Sitting in the afternoon sun, the grass beneath my bare feet, between my fingers with my palms to the ground, a vibration of pure and genuine enjoyment permeated Prince’s Island Park in Calgary. A diverse crowd emerged – young girls in short dresses, older men in fedoras and button downs, mothers and daughters, young children on shoulders with glow bracelets, rapt by what is going on around them. Hipsters, hippies, punks, cowboys, politicians, local celebrities and teens in flip flops and board shorts, a deficiency of shirts, some barefoot, the younger boys collecting plates for deposits.
This crowd watched workshops during the afternoons. A gorgeous wall of sound flooded our meadow seats as Library Voices, St. Vincent, Timber Timbre and Sunparlour Players jammed for what seemed an eternity on only the right notes. Side stage performances from Dan Mangan and Ohbijouinvited the wistful and communally spirited to join them. Brits Laura Marling and Frank Turner transfixed, while international acts Etran Finatawa and Coolooloosh destroyed the concept of genre through clashing and bending.
I would have never expected this vibe from a province seen by those of us ill-informed and ill-served by the partisan regional politics of Canada, to be uptight and staunchly conservative. In the evenings, the tarped field and fenced off ‘dancing only’ sections filled before the main stage. Fuelled by Cat Empire,Michael Franti and Stars the city became a bohemian mecca; flowing skirts, closed eyes and arms held high in a haze of sweat and dance. Calgary Folk is sonic bliss in the Canadian west.