Monday, May 31, 2010

Why the folk aren't these artists gonna play the fest?

What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?

On my way out of seeing Elvis Costello's great performance at last year's Folk Fest, I overheard an old guy on the way out say, "Wow, that was great folk music." In case you couldn't tell, he was being sarcastic.

The Folk Fest has its work cut out for it. Do you go "pure folk" to satisfy the folks who still yell "Judas!" at Bob Dylan when he plays MTS Centre, or do you go "rocker" to draw a larger audience?

These questions seem to matter a lot to at least some folk-music fans, but I love folk music - and all kinds of music - and subscribe to the theory that there are only two kinds of music: "good" and "bad."

So, when I recently made a mixed CD (yeah, I still make those - cheeky!), I noticed a higher-than-average number of bands that would be right at home at the fest.

The nominees:

1. The Unthanks

Some of the most gorgeous and heartfelt music I've heard all year is from this Northumberland band. The harmonies (starting at :58) give me goosebumps every time.

Unlike Devo, I'm getting the feeling a coal mine isn't a great place to work.

2. Mumford & Sons

After a stellar performance on Letterman, USA Today included this band on its "five buzz bands to see live" list, for its "heart-swelling hooks and harmonies."

It's a bittersweet symphony, indeed:

They really "focked" it up this time.

3. Fanfarlo

A band I know very little about, other than they're from London and the songs are catchy as hell:


4. Magnetic Fields

The sometimes rock, always gimmicky U.S. band went all folksy hoedown on its latest album - and its lead singer has a hearing problem that makes him run for the hills when he hears loud music and applause. No joke!

The Folk Fest awaits:

"Crawling back to me" rhymes with "appendectomy!"

5. The xx

The spiritual heirs to Young Marble Giants are really indie/alternative, but their quiet, thoughtful songs would win over the Folk Fest in an (electronic) heartbeat.

6. The Heavy

Are blues, R&B, and rock "folk?" Probably not, but I have a feeling that this band would deliver a barn-burning Folk Fest finale for the ages.

How you like them now?

Skeletor, meet Scarecrow.

7. Graham Parker

One great set by Elvis Costello deserves another by punk folkster (folk punker?) Graham Parker, whose recent resurgence is on the back of three, incredible folk-, jazz-, and country-influenced albums.

His latest, Imaginary Television, is high concept: TV themes for shows that don't exist.

Skinny, bald guys unite: you have nothing to lose but your sunglasses.


  1. Big love for Mumford & Sons, but I'm glad they're not playing this year as I'm not going to be around.

  2. What about The Jesus and Mary Chain?

  3. Yes, they should play there too!

    Some Candy Talking would resonate for many, many reasons.


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