Tag Archives: Edmonton Folk Fest

Next Please!

It occurred to me the other night as I stood outside waiting to get in to see one of my fav singer/songwriters that I spend a lot of time standing in lines. Some times for an hour. Sometimes more. Which made me think. If everybody just agreed to show up 45 minutes later we would all be standing here for much less time. And then I just started thinking about lines.

We’ve all been in them. Some short. Some long. Some excruciating. At the grocery store, the movie theatre, the bank, restaurants. And it’s not just the being there. It’s the getting there too.. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time in a traffic line trying to get to wherever it is you are going only to find a throng of people waiting to do the very same thing you want to do. Most often you wait. Outwardly calm, inwardly seething, until you hear someone say “next please” and realize that the mother with the rather exuberant toddler you mercifully let in front of you an eternity ago, is no longer there and it is, in fact, your turn to finally move forward and do whatever it is you came to do. And you hope against hope you can remember what that is.

Like you, I’ve been in my share of lines. All kinds of them. Anyone who knows anything knows there are lines that are well worth the wait and others that are not. There are lines that are fun and others that are not. And there are lines we want to be in and others that we would rather not. 

Like the line I stand in to pay my property taxes. Once a year, every year, I trapse down to City Hall, papers in hand, signed and ready to submit, imagining that I’ll be in and out having paid my dues (literally) in no time. And every year I arrive to find multitudes of like-minded citizens lined up to do the very same thing that I have decided to do. I mean what are the chances? It’s not like we called each other up and made a plan. How could we? Until this very moment I can honestly say that I didn’t even know these people existed, nor they I. So how is it that with all of us strangers heading to the same place at the same time, two of three cashiers have decided they no longer want to be where we are, leaving one lonely soul to work her way through, what at this point has become by anyone’s standards, a very long line. And to what end do we stand patiently waiting our turn? To hand over some very hard earned cash to a group of people who may, or may not, do with it what we think is reasonable to do. There’s no fun, no frivolity in this line. No friends to be made. It’s just a line one has to be, but doesn’t really want to be, in. But trust me. Not all lines are alike.

I’ve honed my line skills at some of the best. Like boxing day. What could be better than waking up long before the sun, piling on all (and I mean ALL) of your warmest clothing, jumping into your best friend’s car and plowing (again, literally) through the snow and ice to your nearest electronics store where you join what by this time is a very long line of people waiting in anticipation for the doors to open so they can possibly (depending on how close to those doors they managed to get) snag a deal on an item or two they failed to find under their tree. Did I mention that it’s also -30 degrees celsius? In case you don’t know, that’s the kind of cold that makes you forget you have fingers and toes. If you still do.  Surprisingly, this is a line-up you want to be in. People joking with each other, laughing (mostly at themselves for being there), sharing their hopes and dreams (as in “I’ve always dreamed of having an 40” TV (Come on! It was the 90s.) and I sure hope I”m close enough to get one”). Coffee and donuts being bought and shared among people who were complete strangers only moments ago. Stories told and retold. It truly is a wonderful bonding experience. Just thinking about it makes my toes start to tingle.

But even that pales beside the Mother of all lines. The one that will remain burned in my memory until I no longer have one. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Talk about lines. Honestly. I have taken trips that are shorter than the lines for the EFMF. Not only will you find yourself in an extraordinary line just to get tickets, you will also find yourself in a line that gets you a spot in another line. That’s right. You’re going to line-up to line-up. Now you would think this would be one of those laid back, folksy kind of lines, not unlike that one on boxing day, what with all the peace signs, tie-dye and flowers in the hair. Don’t kid yourself. There will be some bantering and bonding over your shared love of music. Maybe the sharing of a little something that makes the time seem to fly by. But after waiting 5 hours in the scorching sun for those gates to open nothing will stop your new found “friends” from bulldozing over everything in sight (including you) to secure their coveted spot on the hill. This line is not for the faint of heart. 

Now I know. Many of you are thinking “what decade is she from”? Who doesn’t pay their taxes online? And who in their right mind would line up to buy something? And what exactly were you sharing in that line anyway? More importantly, why would anyone line-up for anything? So the other day, finding myself in need of some assistance with my household electronics, I decided that rather than make my way to the bricks and mortar where I knew I would become one among many technically inept folks, I would ditch the line and give my service provider a call. A very nice lady with a rather calming voice answered and let me know a technician would be with me as soon as possible. To reassure me, she kindly mentioned that I was 57th in line and the wait would be a little more or less than 60 minutes. Just one question. Anyone got a little something to help me pass the time?

Tagged , , ,

Time to Recenter

yin-yang-symbol-4-1101202-mI imagine that many of you don’t think about me as much as I do. As a result, you probably didn’t realize that I have just spent three days sitting on a tarp in the middle of a park watching hour upon hour of truly wonderful music. Yes, it’s that time again and I spent the better part of the week-end at the Edmonton Folk Fest. If you’ve never been you can get ready for it by reading my primer on all things folk (parts one, two and three) and put it in your calendar for next year. Trust me, it will be worth the wait and while you’re here you can visit our other major attraction, the almost largest mall in the world. So plan on it. In the meantime let me help you understand the profound effect this event has on someone like me. And why this week you won’t be hearing much about being shallow.

This year the folk fest celebrated its 34th year of bringing the best music in the world to this little town of mine. Over four days the hills of our river valley are transformed into a city within a city, one with no worries, no crime, and a whole lot of organic food. There are 25,000 people on the hill, all of whom have clearly prepared for this event by raiding their own, or their parents’ closets for something, anything really, that was fashionable sometime around 1968. Or made of hemp. Perhaps organic cotton. And rather ill-fitting. There’s dancing and singing and lots of arm waving to the beats of the music. Or not. It’s a collage of hipsters and hippies, Mothers with babes in their arms, men and women sharing the stories of their lives on their tattooed bodies, Grandmas and Grandpas remembering what it was like to be young. Everyone seems happy, like there is no place else in the world they would rather be. And therein lies the problem for me.

You see, it’s tough to be shallow on the hill given the cacophony of not so shallow phenomenon that confronts me at just about every turn. Saturday morning as I walk past the pre-festival yoga class I can almost feel the chakras swirling onto the path in front of me.  A short while later my eye catches the rather trendy, handmade purses crafted from recycled tires hanging beside the “enviroresin” jewelry over at the merch tents. Before I know it my bff Kev (you remember “the Kev”) let’s me know that the song he just heard brought a tear to his eye. Who would of thought!  Then there’s the guy in the skirt on the tarp in front of me which imho, is a smidgen too tight and leaves me with questions about what he wears to his regular job.  And as if all of this is not enough to rock my boat, topple my house of cards, towards the end of the evening I find myself face to face with the woman beside me who, when the MC encourages everyone to “hug the person on your left” took him at his word.  And there I was, on her left. With nightfall comes the stars, the candles, the swaying, and the sing along with Canadian icon Bruce Cockburn who implores us to save the lions and pretty much everything else in the world. It’s all just a bit overwhelming.

And so it is that after three days of hangin’ with the folks, I find myself a little off balance. Which is why, with all due respect to the yoga people, I’m going to take some time to reconnect with my inner self, or as they might say, recenter. But please don’t worry. With a little luck, I’ll be feeling better in no time at all.

Tagged , , , ,

Folk Fest Revisited (and a little “something for you” to boot)

I know, I know! There’s been a lull. You’re wondering where I have been. Last you knew I was making my yearly pilgrimage to the Folk Fest and next thing you know I have all but disappeared. Perhaps you’re thinking that after all those days and nights sitting on the hill under the stars, dancing and singing along to sometimes meaningful songs, eating primarily healthy food for four days and communing with my new “not on Facebook” friends, that I had abandoned my shallow ways.  Maybe while sitting in the shadow of downtown Edmonton, which from this very unique vantage point has buildings that appear almost doll-like, carefully placed one by one in an effort to create the quintessential city sky-scape, I might have turned over a new leaf and started to think about writing something a tad more profound. Nope, nothing of the sort. I will admit to feeling a small lump in my throat listening to Nathan Roger’s rendition of his Father’s immortal “North West Passage” but that’s the only concession I’m prepared to make. Last time I looked, I’m as shallow as ever. So why the delay?

To tell the truth the Folk Fest wears me out. Four days of rising early to get a prime tarp placement, standing in line for just about everything and trekking around a site that in colder climes is a ski hill, makes me tired. So as much as I wanted to get this “wrap-up” wrapped up, I just couldn’t do it primarily because each time I sat down in my favourite chair to write, I fell asleep. Oh yeah, and I had to get the pictures developed. (Just kidding…I know you don’t have to develop digital pictures). You see, while at the “fest” it occurred to me that there may have been some doubt as to the accuracy of my previously posted “Shallow Guide”, some question as to my use of literary exaggeration to make a point, and that it would serve me well to obtain enough evidence to convince my readers that there are no fictional accounts on this blog. Unfortunately I didn’t think about this until the third day so I did the best I could, with a little help from my friends (thanks to Marsha, Wade, Nicole and “the Kev”), in the limited time that remained. And rather than bore you with thousands of words, I thought for this post I would let the pics do most of the talking.

And then it came to me. Why not take this opportunity to engage my readership (that’s you) in a little interactivity, as we like to call it in the education biz. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to fill you in on the first few pictures and then you can do the rest of the work. In the final collage of pictures you will find evidence of all that I spoke about in the “guides” and all you have to do is figure out what’s what.

I’m not going to call this a “contest” lest there be some government regulation legally preventing me from doing so but there are prizes to be had, probably from the dollar store and likely made in China. In fact, there are two prizes; one for the first, most accurate answers and one for the funniest answers, the latter being subject to my own judgmental self. You can post your answers in the comments or send them to me privately, if you know my email address. Whatever you decide, at some point, if I don’t already know who you are, you’re going to have to come clean so I can send you your prize. If you are not already a follower on this blog, seems to me this might be a good time to start.

So let’s get to it.

As I suspected, the guys and gals were sporting their “Toms“.

Lots of "Toms"

And their funky Tees:

Funky Tees

They were hoppin’, boppin’ , glowin’  and holding candles to the wind:

Folk Fest crowd scenes

And fortunately for all of us, these guys weren’t sitting in this chair:

 Here’s where the fun begins! Now it’s your turn. Just match the pic to that valuable information contained in the “Guides” (one, two and three) and you’re in.

Various Folk Fest pics

How about we make Friday, August 24th the deadline just so this thing doesn’t go on for too long.  That will also give me time to figure out what to write about next.  Did I mention there is no fiction on this blog?

Tagged , , , ,

A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 3 of 3)

What to Wear

It appears that I am not the only one who understands that thought must be put into acquiring an appropriate couture for this event. On my usual Saturday stop at the local Starbucks, I happened to pick up the most recent issue of “Avenue” magazine only to discover a full-page spread on what to wear to the Folk Fest. My first thought was what a lovely coincidence and a wonderful way for me to save some time writing the blog. Unfortunately, a quick tally of their suggested duds clocks in at around $1450.00 for the gals and just over a “C” note for you fellas. I’m pretty sure this mission can be accomplished for less, so here are some more frugal ways to make your fashion statement.

The “Zip-Off pant”: Time to forage to the back of your closet to find those zip-off pants you bought for your impending trip to Machu Picchu…you know, the one you have on your bucket list. This is the perfect event for those and no one will ever know you haven’t made the trip. Couple of things here. Make sure you remove all of the tags (sometimes they hide them in the oddest places) and, if you can, go for a trail walk before the big day just to make them look a little less pristine. After all, you don’t want anyone to think you went out and bought something special for the fest. But the real benefit you will accrue from wearing this undeniably fashionable garb is that you won’t have to use the bathroom (honestly, that’s what they call those things) to change from shorts to long pants in the cool of the evening. Trust me, that is worth more than you know.

The Skinny Jean: Please note: The above suggestion is for folks of my era. Here to help my younger readers avoid a fashion faux-pas, is guest blogger Wader (you’ve seen his comments on the blog.) This year coloured skinny denim is in, in a very big way for both men and women. As this is folk fest you’ll need to jazz up the off the shelf pair in one or more ways. Try getting a jiffy marker (washable if you intend on wearing these in the outside world) and writing political messages on the thighs (note: you’re preaching to the choir, but it’ll still feel good). Roll or cuff the pants until your calves are so constricted they begin to turn light blue. If this doesn’t happen then your pants aren’t skinny enough! Wear a belt if you must but ensure it has been made by a local artisan out of ethically obtained vegan leather (even that confuses me, but go with it). Finally, you can preserve the integrity – structural or otherwise – of your pants for future use by adorning them with buttons. Recommended causes include the pro-choice movement, the NDP, bands/artists that aren’t performing, bands that are terribly obscure (eg. Brady Bunch Lawnmower Massacre, Freud Chicken, Pope John Paul Quartet with Friends, etc.), a particularly unique “pride” symbol (the rainbow Star of David works here), ironic sayings (eg. “I’m only here for the hotdogs” or “I heart hula”), the CKUA logo (CBC will work if you don’t live in Alberta), or pretty much anything that would annoy someone like Sarah Palin.

The Shoes: Take off those Birks ‘cause while they might look great with your “zip-offs” you’re going to have to stop and ask yourself what good they are doing for the third world. No my friends, without a doubt, the one and only choice to cover your feet at this year’s fest are “Toms”. For those of you who still think this is simply a short form of a guys name, it’s time to get yourself down to your local shoe boutique for an update. The “buy one, give one” mantra has taken the world by storm and if you don’t know it yet, you will by the end of the first day. “Toms” are funny though, not really comfortable, not really well-made and relatively expensive for what you get. Doesn’t matter, you’re helping to provide shoes for a child in Africa (although not very comfortable or well-made) so on they go. (I know this all sounds a little irreverent so I should disclose here that I am currently rockin’ my fourth pair of “Toms” and you have some serious catching up to do.) Your immediate problem is that you have to buy “Toms” a size too small because they stretch out so much over time. Given we are now so close to the start line and you won’t have time to break them in, your feet are going to hurt for the first day or two. Better get over it because form really is more important than function and looking cool and benevolent at the same time should be all the motivation you need to tough this one out.

Something on Top: Tie-dye works. So does anything “flowy”, madras, or that looks like you made it from fabric you picked up at the market on your last trip to India. Tees that have been reconstructed in some unusual way. Denim shirts and jackets, but the latter really ought to be vintage Levi or you’re not fooling anyone. Tees from concerts you (or someone you know) have attended, preferably before 1980. Could be time for a trip to Value Village, or your parents’ closet. Tees with sayings (lean to the left on this one, see the “skinny jeans” segment). If you’re really adventurous you may want to join the “Free Hugs” t-shirt gang. Just remember that it gets hot, people get sweaty and they will take you up on your offer. I’ll leave that decision to you. Avoid anything with a logo, collar or “polo” as a descriptor. I’m not sure this is explicitly stated in the rule book but the peer pressure alone will make you want to go home and change.

The Hair: Put away all those hair products and appliances you use. These are the four days of the year when your hair gets a chance to breathe and make an appearance in its natural state. This one is particularly hard for me but, from what I can see, not for many other people. Bonus: You get a chance to remember what your hair really looks like and you will no longer regret all of the time and money you spend making it not look that way. Guys, if there is a way you can coax whatever hair you have left into a ponytail, do it. This advice may have come too late for this year’s fest but you’ll want to keep it in mind for next summer. I’d go out on a limb (I do that sometimes) and say make-up is optional but given the aging demographic of the “party-goers” it might not be. Something tasteful in face-painting might be a good compromise here.

Rain Gear: I’m not as familiar as I should be with this category but for those of you who decide that a little water falling from the sky only makes the day more fun, you’re going to want some protection. We’re not talking little umbrellas and trench coats here but rather industrial style, head to toe cover-ups in various shades of yellow. Fortunately there are many “made in Canada” options in this category and I strongly suggest this as a first choice. They are a little expensive but you’ll be able to put them to good use the next time you go out to sea. That’s about all of the advice I can give on this one because, well I just go home at the first hint of inclement weather.

That’s about it. I know this has been much longer and more involved than usual but these type of get togethers are so just so compelling for a shallow person. And while this advice may seem to be rather specific to our locale I am pretty sure that much of it is transferable to other events of this ilk. And now I must take some of my own advice and get ready to go. If only I could remember where I put my zip-offs.

Tagged , , , ,

A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 2 of 3)

What to Bring

Don’t minimize the importance of getting this right. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself at a great spot at the bottom of the hill only to realize that you left your favourite recycled plastic yoga mat you were going to carry to all of the side stages, at home. Along with the requisite sunscreen, bug spray, hat, sunglasses, and reusable water bottle I suggest the following:

The Chair: Veteran or newbie this year everyone is going to need to get new chairs. Remember those rules I talked about yesterday? Well there are new ones for chairs this year and I’m afraid that means trading in your Costco “Rio”, which only about ⅔ of the festival goers have used without incident over the past 5 years, for something a little shorter. On a recent trip to our local camping store I discovered a tie-dyed number that meets all of the official requirements and, at first blush seemed to me to be the perfect folk fest accessory. But in retrospect I’m a little worried that some people will exercise both this and the tie-dye t-shirt option (you’ll read about that tomorrow) and, as a result, have the unfortunate experience of finding a complete stranger sitting on top of them because they were indistinguishable from their surroundings. So just to be safe I would go with something in a solid colour.

The Tarp: You’re going to need a tarp and you better make sure it is 8×10 (yes, it’s a rule) or you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of this fence. I’m going to say you go with blue on this one. Yes it’s true that’s the colour of 95% of the tarps at the festival so yours will become just one more fish in a rather large sea. But here’s the thing. At some point in the week-end someone you know is going to want to meet you at your tarp. The only way to get them there is to figure out how many rows you are up from the bottom of the hill and in from the side and to pass on that information. Of course there are no real “rows” at this fest which leaves your directions open to some rather significant interpretation. The thing is, if your tarp was let’s say orange, you would be making things all too easy for your friends and what’s life without a challenge or two?

The iPhone: I know, you’re wondering why on earth you’re going to need this technology from your “other life”. Well there’s more than one reason. First, when your friends can’t find your tarp (that tarp counting never works) they’re going to call you so you can talk them through the crowd. Of course this will be of minimal use since there is so much noise they’ll only pick up every few words. Never mind, they’ll find you, eventually. Next, I think it’s a good alternative to the “candle” thing that goes on every night on the hill. There’s nothing more disconcerting than watching free spirited children run around with lit candles while their free spirited parents pay little or no attention to them. So to get around this rather dubious practice I think we should all download a candle app which will make swaying to the music, light in hand, all that much safer. The effect will be the same and the fire chief can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, download the Folk Fest app. It will come in handy as you move from one stage to the next and perhaps more importantly, you’ll save the five bucks you would have spent on the program.

The Food: You’re going to have to eat while at this shindig and unless you plan on spending a good portion of your time standing in the food lines, you will want to bring some of your own. Please remember that there are people on all sides in close proximity watching, so what you do here will have a major impact on your folk fest persona, especially if there are children involved. Trust me on this, if it says “Hostess” on the package, leave it at home. For this event you’ll want to buy in bulk, but if that’s not possible, at least make sure it looks like you did. No plastic bags please, only reusable containers made of BPA free recyclable plastic. I’d suggest glass but that won’t get through the security check (have I mentioned the rules?). Adding something “ethnic” to the menu will add significantly to your currency. Organic juices can be refreshing although this year I’ll be toting flavoured Perrier as I think it’s just retro enough to be cool. If what you really crave is a bologna sandwich, remember that Yves veggie slices are almost indistinguishable from the real thing and I dare say you will be safe as long as you don’t offer a bite to your vegan neighbour.

The Other Stuff: You’ll need a bag to carry all of this stuff in and I’d like to suggest something colourful and woven if at all possible. If you insist on leather just make sure it is well-worn and handcrafted by a local artisan from cows that have been raised for this purpose. Perhaps something that matches your belt (more about that tomorrow) would work. For some evening fun bring an inflatable beach ball and if you can find one with a “world” imprint, all the better. Unfortunately since this will be used to create hours of fun being tossed from one tarp to another as the night goes on, you won’t be getting it back so a trip to the dollar store may be your best bet. While you are there, pick up a couple dozen glow sticks as without them, no one will be able to see you dancing in the dark. A note of caution: While at the dollar store you will want to avoid anything that’s made in China.

Tomorrow: Stay tuned ‘cause you’re going to want to know what to wear.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: