I'm not really sure what it is about this little folk festival in the city on the prairie, but they really have something special going on, and it's been going on for the past 40 years. It was my honour to host the very eclectic opening Friday night under cloudy but dry skies in downtown Regina.
Up first was the darling Basia Bulat, who played a strong solo set to an opening throng of fans pressed close to the stage. Basia announced during the set that her new album is entitled Heart Of My Own and will be out on October 6.
Next was a quick "teaser set" (three tunes from an artist between mainstage acts) by the very impressive Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few. These 'tweener sets are what you make of them and Mark made his count, the highlight being a haunting acapella tune.
Hitting the stage next was Montreal's powerful art-rock trio Plants and Animals, and they were howlin' LOUD. Last night the "plants" could have been trees being uprooted in a hurricane and the "animals" could have been a herd of stampeding buffalo. They proved too loud for some of the older folkies, but the kids up front loved 'em. Basia joined them for a bashing version of the Queen-like P+A anthem "Bye Bye Bye" to close the set.
The surprise of the opening night for many was the absolutely outrageous set from Vancouver fusion band Delhi 2 Dublin. Hugely energetic, they blend the traditional sounds of India and Ireland with modern hip hop beats. If Victoria Park had a roof, D2D would have blown it off. The roar of applause at the end of their set was deafening.
In stark contrast to Delhi 2 Dublin's world-beat dance party was Iron and Wine, the blond, bearded, indie-singer-songwriter hearthrob from South Carolina. He opened with a stirring cover of the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" and immediately had the sold-out crowd singing along, filling the clearing night sky with voices. It was a beautiful moment. The crowd was hooked, especially up front, where some truly die-hard fans clung to every soft syllable.
Closing the show was Canada's hip-hop hitmaker, K-Os. One is never quite sure what they are going to get from a K-Os set, but last night, he delivered a solid, energized set of his hits (including my fave, "Valhalla") while backed by a full band (featuring a couple members of Small Sins!)
The crowd was somewhat restless at first, as his set-up took the longest of any group of the night, but all was forgiven when K-Os took the stage in what may have been the largest red hoody of all time, a possible salute to Saskatchewan's proud bunny-hug culture.
After an hour-plus set (which I enjoyed on the grassy field with Amanda Putz [and Maybe Smith shotgunning beers]), K-Os ended with some spoken word, capping another brilliant opening night in the long legacy of the Regina Folk Festival. Thanks to Sandra Butel and everyone at the festival for always making me feel so welcome. Great to meet and reaquaint with many Radio 3 fans! Thanks for saying hi!
photo by amanda putz