xVancouver Folk Music Festival

Dates and Venue July 13-16, 2017, Thurs night & Sat & Sun 10am to 11pm | Jericho Beach Park, Vancouver

Reviewer Karen Fitzgibbon

Friday, July 14th: It’s a perfect summer day to be here at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. The festival is well organized and an absolute success.There is no line up as we enter the main gate and it is very easy to find our way around.

The food concessions are all in a convenient circle and most of the dishes are nutritious and delicious. We’ve chosen to try Chinese food and I will be trying many more since I’ll be here for the entire weekend. The favorite goodie item seems to be the large bakery thrill called the Whale’s Tail and here is the longest lineup but it moves very quickly on.

The Funk Hunters’ terrific beat has most of the audience dancing at Stage 3. As we danced the crowd grew and grew. Wonderful entertainers! There is no way that you can just sit there with this talented duo playing. They have expanded their act with the addition of other artists to produce a great sound. Vocals of Tonye Aganaba and Chali are powerful and create an electric atmosphere for those dancing.

My favorite of today’s performances is Rhiannon Giddens and her band at the Main Stage. I am amazed at her stunning voice. The crowd keeps getting on their feet not to dance but to give Giddens standing ovation after standing ovation. Giddens has an opera trained voice. It is rich, powerful and her music has its own rhythmic beat like no other during today’s venues. The crowd is dancing wildly to her mesmerizing sound. I have not heard anyone like her in all the years that I have attended this festival. Freedom Highway is her new album and what I’ve heard tonight is nothing more than magic.

The next performance we listen to on the main stage is Billy Bragg and Joe Henry from US/ UK. They are a duo with wonderful harmony. Tonight they’ve chosen to sing songs about trains. Their music is a combo of blues/folk. Sheer talent!

We are befriended by a lovely fun couple beside us at the main stage who are from San Francisco. I plan to keep in touch with them. Great sense of humor!  If you don’t have friends when you come, you will when you leave. This is one of the positive experiences of the folk festival that many encounter. It’s just a friendly, friendly place to be.

Although it’s a big crowd it is a smooth walk through the fair grounds and we barely had to wait for anything. No lineups at the loos either.

As the evening ends we encounter the beautiful sight of approximately 20 handmade lanterns in all different shapes and some animal ones held on long sticks by their creators. They glow against the dark sky. Believe me it is a very dark night. There is no moon to be seen and we can barely see where we are going to find our way out.

Saturday, July 15th:  The gods are on the festival’s side. The whole weekend is supposed to be gorgeous weather. Again there is barely a lineup at the main gate and for the second time in a row we’ve managed to park next to the main gate. How lucky is that? We’ve decided to see the vendors outside the main festival fence. Each kiosk is well displayed and the goods are fabulous. Back inside we head for some food and again no lineup nor for the beer garden. Amazing!  In the beer garden we meet visitors from England, Seattle and New York City. The couple from Seattle stay here in their camper the entire weekend every year.

The deep rich voice of Paul McKenna is beauty to my ears. He hails from Glasgow Scotland and played a combo of Irish/Scotish Celtic folk songs. Surprisingly many of the performers did not play folk music but McKenna made up those who didn’t. He’s a true folk entertainer.

Mbongwana Star from the Democratic Republic of Congo brought fabulous rhythm for the audience members who were anxious to dance the night away. Grant Lawrence, the MC asked for donations for two new wheel chairs for two of the performers. What a wonderful gesture that was.

Next we saw Marlon Williams and the Yarra Benders from New Zealand on stage 3. Williams does a beautiful rendition of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. The Yarra Benders from Australia have a folk style that they call rockabilly. They draw the crowd and are a great addition to the festival.

All of a sudden there is a mass of people heading to main stage to see the popular Bare Naked Ladies who are always a crowd pleaser. I’ve seen this band on several occasions and they will never disappoint you.

Sunday, July 16th:  We have decided to try transit today and the bus dropped us off right in front of the main gate. No lineup again and it’s another fabulous sunny summer day at the festival.

Today we have the opportunity to see Shawn Colin a gal with a sultry voice, who talks to the audience as though they are in her own living room. There is just Colin and her trusty guitar on stage with a rich voice and lovely playing.

The Bahamas also on main stage have a signature ending to their songs which is an elevator up and down sound. I find this an interesting effect to their music. A great sound!

Since it is a folk festival I think there should be a bit more folk in the mix. With that said I found all the artists to be talented, punctual, organized and proficient at setting up their sound systems. The sound on all stages was clear and acoustically A1.The talent was well chosen.

The festival would not be in existence if it weren’t for the large number of volunteers and the hard work of the organizers. This folkfest made this weekend an unforgettable memory for many people.

© 2017 Karen Fitzgibbon