Posts Tagged ‘victoria park’

SLCR #317: Regina Folk Festival (August 11, 2018)

August 22, 2018

Festivals can be tricky to write about since you get a bunch of different artists, some you might not know anything about, and often not enough time for them to leave a lasting impression. And you – this time I mean you, specifically, whoever is reading this – probably don’t want to read a list of names with me going “it was fine” over and over.

Luckily for you, God intervened. An afternoon temperature of 42C before the humidex put a hold on our plans. We’d already foregone the weekend passes in favour of just the Saturday night, but the heat was such that we held off even further, opting to show up after 9:00pm. As we got exchanged our passes for wristbands, Pierre Kwenders was just wrapping up. We took a walk around the vendor area, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the food trucks so dead. I know it was later in the evening, but still. Only the places that specialized in cool drinks had significant lines. I think it was just too hot to eat.

Since we showed up so late, we left our chairs in the car and stood down at the front. Gotta be the first time I’ve done that at the folk festival in a decade. Between sets, Zoey Roy was doing a spoken word performance – very impassioned and got a great reaction from the crowd. I’m not sure that poetry readings will ever be 100% my thing, but when done well and in front of an appreciative, supportive audience, I have a better understanding of the appeal.

Of all the artists at this year’s festival, I was most excited for Tanya Tagaq. We’d seen her with the symphony recently, but this was our first opportunity to see a full performance. Her music is a modern take on traditional Inuit throat singing and she was accompanied by, among other musicians, a Theremin player. This is not music I would listen to every day but it fits certain moods very well. Specifically, the moods of “I want to completely discombobulate my brain” or “I want to get ready for war.” In a literal sense, I mean – if I had to grab a gun and charge into battle, I’d want this playing. Her music is powerful and vulnerable and otherworldly and scared at least one nearby small child. It sounds unlike anything else I’ve heard and makes me feel different than any other music too. When I was younger, I probably would have hated this. She sang for an hour and it flew by. Amazing.

Between sets, we found a bench, and, somehow, Rheanne. We run into her every year, apparently even when it’s dark out and we’re only there for a few hours.

On our way back to the stage, we passed a very drunk lady being walked out of the park by security. Or at least that was the goal; when we saw her, she’d stopped to give out high-fives, take selfies, and sing Sweet Child O’ Mine with other festival-goers. It’s not often you get to say “there’s a very patient security guard.” Anyway, I had no idea alcohol could make you so happy. I should investigate further.

The night’s headliner was Neko Case. I’d seen her a few times before, including once at the festival, and I always came away a little underwhelmed. In what I always felt was an unfair way, you understand. She’s so incredible that I went into her shows with sky-high expectations that were never quite met. This time, though, was easily the best of her shows that I’ve seen. It would be easy to chalk that up to my expectations but I don’t think that’s quite it. She seemed to really be inspired and emotional to be at the festival, having worked earlier in the day with Girls Rock Regina, a girls’ music camp (and wearing their shirt during her performance). She also talked about how excited she was to finally see Tanya Tagaq (they always play the same festivals but on different days) and dedicated a song to Zoey Roy. It seemed like she was really feeling the festival and that came through in her performance. Even if she was eating and being eaten by bugs because of the spotlights.

Case is touring her new album, Hell-On, which I’ve listened to, but not a ton. We got lots of songs off it, of course. Fewer of the old classics but “Hold On, Hold On” is my favourite of hers and she played that one, so no complaints here. But the best moment for my money was during the song Man, a song about masculinity and gender roles and also one of the rockier songs of the night. These two ballcap bro-dudes heard the opening notes and they were SO into it. They yelled WOOOO and threw up devil horns and hugged and rocked out like nobody’s business. And then they were joined by a third guy, and they all stood in a circle, holding hands, jumping up and down and pumping their arms to the music. The song is great. Their reaction was fantastic. The two combined? Perfect.

And then we went home. Makes for an abbreviated festival recap this year – I trust everyone had fun at Walk off the Earth and Shakey Graves and Bruce Cockburn and Michael Franti. Next year is the 50th annual folk festival, so we’ll see who they bring in. Better believe my expectations are already completely unreasonable and we’ve got seven months until the initial lineup announcement.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls with Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs (September 12)
• The Fred Eaglesmith Show starring Tif Ginn (September 23)
• Cadence Weapon with Fat Tony and Hua Li (October 2)
• Jonathan Richman (October 6)
• Crash Test Dummies (October 11)
• Colter Wall (October 16)
• They Might Be Giants (October 20)
• Hawksley Workman & the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (April 13)

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SLCR #253: Regina Folk Festival (August 5-7, 2016)

August 9, 2016

SATURDAY, 3:40 p.m.

Here we go again. Let’s see if I can talk about 15 bands in fewer words than it took me to talk about one.

I was honestly not super excited for the folk festival this year. The first band they announced was the Cat Empire, who I saw in Calgary a few years ago and enjoyed, but the rest of the lineup didn’t do a ton for me. Then Ry Cooder dropped out; to be honest, I know way less about him than I probably should, but I know the guy is a legend and I was looking forward to seeing him for that reason alone.

We considered getting rid of our tickets – we buy early when they’re cheap, which makes it easy to sell them later at cost if we need to unload them – but ultimately decided to go. Mika made the point that if you don’t support (what you see as) the weaker years, they won’t have money to bring you (what you see as) the better years. Fair enough. And sometimes acts you don’t know about can take you by surprise. Like last year. Lisa Leblanc? Never heard of her. Who cares? And then she tore it the heck up and was awesome and I’m sad that she hasn’t been back out this way since then. So there’s hope.

Each day, the gates open at 5:00, which on Friday is a bit of a pain for someone who works normal hours. I’m done at 4:02 (union reasons) but I figured Mika wouldn’t be able to leave the office until at least 5:00. After considering a dozen options, none of them ideal, I decided to drive my lawn chairs to the office on Thursday night so I could easily take them and get in the festival line on Friday. “Easily” being a relative term; the chairs are comfortable, but they’re also mighty solid. But whatever; I dragged them from the office, through the mall, then got to the park. I set up one of the chairs and had a nice sitdown, listening to podcasts and catching Pokémon until they let us in.

Walking up, I was surprised to see that there wasn’t much of a line. I got there at 4:15 and was on the corner of Scarth and Victoria. Last year, Mika made it to the line at 3:30 and was a block further back. It certainly seemed like there were fewer people in the park this year, at least on the Friday. The food lines were shorter too.

I was inside with the chairs set up by the time Mika made it downtown. I got our usual spot, though a few rows closer than normal. Taking a cue from Jeff, I took a picture of the weekend schedule and set it as my phone’s lock screen. So handy!

The Friday night host was children’s entertainer Al Simmons. I will say that lots of people enjoyed his shtick. I will also say that I do not understand those people. At one point I joked that he was my second-favourite performer of the evening and everyone else was tied for first. During one particularly interminable bit, a friend messaged me that Simmons was dipping into third place. Solid enough joke but absolute gold-star timing.

The festival was kicked off by Terra Lightfoot, who we saw open for Blue Rodeo earlier this year. I liked her well enough then and a few people I know said they preferred her to Blue Rodeo at that show. I hope those folks were at this festival because she was great here – almost like she was holding back last time. Great songs and a likeable, charismatic personality with lots of energy. As one of only a handful of artists I knew on this year’s festival, I was really looking forward to her set and she exceeded my expectations.

The first teaser was Twin Peaks, a duo from BC. I question the wisdom of choosing a band name that will be so tricky to search, but they were charming and fun so I’ll just put the link to http://twinpeaksmusic.ca/ here and now the world doesn’t need Google anymore. It feels good to know that I fixed the internet forever. They’re playing a full show at 3:00 on Sunday and I’m thinking about checking it out. I mean, let’s be honest, I never get around to the daytime stages unless Hawksley Workman is there, but I’m considering it.

Next up was IsKwé, a First Nations performer from Winnipeg who performed what I would describe as hip-hop-influenced pop. I thought this was pretty interesting; in particular, I really enjoyed the first song. She also covered a Björk song (Army of Me), though I don’t know from Björk and didn’t recognize the song. Mika knows these things. She should write these. Though I think I enjoyed this set more than she did so maybe not.

Somewhere in here, I got Indian food. I suspect I will write this sentence two more times in the coming days. Mika went for falafel, and later on, we split a box of salted caramels. Kettle corn truck, I’ll see you later.

The next teaser was by Twin Bandit, another pair of ladies from BC. I wonder if Twin Peaks are their mortal enemies? Or maybe best friends? OR BOTH? Someone write me some fan fiction about two bands you’ve never heard of.

DAMMIT I am out of time and will have to finish the Friday night wrap-up later. I skipped ahead and wrote the last part first, so uh here it is I guess:

The first night’s headliners were The Head and the Heart. I knew the name but no songs, so Mika played me some. They were pleasant, if aggressively dull – so much so that not only did I not remember a note ten minutes later, I think I was actively forgetting them as they were playing. Point being, I wasn’t really looking forward to them. I can tell you that live, they were much better than what she played for me. However, this still didn’t interest us much and we packed it in halfway through. The screaming girls down at front would surely have a different opinion of this performance. Maybe I am a stubborn old poop or maybe they just weren’t for me. Or maybe anyone would have struggled to follow the one-two punch of Ginkgoa and the Cat Empire.

=======

MONDAY, 8:25 p.m.

Okay, my plan of writing this in short, reasonable chunks over the weekend didn’t pan out.

Also not panning out: my plan of getting downtown in time on Sunday for the Twin Peaks set. Unsurprising. Oh well, I bought their CDs instead so that’s probably better for them anyway.

Feeling that I had to keep one promise, I did indeed eat Indian food all three nights. Specifically, the samosa platter with curried chickpeas and a Diet Coke. I mixed it up dessert-wise, though. Gotta expand those horizons. With mini-donuts.

Given that chronological order has already gone to hell, I suppose I could talk about Sunday now, since it’s freshest in my mind. I don’t have much to say about it, though. The mainstage acts were, in order, the Barr Brothers, Frazey Ford, Bobby Bazini, the Strumbellas, and the Mavericks. You know how sometimes I see a show and it’s good, but I don’t have much to say about it? That was all of Sunday night for me. Nothing was bad. Bazini was delightfully funky. The Strumbellas had fun banter and I enjoyed their sing-along clap-along tunes more than I was expecting to, especially the one song that I knew (it’s their one song everyone knows, even if you think you don’t) (even you). IsKwé was our host for the evening and she did a mighty fine job. We didn’t stick around for the very end – we left about halfway through the Mavericks – but this was all fine. Not the most memorable evening I’ve spent at the festival, but there was nothing wrong with it either.

As I mentioned above, that was all kind of my opinion about the Head and the Heart too. They were mightily upstaged by the bands that came before them. Ginkgoa, in particular, were the highlight of the festival for me. From France, they played an updated take on swing music, adding in some modern pop twists. The crowd loved these guys, going from “who?” to “OMG” over the course of their set – to the point that there were boos when they said it would be their last song. I bought their EP – it’s not exactly the one that’s featured at http://ginkgoa.bandcamp.com/releases. I haven’t listened to either yet to see if they’re entirely different; if they are, I’ll get the online version too.

Two years running that French speakers stole the show. I should have tried harder in grade school.

The next main stage act was the Cat Empire, who played another very energetic batch of tunes, though I thought the restricted length of their set (roughly an hour) may have hurt them a bit. They’d go on these extended jams that were fun enough, but when you only have an hour, I don’t know that you have time to do that too often. But whatever, I’m nitpicking. This was very well received and the one-two punch of Ginkgoa and the Cat Empire made Friday the best night of the three.

Before the Head and the Heart, I went in search of a Diet Coke but instead found the T+A Vinyl & Fashion tent in the marketplace, so I dug through their crates and found a 12″ of Love Junk by the Pursuit of Happiness for $7. This delights me.

Okay, so I covered Friday, then Sunday, then back to Friday. Time for Saturday. And I legitimately almost wrote “Thursday,” which would make this a recap of me writing my Tragically Hip review. Or, more likely, my procrastination techniques (usually logic puzzles).

The host for Saturday night was the artistic director of the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon. He did fine work and I will note that his job title is not “professional entertainer.”

Additional amateur entertainment was provided by the family in front of us. Specifically, the grandma, who brought a bag of dried apricots (“DON’T STEP ON THE FOOD” she said) and who loudly told one of the grandkids “Come sit by me. Mama wants to drink.” But alas, my fond memories of them were stained when they went home, leaving all their trash behind on the lawn like idiot garbage people despite the numerous bins all over the park. Fred Penner’s gonna hunt you down, grandma.

It is interesting to note that if someone was littering, letting their friends cut into very long lines, or obstinately parking their lawn chairs in the middle of the walkway and then getting upset if you tried to use said walkway for its intended purpose (hypothetically), it was a senior citizen. There were lots of older folks who were perfectly pleasant, though. Maybe festivals like this just bring out people who don’t normally go to concerts and thus don’t know how to behave? Or maybe I’m just grasping at straws, desperately attempting to delude myself into thinking that I’m still young.

Anyway. The first two main stage performers were Ayrad (Moroccan music from Quebec – and NOT my Sociology professor) and Boogat (Latin music, also from Quebec). These were both enjoyable and not at all like what I usually listen to. Again, not a ton to say about either of them; sometimes it’s just nice to kick back and enjoy something a little different.

The next act was supposed to be Ry Cooder, Ricky Skaggs, & Sharon White, but instead wound up being Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. So it goes. Earlier that day, my dad said he’d be interested in my opinion of Skaggs, who he described as very talented but also a “hardcore conservative.” Coming from my dad, this says something. Anyway, I wondered how receptive a folk festival would be to that kind of talk, but apart from one “bluegrass matters” aside that I rolled my eyes at, politics were a non-issue. But yeah, this was really good. Kentucky Thunder (guitars, banjo, fiddle, bass) were amazing musicians.

Next up was Bettye LaVette. This is yet another one where I am not informed enough to say anything of value, but what the hell, if you were going to tune out over that, you’d have done it years ago. People loved this lady. They cheered when she said her age (70! I should be half as active then) (or now). They cheered every songwriter she mentioned working with, including Dolly Parton and Lucinda Williams. I cheered when some girl went WOOOOO and LaVette said “I’ll give you a quarter if you never do that again. That’s piercing. But you’re very beautiful.” So that was fun. And she sings real good too. I’ve got all the hot takes tonight.

Finally, we had the Sam Roberts Band. I did not figure this would happen. Two years ago, Roberts was scheduled to headline the Friday night of the festival when, in his words, “the world came to an end.” The lightning shut down the festival, and the rain made everyone flee, but it was the plow wind that ripped off sections of my friend’s roof and caused another friend to walk home over downed power lines. Maybe not a good idea. Don’t do that.

Anyway, we’ve had lots of late night storms this summer, so when I saw Roberts was on last, I didn’t think it would actually happen. Somehow, it did – we actually had beautiful weather for all three nights – so Roberts and his band and the fans all got to settle some unfinished business.

Oddly, I’d never actually seen Sam Roberts before, which seems amazing considering he’s been a big deal in Canadian music for 15 years now. Though in all fairness, I was never a superfan; never disliked the guy, but never quite understood why everyone else seemed to like him SO much. I think that maybe this was the perfect Sam Roberts show for me – a handful of new songs and deep cuts, but this was mostly a greatest-hits performance, and it turned out that I knew and liked more of said hits than I thought.

The night peaked when the encore was starting and Mika showed me her phone – she got an alert from the Weather Network saying that lightning had been seen in the area. This was perfect. Too little, too late, God. We made it all the way to the end of Don’t Walk Away Eileen, so now who’s omnipotent?

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Greg MacPherson w/Dan Holbrow & Leo Keiser (September 1)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth featuring Edwin (October 8)
• Sarah Slean with the Regina Symphony (October 22)
• Bush w/The Dead Deads (October 27)

SLCR #220: Regina Folk Festival (August 7-9, 2015)

August 10, 2015

Thursday
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

Friday
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.

Saturday
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

Sunday
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.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Chad VanGaalen (September 24)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
  • Ron Sexsmith (September 30)
  • Hawksley Workman (October 16)
  • Lee Harvey Osmond (November 7)

SLCR #201: Regina Folk Festival (August 15, 2014)

September 5, 2014

Didn’t quit yet. Maybe someday. Just late. Very late. As I will be.

We didn’t see much of the Folk Festival this year. I had bought weekend passes around Christmastime, but when they announced the Festival schedule, we found that we were really only excited for Friday night. We talked about selling the weekend passes and just buying Friday night passes instead. We went back and forth about this until I had reason to be out of town on the Saturday, which made the decision for us. Most folks I talked to were similarly most excited about Friday night, but I’ve heard that Saturday night was the first to sell out (Serena Ryder and Indigo Girls were headlining) so that tells you just how seriously to take my opinion on anything.

The Friday night main stage stuff started an hour earlier than in previous years (gates at 5:00, show at 6:00), which meant I wouldn’t have time to go home before the show. I loaded the lawn chairs into the car the night before so Mika could meet me downtown, and I had to bring a full change of clothes to the office. An inconvenience, but little did I know how much that extra hour would pay off. Foreshadowing!

Mika was able to skip out of work early and wait in the line which stretched from the main gate, down the corner, and around the block. With the two other writers in my office both away for an extended period, work had been a bit of a mess for me, but I skipped out as early as I could (which is to say, I left at my scheduled time, which was early for that week). Once inside the park, we nabbed a prime spot right by the sidewalk. We were quickly joined by Other James, along with concert review rookies Glenn (another coworker pal) and his wife. Mika reminded me that last year, Other James made it his life’s goal to keep the pathway clear so people could get to their seats. He did not have to do that this year. Clearly, his reputation had spread – though not quite far enough, as he did have to tell one dude to get out of the way at one point.

Apart from my usual Folk Festival goals of watching the show and marrying the kettle corn truck (I will not be denied!), I also had to meet up with Geoff Berner. Eons ago, I contributed towards a crowdfunding campaign for Berner’s first novel, Festival Man. I promptly forgot about this until one day, the book showed up in the mail. “Hooray,” I thought, “I got a book!” And unlike most books I buy, I actually read this one. It’s good! Funny. A quick read. Probably not as exaggerated as one might hope.

In conjunction with the novel, Geoff organized an album of covers of his own songs by folks like Corb Lund, Carolyn Mark, and Rae Spoon. I am on Geoff’s mailing list, and I follow him on Twitter, so I saw numerous messages saying that he’d been sending out Festival Man records, and if yours hadn’t arrived, you should let him know. I paid these no mind. They did not apply to me. I got a book! Then Geoff messaged me personally on Facebook to see if my record had arrived yet. Puzzled, I went back two years into my email archives to discover that I had, in fact, ordered a record. I got a record! And Geoff offered to hand it to me personally at the Folk Festival. He probably came to regret this decision once I started pestering him with other questions. Sorry, Aaron – the Live in Oslo album really IS as out-of-print as it gets.

But back to the Folk Festival. Our host was… who the hell was our host? It’s been so long, I have to look it up. The internet says it is Colby Richardson and he is a local comedian and improv guy. Sounds right. He didn’t leave any great impression on me. This sounds like a negative. I assure you it is not. I want the host to run the show, not try to BE the show. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP

The first band was Elliott Brood. I was glad they were on the bill because I remember seeing them at Amigo’s years ago and really liking them. The only problem with this is that… um… apparently I never did? I was sure that I had. Mika was there. And Megan and Ian. I’m certain of this. Maybe I made plans to go but they fell through? I just did a detailed search through all 200 previous concert reviews, and nothing. Not even a mention of them. It seems impossible that I haven’t used the word “brood” once in 200 reviews, but Word doesn’t lie. Does it? The find-and-replace thingy is finding other words just fine. I feel disillusioned. What is true?

Anyway, if I really never did see Elliott Brood before this, it’s a shame. They were really good. Mika was surprised at how many of their songs she knew, while I only knew one (Oh, Alberta – which I think is the one song everyone who knows only one Elliott Brood song is likely to know – and also, if I only know one song, maybe I never did see them before? You’d think I’d have picked up another one somewhere along the way). It sounded like they were playing a lot of newer songs. At one point, something happened to an amp (I think the technical term is “it broke”) and they switched seamlessly into a semi-acoustic set. Probably stressful for the band (though they didn’t show it) but one of those things that’s neat for the audience. Something a little different from the norm.

I cannot handle this situation. Did I Eternal Sunshine that Amigo’s show right out of existence? Because I wish I hadn’t. I like these guys.

Children’s entertainer and perennial RFF host Al Simmons did the teaser set between acts. Around this time, I got a text from Geoff asking me to meet him stage left. Perfect timing. I met up with him, though only after learning that stage left is the PERFORMER’S left, not the audience’s left. Bit of a detour. I picked up my record and we chatted for a bit. Friendly guy! Almost came across as shy to talk to in person. He had a teaser set scheduled for later in the evening and was wondering what he should play. If I’d been quicker on the ball, I’d have made actual requests (Iron Grey and Wealthy Poet are favourites) instead of suggesting the song he wrote for the Vancouver Olympics. If you’ve never heard this song, all you really need to know is it’s subtitled “The Dead Children Were Worth It!” And there’s a children’s choir. Because of course there is. There has to be.

I got back to my seat just in time for the start of Mexican Institute of Sound. This was electronic dance music that I paid precisely no attention to and, thus, this will be the only time I mention it. Colin stopped by to tell me that he’d had a few beers and found himself greatly enjoying the music of Al Simmons. Wisely, he recognized that maybe this was a sign that he needed to eat something. I left with him – he needed some sobering up starches and I had promised Aaron I’d buy him a copy of the Festival Man LP, as well as a copy of the novel. Colin was baffled by Aaron’s love of Geoff Berner, which reminded me that he had come with me to a Berner show in 2006 at O’Hanlon’s that could politely be described as “a goddamned mess.” I am honestly not sure if Colin has come with me to a concert since then.

I sent Colin on his way and picked up Aaron’s stuff, as promised. While in the stuff tent, I also got myself Berner’s Victory Party on vinyl, as well as his 7″ When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will Be Alright. The last one! Maybe ever? Probably not. Regardless. I had hopes of finding some Joel Plaskett vinyl too, but was denied.

Back to our spot again and Mika left in search of food. She was gone approximately twenty-seven hours. While she was gone, Colin returned with food and Evelyn stopped by too. Basically, everyone in the park was someone I work with, at least as far as you know. We discussed Colin’s everyman appearance and how I see Colin variants all over the place. Just today, I saw Fat Colin, one of the regulars at the mall. I have also seen Tall Colin and Old Colin around. Evelyn added that Sam Roberts could pass for Famous Colin. I looked forward to seeing this for myself. Foreshadowing!

Mika returned, complaining that all the lines were too long so she opted for a hot dog because it was the quickest option. I went to get my own dinner and found that the lines had dissipated. I got Afghan Cuisine falafels and rice. Tasty. Needed some kind of sauce though. After I was done, I went back for kettle corn but didn’t actually get into it until the next day. You don’t want to rush kettle corn. You want to savour kettle corn. It only comes around once a year. (“actually, they’re at the Farmer’s Market som-“) IT ONLY COMES AROUND ONCE A YEAR. OTHERWISE THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS. GLUTTONY PROBLEMS.

Geoff Berner played his teaser set, but unfortunately only got time for two songs – Condos and The Rich Will Move To The High Ground. Both good; neither are my favourites. This was a much more fitting venue than O’Hanlon’s but I still got the sense that people didn’t know what to make of him. Understandable. I think he’s very much a love-him-or-hate-him act. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to make his daytime solo set the next day. He works best with smaller crowds.

Joel Plaskett Emergency was up next and this might have been my all-time favourite set in RFF history. Joel Plaskett is the best guy. He played a whole bunch of songs I know and like (though nothing that would be really surprising if you’ve seen him in concert before). Among the highlights were two new songs that aren’t out yet. You know how nobody wants to hear a band play the new songs? These new songs were both great and I want them right now. One was called Park Avenue Sobriety Test; I’m blanking on the name of the other. I really should take notes for these things and/or not wait to write reviews a month after the fact. It’s shameful how much time I spent putting the meeting Geoff Berner / talking to Colin / talking to Colin and Evelyn / Mika getting food / me getting food segments in chronological order.

Anyway. After a bunch of songs, Plaskett sent the band to the back to do a song by himself. But rather than playing his guitar, he plugged in iPod and sang Fashionable People. Specifically, the kids’ version from the CBC. Where he sings with a talking yam. This was #1 and the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I have never felt such delight.

I’m a hot dog
And dressing up is fun
So let’s
get
dressed
in a
hot dog bun

I’m seriously super happy right now just thinking about it. I don’t even care about my Elliott Brood mental degeneration crisis anymore.

DRESSED UP IN RED
DRESSED UP IN GREEN
DRESSED UP IN BLUE
THINGS

And then the band came back and played the bass line to Work Out Fine while Joel sang Royals. And Oowatanite. And Kung Fu Fighting. And then he introduced the band as being the cast of Stripes. And then Do Wa Diddy Diddy. “She looked good (looked good), she looked fine (looked fine), she looked good, she looked fine, here’s a song called Work Out Fine.” And then Cupid and then Work Out Fine some more. Wonderful. The whole set could have been the Mamma Yamma Fashionable People and snippets of 100 songs sang over the bass line to Work Out Fine and it would have been the best show I’d ever seen. Joel Plaskett is a delightful human being and he really should move out to Saskatchewan and play here every day.

Leonard Sumner came out for his teaser set and it started to rain a little bit. Mika suggested that I take the records and book to the car. Smart thinking. Gotta save your treasures and also get a frozen banana if you’re up anyway. I ran into Mary. She thought my banana was hilarious. If I had a nickel…

My banana and I returned a few minutes into the set by Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanan hip-hop artist. I was just starting to get into the show when our MC took the stage to announce that because of the lightning in the area, they were temporarily shutting the show down. We weren’t in any immediate danger, we were told, but they had to wait and see what the weather was going to do. About fifteen minutes later, we got the word that the rest of the night was cancelled. No Sam Roberts for us. We packed up and off we went.

Now, the Regina Folk Festival always has an after-party. Elliott Brood, Mexican Institute of Sound, and Royal Canoe were scheduled to play there. I briefly considered going, thinking that Sam Roberts might play there, but we opted to just go home. From what I heard, Sam Roberts tried play a few songs at the after-party, only to have the power go out and the after-party shut down too. It almost sounded like they were kicking everyone out when the power came back on and he eventually did play a few songs. At that point, that’s above and beyond the call of duty.

As for us, on the way to the car, we wound up walking alongside Geoff Berner, who assured me that he didn’t HAVE to leave, he was just following people. We wished each other well and Mika and I went home. We were inside our house for about five minutes before the rain hit. The power went out about 5 minutes after that. The wind and rain sounded like it was going to rip the house apart. For Glenn and his wife, who live out in White City, it kind of did. He later said the damage wasn’t severe, but the cab had to drop them off two kilometres from home; it couldn’t get any closer due to downed trees and power lines. This was after they had gone for drinks with Other James and wound up using patio tables to build a sort of dam to keep water out of the restaurant’s storage room. Eventful night. Not sure he’ll come to a show with me anymore either.

UPCOMING SHOWS THAT NEITHER GLENN NOR COLIN WILL ATTEND WITH ME, AS FAR AS I KNOW
• Glass Tiger (September 27)
• The Smalls (October 24)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)
• Buck 65 (November 14)

SLCR #191: Regina Folk Festival (August 9-11, 2013)

September 4, 2013

I should start by saying that if you’re at all interested in what happened at the Regina Folk Festival this year, you should definitely check out soundsalvationarmy.com. I know nothing about the person or persons behind it, but he/she/they did a fine job of reporting on the festival using such cutting-edge journalism techniques as “knowing things” and “looking up things you don’t know” and “writing things down while they’re fresh in your memories” and “caring about things other than food and stupidities.” I don’t know if this style of writing will catch on, but it makes for an interesting change of pace.

After last year’s festival, I wasn’t really excited about this year, even passing on the cheap pre-Christmas tickets. Then they announced the line-up and I was in. I knew that would happen. That pretty much always happens. You’d think I’d learn. I suspect I won’t.

We showed up on Friday night, hauling our nifty new lawn chairs and fleece blankets that Mika picked up for us. These are some solid chairs and they’re pretty cumbersome to tote around. This bothered me right up until the point that we got to our usual spot and I actually sat in one of the chairs. These are better than most chairs I have ever owned and made for some fiiiiiiiine sittin’.

The Friday night host was a kids’ entertainer (and – coincidentally? – Feist’s high school classmate) named Bubba B The MC. Now, a few years ago, Fred Penner was one of the hosts and everybody loved him. Ever since then, there seems to have been a preponderance of kids’ entertainers as main stage hosts. It makes sense, I suppose. You bring them in to work the daytime kids’ stages, so they’re there anyway. The thing is, Fred Penner is a beloved icon for people of a certain age (namely, people a few years younger than me). Bubba B The MC is not. “You’re either gonna love me or you’re gonna hate me,” he said as he took the stage. Between repeatedly shilling his CD and hollering “PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP” the second that every act finished up, I don’t think I heard a single person with anything positive to say about his hosting performance. I’ve possibly been spoiled by having Carolyn Mark as the main stage host on the first night of the first festival I ever went to.

The happiest and saddest moment of the festival occurred right as it began. You may remember that a few years ago, we sat near a guy who yelled HO! HO! HO! HO! instead of applauding and this guy was awesome. Well. When Bubba B said something to welcome us to the festival, a guy sitting near us yelled HO! and Mika and I turned to each other in pure delight. He was back!! And… then he never said HO! again all weekend. So sad. But at least we got one.

I won’t go into detail about all 15 main stage performances from the weekend because there’s only so many times I can type “I knew nothing about this artist, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though.” Maybe I will just copy and paste.

I knew nothing about Elisapie, but she was good! I couldn’t tell you what she played, though. She was born in northern Québec and sang lovely songs in multiple languages, including English, French, and… okay, I’m going to guess Inuktitut but the internet is not confirming this and so I might be very wrong. Regardless, this was a fine opener and I’d go see her again. One lady who was sitting ahead of us on the Saturday night felt more strongly about the subject, judging by the amount of Elisapie records she bought.

I saw Hayden once before, in 1998. I was tired, declared him to be “not my thing,” and left early. But I’m nothing if not about second chances, and hey, it turns out this guy is really good after all. Maybe 21-year-old me just sucked? (yes) Mika said Hayden’s set was one of the best all weekend and was delighted that he played all the hits (it might be notable that she put “hits” in quotation marks). She specifically mentioned Bad As They Seem, The Hazards Of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees, Tree’s Lounge, and Home By Saturday. Now she is lost in Wikipedia, reading about Hayden. I’ll miss her.

Somewhere in here, I got some vegetable pad thai and fresh rolls. Anyone looking to buy my love (or at least my lunch), take note: fresh rolls might be my secret weakness. No shrimp, please.

For me, the idea of finally seeing Man Man was what sold me on this year’s festival. The short version is that they were in Regina a while ago opening for Modest Mouse. I went to the show and was even there in time to see Man Man, but wound up hanging out in the lobby with Colin and some of his friends instead. This was deemed to be the wise course of action because opening acts are often not very good. Of course, what happened was everyone left saying that Modest Mouse was okay but Man Man was crazy and great and the best. I had to live with my regret for six years and I am so delighted to get that one off the must-see checklist.

After all this time, they didn’t seem as crazy as I expected them to be, though it’s worth noting that we were sitting pretty far back and someone who was close up might have seen all kinds of things that I did not. There was a point where it appeared that a giant puppet was dancing with the band and I had no idea if the band brought it with them or if someone in the crowd was all “hey, you know what we should bring? Giant puppet.”

I expected Man Man to be good, and they were. I did not expect them to be immediately bested by the very next band. Nomadic Massive is a hip-hop group from Montréal. I went into the evening being so familiar with their work that I complained about the lack of hip-hop at this year’s festival. Oops. Maybe I should quit exposing my ignorance and talk about things I know about instead.

Mika bought me kettle corn and it was good!

Nomadic Massive. Yes. I knew nothing about this artist, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though. The crowd was already pretty pumped from Man Man, and Nomadic Massive played an energetic set that won everyone over. Great musicianship, too, which is not something you can say about every rap artist. Fine stuff. Another bilingual act that I’d gladly see again. Fine work on this evening, Québec.

After four great sets, I was thinking this was on pace to be the best single night of the folk festival that I’ve seen. And I’d seen Feist before and was confident that she would deliver a fine capper. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think this measured up to what came before it. The momentum of the evening came to a dead stop as the crew took a half-hour to set up the most complicated stage I’ve seen at the Regina Folk Festival. It still didn’t compare to an arena rock show, but there were big screens, a riser, and more complex lighting effects. It all looked good, mind you, but seemed unnecessary. It especially left a bad taste in my mouth when Feist mentioned having to cut her set short. This is an outdoor event and there are noise curfews; maybe spending a half-hour on the stage setup isn’t the best use of your limited time.

I also found big sections of Feist’s set to be pretty dull. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, as I didn’t much care for her newest album for the same reason (I believe the Sound Salvation Army folks described it as “challenging” and it is fair to say that I never gave it much of a chance to grow on me). The set wasn’t BAD by any stretch – Sea Lion Woman and My Moon My Man in particular were fantastic, and I wished we could have had more of that.

Saturday! Our main stage host was another children’s’ entertainer, Al Simmons. Al hosted last year and I wasn’t a fan. But was he worse than Bubba B The MC? Luckily (?), having back-to-back performances allowed for some degree of folk festival science and our jury of peer reviewers (me and Mika, pretty much) agree that Al Simmons is, in fact, better than Bubba B The MC. Sure, he talked way too much about the importance of cleaning up after yourself, but a) so did Fred Penner and I didn’t give HIM grief over it, b) on Sunday, we were told that the festival grounds were left cleaner than they’d ever been, and c) it beats PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP by a mile. So one point for you, Al Simmons.

I knew nothing about H’Sao, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though. I know that while they currently live in Montréal (I’m sensing a theme), they’re originally from Chad. I know this because I felt the immediate need to text Chad (the person) and tell him about this band from Chad (the country). He declared them to be obviously great and who am I to argue?

I think I got some poutine around this point because I hate myself.

Despite having lived in Regina for what feels like forever, this was actually my first time seeing Rah Rah. Sort of. They played the Folk Festival a few years ago as one of the “teaser” acts between main stage performers, and the whole band wasn’t there and it was only okay. But this, this was pretty great. The hometown stars played a fun set with a lot of songs from their newest album, but stretched all the way back to Tentacles, which the first song of theirs that I ever heard (I think it was a freebie on iTunes one week, maybe?). One complaint: finally seeing them left “The Poet’s Dead” stuck in my head for about three days – but not the whole song, just two lines. Over and over. I forget what Mika finally played to dislodge it from my brain, but whatever it was couldn’t have been an upgrade.

Is it a surprise that Calypso Rose sang calypso music? I knew nothing about Calypso Rose, but she was good! And I can tell you one song that she played, Senior Citizens’ Day.  I have no idea why I would remember this song in particular but hey, that’s what happens when I don’t take notes. This was very energetic and fun, which was a(nother) recurring theme for the festival this year. I don’t know if it’s particularly folky, but I approve; last year’s festival felt like it was lacking energy and you couldn’t say the same for this year’s edition. Was it the selection of artists? Better audio quality?  Just happened that way? Was I just in a better headspace to begin with? Probably some combination thereof.

The Saturday night headliner, as far as I was concerned, was Bahamas. Short version: I had always avoided seeing him (not intentionally; it just worked out that way) until Junos weekend where I discovered that he was great. And he was great here too.

“Are you ready to rock?” (yay!) “Well… we’re not that kind of band.”

You wouldn’t expect songs so sweet and sincere from someone so funny (or vice-versa), but the combination makes Bahamas a great performer. He played a full set of his originals (can I remember what? of course not), sarcastically endorsed the SaskTel network (they really should hire Bahamas as a spokesperson in place of the Little Red commercials), and closed with fun covers of Hey Ya and Wonderful Tonight.

Loreena McKennit was up next, but we didn’t stick around for her. Not our thing.

Sunday! The hosts for the evening were local troupe FadaDance. They’re not exclusively kids’ entertainers, but they do seem to be around to work the children’s stage every year. They kicked off the night’s festivities with this prolonged marching band entrance that grabbed attention, and then they largely stayed out of the way. I approve.

Don, my coworker, had told me that Carolina Chocolate Drops were great, and he was right. For my money, this was the top act of the whole festival. The short version is that they explore the history of African-Americans in bluegrass music, but that only scratches the surface. One song was sung in Haitian Creole, while another was Gaelic, and they traded instruments as they went. Incredible talent on display here. If you get the chance, go see them.

Niyaz was really the only main stage act I saw that just didn’t click with me. They sang very pretty Persian-influenced songs and the twirling dancer was hypnotic, but a lot of this all sounded the same to me and I kind of lost interest. Maybe it’s just me; Other James and Mark were there all weekend, and I think this might have been Other James’ favourite act of the weekend. I think he was in love with the dancer.

I can’t say that I didn’t know anything about Rosanne Cash. Next-to-nothing, maybe. I really had no idea just how impressive her career has been.

She has a new album coming out soon, but her most recent album was a collection of covers. Her dad had made her a list of 100 country songs that she needed to know (do you need me to tell you that her dad was Johnny Cash? because I will, but I feel kind of stupid doing so) and she covered 12 of those songs on an album (appropriately titled The List). As such, we got about 50% originals and 50% country classics, and both were great. There was no band; just Cash on guitar with another guitarist for accompaniment.  Clean, clear performances of some wonderful songs.

A good chunk of the crowd left after Cash was done, which meant they missed out on Charles Bradley. Bradley’s story is becoming well-known, thanks to a documentary about his life called “Charles Bradley: Soul of America.” The gist of it is that he had a really hard life, worked as a James Brown impersonator for a time, and finally released his first solo record in 2011, when he was already in his 60s. The preceding sentence may include lies or half-truths, seeing as how I haven’t actually watched said documentary (it’s not on Canadian Netflix yet), but that’s what I was going on.

The band came out and played an instrumental number, then one of them introduced Bradley in dramatic fashion (is there any other way when you’re “the Screaming Eagle of Soul?”). Bradley sang, he danced, he did the splits. He left the stage and was re-introduced wearing a different outfit. I believe he wore a cape at one point. He sang his own original songs, but the James Brown influence was strong, to say the least. Almost a bit much at times, really.

Before Neko Case took the stage to close down the evening, the festival’s Artistic Director, Sandra Butel, addressed the crowd. She polled the crowd as to who the best acts were, and… okay, you know how if someone on stage asks the crowd a question, they just get unintelligible yelling in response? When she asked about the best act Saturday night, it seemed like everyone there yelled “Bahamas!” in unison. It was as clear as can be. I had to laugh; I have never heard such consensus from the masses before.

For the record, when she asked about Friday night, most people yelled for Nomadic Massive, but there was a small but VERY vocal contingent of Man Man supporters.

Neko Case’s new album came out yesterday. This sentence will only be true if I finally get off (on?) my ass and finish this review and post it today, but whatever. If I don’t, let’s just assume I can bend time to my will. Maybe I will sit on this review for five years and keep Case’s record in limbo for that long. Take THAT, Neko Case and Neko Case fans. That’s for probably wronging me somehow.

Point being, I pre-ordered said album (“The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You”) (Deluxe Edition) on iTunes, and as such, it downloaded to my PC today, but I haven’t listened to it yet. And yet… I have. Kind of. Case’s show-closing set was comprised mainly of songs from the new record. The two songs I’d heard online, Man and Night Still Comes, were great live, as was the rest of the new tunes. We also got a few songs that she co-wrote with the Sadies (they got a nice cheer every time their name was mentioned), a few singles (including Hold On, Hold On and People Got a Lotta Nerve), and one song that she wrote for her dad, but “got turned into a vampire fuck theme for TV.”

“Oh, the world and the things it does,” she said.

THIS I made note of to share with you later. Did I write down what song it actually was? No, but I was 99% sure that it was “I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight.” I am now 100% sure after Googling “neko case true blood.” Time to clear my search history. Again.

Point being, if my imaginary band ever releases an imaginary album, “Vampire Fuck Themes for TV” is likely to be the imaginary album title.

I will say that between all the new songs and all the time Case spent tuning her guitar, this felt almost like a tune-up for the “real” tour that will surely be coming. This kept her set from being among my favourites of the weekend, but it was still a mighty fine time.

With that, we packed up our lawn chairs and headed home. As we were leaving, the show-closing finale was taking place. This included Rah Rah returning to cover the Traveling Wilburys’ Handle With Care, because why not? From what we saw, the finale was not quite as raucous as in previous years, but we didn’t stick around to the bitter end. We’re old, you know. And comfy chairs were proving to be no substitute for a comfy bed.

As we walked to the car, another group of festival goers were gathered around a statue, posing for a picture. One of them hollered “PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP!” We laughed, as did everyone else nearby. Bubba B The MC may have achieved immortality.

SLCR #172: Regina Folk Festival (August 10-12, 2012)

September 12, 2012

I have been putting this off forever because I have next to nothing to say. There are a ton of shows coming up that I am looking forward to seeing, and in a few cases, even looking forward to writing about. This was not that. But I unexpectedly find myself alone in Saskatoon on a Sunday night, mere days away from the next show and I hate review backlogs, so let’s do this.

I’m sure I mention this every year, but I buy our Folk Festival tickets every December. There’s a huge discount when you buy them that early, and part of the reason is that you don’t yet know who’s going to be playing there. I figure this is a smart move; by the time they announce the lineup, the tickets have gone up in price, meaning it’s easy to sell yours if you don’t want to go.

And to be honest, I kind of felt like selling mine. The lineup this year wasn’t bad in any way; I just wasn’t feeling it. There were no old favourites, and there were no names that I was really looking forward to. Not a bad thing, necessarily – I always discover someone new every year – but I just didn’t have that anticipation that I’m used to.

Maybe this is just how I am, sometimes? One year, about five years ago, the Weakerthans played the Regina Folk Festival. I didn’t have a ticket that year, but you can hang out in the park and listen for free. I went for 10 minutes, got bored, and went home. And I love the Weakerthans.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that we didn’t even go to the Sunday night portion. Wasn’t feeling it. I bet it was awesome, and I bet I wouldn’t have thought so.

Man, this is getting depressing! I’m generally not this miserable-sounding, I promise. So rather than going act-by-act through two nights of shows that I barely remember, I am going to call attention to two standouts: Shad and Rich Aucoin.

Rich Aucoin, I had never heard of this dude. He only played a few songs since he was a between-sets guy (a “teaser,” they’re called) but he was energetic and fun and a little weird and he brought a parachute for the crowd to play with. I didn’t get a great sense of his music but I was really intrigued and wanted to see more. He wasn’t even playing one of the daytime stages over the weekend – just the teaser set and the afterparty, and I am too old to stay up concert-late most nights, to say nothing of afterparty-late. And I haven’t listened to more Rich Aucoin since that brief set, but I will get to it someday! You can too at richaucoin.ca, which I only mention because the .com takes you to a website for a Massachusetts Libertarian of the same name.

According to one of his songs, Shad “hate[s] the catchphrase ‘Canadian rap sensation'” so instead I will call him… Shad… that guy… who does stuff. I’m writing the review a month late and this is the best that I can do. Anyway, over the two nights, Shad was really the only guy who felt like he was actually playing for a large crowd. I hate to say “energetic” again but that’s really what stood out for me. That, and the songs off his new digital EP “Melancholy and the Infinite Shadness,” which I’ve probably listened to more than any other album released this year. I guess I really like Milli Vanilli samples?

Another teaser act, Regina’s own Julia and Her Piano, seemed like one that I might enjoy hearing more of and I’ll try to take her in sometime when she’s playing somewhere a little cozier than a big downtown park.

The idea of “I’d rather watch this singer/band in a club” was one I kept going to. Maybe it’s just that we were sitting pretty far back from the stage (though we sat in the same spots last year and didn’t have this issue), but I often found that the music was hard to hear, like it wasn’t loud enough and people were talking over it. The talking can certainly be an issue at any show, but it wouldn’t be so hard to keep focused on the music in a smaller, more intimate setting. The Friday night opener, Cold Specks, really suffered from this. Her music is self-described as “doom soul,” and can be dark and haunting. But here she was, playing in the sunlight, barely audible over crowds of people still getting their lawn chairs set up, greeting friends, buying dinner. I found it really hard to pay attention, and I felt that way through most of the sets this year. We saw Timber Timbre, Austra, Stars, and Great Lake Swimmers, and I’d struggle to say much of anything about any of them. We’re seeing Stars again in a few months, opening for Metric, so we’ll get some idea whether it was the bands (doubtful) or the venue (somewhat), or it was just me (99% this).

I don’t really dig on being negative in reviews because I’m old now and the idea of being a jerk on the internet has mostly lost its novelty. Besides, I didn’t even get super pumped for the kettle corn truck, so you know the problem was on my end. So I’ll wrap this up by saying I still intend to buy tickets for next year and I’m sure there will be no bands I’ve heard of and I’m sure it will rain all weekend long and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time. People are dumb and I’m people.