The Calgary Folk Music festival was this past weekend. As ever it was an excellent time — part endurance competition, part people watching, part sunscreen and five parts music. These are the bands and musicians that impressed me the most.
It should come as no surprise that this folk power couple made up of Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland would be excellent — both made excellent music before meeting and falling in love. It seems as though Doucet has found a Goldilocks point with Whitehorse. He made a name for himself with dark music and breakup tunes, and the quality of his music wavered after falling in love — anger and sadness fueled excellent songs. However, it seems as though McLelland does for Doucet what No Doubt do for Gwen Stefani, she balances him out, taking his best strengths and adding to them. Their musical styling compliment each other perfectly and my only complaint is that their set was too short and would have been deserving of a mainstage billing.
Every folk festival needs an excellent singer-song writer with a country side, and Del Barber fits this bill perfectly. He writes songs that are both serious (a waitress at an all night restaurant stuck stuck in a tedious life) and funny (throwing a party to which all the major philosophers show up inspired by a cheese dream). He is like John Wort Hannam but quirkier, younger and with a certain swagger.
Reuben and the Dark
Reuben and the Dark are one of those lovely indie folk bands that can be discovered at just about any folk festival — I think these are kept around to keep the younger folk happy and buying tickets. They have excellent songs that can be mellow, melodic or foot tapping material but all could easily find their way on my iPod or that of any other twenty-something.
Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three
I wandered up to a workshop called Upright Citizens (Brigade) and found in front of me four bands featuring upright bases. As sound check began — it is always entertaining to watch twenty plus musicians sound check and plug in instruments in about twenty minutes — a guy wearing a bomber jacket and baggy pants straight out of the forties appeared. I had not researched this workshop and had no idea what to expect from him. As they played their first song it became clear that there are times when you can judge a book by its cover, and in this case the musical styling of Pokey Lafarge perfectly match the outfit. All American big band music poured fourth and I was hooked. Only at a folk festival can you discover such a thing — and this is why they are worth attending.