Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vancouver Folk Music Festival: Day Three -- 07/17/11

Well, Sunday was the final day of the 34th Vancouver Folk Music Festival (see days one and two here).
Luckily the weather decided to be somewhat cooperative, and the rain held off for most of the day. I've heard it was the first VFMF in 15 years that it wasn't a scorching hot weekend, though to be honest I would prefer a little overcast and rain to that -- though I am sure I'm the only one.
But enough about the weather, and on to the music. Sunday was filled with workshops, which are bands/artists sharing the stage to jam together, and a few shows in the evening.

The day started with an 11am workshop called "Independently Minded", with Kathryn Calder, Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans Band and Imaginary Cities, which was without a doubt the best workshop I had seen all weekend. There was lots of jamming and collaboration between the musicians on stage, with the members of The Weakerthans basically playing backup for both Bryson (obviously) but also Imaginary Cities. Calder also jumped in often, at the very least on a tambourine.
Each band played three songs; Kathryn threw in a new song, Jim Bryson's "Decidedly" sounded great, and everyone pitched in to help Imaginary Cities end the workshop with "Hummingbird", which was spectacular.

The next workshop was also up there, in terms of collaboration and sheer fun. "All Fired Up" consisted of Danny Michel, The Burning Hell, Imaginary Cities (again) and Jason Wilson Band. I wasn't too hyped on Jason Wilson Band, they had a bit too much of a Dave Matthews vibe, but the others were pretty great, with members of The Burning Hell being really good about jumping in, much like yesterday. Again, "Hummingbird" was a highlight, and even though it was the fourth time I had heard it that weekend, it didn't get old. The Burning Hell ended their last song with a little bit of "In The Air Tonight" slipped in, and the group finished off the workshop with a pair of covers. First Jason Wilson Band with  "54-46 Was My Number" by Toots & the Maytals and then Danny Michel with Los Lobos' "Life Is Good". Both had near everyone on stage join in, and the ending of "Life Is Good" had the crowd join in on clapping and "Ooh la la", with everyone leaving the stage, resulting in the crowd keeping the song going strong for a couple minutes after they were done.

The third workshop of the day was a "secret" one, in that it wasn't listed in the program, but was on the online schedule. It featured Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three, Wendy McNeill and Elliott BROOD, and seemed a bit shorter than the others, with each band only playing a couple songs. LaFarge was pretty fun, with a crazy washboard player, and McNeill was good as well, but the best part of the set was everyone joining Elliott BROOD for "Miss You Now".

It wasn't long after that that the evening shows started, with Kathryn Calder kicking off the night on Stage 3. Even though I'd seen her a couple months ago (and that morning at a workshop, for that matter) I was still excited to see her play a full set with her band, and she did not disappoint. Even after she mentioned it not raining, only for a trickle to start, as if on cue.
But despite the sogginess, her set was really fun, especially with such energetic and upbeat songs as "A Day Long Past Its Prime" and "Follow Me Into The Hills", and one of my favourites of hers, "Castor and Pollux", which ended the set.
There were also a couple new songs, "Turn A Light On" and "City of Sounds", teasing a new album out in October, which I am eagerly anticipating.

setlist
All It Is, Down the River, Slip Away, A Day Long Past Its Prime, If You Only Knew, Turn A Light On, Follow Me Into the Hills, City of Sounds, Arrow, Castor and Pollux.

Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans Band was up next, staying on Stage 3. They had a bit of an awkward introduction, and at one point there was a holler for "Tournament of Hearts", so I don't think some people (including the emcee) really "got" the concept behind members of The Weakerthans as Jim Bryson's backing band, but that didn't diminish from being a fantastic set. As well as The Weakerthans, Rusty Matyas from Imaginary Cities was also playing with the band, on keys, guitar and trumpet.
I had seen hints of it during the workshops, but the full set proved what a great storyteller Bryson is, and what an engaging frontman he is, especially when backed by a group of musicians that talented.
A few of the highlights from the set were "Decidedly" and "Up All Night", both really fun songs, as well as "Freeways In The Front Yard", which had Jenny Whiteley out for vocals. The last song of the night, "Wild Love", was probably the most energetic of the set, (finally) getting people to their feet and ended with a bit of CCR's "Proud Mary", getting the crowd to sing along. As it came to a close, members of the band left the stage one by one, with Bryson "firing" them, leaving just him.

There were a few more acts after, on both Stage 3 and the main stage, but at this point everyone was pretty beat, and we figured there wouldn't be a better way to end both the day and the festival than with Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans Band.

So overall, I would say the weekend was an incredible success; I am so glad I got the chance to finally go to the Folk Fest, weather be damned. I wish it had been scheduled a little differently; there were times where three things I wanted to see happened at once and times where there was nothing I wanted to see for a couple hours... But I think there was only one person that I completely missed, everyone else I was able to catch in some form or another, either a full set, a workshop or a tweener.

Now, who's ready for next year?

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