Thursday, July 14, 2005

2005 Winnipeg Folk Festival Review

Ahhh folk fest, my favorite time of year. Better than Christmas, better than any birthday. It truly is the best time of the whole year, although it does take me at least 2 weeks to recover from it. And this year it just may take me a little longer.

The weekend actually started for me on Thursday since I was fortunate enough to again have holidays to take (rather than subjecting myself to the torture of having to miss out on Thursday night and suffer through work on Monday) Last year working at Shit Hole Collision rather than enjoying the whole weekend at Folk Fest resulted in me quitting the week after Folk Fest. Killer! Anyways Thursday at 5:05 I ran over to the hotel, eager for my weekend to start. I was a little dismayed that we were stationed in the basement of the hotel, (I guess the Fairmont is slowly starting to edge us granola munching, stinky pig feet folkies out) but I saw Danielle and Heidi and Dave so I was psyched! My shift started at 6 but I had some arranged transportation for the Kawa Brass Band from India and Ricky Skaggs & his group so I had to stick around. The Kawa group obviously were a little out of touch (which happens when you only have 1 band member that speaks English), no one could find them until 5:30 when they were found wandering the lobby when they are supposed to be at the site and on main stage at 6. Needless to say I had to herd them like little lost sheep shove them in vans and get them out the site even thought they would miss their set Chris(the Artistic Director) worked through it, sending out good sports, Nathan in their place. I returned to the hotel to bring out Ricky Skaggs and his band and get his family to follow us out. Ricky was nice and I basically met half his family including his daughter Molly and his band. Never in my 8 years as a Transportation Crew Member have I ever met a band who couldn’t a) remember how many were in their band b) count to 9. I was exasperated by the time I got half of them in my van and ready to go and it didn’t help that I had to drive out a Airport crew member that drove me nuts before and during the ride. She thought I was a new crew member, thought that she was driving another van (when the band was sitting and waiting in the van I had started up) and talked incessantly, blurting things out like some misbehaving child eager for attention and again thinking that it was my first year. Danielle, Heidi and I, had already made a little run out to the site on Tuesday so I was semi prepared as to what the site looked like. It was dry in the campground, and the back stage road for the busses looked pretty good under the circumstances. However, the evening got progressively dark and eventually a huge rainstorm began as Ricky and his band took the stage. They got cut short; rather they cut themselves short in fear for the audience, (what a hard core bunch we are!!!) as fork lightning filled the sky. Danielle and I took the coach bus back the hotel after standing in the rain for 2 hrs and I stayed at her house (Holiday Inn look out!!).

We woke up early and headed off to the Fairmont at about 9. Danielle was the only one that had to be there but I wanted to help out most of the day so I tagged along. We enjoyed a muffin and juice breakfast, hung out with some performers, talked with some performers, including Stephen from the Weakerthans, Sandy Scofield, and a shit load of others. It’s always a nice morning when you see Valdy hanging out, the ladies from Be Good Tanya’s sitting having a muffin while watching previous nights performance and interviews on Shaw TV. Folk Musicians, it’s a beautiful thing.
Friday night I had the honor of driving Dr. John back from his kick ass performance on the main stage. What a pleasure! His manager Hooter was a very memorable guy, prompt, organized and a breath of fresh air. My Dad is a pretty big fan so I thought it was pretty cool. It was a busy place backstage and with the Dr and his band leaving at 3 am we were on a tight schedule. I also drove back Kaki King’s tour manager and a good friend of hers as well. The girls were nice, the Dr. was a quiet riot and Hooter kept us entertained with stories of other festivals, pot flavored lollies and asking me to rev up the engine on my 2006 Ford Expedition I got to drive all weekend. I taught them about the northern lights, how to say Aurora Borealis, the quickest way to the Hotel from the Festival Site (including bolting through the field!) and about our Loveday mushroom plant. After all the hugs and goodbyes at the hotel, I had a drink with Dave and went back to Hotel Danielle for a brief but purposeful sleep.

Lucky for us!!! We got to sleep in until 11 and Alan came to pick us up and bring us to the hotel. We helped out at the hotel, had lunch in the velvet glove and tried to get our whole crew to sign Linda’s Card that I made for her (it was her 25 year of volunteering for our crew and the Festival….go Linda!!!) The temperature kept climbing all day and with each hour that passed the humidity in the basement grew unbearable. This year was so much busier than others. There were so many requests from performers and tour managers, it was clear that we were understaffed. The airport crew was never there so it was lucky for them that our crew had so many people that worked all day long and so many extra shifts so that some one was at the desk to answer questions…and deal with people like Nikolai Dunger. Nice man, but doesn’t understand English. Which is difficult when he is trying to get back a sweater that he had lost and hop a flight out of town. Some times I think the Festival should provide US with translators. Saturday continued on not without a major catastrophe, when we were supposed to take Lila Downs and her group to the site for their night performance. I was running around like a mad woman with buses breaking down, phone calls and whatnot, Ted was waiting upstairs for the group and when I came upstairs he was loading some people in the van, me, assuming that this was the right group got the rest of them and their gear in my van and we headed off to the site. At Main and McDermot one of them band members jumps out of Ted’s van, runs up to mine and as I roll down my window he exclaims “we are going to the airport right?” and all the color from my face drains and I turn the corner and head back to the hotel. With no one to take them to the airport (they had forgotten about Auto rickshaw) I called them a cab, pissed off the doorman, and switched all their gear and group over to the cabs, rounded up Lila Downs and started all over again. Thankfully they were al kind and patient people. We stopped at 7eleven on the way stocked up on water (32 above!!) and were finally on our way. Saturday night was great because we set up a good little area backstage but sort of in view of the stage (which for this year was almost impossible, since they took the viewing area away from the performers and the volunteers…..grrrrrrrrr) we had citronella candles, bug spray and I stocked myself up with the best damn lemonade in the world !!!! It was a beautiful night.

Heidi and I took off in a van from Danielle’s in the morning to be at our 9 am shift. This is difficult when you only had 4 hrs sleep the previous night, but we woke up got ready and left with Danielle’s daughter Sam and her friend’s to drop them off for the festival shuttle at the hotel. Normally Sunday’s are boring and painful because most of the performers have come and gone and there isn’t much to do. Normally. However this year was exceptional. Heidi ran Sylvia Tyson out to the site at 9:20 and I was left at the hotel like a fucking call center rep picking up the slack from the other crews. Valdy thought I was bananas, hotel hospitality thought I escaped from the mental facility and people on the escalator should have got the hell out of the road. I did meet some nice people however…Rennie Sparks from the Handsome Family, Brendan McGuire (sound guy and former producer of Sloan and Sam Roberts) who I would later rush to the airport to retrieve Feist’s guitar after waiting an hour for customs, and speed out to the site to get there in time for her show!! J That would later be my only experience with Feist as I missed her show and workshops because of my shifts. I did catch one of Kinnie Star’s songs on the mainstage (how long have I waited to see her….) Once I got to the site (after a cake run, a crispy chicken sandwich run, a slurpee run, and a stop off at Danielle’s house run) it’s was about 6. Everyone ate and we headed to the mainstage and set up a spot with the crowd outside the volunteer area (that would be us taking spots away from the paying public Mr. Chris Frayer) Sunday night was a pivotal evening for me. For the last 4 years the Folk Festival has sort of shifted away from the traditional folk elements of the festival. I’m not saying that they were un-enjoyable acts but Folk Music will always have my heart. I was slightly disillusioned in the Folk department up until about 9 pm Sunday night. Xavier Rudd took the stage and brought me back to my happy little granola munching, Birkenstock wearing, dirty pig feet heaven. I had heard of him from his last year’s performance at the festival, but had never seen him. I’m telling you people…. he is the cat’s ass and a bag of donuts. Spiritual, friendly, handsome, musical, lyrical, insightful…beautiful. He reminded me that night of why I volunteer for the folk fest and inspired me in so many ways (now just don’t tell my husband :)
If you ever have the chance to see him, don’t hesitate just go.
After Xavier, Daniel Lanois took to the stage and about 3/4’s through his set one giant dark cloud loomed overhead. At one point I looked up and saw a flash of lightning, and suddenly the temperature dropped 10 degrees and a huge gust of wind hit us. A thousand or so spectators suddenly packed up and headed for the gates. At one point someone mentioned the word “tornado” so I gathered up my stuff and headed back to backstage. It took 3 of us to pack up the whole transportations gear and belongings and stuff it in the back of the van. The tents in the backstage area are swaying in the wind, the sky darkens and I’m disappointed that there may not be a show for Emmy Lou Harris and no finale. It starts to rain a bit and then the dark clouds disperse and every one calms down a bit and we head backstage to organize, calm, referee the chaos that is backstage. Emmy Lou’s set was beautiful. She is beautiful. The lightning that flickered in the background was beautiful. And the show went on. A small group of volunteers gathered with us to go up on stage for the finale. I was thankful that I was determined to learn most of the words to the Mary Ellen Carter; I figured after all this time why not. We went up on stage with Valdy, the Campbell Brothers and Emmy Lou and sang the remainder of the night away. The party at the hotel was fun, and probably even more so this year because we rented a room. I went to sleep at 5 and t’was the end of another fun filled Winnipeg Folk Festival.

I think 2006 I plan on being more involved in the festival. I have a lot of ideas and I hope everyone will be receptive to them. I know Danielle needs more help and I don’t want another year like this one. It is always fun, but I don’t think we should always carry the brunt of the stress and workload. I know the festival has made me a better person. I have created friendships and learned a lot from the people I work with. I definitely don’t ever regret signing up and I can’t wait till next year.


Nessie V said...

you really need some strong airport transpo people don't you...

Mindola said...

you have no idea, that crew has completely fallen apart. it's unbelievable. They're missing some Nessie-V action baby!!