Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Volunteer Monologues 2.0: singing through the storm

Sunday, July 27
Does it get any better than this? Not only did I have the full day free of volunteer duties to attend workshops, but my evening shift was located at the satellite record tent which has a perfect view of the main stage, PLUS falafels were on the menu for lunch at the hospitality tent. Sunday was shaping up to be a perfect day, providing we hadn't provoked the weather gods too much.

The Indie 500 Workshop (Basia Bulat, Great Lake Swimmers, Julie Doiron, and Sam Parton (Be Good Tanyas) was the perfect Sunday morning gathering. While the Spousal Unit checked out of the hotel, and I secured our super-secret main stage property, the Resident Offspring scored the most incredible seats at the leafy haven of the Ship and Anchor stage. We are a precision instrument of a festival machine, our family, and we settled back in our front row seats to luxuriate in the melding of voices on stage, glorious regardless of how late they had stayed at the after party the night before.

After indulging my falafel addiction, I managed to catch a few minutes of the Dukhs' hosted workshop and then it was off to meet up with the family once again for what turned out to be my favourite workshop of the weekend. Spin Doctors, hosted by the groovilicious no luck club, turned into a funkadelic dance party, featuring the deliciously robust mixes of Klezmer hip-hop artist Socalled, the eclectic noir genius of Wendy McNeill, and the hometown charm of musical chameleon Kara Keith. A goodly portion of the audience was up getting their groove on during the entire workshop, while the rest of us chair-danced.

And then the weather changed.

Partway through the next workshop, there was a lightning bolt and a simultaneous crack of thunder that jolted musicians and audience alike into alert silence. To the north and the west, the thunderheads were rolling in rapidly, and we learned later that a tree had been struck by lightning and someone slightly hurt when they were hit by a charred branch.

I had some cd shopping to do and I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to hit the record tent as a civilian, so I left my family to fend for themselves in the coming storm and I got to the tent just as the heavens opened and the weather gods poured out all their wrath onto us with all the torrential rain and hail and furious lightning that they could muster.
Power was shut down for a while, for obvious reasons, and the record tent became Noah's ark, complete with hordes of rain cape clad refugees huddled over plates of chick pea curry.

And then almost instantaneously, the sun shone hotter than before, everything started to steam, and I managed to catch part of one more workshop before my shift.

Back on duty at the satellite record tent, I was kept hopping for a while so was able to hear, but not really pay a lot of attention to, the final evening's main stage performances of Sony Landreth (who plays an absolutely smoking blues guitar and whose cds we subsequently rapidly sold out of), the duo of Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko, the Appalachian-Chinese stylings (yes, you read that correctly) of Sparrow Quartet (that fabulous collective who brought with them the astounding vocalist Abigail Washburn, the cellist Ben Sollee, the fiddler Casey Driessen, and the spectacular banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck).

And here is where I have to eat my words and officially apologize to Conor Oberst. Mr Oberst, I have to admit that I have always dismissed your music as the epitome of emo, and I could only listen in short bursts. But Sunday night, with The Mystic Valley Band backing you, you rocked the island and completely blew me away with an energy that I have never heard in your music before. I really wish you had brought your new cd with you to the folk festival, because we would have sold out, I guarantee you.

Ani DiFranco returned to the festival to close out the final night, and although the rain starting pounding down again in earnest during her rollicking yet heartfelt set, her fiercely loyal fans were not about to let a little cold rain and gusting winds stop them from worshipping at the altar of this righteous babe.

Dreadlocks flying, they danced in the pelting rain. And that's a perfect way to end a folk festival.

Coming up, the Zombie Awards for Best-of-Moments at the 2008 Calgary Folk Music Festival.


Anonymous said...

jesus christ on a stick (is that redundant?), how do you manage to keep all those band names, timelines, & overwhelming sensory waves of bliss together long enough to type it all out like it's real time & not a memory? :D Amaaaaazing. The only name I recognized was Ani DiFranco. You're the Calgary Folk Life Goddess, pfft on all those other poser reviewers.

Dang, the weather changes FAST there, doesn't it? Must have been extreme gorgeosity seeing those enormous thunderheads rolling in, though...

Bravo to the BarbClan for festival coordination supremacy, sans cell phones too I bet, huh?

Allison said...

I'm glad you have been turned to the Bright Eyes side. I find that his more recent musical ventures have defintely progressed since his early, more brooding, woe is me stuff.

It really sounds like volunteering is the best at this folk fest! I'd go for the Falafel alone. ;)

mister anchovy said...

...and I thought Toronto had scored all the thunderstorms this seems we've been getting rain every couple days throughout June and July....I'm glad we could share the wealth with our friends in the west.

Sean Wraight said...

THANK you so much for sharing this terrific experience with us Barb. Your eye, ear and nose for detail is really second to none. In the words of someone, "'s almost like being there." And how lucky we all are to be able to vicariously enjoy the musical wit of Conor Oberst to the smell of falafel. Forget this volunteer business, the Calgary Folk Fest people should be hiring you as their official ambassador!

I'm looking forward to next year's edition all ready.


mellowlee said...

Ani was back again, how cool! I would have loved to see that. If I could've only seen one act, that would've been it. Even in the pouring rain :O)

justacoolcat said...

Sounds like an amazing weekend.

I have to admit the thought of Klezmer hip-hop makes me chuckle.


I have to say I feel like through your prolific words I attended and rocked out the festival--- of course minus the tarps, sunblock, inevitable sore ass, ringing ears and free food. Speaking of which I even felt I enjoyed your falafel, something that would not even be possible in my "real life". ;)

And weird how downtown's weather was all nasty and here in the burbs we were cosy, dry and rain free Sunday.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Not a cell phone among us, Mish! Not that there ever is. But we come from a long line of planners, I guess. Not exactly island material, but it works for us.
I do admit to checking back into the festival program for timelines and spelling and such, as my memory is not what it never used to be.
The saying around here is that if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes. And it will get worse.

It's the one place I can indulge my falafelness, Al, as I have never managed to turn the family on to them.
Definitely Oberst stepped things up a notch in the festival performance - less brooding, more rocking.

Very generous of you, Mister Anchovy! I suppose you'll be wanting some of our chinooks now in return?

Awwww, shucks, thanks, Sean. And I would like to point out that no money exchanged hands for those kind words!
It was my pleasure to try to share my experience with you. Maybe I can entice you to show up in person next year.

Ani put on a great show, Mel! And she's got some of the wickedest lyrics, doesn't she? Her diehard fans did not seem bothered by the rain in the slightest.

Klezmer hip-hop is every bit as fun as it sounds, JustA. I would go see Socalled perform again.

I know, Urban Blonde! We squelched out through the mud as we were leaving, and found dry sidewalks when we arrived back home. Weird city.
I think you hit upon the key word with "prolific" and I apologize to everyone for those uber-long posts. I just can't shut up when it comes to the really good times.


Please don't shut up or I would never have anything interesting to read. :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You are too kind, Urban Blonde, I really must buy you a drink soon so we can catch up.