SLCR #201: Regina Folk Festival (August 15, 2014)
Didn’t quit yet. Maybe someday. Just late. Very late. As I will be.
We didn’t see much of the Folk Festival this year. I had bought weekend passes around Christmastime, but when they announced the Festival schedule, we found that we were really only excited for Friday night. We talked about selling the weekend passes and just buying Friday night passes instead. We went back and forth about this until I had reason to be out of town on the Saturday, which made the decision for us. Most folks I talked to were similarly most excited about Friday night, but I’ve heard that Saturday night was the first to sell out (Serena Ryder and Indigo Girls were headlining) so that tells you just how seriously to take my opinion on anything.
The Friday night main stage stuff started an hour earlier than in previous years (gates at 5:00, show at 6:00), which meant I wouldn’t have time to go home before the show. I loaded the lawn chairs into the car the night before so Mika could meet me downtown, and I had to bring a full change of clothes to the office. An inconvenience, but little did I know how much that extra hour would pay off. Foreshadowing!
Mika was able to skip out of work early and wait in the line which stretched from the main gate, down the corner, and around the block. With the two other writers in my office both away for an extended period, work had been a bit of a mess for me, but I skipped out as early as I could (which is to say, I left at my scheduled time, which was early for that week). Once inside the park, we nabbed a prime spot right by the sidewalk. We were quickly joined by Other James, along with concert review rookies Glenn (another coworker pal) and his wife. Mika reminded me that last year, Other James made it his life’s goal to keep the pathway clear so people could get to their seats. He did not have to do that this year. Clearly, his reputation had spread – though not quite far enough, as he did have to tell one dude to get out of the way at one point.
Apart from my usual Folk Festival goals of watching the show and marrying the kettle corn truck (I will not be denied!), I also had to meet up with Geoff Berner. Eons ago, I contributed towards a crowdfunding campaign for Berner’s first novel, Festival Man. I promptly forgot about this until one day, the book showed up in the mail. “Hooray,” I thought, “I got a book!” And unlike most books I buy, I actually read this one. It’s good! Funny. A quick read. Probably not as exaggerated as one might hope.
In conjunction with the novel, Geoff organized an album of covers of his own songs by folks like Corb Lund, Carolyn Mark, and Rae Spoon. I am on Geoff’s mailing list, and I follow him on Twitter, so I saw numerous messages saying that he’d been sending out Festival Man records, and if yours hadn’t arrived, you should let him know. I paid these no mind. They did not apply to me. I got a book! Then Geoff messaged me personally on Facebook to see if my record had arrived yet. Puzzled, I went back two years into my email archives to discover that I had, in fact, ordered a record. I got a record! And Geoff offered to hand it to me personally at the Folk Festival. He probably came to regret this decision once I started pestering him with other questions. Sorry, Aaron – the Live in Oslo album really IS as out-of-print as it gets.
But back to the Folk Festival. Our host was… who the hell was our host? It’s been so long, I have to look it up. The internet says it is Colby Richardson and he is a local comedian and improv guy. Sounds right. He didn’t leave any great impression on me. This sounds like a negative. I assure you it is not. I want the host to run the show, not try to BE the show. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP
The first band was Elliott Brood. I was glad they were on the bill because I remember seeing them at Amigo’s years ago and really liking them. The only problem with this is that… um… apparently I never did? I was sure that I had. Mika was there. And Megan and Ian. I’m certain of this. Maybe I made plans to go but they fell through? I just did a detailed search through all 200 previous concert reviews, and nothing. Not even a mention of them. It seems impossible that I haven’t used the word “brood” once in 200 reviews, but Word doesn’t lie. Does it? The find-and-replace thingy is finding other words just fine. I feel disillusioned. What is true?
Anyway, if I really never did see Elliott Brood before this, it’s a shame. They were really good. Mika was surprised at how many of their songs she knew, while I only knew one (Oh, Alberta – which I think is the one song everyone who knows only one Elliott Brood song is likely to know – and also, if I only know one song, maybe I never did see them before? You’d think I’d have picked up another one somewhere along the way). It sounded like they were playing a lot of newer songs. At one point, something happened to an amp (I think the technical term is “it broke”) and they switched seamlessly into a semi-acoustic set. Probably stressful for the band (though they didn’t show it) but one of those things that’s neat for the audience. Something a little different from the norm.
I cannot handle this situation. Did I Eternal Sunshine that Amigo’s show right out of existence? Because I wish I hadn’t. I like these guys.
Children’s entertainer and perennial RFF host Al Simmons did the teaser set between acts. Around this time, I got a text from Geoff asking me to meet him stage left. Perfect timing. I met up with him, though only after learning that stage left is the PERFORMER’S left, not the audience’s left. Bit of a detour. I picked up my record and we chatted for a bit. Friendly guy! Almost came across as shy to talk to in person. He had a teaser set scheduled for later in the evening and was wondering what he should play. If I’d been quicker on the ball, I’d have made actual requests (Iron Grey and Wealthy Poet are favourites) instead of suggesting the song he wrote for the Vancouver Olympics. If you’ve never heard this song, all you really need to know is it’s subtitled “The Dead Children Were Worth It!” And there’s a children’s choir. Because of course there is. There has to be.
I got back to my seat just in time for the start of Mexican Institute of Sound. This was electronic dance music that I paid precisely no attention to and, thus, this will be the only time I mention it. Colin stopped by to tell me that he’d had a few beers and found himself greatly enjoying the music of Al Simmons. Wisely, he recognized that maybe this was a sign that he needed to eat something. I left with him – he needed some sobering up starches and I had promised Aaron I’d buy him a copy of the Festival Man LP, as well as a copy of the novel. Colin was baffled by Aaron’s love of Geoff Berner, which reminded me that he had come with me to a Berner show in 2006 at O’Hanlon’s that could politely be described as “a goddamned mess.” I am honestly not sure if Colin has come with me to a concert since then.
I sent Colin on his way and picked up Aaron’s stuff, as promised. While in the stuff tent, I also got myself Berner’s Victory Party on vinyl, as well as his 7″ When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will Be Alright. The last one! Maybe ever? Probably not. Regardless. I had hopes of finding some Joel Plaskett vinyl too, but was denied.
Back to our spot again and Mika left in search of food. She was gone approximately twenty-seven hours. While she was gone, Colin returned with food and Evelyn stopped by too. Basically, everyone in the park was someone I work with, at least as far as you know. We discussed Colin’s everyman appearance and how I see Colin variants all over the place. Just today, I saw Fat Colin, one of the regulars at the mall. I have also seen Tall Colin and Old Colin around. Evelyn added that Sam Roberts could pass for Famous Colin. I looked forward to seeing this for myself. Foreshadowing!
Mika returned, complaining that all the lines were too long so she opted for a hot dog because it was the quickest option. I went to get my own dinner and found that the lines had dissipated. I got Afghan Cuisine falafels and rice. Tasty. Needed some kind of sauce though. After I was done, I went back for kettle corn but didn’t actually get into it until the next day. You don’t want to rush kettle corn. You want to savour kettle corn. It only comes around once a year. (“actually, they’re at the Farmer’s Market som-“) IT ONLY COMES AROUND ONCE A YEAR. OTHERWISE THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS. GLUTTONY PROBLEMS.
Geoff Berner played his teaser set, but unfortunately only got time for two songs – Condos and The Rich Will Move To The High Ground. Both good; neither are my favourites. This was a much more fitting venue than O’Hanlon’s but I still got the sense that people didn’t know what to make of him. Understandable. I think he’s very much a love-him-or-hate-him act. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to make his daytime solo set the next day. He works best with smaller crowds.
Joel Plaskett Emergency was up next and this might have been my all-time favourite set in RFF history. Joel Plaskett is the best guy. He played a whole bunch of songs I know and like (though nothing that would be really surprising if you’ve seen him in concert before). Among the highlights were two new songs that aren’t out yet. You know how nobody wants to hear a band play the new songs? These new songs were both great and I want them right now. One was called Park Avenue Sobriety Test; I’m blanking on the name of the other. I really should take notes for these things and/or not wait to write reviews a month after the fact. It’s shameful how much time I spent putting the meeting Geoff Berner / talking to Colin / talking to Colin and Evelyn / Mika getting food / me getting food segments in chronological order.
Anyway. After a bunch of songs, Plaskett sent the band to the back to do a song by himself. But rather than playing his guitar, he plugged in iPod and sang Fashionable People. Specifically, the kids’ version from the CBC. Where he sings with a talking yam. This was #1 and the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I have never felt such delight.
I’m a hot dog
And dressing up is fun
hot dog bun
I’m seriously super happy right now just thinking about it. I don’t even care about my Elliott Brood mental degeneration crisis anymore.
DRESSED UP IN RED
DRESSED UP IN GREEN
DRESSED UP IN BLUE
And then the band came back and played the bass line to Work Out Fine while Joel sang Royals. And Oowatanite. And Kung Fu Fighting. And then he introduced the band as being the cast of Stripes. And then Do Wa Diddy Diddy. “She looked good (looked good), she looked fine (looked fine), she looked good, she looked fine, here’s a song called Work Out Fine.” And then Cupid and then Work Out Fine some more. Wonderful. The whole set could have been the Mamma Yamma Fashionable People and snippets of 100 songs sang over the bass line to Work Out Fine and it would have been the best show I’d ever seen. Joel Plaskett is a delightful human being and he really should move out to Saskatchewan and play here every day.
Leonard Sumner came out for his teaser set and it started to rain a little bit. Mika suggested that I take the records and book to the car. Smart thinking. Gotta save your treasures and also get a frozen banana if you’re up anyway. I ran into Mary. She thought my banana was hilarious. If I had a nickel…
My banana and I returned a few minutes into the set by Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanan hip-hop artist. I was just starting to get into the show when our MC took the stage to announce that because of the lightning in the area, they were temporarily shutting the show down. We weren’t in any immediate danger, we were told, but they had to wait and see what the weather was going to do. About fifteen minutes later, we got the word that the rest of the night was cancelled. No Sam Roberts for us. We packed up and off we went.
Now, the Regina Folk Festival always has an after-party. Elliott Brood, Mexican Institute of Sound, and Royal Canoe were scheduled to play there. I briefly considered going, thinking that Sam Roberts might play there, but we opted to just go home. From what I heard, Sam Roberts tried play a few songs at the after-party, only to have the power go out and the after-party shut down too. It almost sounded like they were kicking everyone out when the power came back on and he eventually did play a few songs. At that point, that’s above and beyond the call of duty.
As for us, on the way to the car, we wound up walking alongside Geoff Berner, who assured me that he didn’t HAVE to leave, he was just following people. We wished each other well and Mika and I went home. We were inside our house for about five minutes before the rain hit. The power went out about 5 minutes after that. The wind and rain sounded like it was going to rip the house apart. For Glenn and his wife, who live out in White City, it kind of did. He later said the damage wasn’t severe, but the cab had to drop them off two kilometres from home; it couldn’t get any closer due to downed trees and power lines. This was after they had gone for drinks with Other James and wound up using patio tables to build a sort of dam to keep water out of the restaurant’s storage room. Eventful night. Not sure he’ll come to a show with me anymore either.
UPCOMING SHOWS THAT NEITHER GLENN NOR COLIN WILL ATTEND WITH ME, AS FAR AS I KNOW
• Glass Tiger (September 27)
• The Smalls (October 24)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)
• Buck 65 (November 14)