Playing various percussion instruments and drums, the stilt walkers Tallbeat lead the children’s parade this evening just before the start of the evening’s main stage performances.
Artistic Director James Keelaghan directed the parade from the kids playground around to the main entrance, through the artisan village and back around to the area in front of the main stage. Children of all ages were delighted, and some appeared somewhat mystified. How do those people manage to have such long legs anyway?
A few minutes later, the Summerfolk piper officially opened the main stage, and host David Newland began the proceedings for the evening.
The first performance of the evening main stage was The Pairs, from London, ON. We saw these three young ladies this morning on a workshop stage, but tonight they had their full band with bass and drums. Their harmony singing was now more rhythmic, more complex.
These three sisters are classically trained singers who started in choirs. Each sister, Noelle, Hilary and Renée, is an accomplished songwriter in her own right. Together they make a terrific sound, often moving in its emotion and intensity, but also frequently quirky. No longer do they need to adhere to choir rules about movement while you’re making music. It’s very fun to hear them again with their band. It’s the full Pairs experience.
Second up on the Saturday night main stage was RedFox from Montreal.
This five-member band includes a large drum kit, fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar and electric bass, but their sound may be closer to electronica than folk rock, though bluegrass is also in their DNA.
Six years ago, lead singer Daphnee Vandal teamed up with banjo player Tim Loten and guitarist Jono Townsend. Metal drummer Samuel Neumann and bassist Sam Robinson filled out the sound of the ensemble. Their sound is all encompassing. There’s a driving beat, strong vocals and tons of energy.
It’s a wholly eclectic kind of music that absolutely defies categorization. At times, the RedFox sound is meditative, and next, you’re wanting to dance.
Third up on the schedule for Saturday evening’s main stage was Windborne. Masters of ancient polyphonic sound, this a cappella quartet often sings of social justice issues. Jeremy, Will, Lauren and Lynn frequently search archives to find songs that have meaning as well as message.
A song titled “Hard Times” from the 1600s complains of corporate greed and credits billionaires with making life difficult for ordinary people. (Sound familiar?) That band augmented their voices on this song with jaw harps the accentuated the harmonies.
Layered lyrics and harmonies that bring you close to weeping are the trademark of this stellar vocal ensemble. If you have a chance to go hear their upcoming concerts in Canada this fall, don’t miss it!
The penultimate performer on the Saturday night Summerfolk main stage was the Angelique Francis band. Funky, danceable and with a whole lot of soul, this is one band that really delivers on its promise.
There are choreographed brass-playing dancing women; a lead singer who plays the classic stand up bass, which is taller than she is, while wailing on the harmonica; a drummer with an ultra-tight rhythm, and a guitarist with riffs to die for. All this happens with song lyrics running past your ears.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing here is that this is pretty much a family band. Leader Angelique works here with her two sisters who play saxophone and trombone and sing back-up. Their dad is the drummer. The only slightly odd man out in the band is the amazing guitarist, who is “a brother from another mother” says Angelique.
Angelique Francis has an absolutely terrific singing voice. She can hold a note until dawn with power to spare. She covered Elvis’ “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog,” and had the audience right in on all the action. Her rendition of “Minnie The Moocher” had everyone joining in on the nonsense chorus and each of her players (sax, trombone and guitar) had solos on the breaks. Every round of the song got faster and more complicated to sing.
The Summerfolk dancing area was packed, and this band knocked everyone’s socks off! Their final number was an original written by Angelique to celebrate the Mardi Gras traditions. If the dance floor wasn’t quite full before, it certainly was now. So much fun!
Somewhere around 2007 perhaps, we remember seeing a teenage Serena Ryder performing on a side stage at the Mariposa Folk Festival. Impresario, life-long music lover and talent cultivator Richard Flohil had Serena under his wing then. (It seems that he’s still looking out for her. We saw Richard in the wings backstage.)
Well, Serena has come a very, very long way since then. Now an accomplished pop singer with hit records that get tons of radio play, she headlines concerts at major halls. So, it is very nice to see her come back to the festival circuit where her career began.
From her entrance onto the stage, Serena held nothing back. She remarked that the last time she was on the Summerfolk stages, she was a mere 18, fresh from growing up in the Kawartha Lakes of central Ontario. It’s been a lot of years since then.
Serena told us that she found out recently that her birth father was a calypso musician in a band called Tradewinds. And her uncle, Bob Carpenter, was a musician too. Serena played his song “Old Friends.” Seems like it was written for her.
Serena sang her 2013 hit song: “What I Wouldn’t Do.” There weren’t many in the audience who didn’t know every single lyric.
Five years sober now, Serena talked about trying to “put a cork in a volcano.” Her latest album The Art of Falling Apart is all about that. She played that title tune here. It’s pretty much a love song to herself with the lyrics “I can love you better now.”
Serena performed tonight solo except for her drummer, a big guy who played on a very small kit. She led the audience in a cool, bluesy singalong number. “It’s no mistake, I am with you,” the chorus said.
Serena’s next song was her hit “Little Bit of Red.” The audience was right into singing the hook of that one.
The next song was all about letting the things you want come to you, being patient instead of chasing your dreams impatiently. Serena says she really likes it when the audience joins her in singing her songs. She patiently teaches the lines to allow that to happen.
Serena continued with “Weak in the Knees,” her 2006 platinum record. And then the finale: “Stompa.” Everyone was up on their feet clapping and stomping to this song that went three times platinum in 2012, Serena’s biggest hit.
For her encore, Serena covered a song called “Good Days,” recorded for her goddaughter Luna, and released just yesterday. A lovely, lovely song.
After eight albums and dozens of hit singles, it’s lovely to see Serena return to an Ontario folk festival stage – it’s where her career began.