Something old, something new, something borrowed, something bluesy

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Yes we love her... and KD Lang is at the Folk Fest Friday night! Screw you Kendle. We used to do this gig together with Ehinger and the Manitoban staffers back in the day when the Winnipeg Folk Fest was ... well a Folk Fest. And yes I did have three beers with John Prine at the workshop and he let me play his GEETAR! Photo by Stan Musial.

Old meets new in eclectic night of Folk Fest fare

Winnipeg Folk Festival Night 2 Thurs. July 7 Birds Hill Park

John Kendle – Editor Uptown Mag and contributing editor – 

Old meets new was the theme of an eclectic Thursday night’s programming at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, as traditionalists butted up against newcomers to create an evening’s worth of heady musical brew.

In the end, just about everyone in attendance at Birds Hill Park should have left having learned something new about the music that falls under this festival’s magical umbrella.

Tegan & Sara are a bona fide alt-rock/pop act now, but the roots of the twin-sisters Quin are in acoustic music. Indeed, one of the first times they played outside their Calgary hometown was at Birds HIll Park — a memory Sara Quin recalled with a laugh during their hour-long, night-closing set, as she swatted moths and mosquitoes attracted by the mainstage lights.

“We loved it. I even thought I could live here,” she said. “Then we came here on a winter tour. Uh… no!”

Though Sara and her sister began with an acoustic version of Call it Off (which was marred by an uncertain vocal mix), they played most of their show with the fuil electric band that accompanies them these days. By the time they’d hit full stride, three songs in, most of teens and twentysomethings in the festival crowd were on their feet, craning to see, singing along or simply busting joyful moves.

Reaction wasn’t quite as adulatory for M. Ward, who preceded the Quins on mainstage, though not through any fault of his performance. The Oregonian has cultivated quite a following among musos who enjoy the blurred distinctions between his guitar-buzzing indie instincts and his folkie sensibilities (he’s aware enough to even cover a John Fahey tune), but his is not a name that’s familiar to most in the Birds Hill crowd. While his jaunt on the mainstage boards was certainly enjoyable, it wasn’t an ‘Oh, wow’ performance, either.

The Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, on the other hand, pretty much blew the entire audience way with their scintillatingly show as day turned into evening. The bluegrass kings and the N’Awlins vibe merchants initially collaborated on a post-Katrina charitable project and finally found time in their schedules to work on a full album, called American Legacies, just this past year. The result is a steamy gumbo of twanging strings and skronking horns that, when it’s really on, almost defies description but which simply dares listeners to dive in and enjoy the ride. From my vantage point, almost the entire festival audience was moving in some fashion or another — from full-on interpretive folk dancers (the only way I can describe the more out-there expressionists that you see only here) to oldsters gleefully nodding their heads and waving happy feet.

Someone said from stage that the groups have decided to call this music “Mardi grass.” Whatever it is, it sounded fantastic to us.

The David Wax Museum proved a pleasant surprise with their post-supper hour set. Guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Wax is a student of all things Latin American (he even has the degree to prove it) and he and musical partner Suz Slezak (who plays donkey jaw — really! — and violin) have created a sound they call “Meximericana’’ that essentially involves Latin percussion, bluesy backbeats, tenor and soprano saxophone tones and expressive, imagistic lyrics. Not as busy as Tom Waits’ later material, this is music that mines a similar vein, made unique by Slezak’s plaintive vocals and the group’s earnest, honest demeanour.

NOTES ’N STUFF — Early festival chatter among veteran attendees has focused on the two most obvious differences between this year’s event and those previous… the first is that the fest has switch from those awful plastic wristbands to multi-coloured ribbons secured by a black plastic clasp. Most people like the colours but wonder how the flimsier-seeming ribbons will hold up over the weekend… The other noticeable change is that the Snowberry Fields stage has been moved to face northeast rather than due east, meaning that a path which once provided easy access to the food village and mainstage area is now blocked off. Signage suggests the switch is due to site renovations, which is fair enough, but lots of people are grumbling about having to walk another 400 metres or so to get in and out of the mainstage area.

Friday night’s mainstage show starts with Dan Mangan at 6 p.m. and features (in order), Sarah Jarosz (7 p.m.), k.d. lang and The Siss Boom Bang (8:05), Lucinda Williams (9:35) and Toots and the Maytals (11:05)

Last but not least, shoutouts are due to locals Scott Nolan and Joanna Miller and Oh My Darling, both of whom offered up excellent sets as ‘tweeners between main sets on Thursday night. Nolan and Miller, in particular, looked comfortable enough to have done a full set — and Scott’s songwriting is certainly deserving.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]