Thursday, July 30, 2009

let loose the joy and bring the funk: day four of Calgary Folk Fest 09

I'm beginning to suspect that having all those gospel musicians gracing the main stage on Sunday evening really did provide us with a direct link to the divine, because the 90% chance of thunderstorms forecast for the day never did materialize.

The first of the day's two volunteer shifts did arrive brutally early, after having snatched what felt like only minutes of sleep following the volunteer after party. But the joy of making musical recommendations to customers, helping them track down that elusive cd containing that particular song they heard that one musician
play the other day at that workshop, I think it was the one with the hill, never loses its fun.

For the first time in my volunteer history, I survived a folk festival without benefit of my much anticipated falafel feed. I arrived at hospitality rather late in the lunch rush, to find that somebody had already eaten all the falafels. But folk fest volunteers are nothing if not resilient, so I sucked up my disappointment and took the marinated turkey leg offered instead. That turkey leg was awesome, by the way, and the generous assortment of four incredible salads offered daily had not yet been demolished by those hordes of hungry vegans. When I took my loaded plate back to catch the last half of a workshop with Jay Crocker, Akron/Family, Chad VanGaalen, and Ramblin' Ambassadors, I had several queries from passersby as to where I bought my lunch. So if the ranks of Calgary folk festival volunteers suddenly swell next year it could be because everyone wants a chance at one of those turkey legs.

As the between workshop migration began, the remainder of the zombie clan spotted me and invited me into their premium viewing location for the highly anticipated concert by The Acorn. I had fully anticipated the complex beats and intricate melodies of this band of indie electro-acoustic darlings, but I did not expect to be so utterly charmed by the witty and quirky banter of front man Rolf Klausener. When I had the chance to engage him briefly in conversation later in the Record Tent, I could certainly understand why he was so highly ranked on the fan-boy crush list compiled by my new best friend in the tent.

Partway through the next workshop with LeE HARVey OsMOND, Alejandro Escovedo, Chad VanGaalen, and Jolie Holland, I felt the effects of sleep deprivation start to conquer me. How one falls asleep at that high octane workshop, featuring crazy dueling guitars, is still a
mystery to me, but as we were perched at a precarious angle on a steep slope, I thought it best if I left in search of caffeine, rather than risk falling asleep and tumbling down that hill, taking countless innocent victims with me.

A jolt of iced coffee and the bootie-mobilizing scratch and funk of the day's final workshop restored my flagging energy, although I do have to admit that I was one of the few people simply chair-dancing to Dragon Fli Empire, Arrested Development, Kid Koala, and Mutabaruka, as
I knew that I had to put aside some reserves for Record Tent teardown duties that night. Almost everybody else at that packed side stage was hopping and jumping and just being their glorious funky selves.

I had a brief time window before starting my final volunteer shift, so I decided to make an honest woman of myself and partake of my final meal from hospitality. I was pretty proud of myself for not buying any meals this year, instead taking five of the six possible meals offered by hospitality. There was growing lineup when I arrived, which wasn't really moving anywhere, so when the ticket punchers announced that anyone wanting a vegetarian meal could step forward into the short line, I quickly followed Sarah Harmer's example, pretending I was a vegetarian, and followed her into the fast line. For all I know, Sarah could very well be vegetarian, and I've thought about it, so that counts.

I brought my food (lasagna - you don't need meat for that anyway) back to our tarp at main stage and was able to enjoy about half of the Sojourners' absolutely gorgeous gospel set. The charm and the genuine humanity that they had shown when I spoke to them by the river translated perfectly to the big stage and the jumbotrons and the trio brought such a sense of joy and good will to the festival that it was difficult to rip myself away to head to work.

But once there, the demands of sales to the final customers straggling through as we closed the record tent for the final time, as well as the pressures of counting, recounting, and repackaging any unsold cds for the musicians and managers who began filling the tent to get their final tally, left us too busy to pay anything but cursory attention to the sounds of Mavis Staples' big voice booming its way across the park or Loreena McKennitt's closing set wafting through the darkening sky.

In a final rock star encounter, I was able to gush to Miles Seaton of Akron/Family for a little while about the jawdropping experience of their Twilight stage concert the night before and
engage him in a little debate about the nature of the audience/musician boundary and what a sublime experience it is for musician and listener alike when that boundary gets broken down. Somehow, just knowing that these rare and shining moments are just as precious to the people who make the music as they are to those who receive it, felt like it would be enough to sustain me until next year's escape to the Island.


Wandering Coyote said...

What? No falafels? WTF kind of folk fest is this, anyway?


kelly said...

ok you're done having fun you've used up your entire allotment

Gifted Typist said...

Sounds like a perfect BTZ event - I can feel your vibe and excitement through the words. It seems that these "folk" and "jazz" festivals stray beyond their titles, sounds like there was lots of rock/indie type music and not just folk, or maybe I'm just a genre nazi - the HFX jazz fest had a bit of an identity crisis a couple years ago when the hardcore jazz types insisted on more jazz and less "world" in the outdoor tent. They went for more serious jazz artists and got the serious crowds - but tickets prices went up, crowd #s went down, there was less dancing, and yours truly stopped attending so many concerts - partially because I'm no longer a musician but also because my heart wasn't in it any more - perhaps i should have blogged on it myself

Remi said...

It's too bad you had to miss Mavis Staples, though I think you did a pretty good job of filling your days.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I guess too many people heard about how great the falafels are, Wandering Coyote. I blame those damned bloggers who can't keep a secret. Oh, I guess that would be me.

I think I have overdrawn my allotment actually, Kelly. You'll be happy to know that reality is biting pretty hard right about now.

I do sense a righteous blog post in that paragraph, Gifted. Have at it!
I do agree that the genre lines are being increasingly blurred and I salute that. I want to be exposed to as much new music as I can be and the juxtaposition of the different styles just makes each sound even better. And we are all folks, aren't we?

The days were jam-packed, but missing Mavis Staples was probably my biggest regret, Remi. I cannot complain, though, as I did get to fulfill a dream and see the Decemberists. The record tent coordinator really did a fabulous job in scheduling.

Allison said...

The food at this fest sounds quite divine. Good thing I just had lunch otherwise I would be hungry now.

I do think Sarah Harmer is a vegetarian. I met her once and she is very granola. I can say that because I am too. ;)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

She does seem quite granola, Al, and of course I mean that as a deep compliment, to both of you.

The folk fest food is amazingly good, both the vendor food and the hospitality food. Hospitality feeds thousands of people (musicians and volunteers) for 4 days, and they do an incredible job. Even if they misjudged the number of falafels needed this year.

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