Before hitting up the main stage of Vancouver Folk Music Festival for big names Lee Fields & The Expressions, M. Ward, and Vancouver favourite’s the New Pornographers, we checked out a couple of workshops featuring local talent.
“Vancouver Specials” at Stage 4— Kathryn Calder & AC Newman of the New Pornographers, Dominique Fricot and Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
Vancouver’s smoldering indie heartbreaker Dominique Fricot had a few spotlight moments during the Vancouver Specials workshop—taking place during the first workshop slot of the festival around 2 p.m. However, he was a bit overshadowed by his stage mates. Kathryn had the sweetest, most pure voice – a soprano verging on falsetto. Next to AC she comes across as reserved and at times, timid—but don’t be fooled, this is mostly due to AC’s big personality and chatterbox tendencies. The two played solo, as well as together, playing a couple of TNP favourites, including “Adventures in Solitude” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton sang beautifully together and displayed apt string work, both playing electric guitar along with their band members. All of their harmonies were dreamy and skilful, cropping up particularly during a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason.” Although the duo played the main stage as well, they seemed more suited to an intimate audience – some of their magic that was so apparent during the workshop was lost on the mainstage speakers.
Poetic Licence @ Stage 4— Shane Koyczan & The Short Story Long, Twin Bandit, & Birds of Chicago
Only the second slot of the first day of the festival, this show was packed– with just under 250 dedicated folk-lovin’ attendees huddled in the shade and cooking in the hot afternoon sun. Birds of Chicago’s front woman Allison Russell led this impassioned and heartfelt workshop. She’s not from around here, but you wouldn’t have known that given how much she knew about Vancouver sweethearts Twin Bandit and now nationally-renowned poet and tearjerker, Shane Koyczan & The Short Story Long.
Even before I lurked Birds of Chicago’s Instagram to makes sure, you could just tell the duo were too in sync with each other not to be in love with each other – at some point at least.
Fields came out onto the stage dressed in an all-white suit and was absolutely infectious and soulful. He along with The Expressions, his touring jazz band, put on an unforgettable, joyful performance for thousands at the main stage. Field’s incessant dancing, spins, and audience call-and-response bordered on martyrdom – but the fun kind, where you love that they overwork themselves because it’s just so entertaining. The relationship Lee Fields had with his audience, although an amplified version, was similar to many of the musician-audience connections made here at the Folk Fest that you wouldn’t get at most festivals.
We began this set excited, and left infatuated. There are people out there who have never heard of Zooey Deschanel — this may be a surprise to M. Ward, who is one half of their duo She and Him. A lot of those people were here at the Vancouver Folk Fest. As usual, M. Ward delivered alluring dreamy tunes, putting the audience under his spell. The folk festival’s charm and atmosphere paired perfectly with his sensual indie ballads. He played a perfectly balanced set of new and old material, but ended of his set with back-to-back Paul McCartney and Buddy Holly covers.
The Acadian singer-songwriter and banjo player extraordinaire hailing from a small town outside of Moncton, New Brunswick claimed VFMF first festival moment last night during her in-between-er set on the main stage. LeBlanc earned herself a standing ovation from the crowd with her impressive string work and fiery head banging.
We’re looking forward to more of her trash folk this weekend – she’ll be at stage 4 @ 2:50 – 3:45 on Saturday and stage 5 @ 5:15 on Sunday.
Nostalgic Dad indie rock, please! Love these guys. AC was witty and fun, and the whole band were so on it. Although Neko Case was not present, the band, whose members are dispersed around the US and Canada, shared a sweet kinship on stage.
This is the first time the Vancouver natives have played VFMF.
DAY 2: We’re pumped for Jojo Abot, Henry Wagons, the Weather Station, more Birds of Chicago, Ajinai, Lisa LeBlanc, Hubby Jenkins, and the Wainwright Sisters, and many others we’ve yet to fall in love with!
Photos by Olivia Chaber.