From the humble beginnings as a high school band, North of Here, made their debut at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this weekend. North of Here, comprised of Luke Jansen on vocals, banjo, and bass; Ian St. Arnaud on vocals and mandolin, Will Holowaychuk on vocal and percussion, revealed that they did not grow up in households with a heritage of music-making. There were no mandolins, fiddles, and banjo’s scattered throughout their homes for them to experiment on and self-teach. Luke noted that he and Ian have a background in piano but they began to learn more instruments once they formed the band. Will shared that with the exception of playing percussion instruments in school band classes, he picked up a guitar when they started the band. Ian notes, it provides “a great incentive to get better.” They express the sentiment that, by working together, they make each other better musicians.
A few thousand kilometres from his home province of PEI, Dylan Menzie, 22, arrives in Edmonton to play his largest Folk Music Festival to date. “The energy at this festival is unlike anything I’ve felt before. I’ve heard on the Sunday night finale, when all the candles come out and thousands singing along together, I’m excited to see that. I’ve never played to that many people before,” he reveals before continuing, “it is such a relaxing environment even though there is thousands of people.”
Even though Thursday night of the 2017 Edmonton Folk Music Festival was cut short due to an evacuation order based on the possibility of extreme winds we still got a sampler of the fantastic music we can expect over the next few days.
Packing up in the daylight, after the evacuation order
North of Here
Lark Clark tasked with giving the evacuation order
Now that the tarps are packed up, and a semblance of a sleep schedule has once again been established, here are some of our favourite photos from the weekend that was the 2016 Edmonton Folk Music Festival.
Sable: I have always had a soft spot for close knit vocal harmonies and that is what I hear in this trio of Staves ladies.
As well, I have enjoyed watching the folktastic rise of The East Pointers comprised of Tim Chaisson, Koady Chaisson, and Jake Charron on fiddle, banjo, and guitar respectively. Who doesn’t love a good reel and jig?
Twila: Considering that as a kid that I begged my parents for flute lessons after listening to albums by the Chieftains, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to hear Matt Molloy & John Carty with Arty McGlynn this coming weekend.
There should be smooth tunes from these singer-songwriters from the UK and Sweden in this joint session. I hear the delicate hint of vocal vulnerability in these voices which I love for storytelling. Fingers crossed for some excellent melodic and harmonic collaborations that will hopefully result from this workshop.
Twila: Looking Back in Anger–Friday Stage 6 7:20–8:25 PM
Not sure about the session name – I briefly wondered if it was a reference to the David Bowie song from 1979 with the tense changed, but really why change the tense? Regardless of the session name, I am excited to see what magic this workshop cooks up. Workshops are at their best when everyone jumps in and jams together, making the whole stronger than the parts – and I’m excited to see how these musicians from all over the British Commonwealth (in case you were wondering: Hannam – Alberta/Jersey, Channel Islands; Byrne – Newfoundland; MacDougall – Yukon/Sweden; The Mae Trio – Australia) help one another tell stories with song.
The Return of Old Favourites
Sable: Sunday Main Stage 7-8 PM
Folk Fests are always great for new discoveries but it is always heart-warming to see old favorites return. I can’t wait to hear the soaring and emotive vocals of LP. Her last performance at EFMF left quite an impression on me and I look forward to her Sunday mainstage time with excitement.
Rounding the first corner of the line-up to get into TELUS field.
We’d been in the line up for a number of blocks by the time we saw this sign, and received our ticket forms…I wonder what letters the first people got.
A collection of folkies waiting for the lottery results.
The calling of the letters.
The letters and order they were called for the 2014 ticket lottery.
Only posted after ticket sales were in full swing, could be read as a sign of success or necessary future directions.
Edmonton is pretty hard-core about being ‘Festival City’ and once we can pretend that summer is in fact here, its time to break out the sandals, lawn chairs and get into the swing of things. For some this means making a yearly pilgrimage to Rossdale bright and early to stand in line for the opportunity to purchase Folk Fest tickets in person. Last year the EFMF piloted a new system, akin to the ‘colours’ that they’ve used for the tarp (run) placement system for a few years now, in order to keep eager folkies from camping out in the queue.
The ticket lottery system is quite straightforward, arrive around 7 am, and stand in line to get into TELUS field, get a ticket order form that also has a letter printed on it. Once everyone is in the stadium, draw some letters, prop them up on chairs, organise the crowd into a line by those letters, everyone who has one of those letters is guaranteed to be able to purchase up to the limits on the ticket form –if you aren’t one of those lucky folkies, then you head home and get ready to purchase your tickets online or by phone at the designated time.
This year we had five different letters, and managed to get called in group six, and I must say that the process was less time consuming and generally less stressful (once the letters were called) than two years ago. When we spent 5+ hours winding our way through picturesque Rossdale consuming our entire store of snacks and playing more than a few games of Crib.
Waiting for the Folk fest line-ups to be published can often feel like we’ve been transported to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia when it was always winter and never Christmas. But never fear -Folk fest prep doesn’t start the morning of the first festival day (or even ticket day [for truth Edmonton Folkies!]), weeks -even months before you can get into the festival spirit.
A week before cinnamon hearts and chocolate boxes go on sale is a small scale celebration known to insiders (read: me and anyone that I can rope in) as ‘Half-Way-to-Folk-Fest’. On that first weekend of February -Edmonton folkies can rest assured that the time between folk fests is waning. We now can look ahead to next year’s festival knowing it is a mere 6 months away. The big black Xs that get drawn through calendar boxes are now counting down ever closer to the best weekend of the year…
What to do to celebrate?
Myself and some friends have been known to dress in our festival gear (floppy straw hats included), lay tarps (in lovely central-heated living rooms), eat snacks, drink tea & coffee, visit, listen to music and conclude the evening with a candle light, sing-a-long version of ‘Four String Winds’. But apparently festival reenactment isn’t for everyone, so some other options for pre-festival activities include:
Folk clubs/house concerts -the folk scene isn’t just for summer, these artists tour and perform ALL the time. Try to catch up with some of your favorite performers and maybe a few new ones. This winter reconnaissance will definitely help when you need to prioritize your festival workshop schedule.
CDs/mp3s/YouTube etc. -for those of you who don’t live near a super wonderful or even moderately decent music scene, I would like you to meet the internet -your new best friend. Read up on some old favorites, see who they are touring with, listen on YouTube, buy their albums, expand your listening…and again it will help you make the all important summer scheduling decisions.
Radio – those radio DJs wield some amazing power, helping to guide musical tastes and set musical trends. Find a good folk-roots show -nationally CBC’s ‘Deep Roots’ is amazing! And lots of independent stations have a few hours a week dedicated to domesticate and international folk artists, you can often find these radio programs listed as sponsors in the back of last year’s festival program. Go ahead, tune in.
Plan games/activities for your road trip of awesomeness to said summer festival.
A tried and true favorite of us at Folk On the Road is: Dream Workshop Session (workshop leader must be identified)…its kind of like Fantasy Football but with music. Get creative, restrictions such as requiring all the performers to currently be alive add an extra challenge because apparently you can’t always have Stan Rogers and/or Woodie Guthrie on stage…/
Epic playlists. Google map your route, figure out driving times and structure your playlist accordingly…if you don’t let yourself duplicate music suddenly you have to be very selective of what hours of your drive you want certain music to appear in. Bonus points for having appropriately topical music miraculous booming from your car speakers without having to push any extra buttons (example Corb Lund’s ‘Long Gone to Saskatchewan’ clicking on as you drive out of the gas station in Lloydminster). If planning a commute with a large group of people, I suggest a Google document that all or those of you with reliable musical tastes can update.
Crowds for the Colour Draw (Sunday Morning 6:45 am)
Circling the corral (Sunday morning 7 am)
Success! Tarps are laid for the main stage events (Friday’s hill above the first aid tent)
A reminder from organizers to be couteous to those surrounding you.
Workshop Sessions -where the magic of folk fest comes alive. Members of: The Paul McKenna Band and Blue Highway (Saturday Morning Stage 1)
Workshop Session. Members of: La Bottine Souriante, The Paul McKenna Band, Emily Smith and Dry Bones (Saturday afternoon Stage 5)
Dry Bones (Saturday Afternoon Stage 5)
Kiran Ahluwalia, Jayme Stone and James Vincent McMorrow (Sunday Morning Stage 5)
Members of David Wax Museum, The Barr Brothers and Dry Bones (Friday Evening Stage 1)
T. Nile and Her Banjo Jolene (Saturday Morning Stage 3)
Martyn Joseph takes a stroll through the crowd (Friday evening Stage 5)
Arlo Guthrie (Friday Evening Main Stage)
Finale (Sunday Night Main Stage)
Seeing is believing. The Edmonton Folk Fest allows audiences to experience their favorite musicians in a venue that although accommodates 10,000+ music fans can be surprisingly intimate. Have a look and see!