I looked at the notes that I have scrawled down about Friday at the Calgary Folk Festival, and I thought, I can't talk much about my afternoon volunteer shift because all I have written down is busy as fuck, no time to pee, no time to put on any Blistex.
And that's true, but it was a good kind of busy as fuck. I didn't get to spend any time on the floor, talking to customers about CDs and I thought I was really going to miss that interaction, but I found that I loved the adrenalin rush of dealing with incoming merchandise just as much. You really get a chance to put those Tetrissing skills that you've been amassing over the years to work.
You have to be on top of your game when dozens of boxes of Corb Lund CDs get unceremoniously dropped off into the 20x3 ft work space where all the behind-the-scenes action happens, just after you have finished alphabetizing all the other artists' stacks of CDs, vinyl, and DVDs, and you thought you left enough space, but apparently didn't. Even more so when there is a live beetle in the first box you open.
It may not sound like it, but it was all great fun. That crisis mode buzz is exhilarating when you know it's all going to be over on Sunday. But I did feel like I owed it to myself to get a large gelato as I rushed (as quickly as one can rush through the throngs in the entrance/food vendor pathway) to get to the main stage in time to catch Frank Turner. Half chocolate flake, half salted caramel. This inspired pairing will fuel my culinary erotic dreams for years to come.
Frank Turner was pretty inspired pairing as well. Half former punk frontman, half solo rabble-rouser, Frank Turner was flirting with the pinnacle of my must-see acts for this year's festival. And he delivered. An impassioned performer with boatloads of charm and charmingly self-deprecating stories to share, he engaged the audience to the point of inviting a volunteer up on stage (jump over that barricade, break through that fourth wall!) to play harmonica for him on one song. It didn't matter that he had to teach Adam how to play the harmonica first, it was about the politics of the congregation.
I vowed I would track him down at more workshops throughout the weekend. My work schedule kept my Turner-stalking to a minimum, but fortunately other family members stepped ably up to the plate in my stead.
I darted off to hospitality for some food I didn't have to cook, but due to a snag at Plate Recycling missed local lad Chris Gheran's tweener set and most of Joe Henry's full set as well. I have a great deal of respect for Joe Henry's ever-evolving brand of slightly world-weary cabaret. A little reminiscent of Tom Waits, with a harkening back to cowboy blues and whiskey-soaked jazzman, his music challenges pigeonholing. From the little I caught of his set, however, I am not certain that a sunny Friday evening was the optimum time to really appreciate the breadth of his range.
The same was true (as I suspected it might be) for Timber Timbre, who performed a brief tweener later in the evening and whose dark and cinematic offerings are better suited to the hush of a darkened church or the stillness of an abandoned attic, with shutters nailed down.
Shakura S'Aida, on the other hand, was perfectly suited for a Friday evening rolling into a Friday night. All sassy and strutting in a glittery silver sleeveless dress and legs up to here, she smoked the place from the second she strode on stage. A jazz and blues goddess, with a voice of scorched silk, she floored us with her fierceness and her funky rhythms. Her guitarist was simply mesmerizing, a wild woman who attacked her instrument with measured force, wringing out some of the most incredible blues riffs we've heard. The Spousal Unit, a long time blues lover, was smitten.
The Swell Season were obviously a highly anticipated crowd favourite. My notes from the evening simply say she got her hair cut, but I remember them being a little more noteworthy that that. In fact, I remember soaring heartfelt ballads with precious harmonies, a lot of spirited strumming accompanied by pretty piano, which all morphed into a denouement that was flat-out rocking.
When The Burning Hell took the stage for the evening's final tweener, it was with less than one-quarter of their full roster. Still, Mathias Korn and his two compatriots utterly charmed us with their quirky and harmonic tales of the absurd. I loved them and thought they were completely refreshing, with a musicality that belies any notion that they are a mere novelty act.
But that was enough for us for one day. We weren't all that fussed to stay for Michael Franti and there were plenty of people in attendance for whom this show was the highlight of the festival, so we didn't allow ourselves to be wracked by guilt. We stayed for a couple of songs, which were lively and infectious and then headed to the hotel before the tarp dancing got too wild.
With a 9:00 AM volunteer shift and a possible afternoon interview looming in a few short hours, the volunteer after-party was not even an option. Those crazy kids were going to have to dance till 3:00 AM without me.