A Full Fest Experience
Calgary’s Folk Fest is more than just music
Becca Paterson, Features Editor
Described in 2006 by the Globe and Mail as one of the “Seven Musical Wonders of the World,” anyone who has been to the Calgary Folk Music Festival will know that the four-day long fest is more than just a bunch of folk concerts. No, Calgary’s Folk Fest is a musical experience that, as I recently learned, should be a “must attend” on every music-lover’s summer itinerary.
For those who may be unfamiliar, the Calgary Folk Music Festival takes over Prince’s Island Park every summer for a weekend of musical acts and collaborative sessions that bring together over 75 artists from over 15 countries around the word, all spread across eight stages on the island. On the weekend of July 24-27, the festival celebrated its 35th year of bringing the a selection of folk and indie music to Calgary, after being started in 1980 as a part of the celebration for Alberta’s 75th anniversary.
This year, the main stage played host to big names such as Trampled by Turtles, Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory, Rufus Wainwright, and Patsy Griffin. Other acts included Boreal Sons, Great Lake Swimmers, and Andrew Bird-protogé Mo Kenney. In addition to these acts, however, Calgary’s Folk Fest is also known for its “genre-bending,” with notable non-folk acts such as A Tribe Called Red or Concordia’s YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN. The fest even brought in two acts all the way from South Korea: the traditional drum group, Dulsori, and Geomungo Factory.
But likely the greatest accomplishment of the Calgary Folk Music Festival is not the impressive program — and it was impressive — but rather the incredible sense of community and camaraderie that was overwhelmingly present throughout the fest.
Being such a large festival, I was surprised at how much it felt like a gathering of old friends. From the “running of the tarps” at the beginning of each day to claim main stage tarp space (don’t be fooled — only fast walking and skipping allowed) to the genuinely friendly interaction had almost everywhere throughout the island, to artists mingling in with spectators to enjoy the festival themselves, the overwhelming sense that everyone was there simply to share the experience of the fest radiated throughout the island.
This sense of community carried over into the daytime line-up as well. Throughout the day, various sessions — or roughly an hour-long set that sees multiple acts sharing stage and sound, often times making music together for the first time in front of the crowd — occupied the majority of the smaller stages.
Finally, the Calgary Folk Music festival is put on largely because of the volunteers — nearly 1700 people. In fact, before they were playing the fest, the members of Calgary band Boreal Sons were volunteers, which just goes to show how tight the community really is.
If you haven’t yet been to the Calgary Folk Music Festival, you should definitely pencil it in to your summer plans next year. It is a home-grown experience that definitely exceeds all of its hype. If you attend, you won’t be disappointed.