One of the things that makes the annual music festival in Gallagher Park such a unique experience is the range and variety of musical acts. This year was no exception. From blues to roots to sounds from around the world, the genre of “folk” music was expanded and extended.
A few notable local acts were featured on the main and side stages, such as Mohsin Zaman. Zaman is a rising star in Edmonton’s music scene, with his smooth voice and soaring melodies. He came to Canada from Pakistan to study business, before following his musical calling.
Calexico, a band that falls into the “Americana” category took to the main stage on Sunday afternoon, and had the audience dancing with its brand of Tex-Mex led by singer Joey Burns, along with a sold horn and rhythm section.
A number of strong women performers were also featured this year (as they often are).Mary Chapin Carpenter, whose songs dominated country radio stations in the 90s, captivated the main stage on Friday evening as she sang a collection of her classics like “Stones in the Road” (which has been covered by Joan Baez) and a slowed-down version of “Passionate Kisses.”
Dar Williams epitomizes the term “folk music” in the traditional sense, with her acoustic sound and powerful, often political lyrics. Her hour-long concert on Saturday afternoon featured songs about peace and human rights, as well as the ground-breaking “When I Was a Boy,” about transgender issues.
Amy Helm is Levon’s daughter, but she has a sound and energy all her own. Her Sunday set of originals and covers included elements of blues, country and folk. Her cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” as well as “When I Paint My Masterpiece” were beautiful tributes to her father. However, it was her skills on vocals and mandolin, as well as the hot guitars from her Handsome Strangers that got the audience to their feet.
2016 marked LP‘s second time on the main stage. Her Sunday evening performance was captivating, as her powerful voice (out of proportion with her diminutive stature) resonated throughout the hill, along with her ukulele and harmonica. She created a rapport with the audience, commenting on their dancing and even venturing from the stage a few times.
The Folk Fest is often compared to a family reunion. It has become a tradition for families of several generations, bringing like-minded folks together once a year. Powered by over 2000 volunteers, these people who do everything from picking up garbage to driving artists to and from the hotel are almost a community unto themselves. The lantern parade at night celebrates the different ways that volunteers contribute to making each festival a success.