By John Swartz
Grab a coffee.
The Mariposa Folk Festival had to dodge a bullet before it began when a sudden downpour happened at 4:45 p.m. The first act, Birds of Chicago, were performing by 5:15 instead at 5. While dark clouds periodically passed, the rest of the evening was very pleasant and had one of the most awesome sunsets. It had a bit of good music too.
Tom Wilson, performing as Lee Harvey Osmond, stole the show in my opinion, even though he was just the second act of six to play. He read a passage from his book, Beautiful Scars, about the first meeting with the just-out-of-high-school-aged Tragically Hip. He’s a great storyteller, who I’m sure could make a phone book sound interesting. He then sang Fiddlers Green from the Hip’s playbook.
Up in the pub, Union Duke was welcomed back to the festival as only a pub crowd who have experienced one of their shows before could – loudly and enthusiastically. As you can see from the pictures below, there were a lot of people at the pub.
On the main stage, Steve Poltz spent quite a bit of time telling stories, and I heard from some people they wanted more music, but I found the stories interesting and funny. Half Moon Run closed out the main stage. I’ve never heard them before, except to listen to some of their tunes when they were announced as replacements for First Aid Kit just a couple weeks ago. There’s a lot to be said for hearing a band live to make one better appreciate what they do. I really liked what they were doing.
There was a nice crowd downtown at noon when VK and the Legends of the Deep played. Arriving from the parking lot, the first way to know something is up, before you get to the street, is seeing the festival’s shuttle bus. One day I’m going to take a ride in it, just to say I was in the Magic Bus.
Out at Tudhope Park I caught a bit of The Doozies who were on the Village Stage near the main gate. I liked them at the audition concert in April, and liked them more on a getting sticky July afternoon. While we’re at it, to all the folks who complained it was too hot, it took until July to get hot, think about that for minute and appreciate it because there have been hotter Mariposa festivals.
I missed Carole Pope at the pub, and everything else she was involved with on the weekend. Over the years a name emerges from the festival to become the talk of the town and by Sunday afternoon I had been stopped by a lot of people asking variations of, “did you see X?” It’s always someone no one knew of before the festival. This year it was Carole, who is not exactly an unknown entertainer. If I could do one thing over, it would be to see one of her sets.
I’m sure plenty would do over seeing Sharon and Bram again. They had their last concert as the first act of Saturday’s main stage lineup. They’re not done completely, but riding the bus to every town and city ended here in Orillia. They brought out their entourage of friends and family to say a final goodbye before the last song of their set, Skinnamarink .
The main stage had some funky music happening next when the Julian Taylor Band was playing. I could have used more, but Terra Lightfoot was next. She surprised me by doing something different than I think I’ve heard from her before. She put some attitude into her music, it rocked, and I liked it.
I got another fix of funk at the pub. The Free Label had everyone up on their feet moments before they played a note in the pub. It was mainly because the band’s singer, Josh Daniel, pointed out a few guys near the front who, as he said, obviously have seen the band before, and no one sits while they are playing. Everyone got up, or struggled to get up and the band kicked in. You have to love funk music, make that can’t sit still for it.
I was really impressed with The Stars. This was the one band I got to hear the most of. I was down front to take some photos and as I was leaving the pit area I found out Gordon Lightfoot was in the park and would be on stage after The Stars were done. I turned right around and headed back to the photography pit to stake a spot and watched The Stars. Thanks Gord, I would have been listening from backstage and I enjoyed The Stars a lot more than I would have otherwise.
Check out the photos and video of Gord’s appearance here.
The last time Tom Cochrane played at Mariposa I was out of town, so I was glad to get to see him in Tudhope Park. You know, if everyone did their jobs as well as musicians do on stage, this would be a better place. I love watching experts like Tom and his band at work, so many things can go wrong with four people divvying up such complex work its breathtaking when nothing is out of place.
Those who saw Diggin Roots saw something that rarely happens on a stage, if you were close enough to catch it. In the second tune Raven Kanatakta had a guitar solo and was making googly eyes at Shoshona Kish. I’ve known them for some time and we’ve all seen a husband and wife or some kind of partner combination making nice to each other on stage, but what I saw was the most genuine display of affection without actually touching ever. It was moving. The music was solid too. Their bassist, Andre Blais, is a treat to watch, he’s one of the best.
Shakura S’Aida was next on the main stage. It’s impossible to hear her perform and not like what she does to a song. She had Raven and Shoshona join her for the last tune and wow, talk about slow burn. It was a gospel tune, which I don’t know the name of, and it had a fire starting guitar solo near the end of it. The whole tune was arranged just to get adrenaline going.
I did something many people do, but in 20 years I’ve never, I went out on the point and spent some time with friends and listened to the music from a distance. It was different, but not being in close proximity disqualifies me from commenting on the performances of Colter Wall or Jason Isbell.
The closers on the main stage (My Son The Hurricane) and in the pub (VK and the Legends of the Deep) were just perfect.
VK were downtown Saturday and opened their set with What Tomorrow Will Bring from the new album, Charmed. I’ve heard it several times on the player at home, but it doesn’t compare to live. Then I heard it in the pub with about 1000 watts more behind it. It was grand. They were so good and sounded so good. I also have to say good on Alleycats music. Saturday was day one for sales of VK’s new album and Alleycats had a whole window full of their records, CDs and t-shirts.
But, My Son The Hurricane was on the main stage at the same time and I can’t be in two places at once. I got back to the main stage in time to hear them cover Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4. Singer Sylvie Kindree put such a nasty edge on the lyrics. I liked it, not what I expected for this song, but still great.
You all know how much I’m into Tower of Power. I’m especially partial to bari sax player Doc Kupka, never heard another player like him, until this weekend. Victoria Cox knows how to play the thing. A lot of people can blow air through a bari sax, very few really know how to get great tone out of one. Thanks, you sounded great. The other lead singer and front man, Jacob Bergsma, has found away to put a big brassy funk style behind rap and it works. And for a front man, he’s really good at getting out of the way of the rest of the band. It says a lot when the main guy doesn’t need the spotlight all the time.
And then it was over. I’ve missed mentioning a lot, but I see the bottom of the internet page and there’s all those photos for you to look at. Before the end of the week I’ll have a story about the art project at Mariposa.
Last, to everyone who works all year putting the festival together, and to everyone who volunteers to make it run smoothly, you do a professionally fantastic job of it. I think I had the most fun this year, and I have a lot of fun every year at Mariposa. One more thing, the stage looked great.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)
Corrected link for The Doozies