Summer equals festivals in Winnipeg. The second weekend in July always brings with it the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which I have been attending since 1993 in one form or another. This year's event coincided with the move into our new house, but priorities being what they are, we still managed a healthy dose of entertainment at the festival. This year marked the debut of new music programmer Chris Frayer, and he came through – in my opinion – with a much-improved lineup over 2004. Highlights for me ranged from the return of California-based blues wonderkid Jackie Greene, back-to-back afternoon concerts from Feist and Buddy Miller (with surprise guest and Sunday night headliner Emmylou Harris), an awesome Friday night show by the New Orleans group Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias and a tight Saturday night gospel set by The Campbell Brothers. The best performance of the four-day event came from the one-man-does-everything Aussie didgeridoo-guitar-DJ sensation Xavier Rudd, who delivered the most energetic show I've ever seen at the festival. A hit from last year's alternative evening stage, Rudd arrived this year with huge buzz – and brought along fellow countrymen The Beautiful Girls, who came through with a peppy surf/ska-tinged set on Saturday evening. A ton of fun, energy-sapping heat – and mud, as evident in the photo four posts ago.
A week later marked the beginning of the 11-day Winnipeg Fringe Festival, which has become one of the largest alternative theater events in the world. Kerry and I squeezed in eight shows this year – a new record – ranging from good to incredible. This year we took the review-snob route and stuck to performances that garnered top marks (no shots in the dark for us!). We saw a couple of tried-and-true returnees: the latest creations from funnyman Chris Gibbs (Antoine Feval) and monologuist extraordinaire TJ Dawe (A Canadian Bartender At Butlin's), along with festival faves pornStar, The Comment Card, The Cloud Factory and The Pajama Men In 'Stop Not Going'. Also on our hit list were Under The Door and Felix Listens To The World, which Kerry has officially dubbed "the best show she’s ever seen" at the festival. I think I might have to agree. It's brilliant.
Our Fringe experience was truncated because of another Winnipeg tradition: the Great American Shopping Trip. This past weekend was of the long variety for Canucks, and we hooked up with newly-wed newlywed friends Christian and Amara for a quick excursion to Minneapolis – a fine town we'd like to visit again. Top props imaginable to Christian for taking care of the big-city freeway driving! Plus, I got to touch a stingray!