Friday, July 25, 2008

The Volunteer Monologues 2.0: we return to serve

Thursday, July 24
Serving as a sophomore volunteer at the venerable Calgary Folk Music Festival is, if this is even possible, even better than being a newbie. You know where the volunteer hospitality tent is and when those incredible meals are being served. You know pretty much what needs to be done, so that when you arrive for your first shift at the record tent, you can start being productive right off the hop. And the best part is you can ask all the newbie security people, "where's your walkie-talkie? I thought you guys all got walkie-talkies." That never gets old.

The first night of the folk fest boasted pretty much perfect weather, and the area in front of the mainstage quickly filled up with tarps and festival chairs and a healthy representation of rocker kids eager to see Sam Roberts. During my break from the record tent shift, I scooted off to the hospitality area for my free volunteer dinner of lemongrass chicken and salad, had a nice chat with another random volunteer who was kind enough to share her table with me, and then headed back past the mainstage area where I was pleased to see that the Spousal Unit and Resident Offspring had arrived in time to score our optimal spot which boasts a perfect view of both jumbotrons and shade from the glaring evening sun. Of course I cannot tell you the exact location because it is a sworn family secret and we are forced to kill anyone who divulges it to the general population. But it's a great spot.

I had to forgo the first part of the mainstage show last night, as I was busy serving patrons with their cd purchasing needs. Pointing out that 80% of the cost of the cd goes directly to the artist actually goes a long way in helping people decide that, yes damn it, they will take all three cds then.

Behold the Thursday night lineup:
- Master Musicians of Jajouka
- the Weakerthans
- Joel Fafard

- Aimee Mann

- Tony Dekker (Great Lake Swimmers) and Basia Bulat

- Sam Roberts Band

I didn't finish my shift until partway through Aimee Mann's set, so sadly I missed my favourite homeys, the Weakerthans. We were able to hear their set from the record tent, though, and they sounded as fine as they always do. And I know they must have really struck a chord with the audience, because immediately after their set finished, the tent filled up with people eager to purchase cds.

My favourites were the little indie couple who danced into the record tent, and headed over the middle of the cd stacks, about the G section I think it was, dancing a little hopping up and down dance the whole time they browsed the cds. I watched them for a minute or two and then walked over to them and said "you look like you're looking for the Weakerthans". They paused their little hopping up and down dance to ask "how did you know?" It was obvious, my little indie couple, it was obvious.

When I joined the family on our tarp at mainstage, I was quite blown away by Aimee Mann, who sings very sharp and clever songs. The title of her latest cd, @#%&*! Smilers, gives you some indication of her mindset and her attitude toward people who tell you that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. We thought she rocked.

Tony Dekker and Basia Bulat, two of the most compelling voices in Canadian music today, shared a mini-set, where they performed a slew of old Great Lake Swimmers' songs. Their voices blended so beautifully, they almost made me teary, and I am really looking forward to some of the workshops they will be doing together over the weekend.

The evening ended with Sam Roberts. He was a huge crowd favourite, and although I admit to not being very familiar with his music, his band did a great job of ending off the first night (traditionally indie night) of this year's Calgary Folk Festival.

We're currently ensconced at the Sheraton, where we will be splurging on two nights away from home in order to fully immerse ourselves in Folk Festival culture. In a few minutes we will be walking a few steps over to Prince's Island to indulge in the Friday night offerings.

More updates from the island coming up.


Allison said...

Sounds like things are off to a fine start! 80% of the sales goes to the artist, that's great, I'm glad you're advertising that. I imagine its not too well known.

The story of the dancing couple made me smile. May have even warmed my dead heart. ;)

I hope the weather stays lovely and you score the same super secret spot for the rest of the weekend.

mellowlee said...

Aw, I loved the story of the bouncing indie couple too! haha! Excellent!

Aimee Mann is so good eh. I still listen to the Magnolia soundtrack, it will never get old for me.

I would totally freak out to see Sam Roberts!

It seems you are having such a marvelous time, I can't wait for your next post!

Anonymous said...

WOW, it sounds like a marvelous time to be had as a volunteer... I mean, awesome free food, taunting the dudes who are shamelessly walkie-talkieless, and totally being in your music element - and the opportunity to chill at the Sheraton! Woohoo for other people cleaning!!!!!

Sorry you didn't get to make The Weakerthans show, but you certainly got your love on for 'em with the Indie Couple... I dunno, I think it deserves a night on their tour bus, don't you? ;)

bloody awful poetry said...

Awww! I love that bouncing indie couple!
How long does this festival last, by the way? Please remember to have ridiculous amounts of fun, though.

Strawberry Blondie said...

It sounds lovely so far! Such great people watching, too, as with the cute indie couple.

Enjoy the rest of the festival, and be sure to keep asking the newbies where their walkie talkies are! ;)

Anonymous said...

I LOVED Aimee Mann. I am seeing her again in a little over a month opening for Squeeze, and I'm pretty excited - now I will know some of the songs. She was great.

Holy Sam Roberts, also. I have seen him before, but still love him (and the new record is so good).

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were AWESOME yesterday! One of my favourite discoveries so far. I am really looking forward to some of today's workshops. Hopefully I will actually see you at the record tent today, I missed you completely this first half.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I was surprised but very pleased to learn that it was 80% as well, Al. No wonder artists love playing the folk festival. Besides the fact that it is the closest thing to heaven.

The bouncing indie couple made my day, Mel. And Aimee Mann was way more awesome than I realized. She's a pistol - loved her!
There sure were a lot of teenage girls looking for Sam Roberts tees.

I dunno if I'll get a chance on the Weakerthans tour bus, Michelle, but I did dream last night that I was selling John K Samson a used car. Whatever that may mean.
And I love having other people clean up after me!

It ended Sunday night, BAP and Saturday and Sunday are full days. Exhausting but soooo worth it.

You can rest assured that I will be harassing those newbies all weekend long, Strawberry Blondie. That is one more perk of being a sophomore. It's high school, only a much kinder gentler high school than has ever existed.

I was blown away by Andrew Bird last night, Ruh. He is so amazing to see perform live! In fact he may have outshone Great Lake Swimmers, you were perfect, as always.
I hope to see you in the tent. I'm there from 10-11:30 and 12:30-5. And tomorrow I'm at the mainstage satellite tent from 5-11.
There should be some artist autograph sessions in the tent today - check it out!

Allison said...

I'm so jealous you saw Andrew Bird. I eagerly await concert details. :)

John Mutford said...

Another year, another vicarious concert. Love to be there.

Conky said...

sam roberts kicks ass live, and im not just saying that cuz i like his scruffy french midget self either

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Al, Andrew Bird was so amazing! We sold out of his cds and his t-shirts quite early in the weekend and had so many people looking for them. He was spectacular. As was Josh Ritter! Details to follow.

I would have loved to have you joining us here, John. I did get to work with Hilary again (from the blogs) and also meet up with Stephanie (also from the blogs) which was completely wonderful.

People were drooling all over Sam Roberts, Jen. Big crowd favourite. He was rockin.

Sean Wraight said...

THE lineup sounds spectacular Barb.
I suspected you would love Andrew Bird too. I think seeing him in a live setting is most definitely the way to orient yourself best with his particular talent. I'm also very jealous to hear Aimee Mann played at your festival. She has a certain consumate cool that pervades her being and her music.

And for the record I am very jealous of your posting in the record tent. That is something I have always wanted to do. I'll have to see if I can line something up similarly for London's LOLA Fest coming in September.

Looking forward to future posting of the Volunteer Monologues. (That label made me spout coffee out my nose this morning.) Funny stuff.

Any offers to buy your custom festival shirt?


Remi said...

I have loved the Weakerthans for a while. I loved them even better live because they seemed to have so much fun. And they played great music, too, which always helps.

Westcoast Walker said...

Sounds like a good time! Thanks for your "on the ground" report - once again I get to indulge in some vicarious festival fun.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

So glad I could make you snort coffee out your nose, Sean. My job here is done!
I have a completely new appreciation for Andrew Bird, now that I have seen him perform. And cool is a great way to describe Aimee Mann, as she certainly has a quiet confidence that is so appealing. I'd love to hang out with her.
DO work the record tent, if you get a chance. Best. Gig. Ever. But no offers to profit from my festival shirt. A lot of people did want to buy unaltered ones, however.

The Weakerthans have been a favourite of mine for years too, Remi, and I'm sorry I had to miss them this time around. Their shows always get everyone dancing. I love how they are such regular folk who curl three nights a week and such.

It's my pleasure to go on and on about how great the festival was this year, Westcoast Walker. More reviews upcoming over the next couple of days.

mister anchovy said...

Is your folk festival more of a general music festival than a "folk" festival? I thought Sam Roberts was a top 40 pop star type performer?

Dale said...

Why it seems only a year ago that...

Hi Barbara, time for me to catch up on your adventures!

Gifted Typist said...

Indie bouncer!

I'm always interested in the spectrum of the genre. I would never imagine Sam Roberts as a Folk fest sort of entertainer. I had to go back and make sure it was the folk fest you were talking about.

There is controversy with the Halifax Jazz Fest. Purists sometimes object to the World element, saying that is not jazz etc.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's true, Mister Anchovy, the Calgary Folk Festival has quite a relaxed interpretation of the word "folk". I tend to agree that folk is music that folks make. And there are dozens of musicians here each year who do fall under the strict folk definition.

Glad to have you back in the ether, Dale. Holidays are over, sadly, but we'll try to keep you entertained to make up for it.

I haven't quite figured out if I lack the purist sensibility, Gifted, or if I just like what most people call indie music too much to care that it's actually a folk fest. Although I do agree that folk music has a very broad definition.


Sam Roberts... I really should have come.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I hate to say "I told you so", Urban Blonde ...