Behold, a six-pack of Canadians.Top row (left to right): Rebekah Higgs, John K. Samson of The Weakerthans, Basia Bulat. Bottom row (left to right): Joey Burns of Calexico (said he was born Canadian, who am I to disagree), Kathleen Edwards, Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle.
The 2008 Winnipeg Folk Festival expanded on a reputation for bringing the world to our door, outpost that we are, all tucked away up here in the dead-center of the continent. While the virtues of the festival itself continue to be debated as it grows ever larger, more popular and businesslike, it still cannot be ignored as the province's premier annual event for area music-lovers. This year more than most, I was able to get a sense of the festival's something-for-everyone credo – on the same weekend, followers of afro-beat, jug-blowing bluegrass, Word-spreading gospel and – here's where I get excited – a satiating mix of Canuck (and elsewhere) indie rock, could all locate their niche and contently co-exist.
On the evening main stage, genres meet and, on occasion, awkwardly connect (example: Thursday's opening set included, in order, Côte d'Ivoire singer Dobet Gnahoré, The Weakerthans and multi-culti feelgood hero Michael Franti). On the daytime stages however, themes can be hammered out and attendees can get their niche-y fixes. Among personal highlights were glimpses (or more) of...
- Geoff Berner’s Thursday evening accordion-led ballad The Dead Children Were Worth It, hilariously skewing the bloated Vancouver Olympics. His subsequent knock on fest sponsor Volkswagen was even better.
- Kathleen Edwards, whose lyrics can lift your spirit one moment, then crush your head in a kung-fu grip the next. Her mainstage rendition of Back To Me and a playful version of The Cheapest Key were dazzling.
- Friday’s “I Hate Tucson” afternoon show, with Hayden, Calexico and The Weakerthans merging talents, often backing on each other’s songs. Calexico’s brass brought extra oomph to the Weakerthans’ Pamphleteer, and their own simmering build-up on Corona was pretty awesome in its own right.
- Basia Bulat and The Apostle of Hustle – seeing both up close for the first time, finally putting faces to the names.
- Ray Davies, despite seeming a touch cantankerous and primadonna, provided as good a weekend capper as any by obliging fans to a sing-along of Lola.
The more I get a handle on my camera, the more I can appreciate the access that can be had at the festival. My best shots above, plus a few more, can be viewed here on my Flickr home base.