Getting Folked: Winnipeg Folk Festival Day 1

Jayhawks photo by Taylor Burgess

Heading to the Winnipeg Folk Festival on a Wednesday evening sure felt weird—probably because I’m not bro-ing down at the campgrounds right now—however, getting to the fest was really easy with the Winnipeg Folk Festival Shuttle provided by Winnipeg Transit. And though the sun was hot (quite hot) the line-up to get into the fest moved quickly shortly after six o’clock. Remember not to bring glassware or breakables, people.

The opening ceremony was rung in by Dave Courchene from Anishnabe Nation with some assuring words; “Music is universal for all of us. It brings an inspiration of messages which tell of peace. Tonight and through the festival we will see performers using their gifts for a future for our children.” He also talked about how the younger generations cry out, lamenting the people being who are being exploited, a sentiment which was quite a sweet shout-out.

Melissa McClelland then took the stage with her sweetie-pie roots. I was pretty far away, so I couldn’t tell that Luke Doucet was on stage until McClelland cracked a joke that she “married into Winnipeg.” Then it was obvious where the confident stagger that was backing her was coming from.

Despite some claims, my phone didn’t get any reception, so I couldn’t tweet about anything until I got to the media tent. And when I did get there, after submitting interview requests with M. Ward and Mountain Man, (stay tuned for those) I was told that West African afro-blues band of Tuareg rebels Tinariwen couldn’t get their visas, and, thus, won’t be playing the festival. It’s a pretty huge disappointment considering they’re the most hyped and exotic band playing the festival. Then again, maybe you’ll just have to check out Mighty Popo, Omar Souleyman, or Ordo Sakhna instead.

The rest of tonight was filled with the anything-but-exotic Jayhawks (from Minneapolis) and Blue Rodeo (from Toronto). The Jayhawks seemed promising, with their catchy Aughts alt-country, but they didn’t really raise their energy levels above a hearty simmer. As the night went on, the tunes got more and more syrupy (which I thought worked in their favour) and they finally closed their hour-long set with quite their most rocking number.

And to close out the night, Blue Rodeo played the entirety of their best-selling 1993 album Five Days in June. This was likely exciting for anyone who’s heard the band before, but the Blue Rodeo bug hasn’t hit me yet. (Har har har har.) But srsly, folks, they played really tight, and they genuinely seemed excited to be there, which, if I knew their music, would have been the recipe for a perfect show. Beats me why a bunch of Canadians would wax nostalgiac for ’90s Americana though. I’m just not feeling the Winnipeg Folk Festival buzz, yet!