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Folk Festival Review: Thursday

By Nimra Amir, July 28 2022

Fairy lights and festival chairs made their return to the beautiful Prince’s Island Park last Thursday when the annual Calgary Folk Music Festival started its four-day family-friendly cultural and musical extravaganza. 

On entering, I immediately stumbled into the food vendor alley where food trucks were lined up serving sweet and savoury global cuisines. As difficult as it was to choose from the wide selection, I ultimately started with the mini donuts from Lil’ Orbits Mini Donuts and then finished with the chilli chicken tacos from Taiko Taco. They were both exactly what I wanted: light but filling. 

My only complaint would be how crowded the relatively small food vendor alley got — especially when lines had started to form at almost every food truck. 

Right next to the food vendor alley was the artisan market with tents set up selling everything from soaps and candles to jewellery and vintage clothes. At the very end was a merch tent featuring t-shirts, records and any other memorabilia from the festival’s line-up — sold by the most enthusiastic volunteers. Even if you did not get anything like me, being able to see all the cool merch designs was a great way to pass time while you wait for a show. 

After window shopping, I was ready for the shows and made my way to National – Stage 4 where King Hannah was finishing their set. The British duo, made up of members Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle, were the perfect way to ease into the evening. They played their new album I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me — a perfect show for those who love 90s alternative that they can just slowly sway along to. 

Up next were America’s Got Talent quarter-finalists and Emmy-nominated Gangstagrass — a bluegrass hip-hop band made up of members Rench, Dan Whitener, Brian Farrow, R-SON the Voice of Reason and Dolio the Sleuth. They took to the stage to combine the genres often thought to be opposites — bluegrass and hip hop —  for an upbeat show with playful songs about being broke to important songs about American mass incarceration. Their energy was truly unmatched. 

I then made my way to ATB Mainstage Stage 1 where the Squirrel Nut Zippers were putting a jazz twist on mid-’90s alternative rock. As I walked closer to the stage, it felt more and more like I was being transported to the past. 

While many may have bought their Thursday tickets for the Black Pumas — who cancelled their headlining Thursday show because of unforeseen circumstances — there were plenty of other diverse and talented musicians who took to the stage the first day of Folk Fest with music that everyone from toddlers to grandparents was enjoying at some point or another. 

My highlight from the festival, however, was meeting Canadian TikTok celebrity Ty Bridgwater who you might recognize from the famous line “quick sip, keep it healthy,” that he drops at the end of his viral coffee reviews. 

The first day definitely set the standard for the days to come as you get a sense of community that the Folk Festival fosters with their diverse foods, shops and shows — and while the music does tie everything together, Folk Fest is all about the people.

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