By Amanda Wilson, July 29 2022—
From July 21 to 24 Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park had once again been transformed into the Calgary Folk Music Festival for its 43rd year. Folk Festival never fails to create an environment of its own — as if it is an independent village in a wooded forest surrounded by the river. Within the parameters of Folk Festival an entire community is established where you can find people of all ages having a blast and basking in the music. We saw tons of children dancing with their friends in front of the stage, folks playing frisbee barefoot and lots of people sitting down in the grass or on a chair enjoying a brew and the company of one another.
Folk Festival is adorned by music lovers near and far, as it offers a chance to see some of the largest names in folk and alternative music — but it is also a perfect chance to be exposed to new artists that are local and international. Many of the artists were scheduled over multiple time slots to provide more opportunities to perform and be heard.
My favourite headliners of Saturday night were Kevin Morby, The Barr Brothers and Spoon. Kevin Morby kicked off the early evening with lyrical ballads and a soft monotone voice. The consistent strums of electric and acoustic guitars support his poetry, but his story-telling lyrics were the star of the performance. Morby was also joined on-stage by his partner, singer-songwriter Waxahatchee.
Next up was The Barr Brothers from Montreal. Although they are only two brothers, they had help from their band to completely fill the ATB Mainstage. The brothers successfully evoke a landslide of emotions through deep sultry acoustics and vocal harmonies. However, I think that their most distinctive quality is the incorporation of a harp in their songs. Played by Eveline Gregoire-Rousseau, these heavenly strings reinvents the folk and delta-blues inspired band.
Spoon was then put up to the task of closing out the night at ATB Mainstage. As veterans of rock and roll, Spoon is consistently exuding an effortless swagger in all of their performances. Throughout their nearly 30-year career, Spoon has always strived for optimism, jive and inventiveness within their music. In their Folk Festival performance they had brought all that energy to the stage to create an infectious air of immaculate vibes. At the merch tent there was a volunteer extremely eager to ask everyone if they were around for Spoon merch — and I understand why.
Other notable performances from Saturday included The Besnard Lakes whose psychedelic groove wafted throughout the park. Bette Smith brought her booming voice and soulful band, and she was dressed to the nines of course. Edmonton’s D’orjay The Singing Shaman is just like her song — country music’s “New Kind of Outlaw.” Her music still holds twang but she infuses a brimming confidence in her songs and lyrics. Finally, Calgary’s Astral Swans is our melancholic indie icon. With hymns as haunting as ghosts, the sweet songs of Astral Swans linger with me.
The old-English term “folk” literally means “common people” — and at Calgary’s Folk Festival we each embrace our commonalities through a shared love for music and camaraderie. We are already looking forward to next year.