Not quite ready to go to packed festivals and concerts just yet? No problem, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival is bringing the music right to us. Well, if you are lucky enough to live in, be invited to, or potentially crash, one of the secret neighbourhoods they will visit that is…
That’s right, the Folk Fest has organized 40 concerts in various neighbourhoods across Edmonton over the weekends between July 16 and August 8, 2021.
Let’s face it, large crowds are still potentially problematic as super-spreaders. Not everyone is comfortable in crowds yet. We have not reached herd immunity and who knows what’s up with the variants. But musicians are antsy to perform in front of people again, and festival goers are desperately missing the Fest… So, rather than bringing everyone to the Hill, the Fest is bringing the music to the people! #TakinItToTheStreets
Genius, I tell you!
So, my friend messages me and says, “Hey, my neighbourhood has been accepted for one of the Edmonton Folk Fest street concerts, you wanna come?” What? Are you kidding!? Heck, yes I do!! Wild horses, baby! Wild horses.
It’s been a long 16 months since my last concert – Louden Swain at the Las Vegas Supernatural Convention. Little did I know then it would be the last time I would see live music, or travel outside of my province, or even gather without physically distancing myself from those outside of my bubble, for more than a year.
I’ve joked before that I would miss concerts like I would miss breathing, and well, damn if that wasn’t a bit prophetic! Oh, how I miss live music. Oh, how I miss concerts and festivals!
I miss feeling the bass through my feet, up my spine. I miss the vibrations through my chest. I miss seeing the emotions and passion on performers’ faces, in the movement of their bodies with their instruments, in the pitch and delivery of their voices.
I miss gathering with fellow music aficionados, with friends that share this love, with strangers that just get me, without even knowing me, because of this love.
I miss the moments of community and connectivity where the audience moves as one, everyone clapping, singing, jumping in time. I miss the quiet appreciation of just nodding your head or tapping your foot to the beat.
I miss losing myself in the beauty and joy of it all.
Yep, it’s been a long 16 months. And I’m saying that as someone who has been incredibly lucky in this COVID world. Incredibly lucky. We all have stories, and I certainly have mine, but over all I’m good, most of the people I know are good. I’m moving through this new world mostly intact. And I know live music withdrawals are minor in the big COVID scheme of things…
But Music Fangirl Confession #8: it’s music. Music is a lifeline for me. It is my heart and soul, and live music is the blood that flows through my veins. I say this as purely a listener, a spectator, consumer. I am not a musician or involved in the industry as anything but a connoisseur (and occasional blogger). I can only imagine the impact of this past 16 months on musicians, crews, and other industry-insiders.
Music soothes. Music heals. It educates, elucidates, captivates. It inspires. It can change the world. Losing live music hurt.
So when my friend sent that invitation, I could feel my whole face instantly light up. I felt a huge weight, a COVID virus-shaped weight, an isolated, mask-wearing, physically-distanced, grocery shopping is the only outing-shaped weight, lifted off of my shoulders. Sun-beams rose up and radiated bright golden light around me (though it was evening when she messaged me…)
It was truly the first time I actually felt like some form of joyful normalcy was coming back. Not a return to the way things were, because there are lessons we need to learn and grow from here. Not just stores and restaurants reopening, not just movie theatres, not just work from home rules being lifted kind of normalcy. Not concerts and conventions rescheduled eons away in late 2021 or into 2022. This was live music in just days to come. A small gathering of people watching live music, in person… in just a few sleeps! This was a Moment. A momentous, monumental Moment…
So I went. Saturday, July 17, 2021. It was only the second day of these concerts and it was magnificent. There were two sets of performers, Daniel Gervais and Post Script, both from Edmonton. The Folk Fest people drove a truck pulling a flat bed into the neighbourhood, set up the stage on the flat bed, rolled out the sound system, did the sound check, neighbours brought out their festival chairs on the blocked off street and grassy corners.
The music began.
Daniel Gervais, fiddler extraordinaire, and his guest on guitar, saxophone, and tin whistle, broke my musical hiatus with jigs and reels, folk songs, his own compositions, and The Devil Went Down to Georgia. I was in heaven, my first live music in so long and there’s Irish jigs and reels… sigh… I almost started to cry. They were truly incredible, amazing musicians. The audience was tapping our feet, clapping our hands, literally dancing in the streets…
And they were pretty darn funny too…. Best joke of the night: Daniel says “Our show has a restricted rating… due to sax and violins…” OMG!
Post Script. This duo, Paul Cournoyer on upright bass, Steph Blais on guitar, and both on vocals, was equally lovely. Beautiful, emotional songs, songs of love, songs of loss. A mixture of English and French. Their voices were stunning. They had us enthralled, captivated, feeling every emotion they projected. We swayed, we cried, we mourned, we fell in love.
We were reminded by both sets just how incredibly talented Edmonton is. How rich the local music scene is. And how much we both need each other, audience and musician.
This two hours of folk fest, this music, was cathartic, magical. It was heaven. It released the valve of 16 months of pent up COVID stress, transported us to a world of no cares – where the biggest issues were whether you missed a beat in your claps (no one cares about this), or whether the slightly alarmingly big but skinny spider crawling inches away was going to climb into your bag or up your leg (shudders…).
I felt normal. But happy normal, concert-infused, full of life normal. I felt the world is ok normal. We are surviving this. We’ve all been saying “this too shall pass” – I felt for the first time like we are closer to the other side of ‘has passed.’
Yes, delta and other variants, yes stalled vaccinations and anti-vaxers and we still don’t know what is the best thing to do – vax or not vax, mix the vaxes or double up the same brand, wear a mask or don’t wear a mask… But we are sooooo close. Live music is in its return.
So, insert Public Service Announcement here: Please, please get your vaccines, wear a mask even if you did get your vaxes, wash your hands, physically distance when not in your bubble, and stay home if you are sick (and if you are employers and government, make it possible for people to stay home!).
If we all do that, we can all do this more and more!
And finally, thank you to Edmonton Folk Fest for thinking outside of the box and bringing live music in a way that reduces chance of spreading the virus. Thank you for the upcoming The Hill at Home streaming of Hozier and Brandi Carlisle, and collections of playlists on Spotify, as another way to enjoy the Folk Fest during this time.
I was there on the Hill for Hozier’s show in person and I can’t wait to watch it again on August 6! And here’s hoping next year is back at Gallagher for the full-on experience! I’ve only been a few years, but participation is mandatory now 😀 I will be there with bells on (possibly literally – its fest-wear after all!)
And thank you so much to my friend who not only invited me, but applied for her neighbourhood and organized the afternoon from the neighbourhood side of things. You are an amazing human being who brought much joy to all of us who attended and played.
Long live the music!