Tag Archive: Jim Bryson

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.


Vancouver Folk Fest 2011 – Day 2

Day 2 was a short day at the Vancouver Folk Fest for me due to having a gig with my band Versa back in Victoria that night. My friends and I arrived at the festival grounds that day just in time to see the Grit and Wisdom workshop. This grouping included the crowd favourite Justin Townes Earle and, one of my favourites, Jim Bryson. The weather took a turn for the worse on the morning of Van Folk Fest Day 2 and we were greeted by a soggy crowd. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by the time we arrived and we were perfectly happy to sit on the damp grass using our makeshift plastic bag mats. (Incidentally, garbage bags are a great thing to bring to a rainy festival!)

Justin Townes Earle

After a nice relaxing acoustic workshop to start the day, we decided to hit the beer gardens. Unlike all too many of the large festivals, the gardens at the Vancouver Folk Fest came with a great view of the stage and prices were kept reasonable. From our camp in the drinking area we saw the Changes in Latitude workshop which featured Joel Plaskett, Elliott Brood, and the Fugitives. It was great to hang out at the tables while still having clear sound and sightlines to the musical action still going on.

Jim Bryson

I had time to see one last thing on Day 2 before I needed to catch the ferry home, so I left my friends to enjoy their malted and hopped beverages and I headed over to Stage 3. Here I saw Imaginary Cities play the last two songs in their concert set with the full band. The group sounded great and I was glad I’d get another chance to see them on Day 3.

Imaginary Cities

Unfortunately I missed the rest of the action for the day which included a workshop with Dustin Bentall, and the entire lineup on the Peak Stage that night (Danny Michel, The Burning Hell, Buck 65, and Elliott Brood). I was particularly choked about having to miss Buck 65 as I also didn’t get the chance to see his one other appearance at the festival, and it has been far too long since I’ve seen him perform. The word from my friends is that I missed out on a most excellent evening.

Imaginary Cities

My photos of Day 2 at the Vancouver Folk Fest can be found here.

It’s been a few days since the Polaris Long List was announced, and I’ve had a chance to let it all sink in. I’ve been asked by a few friends to give an opinion on the Long List, so I thought I’d weigh in here too.

First, let’s take a look at geography. Here’s how the Long List breaks down:

  • Vancouver – 4
  • Rest of the West (Calgary and Winnipeg) – 3
  • Toronto – 14
  • Rest of Ontario – 3
  • Montreal – 11
  • Eastern Provinces – 4
  • International – 1

Nothing should surprise you about this, it’s pretty typical of past Polaris Long Lists. Maybe the International inclusion comes as a surprise, but that’s Neil Young. Exceptions can be made for Neil Young. Perhaps it’s because I’m so close to the Victoria and Vancouver music scenes that I’m personally disappointed in the low turnout from BC. I’m also disappointed that coming off the heels of Karkwa’s win in 2010, only one album on the entire Long List this year is in French.

Geography and language aside, what about the music? I hate to admit it, but aside from maybe The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, there’s no one album on the Long List that really grabbed me. When I look back on this past year, my musical obsessions (the Hold Steady – not Canadian, Japandroids – didn’t release an album in the eligibility period, Explosions In The Sky – not Canadian, Versa – who’s that?) all were not going to make it anywhere near being nominated. Oh there are lots of albums on the Long List that I love and they all deserve to be there, but I didn’t listen to any of them over and over ad nauseum like I did with some of the nominees in 2010. This makes picking my front runners for the Short List really, really difficult.

CBC Radio 3 is once again holding its Polaris Prize Pool, where listeners are asked to name the 10 albums they think will make the Polaris Short List. The entry with the most correct picks from the actual Polaris Short List wins a CBC Radio 3 prize pack. The winner will be announced on July 6th (the day of the Short List announcement), but unfortunately for you it’s now too late to enter. I managed to get in an entry just under the wire; here’s the list I submitted. It’s based largely on what I personally like on the Long List, mixed with picks that have been popular with friends, and albums that have received buzz.

  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • Braids – Native Speaker
  • Buck 65 – 20 Odd Years
  • The Dears – Degeneration Street
  • Destroyer – Kaputt
  • Diamond Rings – Special Affections
  • Hey Rosetta! – Seeds
  • Hooded Fang – Album
  • Malajube – La Caverne
  • PS I Love You – Meet Me At The Muster Station

This took me forever to put together. I changed it at least 40 times over the couple hours it took me to finalize. I think I’m content with the list though: I managed to include picks from the West, the East, Toronto, and Montreal; I included big names like Arcade Fire and Hey Rosetta! and lesser known names like Braids and Hooded Fang; there’s even a decent representation of genres there with straight up rock, pop rock, 80s inspired dance, and hip hop. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual Short List doesn’t resemble this at all. (With the exception of Arcade Fire that is – I will be absolutely shocked if they are left off the Short List.)

Hopefully my thoughts on the Long List didn’t sound too negative, that was not my intention. To counteract that, let me list some other Long List artists whose releases I really enjoyed:  Women, Shotgun Jimmie, the Rural Alberta Advantage, Black Mountain, Timber Timbre, Stars, Land Of Talk, Luke Doucet and the White Falcon, Imaginary Cities, Sloan, and Young Galaxy. I highly recommend checking out all these albums. (Full disclosure: the albums I didn’t list here are the ones I haven’t listened to yet. I doubt there’s anything on the Long List I’d totally detest.)

There were so many other amazing albums that didn’t make the cut for the 2011 Polaris Long List. Here’s some great albums that didn’t make it:

  • Tokyo Police Club – Champ
  • Mohawk Lodge – Crimes
  • Wolf Parade – Expo 86
  • Treelines – Summer Song EP (This technically wouldn’t have qualified. Why didn’t you boys add two more songs to that release?!)
  • Royal Canoe – Co-Op Mode
  • The Mountains and the Trees – I Made This For You (Long List miss #4 – I was rooting for you Jon!)
  • Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?
  • Gonzales – Ivory Tower
  • Chromeo – Business Casual
  • The Meligrove Band – Shimmering Lights
  • Suuns – Zeroes QC
  • Jason Collett – Pony Tricks
  • Hot Panda – How Come I’m Dead?
  • The Gertrudes – Dawn Time Riot
  • Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans – The Falcon Lake Incident (Long List miss #1. This by far is the biggest omission from the Long List. You were robbed Jim!)
  • Jeremy Fisher – Flood (Long List miss #7.)
  • David Vertesi – Cardiography (Long List miss #2.)
  • Henry and the Nightcrawlers – 100 Blows (Long List miss #5.)
  • The Liptonians – Let’s All March Back to the Sea (Long List miss #3.)
  • Memphis – Here Comes A City
  • Mother Mother – Eureka (Long List miss #6. I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this one not making the cut.)
  • Slow Down, Molasses – Walk Into The Sea
  • We Are The City – High School (Another EP that’s technically not qualified, but it’s still great!)
  • Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island

So what are your picks for the Short List? Any albums from the past year I didn’t mention and should check out? Feel free to post your comments below!

And for more Polaris speculation fun, be sure to check out NxEW’s Shadow Polaris.