Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Part Three -- Folk Festival

Although it was only three days long, I think the Regina Folk Festival deserves its own post. It was a really good festival. It was small enough to be accessible and have very few line ups (think 10 min. wait for food or the bathroom instead of 30 - 50 mins like at the Edmonton), a good mix of music, a great kids area, and a pretty laid back audience.

The boys and I arrived in Regina late Thursday afternoon and we started to organize everything and get our campsite set up. The car was a disaster after I unpacked things to go to Thunder Bay, repacked them to drive to Regina, unpacked and repacked again in Portage and then drove the four hours to Regina by myself with a teething baby and a grumpy, disoriented, constipated toddler. So what I ended up doing to reorgaize my stuff was just set the big bags on the ground, and slowly sort through everything else that was in the car and put it back in its respective proper place. While I did this and dealt with the baby, Dave set up the tent and Andrew ran around all excited, playing with sticks and bungee cords and the wood from our improvised roof rack. After this Dave put Andrew to sleep, then we finished organizing everything in our giant, palatial 8 man tent that Dave bought. It was huge, but afforded us room for all the stuff we had brought, plus two air mattresses and enough room to walk and sit and play a little bit in between. So it was really about the size of a small hotel room. By the time we had all that done, we had had the door of the tent open for a few hours. As we were going to bed we noticed that there were a few spiders in the tent, and Dave killed three or four.

The next morning I woke up with a series of nasty bites up my leg and realized that actully, our tent was infested with spiders. I guess there are two kinds of ground spiders around the area where we were camping. One was just daddy long legs types, which were not too bad because I know thery're harmless. But the other kind was about the same size, but with thicker, nastier legs and it looked like it would bite. So Friday morning I went on a spider killing rampage and masscred about 15 spiders in the course of a half an hour. For the next few days I was routinely killing a spider almost every time I went to get something out of our stuff. It was kind of gross, and I'm sorry to confess that by the end of the week Andrew could be heard saying, "There's another stupid spider, mommy!".

Anyway, so after a visit to Chapters and the grocery store and lots of time getting ourselves organized and arguing about whose fault it was that we weren't organized (which was silly, becuase of course it was mine) we finally got to the line up for the festival. It was quite fast, and it only took us about 20 min. to get in to the festival site, so we were pretty happy. As we went looking for a place to put our blanket, though, we noticed something that I have also observed when it comes to line ups and parking on the prairies.

In B.C., at the Mission folk festival, people generally abutt their tarps so that you get a kind of tarp patchwork quilt that is spread out for about a square kilometer. Then around the edges of this things disperse a little more into groups of people with lawn chairs or those who go there late. Same thing at Salmon Arm and at Edmonton. If you need to get to your tarp, you just sort of walk over the edges of the tarps around you and no one really blinks. In Regina people leave little spaces all around their tarps. Each tarp is its own little island with tidy, distinct pieces of grass on all sides. Not only that, but people tend to sit in rows, with natural aisles in between them so that you can get in and out of any section without disrupting anyone else. I think this has something to do with internal landscapes of people in different parts of the country. In B.C., if you are in a parking lot, about half the spaces are "small car" spaces becuase land is so expensive and so sparse. In a lineup you stand directly behind the person in front of you, just on the edge of their bubble. It has to do with living in between mountains. Space is limited. But in Saskatchewan, most of the land is parcelled up into neat quarter sections, and people are used to having order and space. In the winter people tend to sort of randomly park their cars in one and a half spaces each (you can't actually see the lines), so you can get about half the amount of cars that there are spaces in a parking lot. And if you were to stand closer than about two or three feet away from the person in front of you in line you would get looks ( I learned this when I first moved here). Its a matter of that quarter section, big sky mindset making its way into every day life.

So anyway, by the time we got there we had to sit on the edges, even though they could have fit twice as many people in the space as they did. Then we realized that we were right by the speakers, and Andrew is very sensitive to noise, so we had to move in the middle of the second act, because he was on the verge of crying after the first act, which was just a woman singing and a piano, and the second act was a full scale Mexican band with trombone, trumpet, drums, bongos, etc, etc. So we ended up way in a back corner by the sound tent, just on the edge of the smoking section.

There was some really good music that night. SArah Sleen, who had the misfortune of kicking off the festival (but who we saw at several workshops on Saturday and Sunday) was really good. She is about our age, and very tiny, but she has a phenomenal voice -- great range, very big sound and a nice tone. She writes really intelligent, beautiful music, and we enjoyed listening to her. At first her stag presence put me off a bit, becuase she tells stories and random facts about herself in between songs in a sort of overdramatic, larger than life manner which was a bit odd. But she was really great to listen to anyway, and I enjoyed her songs. Next was the Mexican band, and then this weird, postmodern experimental instumental band that was headed by a vibraphone player (yay, percussion!). I was checking out the artisans' booths (always one of my favorite things to do at Folk Festivals), while they were playing and it was very weird and etherial and made me feel like I had just stepped into a Neil Gaiman novel.

Then just as Buck65 came on, the spiders took their revenge and it started to rain. He was really good. He's a white guy from New Brunswick in his 30's with this gravelly voice who does ironic rap. He's very good and clever and funny. During his act it started to rain. And I thought "maybe we should go before this gets bad". But he was really good, so we decided to stay. And then it started to really rain, so we picked up our tarp and tucked ourselves and the stroller under it and stayed to watch. Then is REALLY STARTED TO POUR and we huddled under the tarp until it was over, thinking that it couldn't really get any worse and we were all going to be wet anyway so we might as well finish watching the show. So at the end, we ended up picking up all our belongings (two beach chairs, a stroller, a baby, a cooler, a backpack, and hard frame backpack carrier, a blanket and our two boys) and dashing through the rain the 5 blocks back to our car. We were seriously in water half way up our calves in some places. It was crazy. The boys were really good, though. Andrew just held on to the sides of the stroller and Aaron clung to me for dear life (he was in the sling in a polar fleece sleeper, so he was okay) and they all freaked out when we got to the car and then fell asleep.

Amazingly, our tent was completely dry (which Dave must have mentioned about a dozen times in the next day or so), but everything we had at the folk festival was wet. So we spent much of the next morning and afternoon (and about $10.00 at the campsite dryer) drying all our stuff out.

Saturday was good, too. We caught a few workshops, and enjoyed the mainstage acts. There was an interesting cross-genre band called Mother Mother with very clever, edgy songs and great harmony, and a woman from New Zealand who created entire sound scapes with a loop pedal and her own voice. The perfect layers of harmonics in her work was great, and it was very dancable, too. Bruce Cockburn was the big name act, and he was really good, too. We went home before the final group, a ragae band. Not becuase we don't like ragae, but because Andrew wasn't sleeping and we wanted him to catch up on some of his rest. The one downside was that there was a group of people smoking a lot of pot right behind us (and getting away with it by sharing it with security) which was kind of annoying when I had small children with me.

Sunday we got to more workshops, and we were especially impressed by Sarah Sleen's vocals and by Mother Mother. The later band had a lot of songs on topics most musicians wouldn't think about singing about -- one about a miscarriage called "Little Hands" and one about being a fat kid with the chorus "I was a fat kid, he was a fat kid, she was a fat kid too. When you are a fat kid, only other fat kids ever give you half a chance". There was also a dance workshop for kids that I tried to take Andrew to, but he didn't want to participate. I was kind of disapointed, but I realized that most of the excersises they were teaching were basic creative movement ones that I've done before, so I didn't feel too gyped.

Sunday night was really good. I was tired and I don't remember a lot of the acts. But the boys fell asleep well and Blue Rodeo, the headline act that night, was really good. Dave went up to the front during their performance and it was really good.

One workshop that really stood out for me was one that had singer/songwriters from all across the country. I really enjoyed all the artists, but for me what was more interesting was observing the regional cultural differences. The artist from Montreal was really aggressive and kind of insulting (in a light-hearted way) to the person in charge of the session ("So, are you leading this session or not? If you're not I'll take over. Seriously, someone take charge of this workshop"). The artist from southern Ontario was very stand offish and perfectionistic. The group from Vancouver sang songs with themes that none of the other artists would have dared to touch on (Vancouver people are much smoother and less ascerbic than those from other parts of the country, but also completely comfortable expressing their thoughts on any topic, no matter how "hot"), and the Saskatchewan artist tried to get everyone to sing along together for a rousing communnal finale, but none of the other artists knew the words or would cooperate. It was pretty classic.

The other thing that really amused me was that all the artists felt the need to make Regina jokes (becuase we all know what Regina rhymes with) and NO ONE laughed. Touchy? Perhaps.

All in all the folk festival was all we had expected it to be. We enjoyed it, and the kids enjoyed it (after Andrew got used to the idea). The food was descent. There were a lot of amazing artisans. There was a lot of good music. We had fun.

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