The second night of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival opened up with Lissie, a self-confessed small-town Illinois girl, whose voice corralled the folk population into the main stage area. I had first heard about Lissie almost a year ago when her cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” went semi-viral. I have to admit, it was odd seeing her in person, as I usually tend to relegate things I see on the internet to some separate domain. So when she slammed back her now traditional/obligatory pre-finale tequila shot, I experienced a weird collision of fantasy and reality, effectively laying the ground for what would be an excellent night for folk music.
Following Lissie was the bluesy Taj Mahal Trio, who occupied the main stage right as the last stints of daylight fell off and the folk candles began to flicker. Throughout his set, blues legend Mahal serenaded the crowd with a hefty helping of blues. However, he wasn’t shy about hot-swapping his guitar out for either the keyboard or the banjo, letting his music explore more reggae extremities. At one point, Mahal even gave the crowd a lesson on the blues rhythms, passing down passion and knowledge.
Closing out the night was the suit-clad British group Noah and the Whale, who seemed to carry with them a powerful restraint, save for their bassist, Matt Owens, who traversed the width of the stage numerous times as if on an epic pilgrimage. But in good folk fest spirit, everyone was on board for this journey as the band approached—what I can only describe as symphonic folk-pop, a powerfully subtle mixture that continues to build towards an exacting crescendo, offering momentary transcendence to those peering down from the surrounding green hills.
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival is just getting started and so is Sound and Noise, summaries of the Saturday and Sunday main stage will follow, along with more in-depth coverage of individual bands.