We really didn’t know what to expect at the Sisters Folk Festival. Their slogan is “All the town’s a stage” and that was so true. There were nine or ten venues to choose from at any one time, and about forty different acts, including only four that we had even heard of before. Doug had booked the festival and the travel arrangements back in the spring, so it was up to Wendy to do the fine tuning and decide on our schedule. She made some quick decisions based on a two minute viewing of random YouTube videos, asking herself, “Will we like this band for an hour long concert?” Other decisions were made because of who was playing before or after a band we knew. There was no way to see everyone, but we were very happy with the ten acts that we did see over the three days.
On Friday night, we really wanted to see Whitehorse, a Canadian duo that we have been following since they put out their first album ten years ago. We started lining up 45 minutes before the six o’clock show and were pleased with our centre seats in the fourth row. Whitehorse is comprised of Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland. They sound like a full band with only the two of them on stage with the use of live loops of drum tracks or background vocals. It was amazing to watch how they used the technology to get a great sound.
The huge tent sat about a thousand people and was totally full by the second act: Shawn Mullins. We knew his “Rock-and-Roll Lullaby” hit from a number of years back, so we stayed for the show. He had a great sense of humour and great rapport with the audience. After his show, we wormed our way through the crowd into the cool evening. Wendy wanted to catch an outdoor performance in a little place about four blocks across town. Luckily, because of her experience with the Outdoor Quilt Show in July, she could maneuver her way through the courtyards, even finding the public bathroom, all in the almost dark. (We hadn’t realized that the only street lights were on the main street.) Unfortunately, we had misjudged how cold it was and chose to listen to only four songs from the modern bluegrass band, Mipso. We should have packed our down jackets for this one!
Saturday was the “big day,” and involved a strategy and precise schedule. Barbecue chicken at 10:30 am. Hot lunch at 10:45. Leave RV park at 11:10. Arrive at venue at 11:30 for 12:00 show. Back to RV park from two shows by 2:45. Walk dog, relax, pack dinner. Leave RV park at 4:00, Park and walk to venue to line-up by 4:30 for 6:00 show. Eat dinner in line, while chatting with “line-mates.” It reminded us of the preparations and changes we would make when we were at swim meets so many years ago.
In the afternoon, we saw “The Good Time Travelers” at the Five Pines Conference Centre, which is a bit out of town and closer to our RV park. (The featured image on the website version of this blog was taken at Five Pines.) We were so impressed with their harmonies and their guitar and mandolin playing that we bought their CD and had it signed.
The Nathaniel Talbot Band was up next. Nathaniel is a farmer and guitar player from Whitby Island, who writes pleasant songs, including one called, “Wilson’s Warbler.”
There was a huge line-up for the Saturday night concerts at the big tent. We figured that if we were going to see a band, we’d make the effort to get decent seats. We were about fortieth in line and ended up with third row seats. The line went around the corner and down the street.
First up was Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express, followed by Richard Thompson. Both performances were great, but we’d had enough of the crowd by 8:45, that we called it a night. The party was just starting for some of the festival goers. Fourteen acts played after 9:00.
Sunday was the icing on the cake for us. Whitehorse was playing a smaller tent at noon. When we got there at 11:20, there were a half dozen people waiting. They let us in at 11:30 and we scored front row seats. It was a much more intimate setting. Whitehorse’s stripped-down version of just their voices and guitars was impressive.
Because we had such good seats, we stayed to listen to “The Ballroom Thieves.” The seats around us filled up with a younger crowd than our other shows. They are a band out of Boston and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Their lead vocalist had a sound that reminded us of Mumford and Sons. Doug was captivated by the cellist.
The “grey-hairs” filed in for the next show: “Session Americana,” who were six guys from Boston. They were a little more country than the other bands, with songs such as: Great Western Rail, Cowboy Coffee and Mississippi Mud. We loved them too.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Sisters Folk Festival and we’ll probably go back. A week later, both of us still have songs floating around in our heads that we heard on that memorable weekend.