The second day of the Folk Festival was all about survival. My morning was beleaguered by real world problems en route to the festival and by noon I’d already been forced to reschedule my interview with Copperhead and had introduced myself to Corb Lund in an epically humiliating fashion. The sun was out in full force and I was losing a battle with dehydration and had a pounding headache. To top it all off, this year’s Vancouver Folk Fest was a Kombucha -less affair.
An hour later after discovering the healing powers of almond milk smoothies and a spot in the shade near stage 3, I was ready to rock. In that time, I managed to catch the end of the Le Chanson workshop, which featured a couple of favourites from the day before. Los Pachamama y Flor Amargo tore up the stage for the second and final performance over the weekend, as did Le Vent du Nord. They were joined by New Brunswick native Danny Boudreau and it was a lively and rejuvinating combination.
In fact, I found the gentle brush of the North Wind soothing a few more times that day as I cowered in the shade trying to fend off heat stroke and squeeze in a quick chat with Corb Lund. Luckily, the day was still very packed with musical delights.
Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers
I don’t know exactly what was expecting from a grammy-nominated accordion player, but it was something much less entertaining than Dwayne “Dopsie” Rubin. Rubin is a sushi enthusiast and a third-generation accordion player who along with his band, The Zydeco Hellraisers gave spectators two of the most frenetic performances of Day 2.
I first saw the troupe of underworld rebel rousers on Stage 3 in a workshop with another lively group called Oktopus. It was awesome. Normally, artists take turns playing songs that relate to the title of the workshop. I don’t actually remember what the workshop was called but it ended up being a 45 minute jam session led by Dwayne Dopsie. I loved that made sure every musician from both bands got the opportunity to showcase their skills.
That performance was so entertaining that I didn’t recognize how amazing the rest of the band was until they hit the main stage a few hours later. The guitarist blew me away with some solo riffs and his voice was soulful and gravelly. The washboard player also deserves some words of praise even though pictures and words can’t accurately capture what it’s like to see him stroke the grooved metal instrument covering his chest while spinning and dancing.
Dwayne Dopsie is the clear band leader and he puts everything he’s got into his performance. These artists deliver raw, earthy, untamed madness into every note they play. It was one of the few performances on the main stage that had the crowd on their feet almost the entire time.
Always the showman, Dopsie along with washboard wizard Paul Lefleur climbed off the stage at one point and put on a show in the middle of the crowd where the pair showed off just how limber they both are. Have you ever seen a squeezebox player drop to his knees and then manage to get his back to touch the ground? I’m pretty sure it’s an advanced yoga move that most people would likely hurt themselves trying to do.
Amos Garrett and Julian Kerr
It’s always a good idea to check out the legends. No one else does it like Amos Garrett, and I highly doubt many can accompany him with quite the same elegance as Julian Kerr.
Nano Stern Trio
My first experience watching the Chilean folk singer was at Stage 4 in the blistering sun. I once again found myself cowering in the shade and chatting to a lovely couple about their festival experiences over the years. We all agreed that it’s an event that produces memorable performances year after year.
Enter Nano Stern, whose passion for playing music translated easily during his performance, which he sang entirely in Spanish. He was wasn’t shy about calling the Canadian audience out for being too polite, citing the odd way the area in front of the stage was for people sitting in front while dancers flanked the stage. He told us he needed a little more energy from us, and we obliged.
There is always one artist that I feel particularly drawn to, and that weekend it was Nano Stern. What I saw on Saturday, was but a glimpse into how powerful his performance is.
Nano Stern was so great that I only managed to catch the last song or two from Son of James over on stage 5, but I really loved their sound and the tone of lead singer Shon Wong reminded me a teeny tiny bit of Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem). I also really loved what I saw from Basia Bulat on the main stage. I loved her quirky energy and her performance was on point with respect to energy, bantering with the crowd, and it was a great mix of songs.
Sam Roberts Band
I wasn’t my best self by the end of the evening. I was tired, hadn’t fully re-hydrated, and there were so many people hanging out by the stage that some of us had to wait well back from the gate to wait for our turn. I kind of freaked out… here was the headliner and I couldn’t even hear what song he opened with (Apparently, it was Detroit ‘67).
I oscillated between panic over not being able to assess the main act and admiration for a reporter in our mix ballsy enough to call out to performers walking in and out of the backstage area. She landed herself two impromptu interviews during the three songs we were out there for and she is my new hero.
When my turn came to crawl around near the front of the stage with my camera, Roberts started the first few chords of “Where Have All the Good People Gone” and I snapped out of my cranky funk immediately. It was awesome. Sam Roberts is awesome. That was probably the highlight of the performance for me… I literally went from a cranky old bag to a jubilant hard-core fan in a millisecond. Music is magical medicine.
I always knew the members of Sam Roberts Band were rock legends of the Great White North, and that evening I got to experience the why and the how. They were off the charts! Sam Roberts owned the stage and was almost never still, making his way from one side of the stage to the other with rock star cool while churning out hit after hit. The crowd was loving it, people were on their feet and the festival finally felt like a party.
I picked my way through the crowd after my time in the pit as the band delivered on “Hard Road”, taking care not to disturb the woman scrolling through her kindle (yes, I’m sure there was a woman reading a novel during the killer headlining set). I sang along to all the words as I got closer and closer.
A few songs later, during the tail end of the finale “Brother Down,” Roberts jumped off the stage and disappeared for several minutes. I was starting to wonder where he went, as was the fan standing next to me. We felt it was a little odd that we were unable to spot a crowd of people anywhere. I have it on good authority that he was at the gate giving hugs.
“Like real, ten second hugs.” Claims my very reliable source.
I guess he really meant it.
I believe, it too. I know I wanted to hug everyone I saw as we were all filing out of the fair grounds and making our way home.