Friday, July 20, 2007

Old Folks, New Folks, Young Folks

Old Man Luedecke pickin' it in a new old skool stylee...

My Dear Friends, I finally have a chance to breathe. The work week has been worked out, the sproglets are tucked up in their respective beds, the dogs (Dearest Father-in-Law's pooch is visiting) are snoring lustily, the washing-up is washed up, and Dearest Wife is out with her father at a Michelle Shocked gig. So here I am, a virtual mug of Horlicks in hand, ready to sit a spell and chat.

Well, where to start? How about the Vancouver Folk Music Festival? Well, goodness me, it was an absolute hoot. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Though this is my third year attending the fest, it was the first time I had volunteered, and I really found it far more enjoyable than simply forking over my dosh to see the shows. Now, you must understand that the weekend is a thoroughly civilized affair. First, it's attended mostly by Canadians, who by and large are an affable bunch. Second, pretty much anyone who chooses to stimulate themselves artificially (though note that intoxicants are officially not permitted) does so with weed, not booze, and we all know that stoners are far more pleasant to deal with than drunks. Third, you don't get screaming moshpits, but fields of folk doing whizzy, woozy hippie dancing. So my safety gig was quite a doddle, with my most harrowing moment was a mild harangue from an aged ex-flower child trying to get in for free, cuz that's what the spirit of folk is all about, maaan. But a swift Tazer shot soon put paid to his mewling (JOKE! JOKE!).

The real perk of volunteering is feeling that you're part of the very fabric of the festival, that you're helping it to happen rather than just attending it. The volunteers I met were all wonderful, and I had good natters with a whole range of lovely people. In addition, volunteers and performers shared the backstage area and dined in common, so there was ample opportunity to meet and talk. I shared popcorn with folk music's Grand Old Man, Utah Phillips. I spoke briefly with legendary producer Adrian Sherwood about turning on folkies to dub. I chatted with the eclectically enigmatic Hawksley Workman about Bauhaus, and almost got him to perform a cover of "She's In Parties." I had a lovely, semi-inebriated, but heartfelt conversation at the festival afterparty with Old Man Luedecke about heroes, authentic lives and leaps of faith. And more, much more.

And of course there was the music. Remember I said that what I was most looking forward to was being surprised by stuff I'd never otherwise have considered listening to? Well, that's exactly what happened. Hawksley I was keen to see and he didn't disappoint. Sherwood pumped out some heavy, heavy monster sounds that took some time to sink in, but when they did they prompted some well freaky dancing. And Ndidi mined the bluesy, soulful depths I thought she would. But the real delights were those unknown to me. I was transported by the aching, gritty, of Rodney DeCroo and Rae Spoon. I was utterly blown away by the unpigeonholeable, urgent indie/folkie/jazzy poetry of local wunderkinder The Fugitives. The bold, brassy braveness of Bitch & The Exciting Conclusions made me come over all celebratory & righteous. And the complex virtuosity of the West African griot powerhouse that is Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra was simply stunning.

Whew. And that was just some of it.

I promise, Dearest Friends, to bring you more from some of the aforementioned good folks in posts to come. But now let me introduce you more formally to Canada's own Old Man Luedecke. At 31 years of age, Old Man (a/k/a Chris) isn't really old, but part of him seems to hail from another era. A time when people told each other their stories, when they sang each other songs crafted from their experiences and varnished them with what came straight out of their hearts. And when cool referred only to temperature. For you see, he plays the banjo. Yes, that's right, the banjo. Probably no other instrument apart from the accordion gets so little respect. And I'll admit it, heretofore I myself accorded it precious little of that commodity. But when I heard Chris pick away at that thing and sing with an honesty and perception that shimmered like a deep forest lake on a sunny day, I was transfixed. So please, listen to this tune, which plugged particularly deeply into my own soul:

Old Man Luedecke - I Quit My Job (you must buy his latest CD here or directly from the label here)

And a brief footnote: speaking of old, the theme for this week's Contrast Podcast was simply "Young." I'll confess to not having downloaded it yet, but it looks like a rager. You can have a listen right here, then you can think about what you might contribute over the weekend for next week's Dinner for Two. And I was most surprised to see that Crash hadn't picked The Jam's "When You're Young." So here it is:

The Jam - When You're Young (buy here)

And another footnote; Dearest Wife just got back from Michelle Shocked and reports that it was a wonderful show. Just her, a guitar, and a mike in the converted church that is the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. She apparently played for nearly two hours solid and was by turns witty, engaging, soulful, and powerful. At one point Michelle even borrowed an audience member with cellphone got her to ring a certain John, the new man in her life, so he could hear her sing a new lovey-dovey song she had written just for him. Awww, schweeet. So, you want some Michelle Shocked? OK, here you go, here's the song with which she kicked off:

Michelle Shocked - When I Grow Up (buy here)

Well, that's about all from me for now. Old Man FiL has finished his virtual Horlicks and needs to get to a real bed. Nighty-night...