A&E » Music

Fortitude and folding chairs

Musical and meterological diversity at the 2nd Annual Pemberton Folk Festival

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As the torrential rains pour down, festival organizers and sound techs scramble to ensure the safety of the sound system. The main stage speaker towers are wrapped in blue tarps faster than feet can fly during an Irish jig. This necessary modification further muffles the already muddy sound and gives any leaky condo owners in the audience an unpleasant sense of déjà vu.

2:00 p.m.

The audience, numbering well over 100 by this point, is clearly enthralled by Vancouver quartet Sangha’s hypnotic Eastern sounds. Unfortunately, the group’s traditional Arabic, Persian and Indian stringed instruments are not enthralled with the climate. Sangha becomes the first of many bands during the festival that have problems keeping their instruments in tune. (But this minor glitch detracts little from the engaging performance. I see a number of festies carrying away Sangha CDs during the weekend.)

3:00 p.m.

Having lunched on Mario on Main’s amazing chimichanga plate ($7.50), it’s almost feeling like nap time. Blu Hopkins’ brand of narrative folk provides the perfect backdrop for deep relaxation. Accompanied by his wife Kelly on mandolin and standing bass, his guitar style crosses roots with blues and is exactly what comes to mind when I think of folk. He’s a man who knows who his music. Before launching into "Love Song", he jokingly offers to "Take a break from all the whining and complaining that goes with songs of political import."

In a market where the local radio play list leans heavy of angst-ridden pimple rock and slutty ex-Mousketeers’ disco dalliances, songs rooted in political whining and complaining are surprisingly refreshing.

4:00 p.m.

While I stand in the line-up for Lois Joseph’s traditional Lil’wat food (bannock: $1), the crowd has grown to 250. Although the rain has stopped, I am cold and ready to go home. But my focus quickly changes from concerns about my core temperature to the amazing sounds Don Alder wrangles out of six strings and a pound or two of wood. A renowned finger-guitarist, Alder can make a single instrument sound like a four-piece band. An audience member who rocked our Christmas party with his guitar playing pays Alder ultimate praise, " The guy’s like the acoustic Hendrix."