The Joy of Folk

The third weekend in July rolls around and, once again, it’s Folk Festival time in Vancouver. Once more, one digs out the beach chair, the blanket, the 60 SPF sunscreen, and a range of clothing for various weather possibilities throughout the 13-hour days.

For many years now, I’ve immersed myself joyfully in the annual experience. The complete experience requires a slight adjustment of approach in order to behave as one of the Folk. Folk are laid-back and display camaraderie. As a group, they do things the “right” way. Should you be unclear on the right attitudes, there are helpful signs. At the toilet lineups, you’re reminded to let kids (“Little Folk”) and pregnant women go ahead. You’re encouraged to dance at the side of the seating areas so as not to obscure the view of the musicians for others. The left wing package of beliefs and attitudes (pro-choice, anti-war, pro-union, distrustful of politicians and big business) is to be accepted unquestioningly. You are happy to buy expensive, organic, fair trade coffee, since the proceeds go to support education for girls in (pick an underprivileged country).

Age and listening to the same thing year after year does induce a kind of yeah, yeah, heard it all before, cynicism. Yes, we know sunset over the north shore mountains is the most beautiful sight on earth. Yes, let’s once more give a round of applause to Emily the tireless, who signs for the hearing-impaired (or whatever this year’s politically correct term is). Yes, we’ll wait another five minutes while the sound people add more bass in the monitor. We accept that the toilet paper always runs out about the time that the level of the contents is unpleasantly high. We line up to fill our metal water bottles from the common tap. Have I outgrown this? I ask myself this every year, during the first few sets.

Yet, each year, there is always a moment when it all comes together and a warmth towards all humanity surfaces again. The music must be perfect: this time it was Delhi 2 Dublin (described as Punjabi/ Celtic electro-acoustic dance music). You couldn’t see them, as everyone in front of me was up dancing, but the music went straight into the pleasure centre of my brain. I was leaning back against the knees of my uncomplaining partner. Although the sun was beating down, auguring a future headache, I was too blissed out to move. And suddenly, I love them all:

  • the obese, aged woman standing in front of me for an hour, rhythmically jiggling whatever there was to jiggle (a lot);
  • the kilted man standing beside me whose toenails needed cutting;
  • the buoyantly topless young woman doing her best to look unselfconscious.

It’s happened again: the magic of the Folk Festival (and cheap at $112 for the weekend ticket).

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2 thoughts on “The Joy of Folk

  1. As you (anmaru) know better than almost anyone, the FF is my all-time favorite Vancouver experience. I’ve attended almost every FF since 1981, and still feel a sharp pang of sorrow when walking back to the car by moonlight on the final evening, knowing that it will be an entire 12 months until next year’s festival. This summer being what it has been so far (that is: over-busy) I suspect that, if J and I had not pre-purchased our Saturday day-tickets, we might have let this year’s festival slip past without attending. But then I would have missed my annual viewing of the butterfly which can *always* be seen flitting about the upper branches of the trees which shade Stage 2. I know that it is not the same butterfly but I always see each year’s version of it at Stage 2, and I suspect (and hope) that I always will, because it seems a perfect FF symbol, combining the ephemeral (an awareness of time passing, and all of us aging) with the kind of permanence that comes with traditions being sustained and passed on to future generations. My nephew Cameron came to the FF with us for the second time; Ben and Sarah were there again this year – and you and I both remember when those two were so young that they attended the evening concerts in Snuglis, rocked to sleep by their parents to the music of Utah Phillips or Ferron.

  2. Pingback: Delhi 2 Dublin 2 West Vancouver « Anmaru

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