It was my first folk fest and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Actually, I had never camped at a music festival before. I have been to Burning Man, which is absolutely amazing, and I’ve been to one-day music festivals as well but this would be my first time at a true music festival.
I had heard something about the Winnipeg Folk Fest being one of the best folk festivals on the continent and that was enough to peek my interest. It’s a festival. It’s camping. It’s music. Count me in.
Tucked into beautiful Birds Hill Provincial Park, the festival makes its mark among wide open fields and trees. We opted to camp in the festival camping area so that we could be closer to the event and closer to the party. After arriving, we trekked over a kilometre with all our stuff (the only part of the event I wasn’t a big fan of) and found a great little spot in the middle of a patch of trees where we could pitch our tent. We were lucky because many campers arrived a day before us. Maybe they wanted to be out in the open field under the scorching sun? I wanted shade and I was already dreaming of an inflated air mattress and throwing myself onto it for a quick break.
There are many sound stages spread throughout the park. Some are tucked into the forest, which truly provides a tranquil backdrop for some twangy folk music while others are more in the open such as the massive main stage.
Not only was this my first full-length music festival but it was also my first first time attending a music festival without knowing a single band. I had no idea who any of the musicians were but this became a good thing because it added to the spontaneity. My wife and I would just walk around and check out the different stages waiting for a song to draw us in. Then we’d lay our blanket on the ground and chill out.
What surprised me about the folk fest is that the front of the stage is dominated by people sitting on small lawn chairs. It wasn’t a crowd of people dancing or jumping around. It was just a bunch of older folks chilling and listening to the music. At first, I thought it seemed boring but eventually it grew on me. When the music started to captivate us (like the scottish beats of RURA) we could walk to the side and dance.
My Wife Did Her First Crowd-Surf at the Folk Fest
Hard to believe right? I guess the Winnipeg Folk Fest is trying to blend in some new age music as well to cater to the youngens, which is usually staged at the Big Blue @ night. Bands such as Royal Canoe and DJ’s from Mexico City lit up the sound waves while a MUCH younger group ditched the lawn chairs and squeezed together for more of a party. As the music blasted out of the speakers, boys and girls would be lifted up and carried among a sea of hands. Having done this once before at a Alexis on Fire concert, I convinced my wife to try it. I asked a couple guys next to us to help lift her up and away she went, lifted high above the crowd and experiencing something new for the first time.
I love Music but…
I had no idea what folk music was. In reality, not all of the acts are folk. It has become a mix and the mix is what I loved about it. First, it introduced me to new music. Not only did I listen to the beautiful voice of Marlon Williams or the new-age Mexican-influenced rock of The Mariachi Ghost but I was also introduced to the Indian-inspired electronic music of Barmer Boys & DJ Spincycle and the down-to-earth beats of Ugandan-born Kinobe and Wamu Spirit. We also fell in love with the heart-pounding beats of RURA, a 4-person band from Scotland. Who doesn’t love the bagpipes? or the flute? or the violin? Mix it all together with an acoustic guitar and it’s pure magic. But that’s not it. How about mixing the Mexican rock band The Mariachi Ghost with the soft touch of Kinobe and Wamu Spirit. How about tossing in some Indian beats or a little soul?
One of the things I loved about the Winnipeg Folk Fest was seeing multiple bands appear on stage and jam together. As part of the audience, I was witnessing pure magic. Beats and rythym never created before performed here for the first time. Music from across the planet being blended together right in front of us – and it all sounded incredible – as if it was rehearsed. It was here when I realized what a true musician is. They live music. They can feel it in their veins. You can put a bunch of musicians on a stage and they will work together to create something new. This was my favourite part.
Have you been to a folk fest before? What did you think?
For more info on the festival, visit www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca