2008 is over, Hallelujah

My story about my musical year starts with a short term obsession about a song.
The CBC broadcast a story about the popularity of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah in Britain on the National (TV news) on the Friday night before Christmas. The CBC was interested because the writer was a Canadian. The story was that two different versions of the song were topping the British charts in the week before Christmas. For the last few years, some kind of Christmas themed piece has topped the charts. There is no Christmas list as such, and the charts continue to track the popularity of modern popular music in Britain, on sales.

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The Wild Trees

Richard Preston recognized a good story when he heard about Steve Sillett, ninja climbs and the quest for the tallest tree. He told the story effectively in “Climbing the Redwoods”, written for the New Yorker (ninja version here), and republished in Best American Science Writing 2006. He has managed to write it again, even better, as a full book, The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring. [Update – September 5/07. See “Upwardly Mobile” by Robert Macfarlane in the Guardian, September 1/07 for review of other books about climbing trees.]

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Vancouver Island MusicFest 2007

Vancouver Island was good. It must be one of the large folk festivals in Western Canada, with enough sponsors, grants and fan support to be able to get the performers that attract more fans. The Comox Valley Fairground is a good venue, with enough room for half a dozen stages, and camping. The camping is close to the performing area. It seemed quiet to me, but apparently some campers arrived with a sense that they could drink and party all night, which made security a minor challenge. The infrastructure was good. They had lots of portable privies, which were cleaned frequently. The camping was in an open paddock, which seems to have good drainage, and they kept lanes open for people to walk to their camps.
There was lots of music. During the day, if one stage wasn’t entertaining, there were other options. The weather was good. I enjoyed the sun, or found shade when the sun was too intense. The temperatures didn’t get above the mid 20’s, the sun was often broken by light cloud, and there were good breezes. I could take or leave some of the headliners. The last couple of main stage acts are for dancing and excitement, and I chose sleep.

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American Pie

Sunday evening, July 8, 2007, I heard Don McLean and his band perform American Pie at the Vancouver Island Musicfest (aka Folk Festival). McLean, like Joan Armatrading, Los Lobos, and Bedouin Soundclash, was a headliner, who played one set during the evening concert at the main stage. The performance was professional and competent. McLean’s songs, apart from his version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, and his own song “Vincent” (“Starry Starry Night) were probably not that well known.

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Lightfoot Week

It is Gordon Lightfoot’s week. November 5 – the anniversary of the Last Spike in the CPR, the inspiration for the Canadian Railroad Trilogy. Today, (November 10) the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which inspired The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. As the riots in the French urban suburbs continued, a fleeting thought for Black Day in July. A video clip on the CBC Web site – some US radio stations refused to play that song when it was first released.

WFF 2005 Sunday

Winnipeg Folk Festival, Sunday July 10, 2005. Another hot sunny day, carrying a forecast of possible severe thunderstorms. The storms seemed to arrive around 9:45 PM with strong winds, sending the mainstage crowd surging for the exits. The wind died down, we had some light showers, and made it through the rest of the evening. Many of the patrons who had retired to the campground came back. The crowd was smaller, probably only a couple of thousand people stayed to the end. It started to rain after midnight.

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WFF 2005 Saturday

Winnipeg Folk Festival, Bird’s Hill Park, Saturday July 9. There isn’t much to report. It was a sunny windy day, 32 degrees, humidex in the 40’s. I stayed home, visited my parents, shopped, cut the grass because it wasn’t raining and I was mainly in the shade, and didn’t visit the Festival until after 8:00 PM. I didn’t go backstage. I saw that the entrance path across Snowberry Field had dried up at one end, where the asphalt ends as the trail emerges onto the field, but there was still a bog where the trail goes into trees again. There was a lot of mud and standing water on the path towards Shady Grove and the backstage.
By the time I left for the site, the forecast had shifted to include a chance of a severe thunderstorm. When I got home this morning, I checked the radar again. There were storms that seemed to form over the corner of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota and track northeast over the lakes, missing Winnipeg and Bird’s Hill. So far Sunday has been hot, cloudy and windy but the rain has stayed away.
I spent my free time at the Bur Oak stage, reading and then went on shift at Site West. There was still standing water in spots around the Bluestem stage, but it had dried out a lot. There was mud in the record tent and the family tent.
I spent my shift around the Firefly Palace which is the nighttime use of the family entertainment stage. During the day there are games, including hula hoops, juggling with clubs and plates, frisbees, soccer balls etc. The Family area crew had stored gear under a tarp but the evening patrons had hula hoops and juggling articles and were using them. There were some steel pegs in the field to secure some log stumps. I don’t know the daytime use but the logs and spikes were hazards in the dark. Fence-jumpers, damages fences drunks, lost kids/parents (usually can’t navigate back from the port-a-potties in the dark. Lots of activity, not boring. One of the shows was music played by a VJ against a Bollywood film for a video dance party.
Didn’t hear any other music, had a good time.

WFF 2005 – Showtime

The Winnipeg Folk Festival starts today. I am again a volunteer on the Site Security crew. I have gone to the orientation meeting and to the T-Shirt evening. I have my pass and my schedule.
The Festival has become a personal event, perhaps a ritual of summer for me and for the majority of fans. It is a multi-layered event, bringing people into contact for a few days. I have come to believe that the music has become subordinate to the event – there is certainly none of the silence and reverent focus on the performer and the music that is found in concert settings.
The weather appears to be very good, generally sunny and hot, although the forecast for today includes possible thundershowers.
The site is soggy. Southern Manitoba has been pounded by rain and heavy rain last Wednesday basically led to huge surface flooding in many areas, as the saturated ground refused to take and more, and drainages were overwhelmed. The Festival site in Bird’s Hill Park is high and dry, on a sandy esker but the silty clay topsoil that holds down the grass on the festival site has been saturated. In other years, I have seen it turn to gumbo after a half hour of rain, but dry in a day.
I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the line-up; I trust that I will be entertained, and I look forward to some moments of joy and insight.