The 36th Annual Winnipeg Folk Festival came to a close on Sunday night with a main stage performance by Celtic folk icon Loreena McKennitt, while over at Big Blue @ Night, Great Lake Swimmers finished things off. Prior to that, Patrick Watson (and his band, now called The Wooden Arms) awed and amazed at Big Blue, while legendary folk singer Arlo Guthrie pleased the big crowd on the main stage. Former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page started out the night on the main stage with a set of mostly classic BNL tunes, sprinkled with hilarious chatter in between songs.
For us, Sunday was even busier than Saturday, with FOUR interviews scheduled. We did manage to check out a few shows during the day, including a bit of the Playing for Change workshop at the Green Ash stage, which featured Steven Page (hosting), Loudon Wainwright III, Arlo Guthrie, Tom House, and Serena Ryder. Wainwright, in particular, stood out, singing a tune about airline employee Suzie in Durango who messed with his guitar -- and his patience -- that was not only great musically, but also had the audience in stitches.
We also caught part of Wainwright's evening concert, after getting to interview him earlier between his two sets. You'll see that interview on this site in the near future, but the highlight of the interview unfortunately wasn't even caught on tape. Wainwright used a great analogy comparing the songwriting process over the years to sex. Wish the camera didn't get an error right when he started answering that question (digital technology, eh?), so you'll have to take our word for it that it was hilarious.
We also had a fun chat with Patrick Watson, who (as mentioned above) played an evening show at Big Blue @ Night. Somehow, each day there's been a performance that has topped the previous best at the festival, and Sunday was no different, with Patrick Watson & The Wooden Arms performing some of the most interesting tunes out there. The band is seriously talented, and very entertaining live. They even played some songs from the middle of the crowd, with Watson himself using a makeshift portable speaker system!
Loreena McKennitt was a fitting closer for the festival, though. Not only was her celtic folk -- featuring her incredible, soaring vocals -- a relaxing end to five days of music, friends, and fun, but it was a bit of a homecoming for the Manitoba-born artist, who hadn't played the Winnipeg Folk Festival since 1992. One wouldn't think such an acclaimed Celtic singer -- who has been nominated for a Grammy, won multiple Juno awards, and been named to the Order of Canada -- hails from a small town in the prairies, but she was born and grew up in Morden, Manitoba. Though we also got to talk to her prior to her performance, which was a treat to say the least, it was her performance of "The Lady of Shalott" that truly made the night for me personally.
This was the first Winnipeg Folk Festival ShowbizMonkeys.com has covered, and we sure hope it isn't our last. It was a spectacular experience, from Elvis Costello on Wednesday night to Loreena McKennitt on Sunday night, with so much amazing music (new and old) and even more amazing people in between. Keep checking the website over the next several weeks as we post up our interviews with Watson, McKennit, Wainwright III, Josh Ritter, Dala, and The Abrams Brothers, as well as a feature video on the festival as a whole. And to all those folkies out there -- we'll see you next year
Photos by: Ben Stouffer & Paul Little
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)
Thanks, Paul...Will definitely go next year!!