Monday, July 21, 2014

Vancouver Folk Fest, 2014: There it was, gone.

A quick post while I have the lingering sounds of VFMF still playing in my head.

And here we go - point form style (aka too lazy to do more than that)

- Weather - Prediction was for CRAP, reality was actually a pretty good weekend.  Overcast for most of it, with bursts of burning sun on Saturday.  Kind of perfect in a way.  No hammering rain, which is the only thing that would have truly sucked (other than a tornado or earthquake I guess).  And lack of crazy sun meant I didn't have to scrape layers of sunscreen off before I went to bed.  BONUS.

- People -  Yes.  Oh yes.  First, my most favourite people (not anyone's favourite photo I might add, but it's the only one I've got and posting is an annual tradition...).  Spending a weekend with these two is just so much fun.  Immediately after this was taken we started on a laughing fit of the crying/not breathing variety. It would have made for a more interesting photo, but I was shaking too much to take a shot.

Second, my
most favourite strangers.  I suggested this guy should be known as the Red Centurion, L. suggested Wayward Catholic Schoolgirl (or something like that).  Either way, he's got a good look going on.  And for the curious, he has bike shorts on underneath.  Don't ask how I know.

And a perennial favourite, the gold striped knicker man.  He's a volunteer of some sort, and he wears the same outfit every year.  EVERY YEAR.  And as A. noted, it fits him perfectly EVERY YEAR.  Not an easy feat. Anyway, it makes me happy just to see him wandering about, there is comfort in the familiarity of those stripy legs.  And I'm extra happy when he interpretive-dances.

- Porta Potty Joy -  big upgrade on the porta potty front - they've added what I'm going to refer to as a "hang bar" to the back of the door - soooo, for you ladies used to the classic 'hover' manoeuvre, you can now support yourself by hanging from your hands while doing some sort of awkward pole-dancey squat.  Not elegant, but effective (at least as long as the bar doesn't snap off).  One small step for man...

- Music - As always, a great diverse line-up.  This year I actually had a tougher time than usual deciding which stage to be at, there were so many things that I wanted to check out.  And I was often faced with the dilemma of seeing a band I have seen before and know I like, or taking a chance on something totally new.  Luckily the totally new usually pays off.  A few highlights from the New camp:  The Carper Family and their pairing of a gorgeous traditional country sound with a contemporary twist on the lyrics (see: turkey baster reference in 'Little Christian Girlfriend"); Langhorn Slim and the Law, some great alt-country supported by great performance chops - he had the audience in his hand from the beginning, and he's a lot funnier and more self-deprecating than the video link above indicates; and the hugely entertaining Australian band, Wagons, fronted by the extraordinary Dwight Shrute-twin frontman Henry Wagons.  I took a video of the full Wagons experience, included for your entertainment.  (Watch on Youtube, it deserves to be bigger).  This man was born to front a band.  I wish I could have captured the look of genuine glee and mischief on this guy's face - think 11 year old boy telling his best friend he's just found his older brother's porn stash, and you've just about got it.  If you have the chance to see them live, don't pass it up.  Really.

And once again I started thinking about the importance of performance, and how a performer connects with the audience.  Some would argue that it shouldn't be important - it's all about the quality of the music.  And yes, there is truth to that.  Much truth.  But you can't discount the power of a great performance - it can be incredibly affecting.  And as I've found, some of the bands just don't translate recorded - which brings me back to the rarity of those that have both.  But when you're at something like a Folk Fest, watching many many hours of live music, it's the performers that end up standing out.

Carper Family

Andrew Bird 

Jon Langford (Mekons)

Born Ruffians

Friday, July 04, 2014

Micro vs Macro

I can't believe it - I'm actually feeling a tiny bit inspired to post.  Why? Well, I'm being driven by the good musical fortune I had this past week - which started with a show by the incomparable Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and ended with a visit to the ground-breaking sound of Kraftwerk.

And, I didn't film either gig.  Sorry.  I've lost the urge.

But I digress.  Why do I feel like posting? Because sometimes I just feel so lucky it seems I have to write it down to believe it.  And because Nick Cave and Kraftwerk gigs are so far apart on the spectrum, that you almost end up in the same place.  OK, not really - but you have been through a remarkable experience in both instances, but for very different reasons.

Nick Cave and the very personal nightmare:

I can't express how much I love Nick Cave.  He is a giant brain on mantis-like legs; he stalks around the stage in a way that is both theatrical and intimate.  He tells stories - stories about people, stories from his life, and he draws you into those stories.  He finds a face in the crowd, and that face becomes his energy, his muse, his victim.  The whole audience gets sucked into the vortex of that performance-intimacy; :as wild and intense as his performance is, there is something powerfully genuine and vulnerable about it.  You leave your world to be drawn in to the dark, lustful, raw, beautiful, imperfect stories (and you can swap the word "stories" for performance and it is equally true).

An example I filmed at last year's concert...not the best video, but you'll get the point.

Kraftwerk -  delivering the Macro view:

And at the other end of the spectrum, pioneers of electronic music (and inspiration for advertising...), the staid, contained, performance as non-performance that is Kraftwerk.  The messages are simple and broad, the equally weighted love/fear of technology driving most of it.  And the performance is literally pushed out at the audience - the images towering over the performers are thrown out towards the audience in all their 3D glory (and I've gotta say, the floating numbers were pretty darned cool). Storytelling? Sure, but of an entirely different kind, and delivered in a way entirely suited to the story being told.  This is the technological world, the world of trains and bikes and computers and numbers, not the world of the personal, not a world of human connection. Just as valid a story, and in many ways, just as affecting.

And now I'm running out of steam.  Except to say sometimes I have to pinch myself I feel so darned lucky to have a chance to see this stuff.  Really.