Multi-genre band Bellowhead were the surprise of the day at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on Saturday, as the UK-based 11-piece band played their unique blend of folk, rock, ska, jazz, soul, and world music to roaring (and dancing) crowds on the main stage. Several spontaneous conga lines were even formed. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you don't check these guys out -- either at the 11am Hair of the Dog set at the Green Ash stage on Sunday morning, or elsewhere (like their MySpace page, perhaps). Ontario folk-rocker (and recent Juno winner) Serena Ryder also took to the main stage on Saturday and also had some people up on their feet.
Saturday was less about the music and more about the musicians for the ShowbizMonkeys.com crew, as we had our first two interviews of the fest despite some early afternoon scheduling screw-ups by us (thankfully the folks at the Winnipeg Folk Festival are both kind and forgiving to us in our first year of festival coverage). But just because we had work to do, that doesn't mean we didn't check out some other great performances on Saturday.
Serena Ryder was joined by Bahamas, Gentleman Reg, and the Great Lake Swimmers at the Green Ash stage as part of Yonge and the Restless, a Toronto-themed set. We only caught the end of this set, which included Ryder performing her hit "Little Bit of Red" and the Great Lake Swimmers covering a Neil Young tune (a little bit of Winnipeg thrown into the Toronto theme).
The reason we missed most of this set is that we were checking out the strange and wonderful sounds coming out of the Snowberry stage, where The Woodchoppers Association with Jah Youssouf, Bellowhead, Bell Orchestre, and Patrick Watson all took to the stage for an hour or so of interesting improvisation and audience participation. Never before have I heard such strange sounds, yet they incredibly entertaining -- guitars, drums, basses, a french horn, some trumpets, slide guitar, fiddles, some singing and spoken word, and even a kamal n'goni. Look for a clip from backstage in our festival round-up video next week. It was incredible.
Other favourites on Saturday, once again, were Josh Ritter and Dala. Incidentally, those were the two interviews we had on Saturday, and interestingly, they both name-checked each other as favourites of the festival so far. And they're not wrong, either. Keep checking back to ShowbizMonkeys.com, as those interviews (along with those we'll be conducting Sunday) will be posted in the next week or two.
That's it for Saturday. There's only one more day to go, and the main stage on Sunday features ex-Barenaked Lady Steven Page, Arlo Guthrie, and celtic folk icon Loreena McKennitt on the main stage, as well as Patrick Watson and the Great Lake Swimmers on the Big Blue @ Night stage. Keep checking our Twitter feed for real-time updates from the final day of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and if you're at the Festival and see someone with a monkey t-shirt on, come and say hello!
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)