By B. Simm
Thursday, July 26
The War and Treaty
Undeterred by dark skies and the looming threat of heavy rain, The War and Treaty kicked off the year’s folk fest delivering a fiery, spirited, spiritualized variety of stripped-down, southern-fused gospel, R&B. Michael and Tanya Trotter, the young husband and wife duo who are The War and Treaty, openly expressed their fresh love for each other as well as pouring out their hearts for a better world. With just an electric piano and tambourine, they pulled in the audience with a quiet sway that escalated higher and higher bursting out until setting “their soul on fire.” Righteous with a touch of the preachers’ pulpit, although not too preachy, both husband and wife possessed some serious vocal firepower that guided a feel-good show warding off any gloomy vibes.
By Trevor Morelli
Charisma and humor highlighted the first of multiple Chad VanGaalen sets at this year’s Calgary Folk Music Festival. After playing a mellow but entrancing solo version of “Electrolite” by R.E.M (off the 1996 experimental album New Adventures in Hi-Fi), VanGaalen revealed his personality in between songs. Throwing in quips about how picking up garbage with a trash grabber makes him feel better about “the herpes vibes in my body” earned him an honest chuckle from the crowd.
Donning a space-age looking guitar, VanGaalen’s performance wasn’t as disjointed as you might expect from such an eclectic artist, which was a good thing. His takes on “Locked in the Phase” and “Old Heads” form his latest release, Light Information, went over well with the crowd, with many casual onlookers bobbing their heads and tapping their feet by the time he hit full-stride mid-set.
One particularly funny moment came when VanGaalen talked about running into Naheed Nenshi earlier on with the Calgary Mayor asking, “How’s it going?” The singer joked, “Not that he gives a shit, but he’s nice like that.” With so many big bands rolling through town during the summer months, it’s great to be reminded of original talents like VanGaalen right here in our own backyard that, yes, we give a shit about.
By Jordan Stricker
Clouds overhead, the mood was somber and the stage set for Michael Rosenberg, a.k.a. Passenger, known for his impeccably emotional songs which he certainly conveyed. Premiering a new song, “To Be Free”, that was “close to his heart”, he asked the crowd for silence and they compiled, completely engulfed with his personal outpouring. Followed by a soulful and incredible cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence”, which he joked was “a brand new song”, Rosenberg carried on with the balanced and powerful set.
By Mike Dunn
Land Of Talk
Over years of touring, recording and turbulence with the addition and departure of band mates, Land Of Talk leader Elizabeth Powell created a fiery style of indie-pop she’s delivered to crowds both large and small. It’s not too surprising that Powell’s gratitude and energy translated so well in front of nearly 800 people on The National Stage at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday night.
Her band tore through a set that veered from emotive pop to cathartic noise rock full of style and confidence in every change up of every song. Setting a calamitous tone on her high-slung, sticker-plastered white Gibson SG, Powell dug in with heart-felt melodies bathed in both the tender pockets of pop and the euphoric verve of underground punk that Land Of Talk soar so well at.
Powell seemed to make a point of telling the crowd about the notes she was tuning her guitar to, and more than once women in the audience were heard saying through hushed excitement, “I’d love to learn how to play stuff like this.” That was part of the charm of Land Of Talk’s set, and the beauty of evocative melodies through the maelstrom of dissonance brought on by Powell’s searing, jangling noise riffs that showcased music that drew from many styles. On the National Stage, folk is just a starting point to something all-encompassing.
By Trevor Morelli
Patches of mud could be found along the pathways of Prince’s Island Park on Thursday night, but nobody cared. The large and dedicated crowd had stuck through the early evening rain and were ready for an entertaining finale. They weren’t disappointed.
Closing the day was Maritimes-via-Toronto band Alvvays, who’s sophomore album Antisocialites has been receiving much-deserved praise since released last fall. Hearing those songs come to life in a live setting was an absolute treat. “Plimsoll Punks” showed up early in their set, and it sounded even better fleshed out with shimmering guitars and echoing keyboards. Afterwards, more people got up off their, ahem, lawn chairs and danced to the band’s infectious brand of indie-pop candy.
Both flow and song selection were excellent. At times, Alvvays replicated an edgy, ’90s alt-rock band with cuts like “Not My Baby” before slowing things down with thought-provoking number “Forget About Life.” An older cut, “Archie, Marry Me”, was a definite highlight with its big, sing-a-long chorus getting hips shaking and bodies moving. Front woman Molly Rankin belted out the tune with emotion as the band played with perfect symmetry throughout their highly enjoyable 70 minute set. Near the end, “Dreams Tonite” somehow sounded more urgent, with Rankin crooning wonderful, wistful lyrics over dynamic chord changes.
There’s a reason why Antisocialites is up for the 2018 Polaris Music Prize – it’s a seminal recording backed by a stage performance proving they’re ready and capable of bigger things to come.Alvvays, Chad VanGaalen, Land of Talk, Passenger, The War and Treaty