Warm up at Blockheater
A look ahead to February’s dose of Folk Fest fun
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
How many puns can you make with a festival called Blockheater, taking place in the middle of February? It might not be the best analogy, but that’s exactly what it aims to do.
In the middle of a season with very little potential for a summer-like festival, Blockheater is driving attendees inside the warmth of Inglewood venues, including Lantern Church, the Alexander Dance Hall, The Ironwood, and their own Festival Hall.
“We thought it would be fun to take people indoors and warm up with some music,” said Debbi Salmonsen, executive director of the Calgary Folk Music Festival tells CBC.
The festival is pulling some seriously interesting acts, including Reuben and the Dark, Hayes Carll, Gabrielle Papillon, The Dead South, and many more. As always, this Calgary festival follows in the footsteps of nearly every festival to play in Calgary and included a number of Calgary based acts in the lineup.The festival highlights some acts by Indigenous Peoples in Canada, including Eya-Hey Nakoda and DJ Shub.
Reuben and the Dark, who opened for Vance Joy’s 2016 North American tour, play mesmerizing folk and roots that leaves audience captivated. The group hails from Calgary, and the city is never reluctant to welcome them back. Both of their Blockheater shows are already sold out, which you can find them humbly boasting about on their website. Some of their most popular songs, including “Bow and Arrow” and “Rolling Stone” come of of their most recent album, Funeral Sky.
Singer-songwriter Hayes Carll’s 2016 album Lovers and Leavers reflects that genre better than any other album he’s written, or so he says on his website. “I didn’t worry about checking boxes, making sure there was something here for everybody, or getting on the radio,” he writes.
“I just took some much needed deep breaths and let them out on tape.” Such is the style that Calgary Folk Festival aims to provide the city with year round, and Blockheater is no exception.
Henry Wagons will likely have to travel the furthest to get to Blockheater, but it’s absolutely worth it. Hailing from Australia, Wagons has a rebellious streak of Americana, according to Folk Fest, with gritty tunes that will remind you of nights you had a little too much to drink. It’s fitting then, that he will be collaborating in a workshop titled “All rebel rockers” with fellow musicians Dojo Workhorse, JJ Shiplet, and The Torchettes.
Speaking of rebel rockers The Torchettes, it wouldn’t be a Calgary festival without some local flavour. The spunky duo recorded three songs on CJSW’s program Sufragette City, and these tunes can be found on their bandcamp. The tunes are self-described as 60’s garage rock, R&B, and soul. Many of the musicians you find playing Blockheater and other festivals hail from Calgary, so if you’re looking to discover new music that’s almost guaranteed to blow up, check out The Torchettes.
The best part of any Folk Fest function is the collaboration sessions. If you’re looking for some bluesy alt-folk, check out Avant Bards with C.R. Avery, NQ Arbuckle, and Scenic Route to Alaska. More of a country fan? Check out Country Club featuring Mariel Buckley, Hayes Carll, The Dead South, and Sykamore. Maybe you want to hear something with a more orchestral feel; then you should check out Dark end of the street with musicians Kris Ellestad, Melisande [electrotrad], The Northwest Passage, and S.A.V.K.
Overall, the lineup will bring you a little bit of Calgary Folk Festival in the dead of winter, which is something this very cold city needs. If you’re pining for festival season and summer, or if you just want to hear some excellent music, check out Blockheater tickets on the Calgary Folk Fest website.