Calgary Folk Music Festival Day Four Recap

Monday 28th, July 2014 / 16:18
By Cory Jones and Spencer Brown

Astral Swans, Boreal Sons, Great Lake Swimmers & Andy Shauf

With what was most likely the largest crowd Stage 2 saw all weekend, at least 10 musicians jammed onto the stage to perform. Something that is actually inherently common for these famed workshops.

The artists rotated songs, giving on-the-spot lists of chord progression to the other artists, in hopes they would join in. Great Lake Swimmers opened up with “Moving Pictures Silent Films,” and the other musicians caught on for the second half of the song, adding good fills with strings and backup vocals.

Compared to the other workshops I caught this weekend, this group seemed to work best together as a whole. The Boreal Sons tracks, “Secret Keeper” and “Sparks,” worked well with minimum, yet rousing additions from the other artists, while Andy Shauf and Matthew Swann’s more minimalist tracks benefited from the additional arrangements, including Swann’s Minor Threat cover, “Filler,” which he originally recorded as Extra Happy Ghost!!!

Great Lake Swimmers’, “I Am Part of a Large Family,” got the largest initial applause of the set, and its name was truly fitting for the entire performance. (CJ)

Grievous Angels, Tiny Ruins, Typhoon, Waco Brothers

Having stumbled upon both Tiny Ruins and Typhoon earlier in the weekend, I was really looking forward to this very eclectic group of musicians. Jon Langford of the Waco Brothers quickly took control of the introductions, opening with a surprisingly effective Sean Connery joke (who knew?).

The 12 members of Typhoon were notably absent from the beginning of the set, and I’m not sure if they ever made it onto the stage, as I had left before the conclusion. Unfortunate, but the show must go on, with Grievous Angels opening the musical side of things, beginning a song-by-song rotation with the other artists.

With the nature of these workshops, it’s inevitable that sometimes the bands will just not quite fit together. This seemed to be one of those instances, as each band took turns playing their own songs with little or no interaction from the other artists on stage. And really, who can blame them? Who’s going to hear Tiny Ruins’ Hollie Fullbrook strumming an acoustic over the brash sounds of the Waco Brothers assault?

On one hand, it’s great to see additional songs from certain artists, but maybe the workshop sets should be more of a specialty item, instead of such a large staple of the weekend. That being said, this was probably some of the most politically charged sets of the entire weekend. (CJ)

Hydra

Hydra Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Hydra
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

First: Yes, Feist is in Hydra. Beyond our local hero is also a pair of talented married couples. One from soundscapists Snowblink and the other from improve rockers AroarA. Thus, the six-piece super group took to the main stage on a perfect Sunday afternoon. The three white-summer-dress clad singers took turns trading off lead and backing vocals depending on the track. The rest of the band alternating giving the audience glimpses into both Hydra and their other projects. Songs varied from Fleetwood Mac melodies to grinding slow burns. The set was closed out with a divisive cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” While there was no doubt of the vocalists’ abilities to meet, or surpass, Robert Plant’s range, the rest of the song seemed oddly subdued. (SB)

The Jayhawks

The Jayhawks Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The Jayhawks
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Not since Nick Cave has Calgary been treated to a performance of this calibre. Twin Cities legends The Jayhawks took to the main stage and delivered what was to many the highlight of the festival. Jay Louris and his flying V, along with the rest of the band, delivered vocal harmonies that rivaled The Byrds and The Beatles while throwing down riffs that would stop Tom Petty and Wilco in their tracks. Back catalogue was in full effect with tear-jerking renditions of “Blue,” “I’d Run Away” and “Tailspin.” While there were a couple of brief feedback squawks the set was otherwise flawless. If anyone needed a template on which to base their roots rock or alt-country band, this was it. When The Jayhawks finished their set, seemingly abruptly as it was something you didn’t want to end; it was enough to rouse a decent amount of tarpies to their feet for a standing ovation. (SB)

Tiny Ruins

With no introduction, Tiny Ruins immediately caught the attention of an early afternoon crowd with the beautifully fragile vocals of, “Carriages.”

The three-piece New Zealand act, who are touring North America for the first time, impressed me to no end with delicate vocals and finger-picked guitar, with light bass and percussion filling out the songs. It was a light crowd in what felt like the hottest sun of the weekend, but discovering this trio was worth the sunburn.

Born in Bristol, England, lead singer and guitarist Hollie Fullbrook filled the gaps between songs with soft-spoken personal anecdotes and bittersweet wit. “I had to change my strings, they were rebelling against me,” she spoke. Fullbrook’s reserved disposition was a charming recurrence.

The band then closed with, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round,” which, with its harmonized vocals and prominent bass line, would be the most charged song of the set, stamping the performance as a whole. (CJ)

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