By Sophia Lopez, July 27 2022—
The annual Calgary Folk Music Festival took place last weekend, and it didn’t fail to showcase some of the most diverse music and people from around the world. Many things were going on Thursday night at Prince’s Island Park, but Gangstagrass definitely had people’s heads turning. The American group of five takes a twist on bluegrass and hip-hop by mixing them together to create a sound you’ve never heard. While the two genres of music are far from similar, Gangstagrass combines the two in a way that is intriguing and full of fun.
The group performed on National – Stage 4 during the evening in a shaded area where many were able to sit down and enjoy the warm weather. While all the members are vocalists, they each bring a unique quality to the group. Dolio the Sleuth and R-SON the Voice of Reason both brought the hip-hop side to life, while Rench, Dan Whitener and Brian Farrow focused on delivering quality bluegrass.
The crowd wasn’t too big leading up to the start of their performance, but once their opening song “Do Better” started, the crowd began to grow. They decided to start off with an upbeat song, which I think really set the tone for the whole performance. It was clear that Gangstagrass wanted to get the crowd moving and they definitely succeeded. Each song led to more people gathering near the front of the stage to dance. Their music and energy were magnetic and it drew people from all over Prince’s Island Park.
While the group for the most part showcased their greatest hits, Dolio the Sleuth and R-SON the Voice of Reason did not shy away from having some freestyle fun. The two would have rap solos in between their songs and would find a way to involve Calgary in them — the crowd was loving it. Whether it was bringing some East Coast rap to the stage or getting everyone in on a joint wave, Gangstagrass knew how to get everyone engaged.
Just how some members were able to show off their freestyle abilities, other members were able to put their instrumental talents on display. The banjo solos, guitar solos and the one impressive fiddle solo by Farrow with his fingers showed how diverse and talented this group really is.
Gangstagrass was here to have fun, which was evident when they played “Nickel and Dime Blues” which Whitener described as “a song about being broke.” But the group didn’t fail to use their platform to discuss more serious topics, such as the issue in the United States with mass incarceration.
“The U.S. is the best country in the world for locking up their own citizens,” said Whitener to the crowd before performing their song “You Can Never Go Home Again,” which released a few years ago.
This diverse group have introduced me to a new sound and experience I’ve never witnessed before — a musical arrangement that I never would’ve guessed would work. You could tell during their time at Folk Festival that their career and the music they produce is fun and incredibly rewarding for them. Their opportunity on America’s Got Talent last year has introduced more people to this talented group and what they have to offer, and I’m sure Folk Festival this year has increased their listeners even more. If you have the chance to see Gangstagrass live, I recommend giving them a shot — you’ll defintely be surprised.