Calgary arts take centre stage
The city’s festival circuit was incredibly vibrant this summer, though Calgarians saw the loss of the much-beloved Jazz Festival.
From traditional ethnic from all over the world, indie upstarts and blues legends to pop princesses and actual princesses on parade — this summer’s events didn’t disappoint an ever-arts hungering crowd in our city.
The summer began with the cherished Lilac Festival, which has rung in summertime for 23 years. The street festival featured bands like Hurricane Felix and The Southern Twisters, the Keister Family Fiddlers and Magnetic North.
There were street performers demonstrating their talents in the day’s fine weather. Tango For The Soul passionately stomped out Latin rhythms for the throngs and Little Vegas Dance Company brought sparkling burlesque to gawking crowds.
The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo brought out geeks and ghouls this year with a particular focus on the Horror genre. Legendary movie The Exorcist’s Linda Blair, who played the possessed Reagan, delighted crowds, and William Shatner had his bodyguards ready in case any Trekies decided to boldly throw themselves at the Star Trek captain. There were plenty of costumed goers to stare at and a general sense of quirky camaraderie.
The highly anticipated Sled Island Music Festival was well attended and saw the usual popular headlining names as well as the “buzz” acts this year. Olympic Plaza was the main stage again, and along with the other 30-some other venues, it was a scramble to get to the next show.
Among some of the standouts were Blonde Redhead at The Distillery — the art deco venue that regularly plays host to metal and punk types made the bands synthy sounds all that much more unique. Red Fang at The Palomino was the place to be and it was evident when the metal band went on the little stage in the basement and the crowd collectively urinated their pants.
The Calgary Stampede was infused with some style from the royals (in case you hadn’t heard) as they were literally paraded around. The Coca-Cola Stage was remarkably unimpressive with the biggest acts being Tokyo Police Club and Fefe Dobson, and local favourites The Dudes made an appearance here as well as absolutely everywhere else this summer it seemed.
Though it is called The Calgary Folk Festival, this year’s lineup was just as eclectic as in the past. Here we had everything from Cajun-infused zydeco to soulful hip-hop to actual folk; there truly seemed to be something for everyone.
The family friendly fest was attended by babies in onesies, folks on walkers and everything in between. Buffy Saint Marie, k.d. lang and Herbaliser were among some of the more notable names, and the Sunday night’s headliner was Blue Rodeo who played to their familiar Calgarian fans, for the most part from their popular album Five Days In July as people sang along to the bluesy grassroots rhythms.
One of August’s highlights was The Calgary Blues Fest, which, though it is a smaller festival, always has a huge heart. The decidedly older audience wasn’t deterred by a sudden, massive hailstorm that took everyone by surprise on the Friday night.
Blues fans huddled together wherever shelter could be found and talked amongst themselves cheerily despite the pelting weather. When the storm blew off, headliner John Mayall took the stage and found a pond-sized puddle in front of the stage that fans danced in. It made for an odd sight as the stage lights reflected off the water and people splashed like little kids.
It’s always difficult to see summer come to a close, especially when you seemingly only have winter and school to look forward to. However, this season’s events give cause to speculate on what may be in store for when these long summer nights return.