Reviewed by: Jordan C.
We've been meaning to cover the Vancouver Folk Music Fest for a couple years now, and of course we choose the year that it pours the whole weekend to experience this outdoor gathering. So, I'll admit it, we wussed out on the superbly soggy Saturday because we didn't think getting soaked to the bone would make for good concert going...even if it was Tim Robbins & The Rogue Gallery headlining on the main stage in the evening.
Like most Vancouver music fests (Vancouver Jazz Fest, Burnaby Blues Fest), the Vancouver Folk Music Festival's name is a bit of a misnomer. The reason being that most music fests here start small and focused but as they grow they need to attract a wider audience and that's when they start to include groups that don't quite fit the genre of the fest. Maybe a more apt name would be the Vacouver World Music Festival because there is always bands from all over the world, most of which are considered world music artists.
Another interesting note about the VFMF is their unique jam sessions where three to four bands are put together to improvise. All the artists involved also have proper concerts in the schedule but the jams are a way to encourage something different and new. So, as we arrived on Sunday afternoon we wandered over to Stage 5 to catch one of these jams. This one was called Rebel Souls and had Morgan O'Kane from the US, DiggingRoots from Ontario, with local Alpha Yaya Diallo and his band. It didn't take them long to get something going and the groove quickly got people up off their picnic blankets. By the end of the jam the whole area was up and moving. Sadly, Malian group Tinariwen weren't granted Visas for some reason and could not attend. They were supposed to be at this jam, as well as play on the main stage just before festival closer Emmanuel Jal. A friend of mine I caught up with told me that he had been to a few other jams on Saturday and that they don't always work. He pointed out that when the time signatures and styles are really different, it is hard for the artists to just jam.
Next, we listened to an Aussie band named Graveyard Train. Their name is a play on "gravy train", if it hasn't dawned on you yet. They were very reminiscent of Dead Man's Bones, although they have a little more of a country "stomp" to them. The lead guitarist had a long, shaggy black beard and looked like the conductor of the Graveyard Train. Another dude looked straight out of the Outsiders with the slicked hair, white wife beater, suspenders, and he was playing a heavy chain with a big hammer!
This may sound odd considering that there were bands from everywhere from Sudan to Australia to India, but San Fran's Beats Antique was the group I was most intrigued to see. I just had a feeling they would put on a great show. The set-up was Tommy Cappel on drums and Dave Satori handling the laptop to trigger beats and playing various string instruments. Even though this was the part of the day where it really started to rain, Beats had the whole dense mass of festival-goers dancing. When they finished their show, the audience were demanding more, so they did a couple song encore. To close, they pulled some Flaming Lips antics with audience members coming up to dance in animal masks! Before they left the stage they announced that the big crowd and ample love were more than they expected.
C.R. Avery is well known in the Vancouver music scene and I was excited to see his set. The C. R. I have seen is usually solo and focuses on his harmonica beatboxing and accoustic guitar. But the C. R. we saw Sunday evening was a whole different beast. He was now C.R. Avery and His Orchestra, which included a full band and three female back-up singers! He started out with a very cool Springsteen cover that sounded like raw '80s Hip-Hop. However, past that point, I don't know what to say...it just wasn't what I was expecting or wanted to hear. The new material came off way too contrived for my liking. Regardless, big up to the home grown shit!
Don't be turned off by the Vancouver Folk Music Festival title, there is something for everyone and plenty for those with good taste in music. The VFMF was a fun, wet, and chill experience, we highly recommend checking it out.