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Edmonton Folk Festival Review

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The 25th Edmonton Folk Music Festival was held August 5-8, 2004 in Edmonton Alberta. It has become the largest and most musically diverse festival in Canada. It is held outdoors in a down-town park which forms a natural hillside ampitheater where the land drops to the flats along the North Saskatchewan River. Ticket sales are limited, and the crowd is usually around 20,000 per day.

The Festival starts with an evening concert on Thurday. On Friday evening, there are sessions or workshops on four smaller concert stages for three hours, and a 2 and a half hour mainstage concert. On Saturday and Sunday, there are seven session stages running from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, except for a midafternoon slot where there is a mainstage event. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, there are mainstage concerts from 6:00 PM to after 11:00 PM.

The programming serves diverse tastes. There are Canadian singer-songwriters, Celtic acts from Maritime Canada, and various Canadian alt-country and indie pop bands. There are veteran UK performers. There is world music. There are elements of blues and bluegrass. There is a deliberate effort to showcase the influences of roots music on modern pop through gospel, rockabilly, R&B – last year with The Funk Brothers, this year with the Dixie Hummingbirds and with Wanda Jackson. There is an effort to please modern tastes. Last year they had Nora Jones. This year, they had Natalie Merchant, David Byrne and Michael Franti and Spearhead.

The politics are muted. The folk festival brings the tie-died hippie crowd into contact with people with more ordinary tastes and values. Songs of peace, love, solidarity abound, but there are lots of options for people who don’t live or dream on the fringe.

I will be trying to jam my impressions into a few posts – and pushing the Amazon ASIN’s to help Eric.

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