I was lured to stage 4 almost immediately by the raw, powerful vocals of Liz Stevens, the lead vocalist for Copperhead. I made it to the front of the stage midway during their set and stayed until the end, tapping my feet to their psychedelic and soulful sounds. They were so captivating and although they had a very original sound, I spent some time trying to figure out who they reminded me of. Jefferson Airplane, that’s who. Not so much in the overall sound, but in the way they both deliver an atmospheric jam driven by female vocals in such a way that the two distinct parts that waltz their way into your eardrum as one. Spoiler Alert: Liz was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes before their set on Sunday where she talked about how this incredible foursome/fivesome came into being and what lies ahead.
Copperhead ended their set just before a handful of members from the Musqueam First Nation welcomed us all to their unceded territory from the Main Stage, prayed that we would all make it home safely and sang us a very sweet paddle song.
Los Pachamama Y Flor Amargo
The media tent is strategically located near stage 3, which is arguably the most lively of the 5 stages dispersed among the festival grounds. By the time I checked in, Los Pachamama y Flor Amargo were playing to a captivated crowd that was on their feet. Amargo oozes pop-star energy while Los Pachamama keep the unit grounded with their traditional roots sound. They are a highly entertaining ensemble that clearly love playing live and their energy is contagious. You can’t watch them sitting down, you must dance!
Le Vent Du Nord
I made it back to the main stage in time to see Le Vent Du Nord entertain the crowd with some enthusiastic root’s music with Celtic roots. In English their name means “The North Wind” and that is a beautiful way to describe their sound. For me, the experience of watching them perform was incredibly visceral. I felt connected to the elements, the land, and the past in a way that seemed unconnected to place. I don’t even know if that makes sense, but that’s the beautiful thing about music, isn’t it? It has the power to affect you in a way that words just can’t describe. Le Vent Du Nord did that for me. Bonus: they incorporate tap dancing, which adds a unique element to their performance.
Back at stage 3, Newfoundlanders The Dardanelles were keeping the traditional Celtic-folk vibe alive and I was all in. They are a super band of sorts with CBC broadcaster Tom Power leading the quintet, flanked by singer-songwriter and strummer Matthew Byrne, and Dr. Emilia Bartellas on the fiddle. Rounding things out are Aaron Collis on the accordion and Rich Klaas thumping away on the traditional bodhran. My heritage is very mixed, but almost half of my ancestors had Celtic roots and I’ve always wondered if that had anything to do with my love for that type of music. I was moved enough to circle the times and stages the Dardanelles were playing over the next few days in my life saving festival program.
I watched Rebecca Lovell manhandle her Stratocaster while her older sister, Megan calmly laid down some mind-blowing steel guitar for their hour long set on the main stage. The duo played a sweet collection of southern songs that included covers and originals. They played roots rock classic “Black Betty” early on, which was a highlight for me because it really lets both girls unleash on their respective stringed instruments. I also loved near the end of the performance when the younger Lovell announced the pair were “ambassadors for the blues” before they dove into a cover of “Preachin’ Blues”, a classic song by conflicted songwriter and guitarist Son House.
I don’t know that I have seen anyone command a stage with as much ease as Rebecca Lovell. She was belting out “Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues” while I made my way from the photo pit back to the crowd. The younger of the two, she strode across the stage like a lioness and addressed the crowd with sincerity, humor and authority. Her voice is strong and sultry, and on Friday night it had a lovely little rasp to it that I hadn’t noticed on their recorded work thus far..
Some people have music in their soul, and the souls of the Lovell sisters are overflowing with it. The elder Lovell, Megan has every bit the star capacity as her younger, outspoken sibling. Her steel guitar gives their sound that gritty punch and her vocal additions are often in the higher octave, thus adding an ethereal element. In other words, she is the unassuming extremist of the two. I saw her connect with a youngster riding her parents’ shoulders in a way that seemed to bring her as much joy as it did to the young fan and her parent.
I’ve been following these badasses since Keith Urban brought them out on stage at Rogers Arena last fall and I could go on and on. But the bottom line is this: If you haven’t heard of them yet, you are missing out, look them up.
Canada’s favourite cowboy has a few songs that are staples among my road trip playlists, and I was over the moon that one of the first songs of Corb Lund’s headlining set was “(Gonna) Shine up my Boots”. It’s a gem of a track from his first album Five Dollar Bill. Even though I’ve been listening to him for years, I had yet to see him live. The first thing I noticed was that he was much taller than I had expected. The second thing was his dimples.
I had been told that Lund was a natural performer and that his banter and commentary would prompt some chuckles. My source was indeed correct and the man who fronts the legendary Hurtin’ Albertans was in fine form as he closed out the first night of the Folk Festival. He charmed the crowd with his admiration for fellow country singer Hayes Carll and garnered some giggles when he explained that he liked to describe his music as “agricultural tragedy” or “ag/trag” for short.
Lund’s repertoire is nine full length albums deep, and his set included songs that spanned the entirety of his country and western musical career, including a brand-new blues inspired number he introduced as I was making my way back into the crowd. Another musical highlight for me was the Dr. Hook classic “Cover of a Rolling Stone” which he released as a teaser for his upcoming album of cover songs cleverly titled Cover Your Tracks. Anyone who has been following me for any length of time knows how much I dig a good cover song, so I’m eagerly awaiting its release in September.
Spoiler alert: Lund was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time the next day after his set on Stage 2, so a feature article is in the works!
Lund carried on with his set as a small crowd began to form in front of him and the nightly lantern parade snaked its way through the field. Perhaps a non-story in most other festival settings, but one of the things that the Vancouver Folk Festival is known for is designating the front of the stage as a seating area.It’s one of the things that has made the festival successful for so long, but as the weekend wore on it also became clear it was one of the things that may have to be re-worked as the event moves forward.