Joel Plaskett and Gillian Welch w/ David Rawlings at Jericho Beach Park, July 15 2011
– review by Rachel Fox/photos by Christopher Edmonstone
Now in its 34th year, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival could just as easily be called the Old Folks Music Festival, or perhaps even the Polite Folks Festival. First night Friday was grey and overcast (with the odd spritzing of rain), but it didn’t stop the ever-obliging crowd from not turning up – because that would be, heaven forbid, inconsiderate.
The overall atmosphere was relaxed, fun, and pleasant. Compared to my other recent adventures at outdoor concerts in the GVRD, I must say that this crowd is a testament to Canadian civility and remarkably douchebag-free, although there are many, many children running around. Beware of Yippies (this is Kits, after all) whose organically-inclined twins have names like Patchouli and Edamame.
Gillian Welch – The critically acclaimed, Appalachian- and bluegrass-soaked folk-rock singer (who performs as a duo, with musical partner David Rawlings) is perhaps best-known for her contributions to the Grammy-winning O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2002) soundtrack. Welch’s set was predictably harmonious, relaxed, smooth and competent in spite of the rain.
The duo are pros and clearly play a lot of festivals like this one. “I feel at home here, thanks for that. I apologize for the soggy-sounding guitar,” said Rawlings.
Welch herself was particularly chatty with the crowd, telling anecdotal stories about playing the famous Newport Folk Festival, noting how she felt like a “kindergarten teacher” in front of the well-behaved crowd and that she was “hoping to segue out of music into comedy.” When they asked the crowd if they wanted to hear some banjo, the audience cheered and they obliged with what Rawlings described as a “sonic mélange, which we like to call old-timey sound.” By the end of the set the crowd was loud and on their feet, spiritually revived and singing along to a rousing version of the gospel hymn “I’ll Fly Away”.
Joel Plaskett – By the time headliner Joel Plaskett and The Emergency hit the stage, the folks who had staked their property claims earlier in the day were more-or-less displaced by throngs of dancers, befitting the kind of electrified and self-described “rock show” Plaskett is better known for. The Nova Scotian seemed delighted to be playing for the crowd, noting that he was “still on Halifax time and it feels like we’re playing The Marquis right now and closing time is an hour-and-a-half away.”
Long-renowned as one of this country’s best (and ergo, underappreciated) songwriters, Plaskett has a sweet, pure and honest voice. His presence onstage is genuine and he has a real boy-next-door quality about him. He’d be perfect as a teacher on Glee.
More Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2011 photos: