Just got home from the first evening of the Mountain View Music Festival and I’m feeling more than a little giddy.
Regular readers of Fervor Coulee understand that I can be a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to music festivals: I dislike crowds; I become frustrated with wonky sound systems; I can do without porta-potties; and I hate it when people go to music events and chat all the way through.
I’m happy to report that three of those elements caused no problems for me tonight/last night now, I suppose.
What little I knew about MVMF has proven accurate- a small, manageable fest in a comfortable community park. True, Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith, and Del McCoury are in Edmonton and not Carstairs. Still, the entertainment this evening was quite enjoyable.
Lunch at Allen’s closed the evening and did a wonderful job of entertaining the few hundred in attendance. Running down the stage in order, each of Marc Jordan, Cindy Church, Ian Thomas, and Murray McLauchlan performed three songs, with Thomas taking the lead on the encore to give him the thirteenth song.
Jordan started the set with the familiar “Marina Del Ray,” an astute choice as it seemed that he was the least familiar to much of the audience. The audience also recognized and appreciated his rendition of “Rhythm of My Heart.
Thomas followed a plan similar to Jordan’s, pulling out “Painted Ladies” for his first tune. Featuring flourishes of picking from McLauchlan, the radio hit suffered a bit at the hands of sound gremlins; the wee beasties continued to play havoc during this final set. Thomas also pulled out a Boomers song (“You Got to Know”) and dropped a humour-loaded sea shanty on his prairie audience.
More on McLauchlan in a moment.
With three jesters from the back of the classroom sharing the stage with her, Cindy Church appeared- in turn- bemused and disappointed; while all in fun, there were times when it seemed that she may have been regretting, and not for the first time, signing on with three loveable old fools.
In duet with McLauchlan, Church performed “Anything But Friends.” Later in the set, and accompanied by McLauchlan on harmonica and Thomas with gentle finger-picking, Church delivered a lovely “You Can,” before concluding her leads with “Better Things to Do.”
Immediately after their hour-long set, my wife mentioned that she had forgotten how much she enjoyed Murray McLauchlan’s voice. What is funny about her comment is a) I never knew she liked McLauchlan in the first place, and b) I had earlier written in my brief notes “that voice- one forgets how individual and distinct [it is] until given the opportunity to hear it again- I guess we take ole Murray for granted a bit.”
For me, McLauchlan was the star of the show, and not only for his quick wit- sliding seamlessly into “Lucy in the Sky” and the Carol Burnett theme.
He seemed to find a way to complement each of his three partners- providing vocal harmony to Thomas on the chorus of “You Got to Know,” for example- while delivering three terrific songs of his own. “Down By the Henry Moore” was quite excellent. A more recent song, “The Great Beyond” was offered up as evidence that he still has something new to say; I would suggest that “The Great Beyond” is waiting for a bluegrass interpretation, and Thomas’s mandolin fills only partly influenced that assertion.
In an agricentric county like Mountain View, there was only one song that could close the show, and McLauchlan delivered “Farmer’s Song” for the four thousand ninety-fifth time as sincerely and enjoyably as ever. Having said that, when the group came back for the evening’s only encore “Gratitude” was appreciated.
With deep, rich songbooks it must be a chore for each of these talented singers and songwriters to select only three songs each to perform in a festival setting; one hopes they return to the area for a theatre show soon.
Before they hit the stage, I knew nothing about the Rembetika Hipsters other than a friend, moments before their performance, suggested that they may be of interest to Deana and me; indeed, Billy knows our tastes.
Playing the Greco-blues on various stringed instruments including bouzouki, baglama, clarinet, melodeon, fiddle, guitar, bass, and drum, the rhythms tugged at the souls of those with an affinity for the land of the Greeks.
Their beautiful, swirling music kept us both enthralled for the entire set and I’m sure we’ll seek them out again. If Lunch at Allen’s hadn’t been so good, this would have been the set of the night.
We didn’t really catch bluesman Frank Schaap’s set as we bumped into a friend and chatted for a half-hour or so, but what I heard from a distance sounded just fine…just not necessarily my kind of thing.
We hadn’t planned on heading to Carstairs for the Friday of MVMF in the first place, but when Deana learned that reggae band Souljah Fyah was scheduled, we left the house rather impulsively. As we neared Carstairs, the rain started, and by the time we pulled in for supper, well- the skies opened up.
I was feeling for the promoters- here is a once-a-year, walk-up dependent festival and an hour before the show is to begin, the sky explodes. As this is Alberta, the torrential downpour ended within 45 minutes and minutes later the near empty festival site started to fill with a broad cross-section of folks.
We were disappointed in Souljah Fyah’s performance. The music was fine, but ultimately not particularly invigorating. True, being first up at a three-day fest is likely not a performance slot anyone would choose, but still things could have been better.
The five piece band started out lively and performed original material including the appealing “Tears of a Fool” and “Eight Days of Summer” and a few covers such as Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” and Chaka Demus & Pliers “Murder She Wrote” to good effect.
Unfortunately, Sista J succumbed to the trap that I’ve seen too many reggae (and for that matter, zydeco) front-persons fall into: the near-constant imploring for the crowd to dance and enjoy themselves. Rather than concentrating on singing, she continually had the band stop playing to talk to the crowd about how they needed to dance, going so far as to have the few dancers go gather a partner from the seat-dancers not once but twice. While the ploy did get more people up, it ruined the flow of the group’s performance.
Here’s an idea, offered with respect: play the songs! Just play. If you’re doing a great job and we like what you’re doing, we’ll see what happens- we might dance all on our own.
We truly enjoyed our introduction to Mountain View Music Festival 2011 and look forward to a full day of music tomorrow/today.
For those in the Calgary-Red Deer areas, http://www.mvmf.ca/MVMF/Home.html is a good place to start for information about Saturday and Sunday performances beginning at 10:00 AM.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald