Centennial Park, Canmore
By Alix Bruch
Sunday, August 5
It was supposed to be a rainy day in the mountains, but the sun had other plans, wrapping the Canmore Folk Festival in a warm embrace.
Though an incredible day of music start to finish, the spirit of the festival was perhaps captured most purely in the Roots Jazz Fusion workshop featuring Carlos Del Junco and Coco Love Alcorn. It was a true jam-style session that featured a badass bass duel, which plastered a look of sheer delight on Coco’s face that was still there come Monday night.
On Stage Three, kindred spirits Ruthie Foster and Shakura S’Aida cultivated a strong connection not only with the audience, but each other. Following a stirring rendition of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, S’Aida led the crowd through a few deep breaths and a smile, paying homage to the beautiful space we shared. It then wasn’t long before the soulful pair had the audience moving and grooving, pausing only to gush over the other.
Other workshops saw the likes of Cassie and Maggie coming together with Les Poules à Colin in a brilliant mash up of traditional music inspired by their respective roots in Nova Scotia and Quebec. Representing the western provinces, Jon and Roy and St. Arnaud demonstrated the power of their lyrics, serving as a reminder that there is beauty in simplicity.
The evening Main Stage line-up boasted some serious talent, including long-time friends and collaborators, Gunning & Cormier. With sizzling harmonies and acoustic genius, the pair brought the East Coast to the mountains.
Ruthie Foster was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation and proceeded to take us to church as the sun dipped behind the mountains. After having what seemed like the time of her life (which included a cheeky enticement for Shakura to join her), Foster gave the raucous crowd exactly what they wanted: One More Song!
The night wasn’t over there. Tarps were cleared and the standing only area filled up to greet California native, Nick Waterhouse who capped off the night with some hip-shaking, soulful rhythm and blues.
Monday, August 6
The sun continued to show its appreciation for the fun and folky music filling the air, shining even brighter than the day before. It could have been a leftover buzz from Sunday, anticipation for headliner Buffy Sainte-Marie, or perhaps the caffeine-charged Kicking Horse coffee, but there was a lingering energy suspended in Centennial Park.
Harnessing this energy (not that he needs any more) was Steve Poltz, who was joined by Maritime pals Gunning and Cormier for some story telling à la guitar. Upon getting a taste of the eccentric Poltz on Saturday and Sunday, festival goers couldn’t seem to stay away, crowding around the small stage to experience more of the 58 year old’s rambunctious ramblings. Gunning and Cormier were equally as entertaining, continuing the fun with tight duets that left people’s mouths hanging open.
The Old Roots workshop with Son De Maple, The Stray Birds, and JP Cormier featured nearly every instrument you might find at a folk music festival. Meanwhile, Lindi Ortega, Nick Waterhouse, and Joey Landreth illustrated the depths of their hearts and minds as they wove words together with ease.
After a weekend of collaborations, Scott Cooke and The Second Chances played their solo set on the Main Stage to a crowd that hung on every word that came out of the brilliant songwriters mouth. And remember that smile on Coco Love Alcorn’s face? It’s still there. The passionate and youthful performer took to the main stage with her incredibly suave band, blowing people away with her powerful vocals and delicate lyrics.
Though running a little behind schedule, Buffy Sainte-Marie arrived to a vivacious audience on their feet to welcome the Canadian legend. Not missing a beat, the 77-year-old musician, artist, humanitarian, and activist rocked the socks off the 41st annual Canmore Folk Festival. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend, and to echo what Steve Poltz yelled after his workshop, “This is the greatest day of our lives!” Maybe so, at least until next year…Canmore, Canmore Folk Music Festival, Canmore Folk Music Festival 2018, Centennial Park, folk, Music Festival