo is coming up next. I suspect they will play some songs I know and some I don’t, and they’ll all be good. I know how this goes wait wait OMG wait I mean… THIS ISN’T MY FIRST RODEO ahahahaha nailed it
1:32 a.m.: Home. I was right about Blue Rodeo but also I was wrong in that they were waaaaay better than I was expecting. If you have only ever heard them on CD or the radio, you’re missing out. They played a greatest hits set, but I thought Diamond Mine was their best song, though I don’t know if I’d ever heard it before. Certainly not often if I have.
The crowd loved them, singing the entire first verse and chorus of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet with no vocal accompaniment from the band. I think that happened the last time I saw them too. Maybe they were this great then too and I’ve just forgotten? Will need to reread my old review. I forget things. A few weeks ago I was going through old reviews and discovered that Mika and I saw the Mountain Goats. They were opening for the New Pornographers. I have zero recollection of this – when I found the review, I swore loudly in surprise – but my review says I liked them, so that’s good. I hope they come back sometime.
[Okay, so I re-read that old review, and I thought Blue Rodeo was way better this time out. Though last time they had guest vocalists in Cuff The Duke, Sarah Slean, and Amy Millan – and the fans sang Hasn’t Hit Me Yet that time too.]
Mika just asked if I am working on my review right now. I think she’s making fun of me, but she’s watching a taped football game where we already know who wins. I mean, I don’t think anyone’s told her who wins, but it is the Riders. So, y’know, you know. But despite me knowing the result, her enthusiasm is making this exciting. But, you know, also heartbreaking. She still has hope. Poor girl.
But Blue Rodeo! Wonderful. The one-two of them and Jenny Lewis was sensational. This would be one of the better nights in my RFF history. We’ll see if tomorrow can compare. If we even go.
5:43 p.m.: We’re back. The line to get in snaked all the way down Scarth Street to Pat’s Patio. Bonkers. They kept it moving real well, though.
For next year, they do need to make a longer playlist for the stretch before the shows. I have heard Bahamas’ Lost In The Light, Steph Cameron’s Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, and Alysha Brilla’s Immigrant at least 10 times each. They’re all good songs, but mix it up maybe?
6:46 p.m.: I’d seen Andy Shauf before, but not with a full band. I thought he was really good, but very quiet for the size of the park. Another set that was a little hard to focus on, but would have been fantastic in a smaller venue.
Our host is Kirby Wirchenko, who seems to have hit the sweet spot between Straker and Nawaz, in that he’s confident and energetic, but still relaxed, all without being painfully loud. No children’s acts as hosts this year? A treat!
Veronique Poulin (aka Vaero) is playing a teaser set right now. The schedule for the rest of the night is Lisa Leblanc, George Leach (teaser), Geomungo Factory, Malika Tirolien (teaser), Blind Boys of Alabama, Kim Harris (teaser), and Vance Joy. I mention all this now because I feel like I’m about to half-ass the evening with not much to say or interest in saying it. We’ll see if I’m right.
Vaero’s stuff seems nice. Pretty. French.
7:16 p.m.: And then she plays two songs in English. Gotta make me a liar. And now Lisa Leblanc is killing it – guitar, banjo, and drums, singing in French and English and French again (#gaston). There are always people milling around the park and the food/shopping area, but after the first notes, Mika said “now watch everyone come streaming back in.” This rules and I’d rather listen to it than talk to you so bye
7:43 p.m.: Her band just played Ace of Spades and it was the best. THE BEST.
7:47 p.m.: I think she asploded her guitar. Her last song was supposed to have an outro but she rocked her guitar to death so they were just done. She got a standing ovation. That was fantastic and I am so glad we came tonight. Now to do some iTunes shopping since she sold out at the merch tent. RULED RULED RULED
8:35 p.m.: In line for kettle corn, mostly out of tradition and obligation. Geomungo Factory is playing instrumental South Korean music which is lovely but hard to pay attention to. Anyone following Leblanc would have problems, I think. Though George Leach’s teaser was really good – the guy’s a great guitarist.
8:52 p.m.: I got chocolate-dipped cheesecake and bought Mika some kettle corn. I tried some and it’s great as always, but I’m just not feeling it this year. I say that knowing I will surely down the remainder of the bag before bed.
The host runs the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, and he just told us Bahamas is playing there on November 19. They’re making the public announcement tomorrow. If I get my act together and post this all quick like, I can scoop them on the Internet, breaking the news to my fives of readers!
Malika Tirolien is playing piano and singing and it’s lovely.
9:59 p.m.: Blind Boys of Alabama were amazing. I suspect this is not the first time someone has held this bold opinion. I can’t imagine Sinéad O’Connor would have been as good or received such a great reaction. People LOVED these guys. Even the hipster looking dork with his mustache and dumb sweater like the guy from Coldplay.
The festival’s artistic director is talking now. Did I win the 50/50? No? Well hell dammit anyway.
10:25 p.m.: Holy hell so much teen girl screeching for Vance Joy. So high pitched.
11:57 p.m.: Home now. We lasted halfway through Vance Joy. He was perfectly acceptable but nothing to write home about, either. The shrieking teens would disagree. To listen to them, you’d think every song he played was a #1 hit. He’d say “this next song is called _____________________” and they’d go “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Every time.
All in all, a very successful festival. I left with one LP (Bahamas) and three iTunes albums (The Dead South and two Lisa Leblanc), a massive bag of kettle corn we haven’t really gotten into (but the night is young), one tiny skewer scar on my upper lip, tired thumbs from a weekend of popping in and out of the Notes app on my phone, and a new appreciation for a bunch of bands. Fine work! Now we wait eight months or so to see who they announce for next year. At one point, a volunteer came around with a survey that asked (among other things) for artist suggestions. And I gave them some. So when the White Stripes shock the world by reuniting for one show only in a park in downtown Regina, well, you’re welcome.
- Chad VanGaalen (September 24)
- Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
- Ron Sexsmith (September 30)
- Hawksley Workman (October 16)
- Lee Harvey Osmond (November 7)