Home Feature Dispatches from the Mariposa Folk Festival daytime stages day three (Saturday)

Dispatches from the Mariposa Folk Festival daytime stages day three (Saturday)

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Les Fireflies. Photo by Richard Barry.

First thing to mention about the festival is how well things appear to be running, which is to say I have paid no attention to how things have been running because I haven’t noticed any problems. For example, parking at a sold-out event can be a nightmare, yet getting in and getting parked took no time at all. Key amenities, shall we say, are in abundance; an effort has been made to ensure people have access to water; there are cooling stations, and though there are a lot of people on site, it doesn’t feel particularly crowded. Sorry to go all hippie here, but the vibe is great. People seem to be enjoying themselves, each other, and the music.

Got to the site around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. There are few things more pleasant than walking around a folk festival site first thing in the morning before anything has happened. Volunteers are scooting around in golf carts seeming focused but casual, people who may have camped nearby are stumbling around looking not quite awake. Best of all, the air hasn’t quite heated up yet, and if your festival is on a big beautiful lake, like Mariposa, you might be lucky enough to get a cool breeze off the water, which was the case this morning. The weather cooperated, at least during the day on Saturday.

Seasoned festival-goers know that daytime schedules present a particular problem, namely how to structure your day so you get to see as much of your favourite music as possible even though more often than you’d like, some of those favourites are scheduled at the same time as your other favourites. It’s no one’s fault; it’s just a consequence of having so much great stuff to choose from. Saturday morning, I decided to use the first performance slot of the day to catch Jake Vaadeland and the Sturgeon River Boys, a group I’ve been hearing some things about and really wanted to see. That meant I’d have to miss Matt Anderson, Steve Polz and the Wood Brothers. Oh, well.

Anyway, back to Jake Vaadeland. Though I was told by my friend Steve Pritchard, who was on site, that they aren’t necessarily a bluegrass band, and Steve knows a lot about these things, they sure seemed like a bluegrass band to me. There were banjos, an upright bass and a steel pedal guitar along with some very fine guitar picking and banjo playing. Jake’s patter also harkens back to some humour in the style of the old days of the Grand Ole Opry. Great show, the audience loved it and were on their feet by the end. It was a terrific way to start the day.

Another great aspect of music festivals is the stuff you hear by accident. The next workshop I was heading to hadn’t begun, as the previous group of performers was just wrapping up, so I got a hear a great version of the Band’s “Ophelia” by, I think, the Wood Brothers. It was so good.

The next workshop I saw included a singer-songwriter by the name of Carsie Blanton. I was not familiar with her, but really liked what I heard and hope to hear more.

After that, I had to check out the Mountain City Four featuring Anna McGarrigle and Peter Weldon with special guest Martha Wainwright. This is a folk group with its origins in the 1960s, which is closely connected to the development of the McGarrigle Sisters. For those of us who care about Canadian folk music and where it’s been, it was important to catch this performance.

I then found the Boho Stage in order to catch the last little bit of The McDades, a band from out West who are firmly rooted in the Celtic tradition, though they are so much more than that. I mean, they have a sax player, and a very good one. It was a rockin’ half-set I caught, and I will be seeing them again somewhere.

By now you have noticed a pattern emerging. I do rather gravitate to more traditional styles of music so I finished off my afternoon by hearing Les Fireflies, a New Brunswick-based trio of award-winning fiddlers, multi-instrumentalists and singer-songwriters, and then I stayed put to hear about 40 minutes of music by John Showman on fiddle and Chris Coole on banjo. They say their music occupies a space on the outskirts of old-time, bluegrass, and folk. Whatever it is, they’re really good at it. As for Les Fireflies, though I am no expert on the matter, I do enjoy hearing unique Canadian styles of fiddle playing and, in this case, the overall presentation of Les Fireflies’ Acadian heritage. As for Showman and Coole, though much of their music comes out of American culture, the aforementioned Steve Pritchard pointed out to me that there is still a Canadian quality to their music based in part
on where and how they learned their craft. As a proud Canadian, I found that very interesting.

Other people would have spent their time differently. That’s how I spent my afternoon. Tomorrow I am hoping to branch out a little bit and maybe hear some blues, and jazz and world music. It was a good day.

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