Winnipeg Folk Festival – Day 1, Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Adam Depre

Attending the first day of a festival is a lot like going to a baseball game at a new stadium. It is fun to watch, but there is a strong desire to wander around, discover what there is to offer, and
gather one's bearings. After close to nine hours of restless driving,
I arrived at the Winnipeg Folk Festival site just in time to hear the
tremolo heavy Snowblink beginning the first set of this 39th year of
the festival.

Snowblink is an Indie Folk band from Ontario via California. They
perform a style of mellowed-out throwback pop that is reminiscent of
She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward), without being as cheerfully
annoying. However, as I was eager to get my bearings, I skipped the
end of their set in lieu of the Big Rock Tavern for a beer and the
search for Wi-Fi. Luckily, I will have the chance to see more of
Snowblink at a workshop later this week.

Irish indie folk singer James Vincent McMorrow was the next headliner
to take the stage, after a short intermediate performance by Abigail
Washburn. When McMorrow began his set, the voice did not match
expectations. McMorrow borrows a play from Justin Vernon's book and
sings in a well developed falsetto. Whereas Justin Vernon couples his
falsetto-vulnerable voice with the backing of rich harmonies and the
full Bon Iver band, McMorrow is utterly defenseless as a lone
guy-and-guitar folk singer.

As the crowd became larger, eagerly awaiting Feist, Justin Rutledge
took to the side of the stage for another supplementary performance.
“I'm not Leslie Feist,” he informed the audience, “But...I used to be
her neighbor.” It was Rutledge's stage banter that gathered my
attention first, before his Ryan Adams-esque singer-songwriter sound.
“I play two kinds of songs,” he said, “Slow and slower.”

Feist brought the energy level up at the Winnipeg Folk Festival by
creating opportunities involve the crowd. She stepped out in front of
the microphone several times to invite the audience to sing along with
the various “oohs,” “bops” and “das” littered in her material. At one
point, Feist split the audience into a three-part chorus using the
people from the dancing section as the root of the chord. “Would you
like to become the Winnipeg Folk Festival Glee Club?” she asked.
The punchy bass from songs like “My Moon My Man” got the crowd moving.
The dancing section was moving and people were cutting-a-rug up and
down the walking aisles. When Feist returned for an encore she said,
“We were talking backstage. This is supposed to be a folk festival,”
and played through "Cicadaz" with only an acoustic guitar and her
backup singers in-tow. As I left the festival sight, Feist launched
into “Sea Lion.” As much as I would have liked to stay, the sun had
gone away and I still had to set up my tent.