The Vancouver Folk Music Festival
19 July 2010
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
One of the big tasks of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) was to balance the programming for both younger and older generations, while simultaneously diversifying musical genres, stretching the definition of “folk” within workable boundaries. For a festival based on a musical genre rooted in such a strong, iconic era, the demographic balance 30 something years later is an enormous challenge. But in the end, the greatest challenge was for audience members, who strategically pick which concerts they would see, choosing between the legends of the past and the new faces of folk. On the closing night of the VFMF, patrons had to choose between bluegrass buff Ricky Skaggs and the ever trendy Malahat Revue.
Mainstage patrons got a little treat on closing night. Steven Seagal — movie star, martial arts master, deputy sheriff, and avid blues fan — came on stage to welcome, in his opinion, “the best living bluegrass legend in the world,” Ricky Skaggs. Seagal came early to hang out with Skaggs and watched the rest of the performance from backstage.
Hannah Georgas singing "All I Need"
On the other end of the park, the Malahat Revue wowed a young crowd taking in the group’s quirky performance. Hannah Georgas ended the set with a powerful rendition of “All I Need” from her EP The Beat Stuff.
Jeremy Fisher and Peter Carruthers spread out on stage
Jaycelyn Brown provided most of the back-up vocals until the very end when all the male members, who had previously been literally lying down on stage, theatrically moved up to the crescendo and rocked out the final refrain.
Aidan Knight on a Broken Ukulele
Considering the Malahat Revue has been riding bikes for the past two weeks starting from Salt Spring Island, it’s impressive how much energy and enthusiasm they brought and inspired. Before their show, Georgas and fellow band mate and bike rider Aidan Knight relaxed in the Media Tent and reminisced on their epic bike journey, noting the great physical effects they noticed on their body. “I was checking out my butt the other day,” joked Georgas. “Just a Nacho Libre in the mirror?” Knight quickly replied, promptly sticking out his behind in gesture. Knight also took a little time and warmed up his fingers, playing a few chords on a broken ukulele, belting out notes in tune to the very out-of-tune Hawaiian staple.
But Sunday was nevertheless special than any other night. The day before, there were amazing bands featured all day in “workshops” where bands are placed together for a formalised jam session. Typically, the bands are organised in a way that seems surprising and unlikely at first, but nevertheless works seamlessly. On a cool Saturday morning in the Jericho Beach Park shade, Sarah Harmer, Po’Girl, Luluc, and Ladies of The Canyon joined Matt Epp for “This Old House.” This performance was a potent concoction of calm, ethereal lightness coming from Stage Left (Matt Epp and Luluc), spunky charm from The Ladies of the Canyon, and soothing rhythms from Po’Girl and Sarah Harmer on Stage Right. It was a great opportunity for media and fans to get a glimpse of Sarah Harmer before her concert performance on Mainstage later that evening.
Bahamas, after Sarah Harmer opened for him...
Saturday’s Mainstage actually had some of the best acts of the whole festival. After Sarah Harmer’s exhilarating performance, Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen) transitioned. He came on with one of the most memorable comments, joking about having Sarah Harmer open for him. It was only a short set, with maybe three songs, before Bettye LaVette came on.
For a woman nearing her 70s, she’s looking fit. Tiny body, big voice. This soul singer soared octaves that night, pushing the limits of not only her own voice, but the sound system as well. She literally rocked the stage and audience. LaVette sang a variety of songs from her vast catalogue of music, including a few from her latest album Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook.
Boukman Eksperyans of Haiti
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival has made huge steps on broadening their audience and music for the new demographic landscape of the Lower Mainland. It’s really the artistic scheduling that does the bulk of the marketing, drawing in crowds to not only see the concerts, but experience the traditions of the Festival: the workshops, the atmosphere, the congenial interaction with artists and crowds. And it’s that very culture, that community, that keeps people coming back.
Apologies… I don’t have pictures on the finale. I was too busy rocking out on Mainstage with Tao Seeger Band.
What do you think of the audience and artistic programming interplay??