By Cory Jones
July 26, 2014
It only took the opening moments of “Cut Off My Hands” for the Calgary faithful to start crowding the stage for local hero Chad VanGaalen’s set. Playing a pretty even mix of newer and older tracks, VanGaalen seems to really take in the energy from the crowd all night as doubled in the role of comedian, cracking jokes about CJSW’s Myke Atkinson, the Uncanny X-Men, Krist Novoselic and Instagram-sponsored drug overdoses between songs.
At one point in the set, VanGaalen broke a couple strings and had to switch to his acoustic, but it was perfect timing as “Hangman’s Son” sounded sublime and, honestly, the rest of the set probably benefited from the switch.
“This song’s always for Chris, let’s get it straight,” said VanGaalen, dedicating the always-emotional “Rabid Bits of Time” to Women’s Christopher Reimer.
“Thanks, we’re the Dark Challenges,” VanGaalen joked as he finished his set, before the crowd quickly forced VanGaalen into a pseudo encore of the fragile “Burning Candle.”
Deep Dark Woods
It was a bright and beating sun for the Deep Dark Woods as they played an afternoon set at the Field Law Stage. For me personally, this was the moment that Folk Fest started to really feel like Folk Fest. People sat, swayed, tapped their toes and leaned against trees while taking in the rambling tunes while seated in the grassy field. Deep Dark Woods might play darker folk music, but it blended in well to the atmosphere of the festival as attendees searched for the sweet relief of shade from a tree or a cloud that just passed over the sun.
Highlights included, “My Baby’s Got to Pay the Rent” and “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” and the only downside to the performance was that vocals were sometimes lost in the chattering of the nearby beer garden, most notably during their delicate closer, “The Winter Hours.”
This definitely isn’t a competition, but Brooklyn’s Kaki King might just be the most talented guitarist I’ve seen at Folk Fest in some time. This being her first time in Calgary, King showed off her skills as an instrumental guitarist in front of a reasonably sized crowd at the National Stage.
King rotated between a 12-string Griffin guitar and her regular guitar throughout the set, using the latter as a source of percussion, tapping and scraping to great effect. King also brought in a stomp box for her third song, but had some difficulties getting the sound just right for it.
“I don’t want to talk too much, because I want to play lots of music,” she gestured between songs, which was a clear representation of her style. The guitar levels were a bit low for parts of the set, but in defence of the sound guy, King’s music jumps from gentle finger taps and percussion techniques to much fuller and brash strumming quite quickly.AB, Alberta, Calgary Folk Music Festival, CFMF2014, Chad VanGaalen, Deep Dark Woods, festival season, Jason Isbell, Kaki King, Seun Kuti, Typhoon