Review and photos – Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2011, July 17 2011
– by Heather Welsh/photos by Christopher Edmonstone
The third and final day of the Vancouver Folk Festival brought with it another great array of local and not-so-local talent, and of course, more rain. But, used to it by now, the crowd simply camped out with their umbrellas, tents and organic treats and waited it out. And as promised, the sky cleared and people went home dry (ish).
Kathryn Calder – The New Pornographers’ front lady and Canadian indie-rock darling, Calder started the afternoon performances with a low-key set. Performing with her band and friend Patsy Klein, she played songs from her 2010 debut album Are You My Mother? and, unfortunately, brought the rain with her. She declared “Down the River” to be a “sun-dance song” in the hope that the clouds might clear, but to no avail. Nevertheless, her music sort of suited the quiet that rain brings; it made her calming, inoffensive vocals stand out. Calder played a taster from her new album to be released in October – the song, “Turn It On”, hinted at what’s next for her musically; more of the same, with a synthpop edge.
Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band – Having seen the American singer-songwriter play in Vancouver before, I was very excited about seeing Ritter and his band again, and his folky Americana really suited the beautiful outdoor setting provided at Jericho Beach Park. “It’s raining but we’re gonna play our asses off,” he announced, and that’s just what they did. By far the best performance of the day, the dapper gentleman played slower and more upbeat songs that the dancers at the side of the stage appreciated equally. The single “Kathleen” brought with it a Mexican wave that spread across the audience, and the endearing lyrics – “All the other girls here are stars/You are the Northern Lights” – couldn’t fail to captivate even the soggiest of audiences. Ritter introduced his band and joked about mustachioed bassist Zach Hickman, quoting a minister’s wedding vow speech and marrying Hickman with his mustache. Another highlight was the band’s part cover of The Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime”, and with each song Ritter was just as enamored with the crowd as they were with him; his enthusiasm was infectious.
Beats Antique – As explained in the festival guide, San Francisco duo Beats Antique have described themselves using a variety of words: “experimental electronic gypsy world music blues bro-step death metal death step dup-step electronica Goth hard core horror film Oakland”. Whatever they are, Dave Satori and Tommy Cappel’s worldly fusion of strings, percussion and samples drove the crowd crazy. The electronic edge was just what the wet audience needed to warm up, and as a result, everyone danced and/or nodded their heads to the beat. For the final few songs the dancers and performers wore plastic animals heads, including penguins, zebras and polar bears, and bounced around on stage, giving the Eastern vibe a trippy safari twist!
Emmanuel Jal – The festival finale saw former child soldier Emmanuel Jal, accompanied by a DJ, electric guitarist and female backing singer, perform. The rain held off and his message about where he had come from shone through. Through hip-hop, Jal expresses the need for the unity of citizens to overcome ethnic and religious division and motivate the youth in Sudan. He encouraged strong audience participation by shouting out “When I say I’m from Cush, you say ‘I’m a Cush, I’m a Cush man’.” The music was good, but the message he brought with him was the real star.
More 2011 Vancouver Folk Music Festival photos: