Concert review

Three highlights from Day One of the Calgary Folk Music Festival

The first night of the Calgary Folk Festival was a success with a solid turnout of music enthusiasts who fed into the hands of the Thursday evening line-up. From the first note until the last, the audience and artists fed from each other’s energy creating an electric atmosphere that reinforced the power of live music. With such a memorable launch of the first day of folk fest, one can only imagine what the rest of the weekend has in-store. Here are three artists with powerful performances that left crowds wanting more.

La Force

An artist who has a history of artistic differences graced the stage with both confidence and humility. Ariel Engle acted as a vessel to transport us into the most vulnerable corners of her mind. Each lyric oozed self-confidence and style. Her opening number and latest single, “Je suis libre,” was a beautiful ode to her Montreal roots. Ariel also did not shy away from showcasing songs from her 2018 album, La Force, demonstrating her range from moody to playful. “You Amaze Me,” stood out as a song that had a close connection to Engle, as she expressed her husband as the source of her inspiration.

Ariel draws you in with her innocence and captivates you with the depth of her music. Her soft and gentle voice is full of warmth, which is complimented by the band’s earthy beats and smooth melodies. La Force’s authentic sound is tactfully simple and hooks the listener with rhythms that intuitively move the body. The three-piece band allows Ariel to shine in the spotlight, while the instrumental layering creates a cohesive and moving collaboration.

Photo by Lauren Trelford.

Sharon Van Etten

A certifiable rock star, the queen of edginess staked her ground in Calgary winning over new fans and reinforcing the admiration of her old ones. Her presence alone was powerful in its cool factor, but it was her stage presence that kept the crowds wanting more. Sharon has clearly honed her craft as she navigates all colors, tones, and ranges of her voice. Her mastered sound is clearly defined enabling her songs to smoothly transition from dark and dramatic to up-tempo and light.

Sharon’s band was eccentric and performed as a tight unit matching their singer’s energy and commitment to emotion. From the pushing and pulling of phrases to the clean beat drops, the audience was hit with a wall of eclectic and skilled sound. Sharon is a feisty artist with a past that has shaped her into knowing what she wants. Her loyal fandom was evident with boisterous clapping, jumping, and cheering. A strong female lead, Sharon unabashedly shines letting you know that she has only just begun making her mark on the music scene.

Photo by Meaghan Walsh.

The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer

One word: soul. Check your location when seeing this band play live as they will transport you to the deep south. These Vancouverites are multi-talented, playing various instruments and throwing everything they have into a soul-rocking, blues shaking experience. The mic check highlighted the talents of Matthew Rogers, Shawn Hall, and Miss Quincy, taunting the audience with the musical preview. Once the set started, there was no turning back as the musicians were invested, and so was the crowd. It was hard to sit still, even for Shawn Hall, who was jumping out of his seat like a jolt of electricity moved him while he sang or whaled on the harmonica. Matthew Rogers kept the beats rocking with his rhythmic drums and his electrifying guitar playing.

Each song was cleverly crafted, and you could feel these award-winning musicians working off one another’s energy and musicianship. The soothing female supporting vocals and harmonies, compliments of Miss Quincy, provided contrast and elevated the gritty lead vocals and boogie rhythms. This high-energy performance ended the first night of the Calgary Folk Festival with a bang and left crowds wanting to come back for more. Find these blues-rock performers on various stages over the weekend by checking the festivals schedule at www.calgaryfolkfest.com.

Photo by Meaghan Walsh.

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