The weather gods certainly wanted to give festival goers a little taste of everything for the 2018 Edmonton Folk Music Festival . The festival opened on Thursday in 32 C heat and with the news that the popular Tash Sultana would not be able to make her main stage set due to her equipment being damaged. In her place, was the high energy DakhaBrakha, who performed brilliantly on last minute notice. Closing out Thursday, in the same spot they were supposed to play last year, were indie darlings, the Decemberists, whose performance lifted everyone off their tarps, with a raucous and sometimes profane set, the Decemberists did not disappoint, and were easily worth the one year wait.
While Friday looked like another scorcher, the temperature was held slightly in check, with a smoky haze that filled the river valley, from forest fires in BC. In fact, at one point in the late afternoon, the normally picturesque view of downtown was completely invisible. Tash Sultana played stage 3, and though she missed out on a main stage performance, it was hard to tell as fans packed the stage all the way to the snow fence. Tash did not disappoint, she wowed all in attendance while playing multiple instruments and showing off her powerful voice. Neko Case began main stage on Friday, and her performance, as always, was beautifully consistent, covering every genre from country to rock.
Saturday began with the perfect weather for the festival, sunny and warm, but still a little on the mild side. A stage 2 workshop stated the day off right with Mt. Joy and Chastity Brown stealing the show. Las Cafeterias was the perfect main stage break in the middle of the day, bringing the hill together with their extremely fun latin sound. Later in the afternoon workshops were heating up all over the site, with the highly endearing Michael Trotter Jr. of The War and Treaty, reciprocating with warm hugs to everyone who offered up praise of their performance. Saturday night main stage is always what everyone looks forward to, and this year was no exception. As the rain started and the temperature started to drop, Anderson East and Regina Spektor killed it. It was great to see Ry Cooder again, but as usual, the night belonged to Michael Franti. Very few performers are able to create the energy and commitment from an audience that the frontman of Spearhead can, and it was apparent from his first song that few if any of the folkfest faithful even noticed the wet and cold weather, and the hill quickly heated up.
Sunday was a day only for the committed and the prepared as it rained steadily throughout with temperatures barely reaching double digits. While main stage was as good as it gets, including Shakey Graves, who was also a casualty of last year’s wind evacuation, finally getting his deserved spot on main stage, there is one other performance that those who saw, won’t soon forget. At a soggy stage 3, a man committed to the gospel of equality, captivated a relatively small crowd in the rain, and made believers out of all. Though small in stature, the Reverend Sekou is gigantic in soul, energy and voice, and truthfully is almost exhausting just to watch. If but one performance had to be chosen to sum up the spirit of the festival (no pun intended), it would have to go to the good reverend.
With the close of the 39th annual Edmonton Folk Music Festival comes a little feeling of melancholy, that it is over for another year, but with the feeling of anticipation that 40 is just around the corner.
For festival information and tickets check out Live Music Now