I learn something new about this city every time I go to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. What an absolutely amazing weekend it was this year!
So, on less than an optimal night’s sleep, here is what I learned this year:
- The folk fest is a celebration of everything good about Edmonton in the summer: being outdoors for extended periods, drinking beer, eating good food, and listening to well-crafted music. I actually learned that last year, but came to appreciate its truth even more this year.
- Dave Cournoyer is virtually unrecognizable to me when he doesn’t wear a cowboy hat.
- Gord sits in the same spot every year – and it’s a good spot, just left of the sound booth right off the cross path.
- Susan, Dave, Debbie and Mark are some of the nicest people to hang with at folk fest. Thanks for sharing your tarps and general folk fest wisdom with me.
- At times, the 300-400 people lined up to get into the beer garden (i.e., Thursday night) suggested they might need more than a 2,000 person capacity – an opinion not shared by all festival goers.
- Overheard in the beer garden: “They should build a zip line from downtown to here.” Seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Despite the planning, there’s always people you miss: Scenic Route to Alaska, The Once, and Stephen Fearing are on my list of those I regret missing.
- There’s always a side stage event that attracts a bunch of people y0u know without any coordination. For me, was the Stage 5 Heroes programme late Saturday afternoon featuring Tom Wilson, Del Barber, KT Tunstall, and Jeremy Fisher. Tom told some funny stories, Del did a killer cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and one of his own tunes and Jeremy Fisher sang beautifully.
- KT Tunstall needs a new publicist or manager. I was excited to hear her as I am a big fan, but she needs to do her homework and read her memos. First of all, she didn’t realize the theme “heroes” implied she was to bring songs about or by her heroes, so she played one of her own songs called Madame Trudeau. Problem is, her lyrics refer to Ms. Trudeau as a “President’s wife”. I guess songwriters don’t employ fact-checkers. Then, in round two, she realized people were doing covers and she paid lip service to Joni Mitchell whose playing inspired her, but whose songs she was unable to play. What a missed opportunity that was to endear the Canadian audience to her. Alternatively, I would have loved to hear her do the Stevie Wonder cover I love so much – I Want You Back. Too bad.
- Edmonton folk fest goers are a hearty bunch. At the first sign of dropping temperatures and ominous dark clouds moving in on Saturday evening, we headed for home. Mind you, we had the excuses to leave kids with us. But not the rest of you. Just pull on the rain gear and hunker down.
- Folk fest food is tasty, but almost everything is slightly over-priced – just a dollar or two too much on each item.
- Beer is well priced. Very fair. Good policy – don’t change it.
- Is the free admission for seniors policy going to be sustainable as the Boomer bulge moves into retirement? Or will I, a very late Boomer/early Gen Xer have to pay by the time my turn comes around?
- The tarp run/corral system needs a serious rethink. You can’t just rely on the folky fairness ethic among all the people at the festival – mostly because half the attendees aren’t even folkies. Come on, people. Reusable plates and recycling beer cups is cool, but we need some clear rules and enforcement when it comes to the tarp run.
- The folk fest needs a killer mobile app – with a scheduling function so you can plan your days, real-time updating for schedule changes, bear garden line-up cam, etc.
- For too many people, the folk fest is not about the music. This can lead to too much talking and partying on the tarps – to the point of distracting the other festival goers. We need to do more to promote respect for others in this context.
- Going solo is the best way to take in some time at folk fest. Not that I don’t love experiencing these things with my wife and kids and friends, but in a group there are always competing needs. And if you’re a music-head like me, you want to wander around, following your ears and your music sense. If you like something you hear, you stay. If not, you leave and find something else. Going with the flow is a complete joy at folk fest.
So, I had a great folk fest this year and have quickly come to appreciate it for what it is: one of the best folk music festivals in Canada and, without a doubt, the pinnacle event of summers in Edmonton.