If there’s one thing that The Edmonton Folk Festival organizers got right, it’s location, location, and location. There’s something about being perched atop Conner’s Hill with a sea of colourful tie dye shirts below, the city skyline fresh in view and the soundtrack of gleeful hippy culture flowing upward towards you.
The first day in the four day weekend festival was a mellow and ultimately pleasant outing. The atmosphere of this event appeals to a rather varied crowd, as this seemed to be a place for parents and their children as well as the university activist demographic. There were people dancing with their kids at the bottom of Conner’s Hill in the strictly designated ‘dance area’. Meanwhile at the top of the hill lies a man puffing away on an herbal remedy. Perhaps the key to the wide selection of patrons comes with the overall themes of the performers. If this were a punk festival one would likely hear the enraged shouting of disdain towards local police enforcement that might only appeal to the angsty teenage rebel without a cause, but this is folk fest and the political sentiments of artists are those of humanitarian aid and caring for ‘the global village’ – a sentiment that appeals to the compassion in young and old.
Musically the night was pretty standard fair. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros filled the night air with folk songs that felt more like anthems than mere sing-a-longs. The Gipsy Kings were fairly impressive with their virtuosic Spanish guitar pieces, but the real highlight of the night was Angelique Kidjo. Kidjo had unbeatable energy and her band was a force to be reckoned with. She sang African melodies over a jazzy ensemble that blended New Orleans tempos with complex African Polyrhythms. It’s true that many in the Anglophone audience wouldn’t be able to understand her lyrics, but one could be sure they were something about peace, love, hope and the celebration of life.
-Eric Tyler Behr