Iron & Wine highlight of Winnipeg Folk Festival so far (and other Day 3 notes)

Posted by: Paul Little  //  July 11, 2009 @ 6:44am

Filed under: Features

The third night of the Winnipeg Folk Festival was a busy day, and for that reason, this is going to be a shorter update tonight. It was a long, mostly cool day out at Bird's Hill Park on Friday, and sleep awaits -- but here we go!

Friday at the fest was all about the singer-songwriter -- at least for this writer. The day started for me with Dala, the singer-songwriter duo of Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther, who sang beautifully together. The kicker was their hilarious banter in between the songs. (Dala also played a "tweener" set early in the evening on the main stage.)

I missed a performance by gospel group The Campbell Brothers, unfortunately, though you could hear them across the festival grounds and they sounded amazing. After a brief stop to check out the "O Sister Where Art Thou" show panel featuring female singer-songwriters Alana Levandoski, Dala, Jenny Whiteley, Mirah, Dominique Reynolds, and T. Nile, I made my way to the kids' Chickadee stage to check out the first singer-songwriter I ever knew: children's entertainer Fred Panner.

Canadians know Penner for his long-running CBC show from the 80s and 90s, Fred Penners' Place (which also aired on Nickelodeon in the U.S.), but he being a born-and-bred Winnipegger, he's even more popular with the locals. He sang a mix of his originals and classic folk tunes he's known for singing, including "Sandwiches", "Puff the Magic Dragon", and "The Cat Came Back", which brought back great memories of my childhood.

The main stage began with a performance by Idaho singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. (More on him tomorrow -- and next week, as we'll be posting an interview with the talented performer.) Also featured in the evening were African singer Oumou Sangaré and Grammy-winning bluegrass group The Del McCoury Band, but as I said at the beginning, this was the night of the singer-songwriter. And the best performance so far this fest (managing to exceed the lofty expectations) was Iron & Wine, AKA folk icon Sam Beam.

Known for mostly-sparse, rootsy acoustic tunes, such as "Naked as We Came", "The Sea and the Rhythm", and a cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" for the Garden State soundtrack, Iron & Wine might not seem like the best choice for a 10pm show in front of 16,000 fans, and he made note of that during his set. But the festivalgoers ate it up, dancing to mostly soft tunes, and shouting out requests (which at least once, from what I could tell, he accepted). Personal favourites were the aforementioned "Naked" as well as "Woman King". He ended his set with the crowd wanting more, chanting, "One more song!" over and over until main stage host Jian Ghomeshi finally let everyone know that the final performer was already setting up, and there'd unfortunately be no encore.

The final performer of the night was talented alt-country singer Neko Case, who also performs with Vancouver indie-rock band The New Pornographers. Friday she was in all her roots-country glory, though, which obviously pleased the Folk Festival crowd. Case, who for a while was an indie-darling, has become much more widely known over the past few years, with many appearances on late night TV and increased album sales (but the indie crowd certainly hasn't abandoned her either). As I was leaving the festival grounds approaching midnight, she was still playing through the last of her set, but you can't ask for a better performer to end off your night.

Be sure to follow our Twitter feed for updates directly from the festival. And check out the photo gallery from Day #3 below.

Photos by: Ben Stouffer & Paul Little

Tags: Winnipeg Folk Festival, Music Festival, folk, singer/songwriter, Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Dala, Fred Penner, Josh Ritter, The Campbell Brothers

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Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)

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