Home Feature Winterfolk Spring Edition – June 8 at the Redwood Theatre, Toronto

Winterfolk Spring Edition – June 8 at the Redwood Theatre, Toronto

Noah Zacharin. Photo by Paul Corby.

It was beginning to look a lot like Winterfolk.

Up and down Gerrard Street East in Toronto last Saturday, guitar-packing hombres and earth mamas convened east of Greenwood for the long-running annual event. This time, a subtitle, The Spring Edition, was clearly necessary to clarify the branding, although T.O. weather had actually been verging onto the summery side at that point. At any rate, the chill vibes of the traditional Winterfolk community – the tie-dyes, vests and ponytails – were being well-maintained inside of the spacious 110-year-old Redwood Theater. Nestled between an Indigenous restaurant (bison burgers $10!) and a French-style bakery, it provided a rootsy ecosystem in which the music was able to thrive.

On the main stage, awesome sound and a mirror ball kept an interested crowd steadily entertained for 12 hours, while upstairs, a breakaway audience was able to listen to panels of artists from downstairs holding forth casually on musical / cultural themes ranging from protest and T.O.-centric songs to fingerpicking and songwriting. An open mic stage also added to the communal nature of the day.

Newland, Corby and Caspi. photo by Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi opened the show with a rare local appearance, taking advantage of a professional hiatus to work on a little bit of painting and a whole lot of songwriting. Classic song-story-teller David Newland shared a wide range of his interests in landscapes, the environment and Indigenous cultures. Then Taylor Abrahamse brought their stormy and urgent voice to the stage, providing a whole next level of excitement to the day, playing solo acoustic guitar with the conviction of a complete rhythm section. Their song “If I Was a Woman” left the midafternoon crowd of a hundred or so breathless and applauding like sports fans.

Brian Morgan, Brian Gladstone and Tony Quarrington. photo by Harpin Norm Lucien

Hard act to follow, but the founding director of the festival, Brian
Gladstone, who was literally on a first-name basis with the entire
audience, was up next with his quirky folk blues persona and able
support from champion guitar slinger Tony Quarrington and
middleweight fiddle contender Brian Morgan. His sequin-spangled
jacket prompted the theater owner Maria Karam to introduce him as Brian Glam-stone.


Taylor Abrahamse. Photo by Paul Corby.

Lynn Harrison brought her wisdom and poetic sensibilities to a set of her original songs that unfailingly take on healing properties in
performance. Then the crowd was put in good hands with the soulful voice, quick wit, and applause-inducing guitar playing of Noah Zacharin. Poet Robert Priest brought his library of situational poetry to the game, and Isaak Bonk led a ragging swing ensemble through impeccable classics and originals.


Isaak Bonk

Bands led by spirited and legendary guitar wranglers Donne Roberts and Tony Springer contributed exuberant singing and heavy chops to the evening hours, and it was left to the natural warmth of Hamilton’s mistress of soul, Garnetta Cromwell, to sing up a dessert of fine funk and authoritative testifying, causing the remaining citizenry of Winterfolk, once again, to come springing back into that familiar feeling of being in the company of perennial friends and family.

Tony Springer and Garnetta Cromwell


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