Folk in the City
Music Festival an Oasis of Harmony Amongst the Sprawling Urban Landscape
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Edmonton Folk Music Festival Peace. Love. Harmony.

They sound like buzzwords from the Hippy movement of the '60s, but they exist today. And music is the common bond that link all of these qualities together.

Music festivals are often like a city within a city. It has its own look, feel, and culture. The people within share a love of sight, sound, and often political beliefs.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival embodies the spirit of folk music -- that is, music for everyday people. Featuring established touring acts, as well as local tunesmiths, the Festival recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

It was my first Folk Fest, but many in attendance were seasoned veterans. One act, the comedy-musical duo Bowser and Blue from Quebec, asked if anyone in the audience had been to the very first -- a few shouts were heard in agreement.

The audience was multi-generational, and although many embraced a bohemian image, a cross-section of society was represented. Whether or not the countless hippy-wannabes went back to their offices wearing suits and ties the following Monday, the fact remains that a festival such as this is a place where one can let their hair down -- both literally and figuratively.

Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo I felt almost surreal as I walked through the ground for the first time. I watched as the sea of people on the hill facing the main stage grew. On the afternoon I attended, Canadian country-rock band Blue Rodeo performed on the main stage. Almost legendary, the band is a festival favorite. It was also my first time seeing the band live, and really got my adrenaline pumping. When they presented classic hits like "Diamond Mine," "Lost Together," and "Hasn't Hit Me Yet" people in the dance section at the bottom of the hill really got grooving.

Many of the food vendors were not the typical ones found at outdoor festivals. There was a wide array of vegetarian choices and international dishes. A crafts tent featured numerous artisans selling their wares, which were often handmade jewellery or other wearables.

Many visitors wandered from stage to stage, taking in as much variety as possible. Several of the smaller stages featured concerts by lesser-known acts, or sessions by artists in groups, with some sort of thematic link. One of the best sessions I saw featured several guitar heros, particularly dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas and slide master David Lindley. The smaller, intimate settings ensured that nearly every spectator had a good view, and the stages were spaced out enough that there was next to no sound bleed between them.

For some, the Folk Fest is as much about just being there, as the music itself. It's a chance to escape to a world of harmony, where values of peace, trust, and love top the scales. There is no class heirarchy or social status -- everyone respects one another.

I overheard someone say that on Friday evening, the Jewish people in attendance had a service to mark the beginning of Shabbat (the Biblical Sabbath or day of rest that goes from sundown Friday evening, to sundown the following Saturday). The Sabbath is an excellent metaphor for the Folk Fest -- an oasis that takes one away from the rigors of daily life into a separate space of holy harmony.