As I mentioned in the previous post, I travelled back to Victoria on the night of Day 2 of the Vancouver Folk Fest as my band had a show. The show went swimmingly, and I was on the 8am ferry back to Vancouver to catch the last day of Folk Fest action. The weather was similar to the day before, but the rain mostly held off and we were just left having to deal with being a little damp and a little cold. I was afraid that my festival experience had peaked on Day 1, what with the great Joel Plaskett set to kick it all off and with Day 2 being only so-so for me. Boy was I wrong.

Imaginary Cities

After a car ride, a ferry, a bus broken down on the highway (yes, the bus I happened to be on), a SkyTrain, dropping my bag off at a friend’s place, and one more bus, I made it to the festival grounds once again.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0H1lG8DBZI]

I started the day off with the All Fired Up workshop which featured the Burning Hell, Danny Michel, the Jason Wilson Band, and Imaginary Cities. This workshop might have been the best thing I saw all weekend; there were so many highlights in this short time. First off (in case I haven’t raved about them enough already), let’s talk about Imaginary Cities. I think they might take the crown for the best group I’ve discovered this year. The full band was here for this workshop, and they were joined by the other musicians on stage for most of their songs. The best for sure was their great, great cover of Cake’s song “Mexico”. The addition of the beautiful strings and baritone sax to Marti’s voice just pushed this version over the top for me. Luckily, I caught most of the song on video so you can hear it for yourself. This set was a great example of what a workshop should be like: you get the musicians from the other groups to join you and make a new version of what you’d normally play.

The Burning Hell

The Burning Hell is a band that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, and they did not disappoint. The band has somewhat of a ragtag instrumentation with guitar, ukulele, strings, baritone sax, clarinet, bass, and drums. Most of their songs contain a bit of humour to them, and the song from the workshop that I have here, “Pirates”, is no exception. I hope this Peterborough-born, St. John’s-based band makes their way out west again soon.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh864OUM2Pk]

Besides being known as a great guitar player, Danny Michel has gained notoriety as a lover of the environment. His song “Feather, Fur, and Fin” is a prime example of this. The workshop group had a lot of fun with this song, with Danny challenging the other musicians to make animal sounds on their instruments. Danny closed out the workshop with a Los Lobos cover where he got the whole audience to sing the band out. With no defined ending to the song, the large crowd just kept on going long after all the musicians had left the stage. If you go to Danny Michel’s Facebook page and dig back a bit, he has a video of this moment posted.

Danny Michel

Next up, my group decided to pay the beer gardens a visit. Here we were able to catch the From Sudan to East Van Workshop with Emmanuel Jal, the Fugitives, and C.R. Avery. In all honesty I didn’t pay too much attention to this set, but I do remember that the Fugitives and C.R. Avery joined forces on one song that had the crowd up and dancing like mad.

After spending enough time drinking we decided to procure some food stuffs from the amazing food court. I’ve been to my share of festivals and, hands down, the Vancouver Folk Fest wins for having the best selection of eats. Usually you’re stuck deciding between the lesser of the evils with burgers, fries, pizza, and hot dogs. Here it was crepes, dim sum, fresh roasted corn, tacos, Mediterranean BBQ, flatbread, Thai food, Indian food, and African delicacies. It was awesome to eat festival food and not feel gross afterwards.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMgOXGZYmrU]

Our bellies full, we headed over to Stage 3 in anticipation of the Kathryn Calder set. We were treated to a workshop that wasn’t listed in the programs that featured Elliott Brood and Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three. Having missed Elliott Brood’s concert set the night before as well as their early morning workshop, I was glad that I got the chance to see the group play. Back in July the band was prepping for the release of their new album (which was released on September 27th, 2011) and they played the old stand by favourites as well as a few new tracks. Rest assured there was lots of hand clapping and “hey! hey! hey!”s. Apologies for the crummy sound quality on the Elliott Brood video there – I was sitting right next to the speakers and I ended up muting the mic on my camera a bit too much to compensate. Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three was a great surprise. Maybe I was turned off by the somewhat hokey name, but the group was a lot of fun. Pokey Lafarge has the role of front man mastered and the band was tight. Plus, they had a guy that played the washboard – folk festival experience complete!

Pokey Lafarge & The South City Three

Up next on Stage 3 was the Kathryn Calder concert set. For some reason, she doesn’t play in Victoria too often, so this was actually the first time I had the chance to see her play her solo work. I was glad to finally see her perform. I may ruin some friendships for what I’m about to say next, but: I never really fell in love with Kathryn Calder’s solo work. I was a big fan of Immaculate Machine, and so many of my friends (boys, mostly) rave about her album Are You My Mother?, but I for some reason still haven’t given the album a good listen. Her set at the Vancouver Folk Festival was great though and I was totally won over by the fact that members of Meatdraw were in her backing band. I promise I’ll listen to Are You My Mother? a few times before I see her again (which just so happens to be on November 26th at Lucky Bar in Victoria).

Kathryn Calder

The last set I saw at the festival was the Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans Band concert. I saw Jim and the Weakerthans play in Victoria back in February. The attendance at that concert was not the greatest, and I was glad to see so many people turn up for their set at the Folk Fest. Unfortunately, I thought the Folk Fest crowd was horrible. First, maybe some background information will be useful to set the scene. Back in October 2010 Jim Bryson released an excellent album called The Falcon Lake Incident. His backing band on this album was the Weakerthans (minus John K. Samson). The performance at the Folk Fest was advertised as Jim Bryson and the Weakertans Band playing songs off of The Falcon Lake Incident as well as some older Jim Bryson tracks. Having a full rock and roll band backing him up meant that the songs from The Falcon Lake Incident were maybe a bit more upbeat than Jim’s back catalogue, and so I don’t think the crowd knew quite what to expect. There was a group of people standing up at the front of the crowd (who may or may not have been myself and my friends) who right as the band came on stage got yelled at by the crowd behind them to sit down. Normally I’m one to complain about an audience being too rowdy, but this was the exact opposite extreme of that. Here was a group pulling some rock star moves on stage and everyone was perfectly happy to nap on the lawn. No one wanted to get up and dance. Imagine that – no dancers at a folk festival!! The second strike the crowd earned against them was when between songs some guy at the back yelled out “Play “Tournament Of Hearts!””. (“Tournament Of Hearts” is a song by the Weakerthans – not Jim Bryson – from their latest album Reunion Tour.) Given the information I wrote about how this set was advertised, this was almost the equivalent of being the jerk who yells out “Freebird!” at a show. I was starting to get grumpy about people ruining the experience, but fortunately Jim asked everyone to get up for the last couple of songs (thank you!) and that changed everything. It ended up being a grand ol’ time. The Weakerthans have been playing together for more than ten years and it’s not much of an understatement to say that they’re at the top of their game right now. The band mixes well with Jim Bryson, and while I can see him going a different direction on his next album, I would not complain if we saw another collaboration between Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans. The set ended with each member slowly dropping out of the last song and walking off. It was an excellent way to end my 2011 Vancouver Folk Fest experience.

My photos of Day 3 at the Vancouver Folk Fest can be found here.

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