It’s four in the morning, downtown Calgary. The sun hasn’t yet begun to warm the tops of the skyscrapers, and even though it’s the dead of summer the air still has a cool chill to it. The whole seems quiet, ordinary, yet lining the Princes Island pathway is a strange sight: about a hundred huddled, snoring, Calgarians, sleeping on fluorescent blue tarps, all waiting for the morning moment when they’ll out-speed-walk one another in an attempt to throw their tarps as close to the island’s main stage as possible. Welcome to the thirty-sixth annual Calgary Folk Music Festival, everyone.
Over seventy artists from fourteen different countries spent the weekend this July serenading our downtown island with an eclectic mix of keytars, banjo’s, vinyl DJ sets, and full brass bands- just to name a few. Musicians and guests spent their days traveling between smaller stages dispersed throughout the park, where they would see solo shows, or two to three bands would host themed ‘workshops’, jamming on stage in front of hundreds of eager fest-goers. In the evenings, the main stage lit up the grounds with much-anticipated performances from featured musicians, culminating in an evening headliner and an ever-expected, yet somehow-impromptu dance party.
Folk Fest has become a celebration of not only music, but the multiculturalism that binds our nation together. A delicious mix of local and international food options available at the park’s entrance delighted Calgary’s palate, and the pop-up market featured wares and works from artisans hailing from all sorts of nooks and crannies of the world. Of course, there’s the music. Whether it was the fiery, daring syncopation of Colombian-born band Puerto Candelaria, or the haunting, complex melodies of Ukrainian DakhaBrakha, CFMF has found a way to bring voices from all over the world and harmonize them over the four-day festival.
As event producers, there were many things that made our team stand up and take notice; the first being the volunteers. To begin with, they were everywhere; greeting you with a smile and some quick festival information at the gate, offering helpful tips on finding your way to the various stages, and always armed with an authentic smile on their face. The degree of excellence with which they fulfilled their roles was outstanding. No matter where you turned, you came to face-to-face with volunteers who were relaxed, friendly, and eager to help- words that only begin to describe the truly wonderful service they provided. The Calgary Folk festival has a true gem in the quality of the individuals who choose to spend their weekend guiding the rest of us through this musical smorgasbord.
Secondly, the commitment the festival has maintained to environmental sustainability should act as a sounding board and inspiration for all other festivals the city partakes in. The event boasts an eighty percent waste diversion rate, via a coherent recycling and composting system (manned by more informed and smiling volunteers), wind powered stages, a well-known plate recycling program, and provides tree seedlings to guests to offset carbon emissions. Out of the many options to choose from, our favourite green element this year was a much anticipated “energy harvester”. A local University of Calgary grad, Natalie Robertson, created and installed seventy sensors under CFMF’s stages, which pick up on the vibrations from musician’s movements and instruments, and then convert those vibrations into an electrical current, fueling the lights for the evening stages.
As over-done as this saying may be, The Calgary Folk Music Festival is truly fun for everyone. Impressively executed, passionately supported, and delightfully creative, BOOM cannot wait for this tradition to take another trip around the sun and return to our little island next summer.
Didn’t make it to the fest? Here are our top musical highlights for you to check out: Lake Street Dive, Dragon Fli Empire, Adam Cohen, Leftover Cuties, Father John Misty, DakhaBrakha, Milk Carton Kids.