The New LoFi

Ten Years

Calgary Folk Fest 2013: Day 2

The main attraction on Friday was the beer gardens; There were a small handful of shows, headlined by the Thievery Corporation at the end of the night. However, many festival goers were determined to get sauced to start their weekend. I was feeling a bit more loose, and decided to concentrate on the more intimidating aspect of musical journalism: networking. My first stop was at the local university radio station booth, CJSW 90.9. I’d been whispering to close friends about getting my own weekly radio show for a few months, and what better place to start than an independent and strictly volunteer-based radio station? Hell, I already attend the university, it seems like a match made in heaven. I approached the booth and began my unrehearsed diatribe about TheNewLofi, I snapped a photo and, when the conversation began to roll over and die, handed out a bushel of cards. Quickly, I made my escape without mention of the radio show idea. Shit, this networking business is harder work than I thought. I made the conscious decision to approach them later in the week and headed off to the main stage to see one of the few acts of the day, Bahamas.

Kendra from CJSW 90.9 sports some of the aforementioned snazzy business cards

As with the festival as a whole, my expectations were nonexistent. The only song I was familiar with was “Lost in the Light”, and it was only a vague memory of a slow-jammer from last summer.

I was completely blown away by the performance. Lead singer and part-time standup comedian Afie Jurvanen dangled the crowd on a string. His color commentary between songs had me in stitches on the sidelines, and I was immediately struck by his similarity to eclectic folk songwriter Father John Misty. I caught FJM at Sasquatch, and Jurvanen’s comedic stylings and stage presence were strikingly similar. He also reminded me of BC native John Lajoie of ‘Show me your genitals‘, with observational slapstick and more than a few mouthfuls of tongue and cheek, he was undeniably Canadian. The Folk Fest was a breeding ground for homegrown Canadian talent, showcasing artists from all across our beautiful land.

[audio:|titles=Bahamas – Caught Me Thinking]
Bahamas – Caught Me Thinking

[audio:|titles=Bahamas – Hockey Teeth]
Bahamas – Hockey Teeth

[audio:|titles=Bahamas – Never Again]
Bahamas – Never Again

“Thank you Calgary, this is nice… I’m used to playing in places with no windows, you know.. Bars.” He smirked at the two gorgeous ladies on his right providing backup vocals. “Last time I was here I played at a rib joint called The Palomino..” The crowd erupted at the mention of the popular downtown dive. “.. and then I played someplace else I forget the name, they had a lot of stereo equipment behind us.. it was really cool..”
“COMMONWEALTHHHH” a young drunk bellowed
“Yeah that was cool.. Anyways.. Usually we play our whole set so the bloggers are happy but uh, we’re gonna have a little fun with these next two..”

And as Jurvanen strummed the first few notes you could almost hear the collective wide-eyed realization from the audience. It was Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, and even the lawn chair jockeys jumped out of their seats to shake it like a Polaroid picture.

This gentleman was casually enjoying a hula-hoop, ‘who cares about stuff?’ says his expression

Once the set was finished I walked over to the smaller Twilight stage to catch my breath and write. I sat through a spirited performance by Saidah Baba Talibah. She spoke of Miles and Betty Davis, and of her mother Salome Bey who taught her how to sing the blues. I drank in some sunlight on the sandy hillside while Saidah laid down some heavy grooves, her tapered skirt swaying back and forth. I was suddenly acutely aware of how sexy she was; there was an aura about her… that same sort of aura you might see late at night in a quiet bar, a wisp behind the eyes of a beautiful woman with one thing on her mind. I raised my eyebrows and put down my pen. It seemed almost impossible, but every show I’d stumbled upon was an entirely unique sensory experience, all equally satisfying. Saidah knew a lot about music, and surely a lot about other things, and I laid back to grasp the full extent of her wisdom.

I couldn’t quite place the face of the girl standing in line directly in front of me, but I knew that at some point in time, I had spent a long time staring at her. It wasn’t until her friend Brock Geiger turned around that I recognized them. A month or so back, on a cold and rainy Wednesday evening, I went to one of the first nights of Calgary’s Sled Island Music festival. I went to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and one of their three opening acts was a local band called Raleigh. I hadn’t heard of them prior to that show, and they wound up being the coolest of the three openers. Once again, I began my diatribe about TNLF, and felt a little bit like a cheesy car salesman. It wasn’t really in keeping with my personality to try and coax strangers into consuming media. However, when approaching local bands the relationship is more symbiotic: “I’ll write about your new album and you’ll reap the benefits of buzz.” It eased my nerves when it turned out they were pretty cool and easy to talk to.

Stay tuned for Raleigh’s new album, due in October, about which I’ll surely be writing an accompanying piece.

Walking around the beer gardens completely alone wasn’t the greatest experience. Huge round tables held droves of friends, and impassioned stories full of laughter drowned out any surrounding noise from the festival. My gig was a lonely one, and I tried to spend as little time as possible in the gardens. In order to acquire a beer, one had to buy a beer ticket. This system was surely in place for a specific reason, perhaps to keep the liquor dispensary from directly handling money, and the lines were quite efficient. Six dollars for a drink wasn’t completely outrageous, and there were plenty of options to choose from. Nothing beats enjoying a nice syrah from a plastic cup, I thought.

It would usually take me about twenty minutes to get into the gardens and about five minutes to down a beer. I went to great lengths to avoid looking like a loner; I would weave in and out of cliques as if attempting to relocate my group, or I would stand by a tree, phone-in-hand, peering over the crowd in search of a non-existent friend. It was exhausting work, and I still don’t entirely understand why I couldn’t just embrace the idea of being alone. Next year, I’d make sure I brought some friends, I thought; After all, it is a social event first and foremost.

I suppressed a hearty beer-burp and let it slip out the side of my mouth without drawing too much attention. Back at the press pit entrance, photographers were fiddling with their lenses and anxiously awaiting our signal. “Just the first three songs, only stills.. Oh and you know to stay down right?” I nodded with raised eyebrows, and rolled my eyes once the guard looked away. I’d heard the speech multiple times and wondered how tired the old veterans were of reliving the same conversations. The Heartless Bastards were next.

A couple years ago there was a grand influx of Ohio-based bands. The Black Keys dominated the radiowaves, while I spent most of my time listening to old music by The National. Heartless Bastards were part of that swell, and it became plainly obvious after their first few chords that they were a rock band through-and-through. Erika Wennerstrom was cut from stone, blasting the crowd with heavy R&B-infused garage rock. She had a powerful voice, and it was a wonder to me how I’d never heard of them prior to the festival. The music was relevant, in a rock revivalist sort of way. The Heartless Bastards seemed right in tune with the trend: the old is new, and the simple is the most complex.

I quite enjoyed the set, but the Heartless Bastards still seemed to be missing the elusive magnetism that made the Black Keys and the Alabama Shakes flock fans like metal shavings. Perhaps subtlety spurned Wennerstrom, but the passion in her eyes and the technical brilliance of her band made up for any shortcomings. Maybe keeping out of the limelight was a good thing for the Bastards; if it means Danger Mouse stays in the dark and can’t transform their sound into soulless radio-ready pop garbage.

[audio:|titles=Heartless Bastards – Only For You]
Heartless Bastards – Only For You

I left the grounds with a splitting headache. Two beers in is never a good state of mind, and my stomach churned with foam and malnutrition. I drifted past the Mexican Institute of Sound playing on the twilight stage… again (Over the weekend they must’ve had at least six shows). I knew my physical state would only deteriorate if I were to wait around for Theivery Corporation, and I elected to retire early to a nearby pub to catch my bearings and record the events of the evening. There were two full days left, and unlike the events of Thursday and Friday there would be twelve full hours of musical entertainment each day. I nestled myself comfortably between a tall beer and a pulled pork sandwich.