Vancouver Folk Festival Report

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Finally getting around to reporting on last weekend’s Vancouver Folk Festival. Despite having to deal with years of accumulated budget problems Dugg Simpson and his crew put together another stellar lineup.

The surprise hit of the weekend for me was the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band from Rajahstan, India – imagine a 10 piece brass band with snare and bass drummers playing wild Indian music – to my admittedly Western ears it sounded like Ornette Coleman meeting Zakir Hussein. Great extroverted party music! There’s a music sample online here.

The Grande Mothers, featuring former Frank Zappa cohorts Roy Estrada, Don Preston, and Napoleon Murphy Brock turned in a sparkling and rocking set of Zappa tunes on Saturday afternoon, including Montana, Trouble Every Day, and a good part of One Size Fits All. I was completely blown away by the way they negotiated the twists and turns of Zappa’s compositions while remaining relaxed and rocking. Drummer Chris Garcia was particularly impressive. I was sorry we had to leave before their Sunday afternoon show.

Le Vent du Nord, a fine rollicking group of young Quebecois traditionalists were all over the festival winning people over with great playing (including a hurdy-gurdy!). They hosted a wonderful Sunday afternoon workshop with Michael Jerome Brown and the Twin Rivers String Band and Irish singer Karan Casey.

Other highlights included the Danish fiddle/guitar duo Haugaard & Hoirup (traditional Danish music filtered through a Django Reinhardt influence); good performances by Vancouver chanteuse Veda Hille, including her group Duplex where she gets young kids to write songs about things that matter to them (like how they hate salad); spirited young Australian women in FRUiT (who I thought played and sang great, but could have better songwriting); the return for the second year of the Wailin Jennys (my son Mo’s favorite); and Texas songwriter Eliza Gilkyson. Whew!

There was lots more there that I didn’t get to see enough of, and I look forward as always to next year.

When we got home I got out all of the CDs I’ve bought over the last twelve years of artists I’ve discovered at the Festival and loaded them all into iTunes – 27 hours of wonderful music that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. I’ll publish the list somewhere soon.

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