Vancouver Folk Music Festival: Day One -- 07/15/11

For the last few years, I have been wanting to go to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, but have just never had the chance. This year changed all that, and it was my first ever trip. I was excited, despite the predicted weather, to take in the whole festival, and especially for a few of the bands playing, including the headliner for the first night.
And since I have three days and dozens of artists to cover, I will try to keep things brief.

Arrived a little after six to find space at the Main Stage, hosted by Lana Gay & Tariq Hussain of CBC Radio 3, in time for Freshlyground, a passionate afrobeat from South Africa. Put on a fun and energetic set, getting most people up and dancing for their final song, "Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)", from the 2010 World Cup.

The main stage also had "tweener" acts, which were short, usually acoustic sets to fill the time between main acts. The first tweener I saw was The Burning Hell. With seven members crammed into a small corner of the stage, they played a couple songs and were, as usual, entertaining and funny.

The next main act was Justin Townes Earle, joined only by a stand-up bass. He had a bit of a country twang to his songs, and was an incredible guitar player, using no looping or effects (other than a little reverb), as well as a storyteller, both in his songs and in his stage banter; he had a great personality and stage presence.

CR Avery was the next "tweener", with some slam poetry and harmonica beatboxing (you read that right). Aside from that, he had a couple of more mellow, folk-y songs and ended his short set leading the crowd in a song along.

Next out was Gillian Welch, with David Rawlings backing her up on guitar. She had a really nice voice and both her and Rawlings were great on guitar, which they played for most of the set, but occasionally pulled out the banjo and harmonica a few times; once even for the same song with Welch joking that they are the two most abrasive instruments, and she decided to put them together.
As the set progressed, they got more and more chatty and joked around between songs, and they even came back out for an encore of "I'll Fly Away". She was a great musician, but perhaps a little too country-ish for my tastes, and so her set seemed to go on quite long, but was still quite enjoyable.

The final "tweener" was Imaginary Cities, with Rusty & Marti coming out for a quick acoustic set including the massively infectious "Hummingbird" and a cover of Cake's "Mexico". I hadn’t seen them live before, and this was cool, but just a teaser for their full show tomorrow.

And finally, it was time for Joel Plaskett Emergency. It was almost exactly two years since I had last seen Joel, so I was more than a little excited. The Emergency was pretty minimal, as Joel was just backed by drums & bass, but that didn't mean they were not going to completely rock out.
The set spanned most of the Emergencies catalogue, kicking off with "Come On Teacher", and even included a couple new songs, one called "I’m Yours" and one that he didn't name (but I will dub "Lightning Bolt"), which was absolutely amazing; and mark my words, when it's recorded, it will be his next huge hit. Part way through the set the band stepped out for Joel to do a couple on his own, but came back gradually for  "Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'" and the rest of the set.
Throughout the show, Plaskett proved time and again what an amazing performer he is, with great presence and some of the best storytelling, especially on things like "Work Out Fine" where he wove a story of his old cat Whitefang throughout the song.
They "ended" with everyone singing along to "Nowhere With You" and "Extraordinary" before the encore, with a trip back in time to 1999 for Thrush Hermit's "From the Back of the Film", which was an amazing way to end off the night, and the first day of the festival.

Come On Teacher, Through & Through & Through, Let Me Down, Maybe We Should Just Go Home, Lightning Bolt [?], Face of the Earth, Light of the Moon, Rollin' Rollin' Rollin', I'm Yours, Natural Disaster, Work Out Fine, Nowhere With You, Extraordinary.
(encore) From the Back of the Film

Stay tuned for day two which has a workshop, more Imaginary Cities, my first time seeing Buck 65 and the insane Elliott BROOD. (Also, better pictures since I remembered the batteries for my actual camera, not just my cell phone snaps)