July 14, 2009

folk fest!

We weren’t made for hedonism.

But we like to pretend.

I was camping at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. It was my first time back since 2005 and I couldn’t have asked for a better return. My roommate and I peddled 36 km on our bikes to the Birds Hill park and set up camp with thousands of (mostly young) folks, all of whom seemed to own a drum of some sort. The presence of entire drum kits was new to me this year. I guess jembes aren’t for everyone.

Camping aside, most people go for the music (I hope), which was phenomenal this year.

The Punch Brothers played an brilliant cover of “Morning Bell” from Radiohead’s Kid A (not to be confused with the lesser version from Amnesiac). Montreal’s Socalled was another exciting discovery. In fact, I don’t think I enjoyed another set as much as I did theirs. Yiddish rapping! How can it get any better? The band, which fuses klezmer, hip-hop, funk and blues, played at the volunteer wind-up, ending their set by hopping off the stage, instruments in hand, and marching with about 200 people to the festival camp ground where the party would continue well into the morning. Loudon Wainwright III, who impressed us all with his off-colour humour and world-weary cynicism, had the audience eating out of his hand. Iron and Wine (a.k.a. Sam Bean) had incredible stage presence, cracking jokes and sharing existential musings on God and breast-feeding. It had never before occurred to me how sexually charged much of Bean’s out-put is. He performed a wide range of songs from his catalogue, but the song I was really hoping for, “Jesus the Mexican Boy,” didn’t make his setlist. Apparently, he was a film professor in another life. Other highlights included Mirah, an under-dressed Neko Case, Patrick Watson, Great Lake Swimmers, Belle Orchestre, The Deep Dark Woods (who I managed to see three times over the weekend), Arlo Guthrie and, of course, Loreena Mckinnet, who prefaced nearly every song with a pseudo-academic explanation that was so over-the-top I couldn’t help cracking up.

All in all, it was a very well done event and I had a fantastic time soaking up sunshine and booze. I think heard at least 3 covers of Gram Parson’s “Sin City” over the weekend and it’s never felt more appropriate. The Winnipeg Folk Festival may be an artificial environment, a weekend sustained by both communal and Dionysian ideals, but it’s a fantasy that gets many of us through those cold winter months and it’s an outlet that helps us through the disappointments of the prairie summer.

Thank God it only happens once a year.

1 comment:

  1. That's djembe.

    I can't believe you missed Patrick Watson.