27th Annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Dates: 16, 17 & 18 July 2004
:Jericho Beach Park, Vancouver

Reviewer: Patricia Fleming




The 27th Annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival struck gold, again, this year with hot, dry weather for the whole event. Some might have said “too hot’, as we huddled together under awnings installed in the less-shady stages (new this year…thank you Folk Festival!..more next year….please!!) desperate to hear all the music, but all too aware of the unrelenting heat, but delighted nevertheless that it wasn’t raining. The Festival was, as always, very well organized. No down time between acts. Everyone started on time. Food choices were great. Lots of portable toilets with hand sanitizer. Hoses everywhere for us to refill our water bottles or spray ourselves down to keep cool.

The Festival provides non-stop music on seven stages from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm Saturday and Sunday, and then the venue moves to the Main Stage, for Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening concerts. Each evening, a group of volunteers leads us out of the Park with a wonderful procession of lanterns. The biggest problem with this event is always the same: Where do I go? Which Stage? Why don’t I have a clone so I can be at all Seven stages at once.

As it was Sunday I joined the “Cathedral in the Park” – a spiritually-oriented event on Stage #2, hosted by Eric Bibb. First up were Po Girls from BC, followed by the legendary Odetta, serene,and ready to set the tone,by getting us all in the mood with “Koombaya” and “This little Light of Mine. Martyn Joseph, a Welshman, sang a God-inspired “He Never said Blessed are The Rich”, and Eric Bibb (who has a beautiful gospel voice) followed with “Now is the Needed Time”. The Po girls sang “Take away these Chains” with banjo, violin, - it was very nice. Back to Martyn who sang “Whoever brought me here will have to take me Home” while getting a big laugh, as he forgot his lines in the 2nd verse. He said “I hate accordions”(music was wafting in from another stage and he lost his concentration) so he whipped the cover off his CD, and checked out the words to verse two (very funny). Odetta sang more spirituals: “Everywhere I go” was a let’s-all-join-in-and-sing-together bluesy, foot stomping, number. It was fun and got the crowd going.

Press onto Stage # 6 for “Singing in Tongues” hosted by James Graham from Scotland. James is a traditional storyteller and musician from Glasgow who sings (and wins awards) in his native Gaelic tongue. James wants to inspire young Celtic artists to keep their traditional music alive. He introduced the set with a love song from the McKenzie Sister and he was accompanied by piano and clarinet.

Next up - Stage #5 there was a first Nations Rapper (Kinne Starr) with War Party, from Alberta/BC, winding up the crowd, but I had to rush off to hear the “Ain’t No cure For Love Leonard Cohen (because he is 70 this year) Tribute” hosted by Nancy White. Martyn Joseph, again, the popular Welsh man, sang “Closing Time”, the Po Girls sang a song of Leonard’s about the French Resistance, and Geoff Berner’s loud, wailing rendition of “Queen Victoria” was great!






Oliver Schroer and Twisted Strings (fiddle kids from Smithers, Quadra Island and Roberts Creek) did a beautiful rendition of “Dance me to the end of Love”. It was mesmerizing. More so, as we had a juggler in front of the stage languidly rolling two (and ultimately 4) balls around his upper torso in tune with the music. Three Leonard Cohen poems were also read by members of the audience.

OK…Enough of Leonard. Now it’s on to stop for lunch (delicious Salmon barbeque) and then to “Rootstock” on stage #6 hosted by (a favorite of mine) The Bills. Formerly known as the Bill Hilly Group – a fine group of Victoria musicians who play banjo, fiddle, accordion, guitar, mandolin and drums. The Bills started out with a Romanian flavoured number, very up temp with a great bass solo. Then a down home blue-grassy tune off their new CD and then – a wonderful, magical rendition of that beautiful Hoagie Carmichael standard “Stardust” arranged by Joey Smith – mandolin and fiddle – a bit of accordion and soft guitar. It was beautiful! Then a gospel “My Walking shoes don’t fit me Anymore” – a Ray Charles Piano-esque arrangement. Then it was time for Warsaw Village. I’m not sure how to describe their vocals – no music. three girls singing Yya...youya...youyoya...and us all joining in. I wish I could have heard more of their music. Fiamma Fuamma from Italy were very interesting with their techno/celtic flute, organ and electronics, and a thumping bass. Very danceable! The crowd were up on their feet. This was very popular stuff. Olean Pipes were fabulous. The set ended with the Bills coming down off the stage into the crowd. This, of course, was a huge hit. IT was great!

Next still on stage Six…”Bowing home”…a tribute to string instruments. The Dukhs were hosts and Jessica Haive, their lead singer with a very strong voice, sang a song written by a group from Upstate New York (The Mammals) – a lovely intro. Next up were the Creaking Tree String Quartet who did a very non-traditional piece. Then over to Scooglenifty and their fiddle, fiddle, guitars, banjo, mandolin drums – fabulous ho-down piece had everyone dancing. For the rest of the afternoon, I experienced a little of Auto Rickshaw (a lovely Shri Lanka piece with Tabla) plus some more of Oliver and his fiddle kids.

Evening Main Stage Event: The line up: Dupain - the group from Marseilles with a great sound followed by the popular and very talented Po Girls, Odetta, the Duhks and the Finale featuring a mixture of some of the artists who had been performing all weekend. It was a fun evening. We all danced a lot. In summary: a great day but not enough time for me to see all the people I wanted to see (missed Bruce Cockburn and a lot of others). A good reason to go for the whole weekend – it’s the only way you can get to see everyone.

2004, Patricia Fleming