Calgary Sun, July 25, 2003
Calgary Folk Music Festival:
You can tell a great deal from a first date. You learn a lot about the other party, as you feel each other out, trying to get a read on things.
And it also sets the mood for the rest of the relationship, even dictating whether or not you want to continue on with things or call it a wash and just be friends.
If that’s the case, after date one — or day one, if you wish — the 24th edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival set things up for a relationship with incredible possibilities and, hopefully, limitless rewards.
With a lineup that included local talent, world artists and international superstars, on July 24 festival organizers gave but a glimpse of what was to come over the course of the next three days on Prince’s Island.
Not putting everything on the line, but holding little back.
On the other side of things was an audience, that, while around 9,300 and approaching a sell-out of 10,000 — which had already been attained for Saturday and Sunday, and was a fair bet for Friday — didn’t seem ready to fully commit.
Case in point was the reception given Calgary urban folk voyeur Kris Demeanor, who was afforded the great honour of opening the entire fest with his Crack Band — Chantal Vitalis, Diane Kooch and Peter Moller.
The quartet were spot-on, showcasing their gifts at building roots-based tenements for Demeanor’s wry, witty and very human observations about life in a glass, metal and mortar environment.
Maybe it was because the audience hadn’t yet let down their nine-to-five defenses, or maybe off-kilter wasn’t quite a Thursday at 5:30 p.m. frame of mind, but whatever the case, the crowd were a little stoic, cracking not much of a smile for Demeanor’s witty banter.
Lorrie Matheson fared only a little better, maybe even less so thanks to a shot at this province’s ruling party. (It may be a folk festival, but right-wing political leanings are rarely left at the door in the Kingdom of His Pie-ness, Ralph Klein.)
That’s fine, the great, bespectacled grump will get another, longer opportunity to show his stuff during a full sidestage performance on the morning of July 27.
The first real crack in the buttoned-up audience veneer came when colourful Colombian percussion-vocal act Petrona Martinez and her band took the stage.
The wonderfully rich world music performer — masters of the Bullerengue, an Afro-Colombian dance rhythm — brought the skirted earth children to their feet and twirling, and lifted the mood.
Killing time — and dying quite painfully doing it — between the next set change was evening emcee Todd Butler, who’s silly, CBC-esque novelty folk was a little too cheesy to endure.
There was nothing off-putting about the next mainstager, classy, classic country music legend Ricky Skaggs, who was joined by his brilliant bluegrass band Kentucky Thunder.
Skaggs and Co. brought the Ole Opry to life, with their picking and plucking, swinging and strumming and — oh, my — that vocal harmonizing.
It was absolutely 100% pure.
And the Nashville sounds they whipped up danced as effortlessly and as coolly through the air as the ever-increasing wind blowing in off the Bow.
Speaking of which, that was about the only sign of weather worries — Thunder brought no rain and the climate was as comfortable as the music.
Continuing that was Sondra Lerche, who headliner Elvis Costello tacked on to the lineup last minute.
Lerche made the most of his 15-minute opportunity, winning the Island over with his clean, romantic pop.
It was a great call by Costello, who, in his almost 30-year career, has made many of them.
With a wealth of tunes to chose from, the veteran tunesmith, who was joined by pianist Steve Nieve, hopped around his various incarnations and dipped into his deep, deep catalogue to pluck out gems such as "Accidents Will Happen" and turn them into quiet, pretty, classical works.
It’s been 25 years since he last was here, and Costello left the crowd completely enthralled and wanting more.
Not a bad way to end a first date, eh?
Calgary Sun, July 25, 2003
Photo by Darren Makowichuk.