What beats a summer day spent basking in a breezy heat, bobbing your head to live music acts, spread out on a lush oasis of grass? Very little. Outdoor music festivals are always in bloom throughout the summer, welcoming music lovers, musicians, or anyone looking for a reprieve from the stresses that daily life can create. Catching up with a couple bands at the Calgary Folk Music Festival at the end of July, it was nice to get the artists perspective on music festivals.
“Playing live, to me, is continuing the conversation started by the record,” says Tony Dekker of the Great Lake Swimmers, a folk group based out of Toronto. The band has been travelling throughout Western Canada for the first little bit of summer, playing concerts and taking part in headlining various folk festivals. “It’s very inspiring, summertime through the rockies. Alberta is a beautiful part of Canada, and gives me idea’s for our music,” says Dekker. “Our music is not really ‘get up on your feet’ kind of music, though. [Instead], people really appreciate our respite from the ‘made from radio pop-music’. We have something that cuts a little deeper, and that, I think, people come to really respect.”
It is quite clear that their travelling heavily influences the music they create, and listeners would come to agree that the earth, the wild, and the outdoors is reflected in each twang and string of lyrics produced by the Great Lake Swimmers. Listening to them at the Calgary Folk Fest, it is apparent that they successfully generated this tone, which perfectly reflected the philosophy of the Calgary Folk Fest: “a genre-defying… festival” presenting “… fiercely independent, creative troubadours and master instrumentalists”.
Though, music festivals invite listeners of all tempo’s and preferences. If you feel like letting your hair loose, clapping your hands, and swiveling your hips, there’s an artist that ignites just that. This is what makes festivals unique to not only the artists, but to the audience: there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. “I love the audience! Fishbone has always had a fine attachment to moving the crowd,” remarks Norwood Fisher, bassist and original member of 1980 ska band Fishbone. The group has been moving crowds throughout North America this summer, touring with brother bands Slightly Stoopid, NOFX, and Stephen Marley. Playing at the Calgary Folk Fest, Fisher gave the crowd a throwback to the underground world of ska during the 80’s, and even shed some light on the differences of performing back then, to performing now. “I became a teenager in a time where punk-rock was brand new, and punk-rock said ‘anybody can and should be able to do this if you had a desire’. To pick up a guitar, write a song, and express yourself. Hip-hop came right along with it on the other side, saying pretty much the same things. Though, it said in a little different way where ‘people were making something out of nothing’. They said ‘we don’t have money to buy guitars and drums, and we’re going to use what we have: turntables, etc’,” nods Fisher. “But now, you know, we write music on computers by ourselves sometimes… Back then it used to be we always would jam something up, improvise and use the void of nothing as our true point of creation. So yeah, there are differences, but even through the differences there are parts that are the same. See, there will always be that part of us that remains true to the roots that we laid down for ourselves, yet there’s always new experiences and new ideas changing us all the time.” They truly did stick to their roots, creating live improvisation an authentic ska-vibe on stage at the Calgary Folk Fest, which sparked the ears and shook the hips of the all attendee’s at the festival.
Want to check out Great Lake Swimmers or Fishbone? Great Lake Swimmers will be gracing eastern Canada at the Peterborough Folk Fest on August 23rd, as well as a show in Morrisburg, Ontario on September 20th.. Fishbone, on the other hand, will be playing shows throughout the United States and South America. For more information on those shows, just visit their website www.fishbone.net.