After near death, the Festival and its audience rise to the occasion
Rising to The Occasion
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The Sunday night Festival finale (Erik Price photo)

  • INTRO: Folk Troubadour Billy Bragg: When Music Is Live
  • ONE SONG: Misty Mountain by Ferron: the festival veteran presented a moving set last weekend. Here’s one of her best loved songs. It’s about uncertainty framed by a hopeful and upbeat melody. “The eagle takes the wind my friend, the eagle takes the wind. It makes me think of this my friend. Where does the eagle live in me?”. An apropos sentiment.
  • SPOKEN WORD VERSION: Misty Mountain

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Sisters in arms at the Main Stage! (Clayton Wong photo)


The special communion between artists, audience and each other is what makes the Festival

“There is a solidarity in song that is greatly enhanced when experienced live,” political folk troubadour Billy Bragg writes in the summer edition of No Depression magazine which just landed on my doorstep.

The thousands of us who sweat and basked under the hot sun shining on the 46th edition of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival last weekend welcomed that experience and a lot more.

“All music has the ability to articulate things that we struggle to put into words … hearing the artist that created that moment sing it live will lift your spirits,” Bragg writes. “And if everyone else … is singing it too, then whatever emotions you’ve invested into that song feel justified, accepted, understood.”

More than 40 acts featuring dozens of talented performers played 13 evening Main Stage concerts plus 40 daytime concerts and workshops. They shared their hearts, music and inspiration with us. Ranging from veteran singer-songwriter-poet Ferron singing truth during her emotional set, to the trio of early 20s newcomers Tiny Habits offering their resonant harmonies, happy audiences danced, sang along and bonded in festival communion.

That the Festival almost wasn’t lent it a unique tenor. A near death experience can do that. Gratitude was an overarching and felt theme from both artists and audience. Emcees urged people to donate to keep the treasured event alive. Artists expressed support and praise from their stages. The large audience was joyful while also tentative: will the Festival continue?

Bragg notes that the connection between audience and performer is reciprocal. “When I come off stage each night, my activism is recharged and my cynicism temporarily banished. But it’s important to recognize this affect doesn’t come from the stage. I could play these songs … just as sincerely in my hotel room, yet they would not give me the same experience. It’s the audience that generates that feeling, by expressing their solidarity with one another.” Yes, we did.

The 46th Festival was one like no other in the event’s history. An energized board, dedicated staff and the cadre of experienced volunteers pulled off a miracle putting together the event in a scant four months. It’s a strong organization with ample will and expertise. Its future is up to us – generous donors, supporters and fans alongside the community of businesses and levels of government needed to boost support for the arts.

As Ferron sings in Misty Mountain, during times of uncertainty and doubt, “The eagle takes the wind my friend, the eagle takes the wind. It makes me think of this my friend, Where does the eagle live in me?”

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22 July 2023