Calgary Folk Festival summer serenades have a cautious vibe on day one

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“It’s a one year thing unless (COVID-19) lasts longer. But it’s something to do on the road to recovery where artists can perform ‘

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Call it a one-year experiment that no one wants to do again.

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While this might not be the most enthusiastic endorsement of a seven-day concert series at Prince’s Island Park, there was a sure feeling on Thursday that Calgary Folk Music‘s summer serenades Festival are an anomaly which was forced upon the organization by extraordinary circumstances.

There was no traditional tarpie race to get a good seat when the doors opened for the first day of the Serenades, which will find 36 performers performing for seven days on the main stage. All the spots were predetermined. The complicated ticketing system offered few solo tickets – there were few solo seats on the bleachers – and everything else was sold by tarpaulin. The tarps, which could hold a maximum of four adults and two children, were mathematically distanced with markers and lines. The whole field has been divided into four zones, each zone being divided into quadrants.

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“It’s strange,” said Kerry Clarke, artistic director of the Calgary Folk Music Festival. “We’ll see how it works. It’s a one year thing unless (COVID-19) lasts longer. But it’s something to do on the road to recovery where artists can perform.

Still, the music promises to be top notch. On Thursday, local hip-hop veterans Dragon Fli Empire and Juno-winning rapper Shad, and other headliners over the next seven nights include Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, Dan Mangan and the Cowboys. Junkies.

But guests will have to do without some intricacies of folk festivals such as a real beer garden and family space, though beer is available to bring back to your tarp. There were food trucks, but they were all supplied by one supplier and offered only a fraction of the choice that is usually available.

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Nonetheless, on Thursday, Clarke estimated that 70 percent of tickets were sold for all shows, with some evenings like Friday approaching full capacity. While the traditional Calgary Folk Music Festival would attract 12,000 to 15,000 per day, a packed house at Summer Serenades is about 2,200 volunteers and performers.

Early Thursday night, the polite and socially aloof audience was slowly starting to get in the mood. About halfway through the opening set of techno-roots duo BC Moontricks, a few dozen swayed gently in place to kick off an evening that was going to be heavy on DJs and hip-hop. By the time the Nova Scotia Skratch Bastid turntables came on the scene, several were already standing.

<a class=Music fans dance as they listen to Moontricks during the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Summer Serenades concert series in Prince’s Island on Thursday, July 22, 2021.” class=”embedded-image__image lazyload” src=”https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/CAL072221-gyb-9.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288″ srcset=”https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/CAL072221-gyb-9.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288, https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/CAL072221-gyb-9.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576 2x” height=”750″ loading=”lazy” width=”1000″/>
Music fans dance as they listen to Moontricks during the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Summer Serenades concert series in Prince’s Island on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young / Postmedia

In honor of the duo’s 20th anniversary, Calgary’s Dragon Fli Empire presented two sets that spanned their two decades of hip-hop. It was their first concert in front of an audience in 16 months.

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The act performed at the Calgary Folk Music Festival in 2009 and 2015, and was due to play in 2020 before COVID-19 pulled the plug last July. While Summer Serenades may be a toned down version of folk-fest, landing a showcase is still a big deal for a local act and has been a highlight of the duo over their long career.

“2009 was a real eye opener for us,” said Adam Hicks of Dragon Fli Empire, aka DJ Cosm, shortly before the act took to the stage. “We did a lot of shows in the biggest clubs. But doing the workshop with Arrested Development, Kid Koala and Mutabaruka in ’09 had 6,000 spectators. I had never felt the energy of a crowd like this before.

Hicks formed Dragon Fli Empire in 2002 with fellow William Aberhart high school alumnus Tarik Robinson aka Teekay. The last gig they played was in February 2020, but they planned to have a busy year before COVID-19 shuts the world down.

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“We were about to do a tour in Europe, in France more precisely”, explains Robinson. “We put on five shows for Europe as the virus was starting to get more serious. I was starting to hear stories about Italy and the hospitals that were filling up. It was scary.”

While restrictions have been relaxed since the folk festival first announced it would launch Summer Serenades in mid-June, Clarke says the plan is to keep the focus on social distancing and safety, where members of the public would be strongly encouraged not to interact with others.

“It’ll be interesting to see if things loosen up a bit as we go along, but we’re sticking to (the rules) a bit because that’s what we promised people,” she said. . “Even though I saw pictures from some of the shows at the Stampede that looked a little crazy and crowded, we don’t want to be that and we also sold tickets in a certain way so we couldn’t just open the tickets. valves. “

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Music fans attend the first night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival's Summer Serenades concert series on Prince's Island on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Unlike a regular festival, there is a stage and areas designated for tarpaulins with distancing social.
Music fans attend the first night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Summer Serenades concert series on Prince’s Island on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Unlike a regular festival, there is a stage and areas designated for tarpaulins with distancing social. Photo by Gavin Young / Postmedia

Alex O’Rourke says she’s been going to the Calgary Folk Music Festival for two decades. So the news that he would return in some form after the 2020 cancellation was welcome.

“The folk festival has been our summer anchor year after year,” she said. “So it’s really natural to be right here in different circumstances.”

Andrew Rafuse is a newcomer to the folk festival, having been there only once in 2019. But he said he felt safe and intended to attend five of the seven nights, in the ‘waiting for sets from Tom Wilson, The Halluci Nation and Frazey Ford.

“Everything seems to be spaced out,” he said. “They thought about it a lot.

“I can always get beer,” he laughed. ” This is the main. “

Summer Serenades runs through July 28 at Prince’s Island Park. Visit calgaryfolkfest.com .

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