Calgary Folk Music Festival wrap-up

By: Amber McLinden and Kennedy Enns

Spending four days at Prince’s Island park was both enjoyable and exhausting. Even though we spent too much of our hard earned money on food truck tacos we were happy to burn ourselves in the sun watching such an interesting collection of artists. Watching solo sets and workshops was the perfect way to see some of our favourite local and international acts. Below are our reviews for our most memorable artists’ performances.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

How many times can we see MBF in one weekend? The answer is never enough. Fitzgerald has the kind of on stage charisma that some musicians can only dream of. Whether he was playing his solo main stage set with his (almost) overly enthusiastic band, or participating in workshops where other artists are taking pictures of him, he’s fantastic. His music can stand alone; it’s exactly the type of indie-rock that anyone can relate to, especially in the field of love. Layer that on top of his beaming personality and you can see why CFMF calls him “a local treasure”. When he wasn’t on stage, he was sitting in crowds with guests or hosting one of his “pie receptions” for fans to hang out and eat pie with him. Who else would do that besides Michael?


BRAIDS was one of the acts we were excited to see as soon as they were announced. Though they didn’t seem to fit with the rest of folk fest’s lineup they drew a huge crowd to their Saturday solo show. We were also lucky enough to see them at their Mullets, Beards and Barrettes workshop and lead singer Raphaelle Standall-Preston’s voice was absolutely angelic in real life. Describing their song Mini Skirt as “jazzy feminism” BRAIDS had everyone jamming at both of their shows.

Oh Pep!

One of Vamp’s picks going into the festival, Oh Pep! did not disappoint. We got to see this lovely group play both a solo set and a workshop, and both were amazing. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, the band had only ever experienced a workshop, playing with different musicians on stage together, since they began touring in Canada. One might describe their music as folk-pop, but they bring their own unique elements that create interesting and enthusiastic songs. Oh Pep! was one of two bands that we had the pleasure of interviewing. Olivia Hally (the Oh of Oh Pep!) explained that they often take on the role of other people when writing lyrics, hence the “she/her” pronouns in “Tea, Milk and Honey”. Their set was emotional, touching, and at some points, upbeat.

Cat Power

Cat Power was another one of our picks for CFMF and we don’t regret it. Her set on the main stage was both ethereal and raw at the same time. There’s something about pausing in the middle of a song to compose yourself that portrays the artist as a real person with real problems, which makes them more relatable. Cat Power often gets flack from the media on her performances, citing stage fright or a general strange demeanor from her. We didn’t necessarily experience that, but there’s something refreshing about an artist who isn’t completely perfect. Plus, her set was a calming break from an otherwise upbeat and often eccentric folk fest.


We got a text Friday to interview this band that day, and we had no idea what we were stepping in to. I think the strangest thing I’ve ever heard in an interview is, “every song on our album [Preternatural] is about an animal, for example one is about the Japanese Pufferfish”. But there’s a method to the madness, and their songs create endless parallels between the lives of humans and animals. As both a journalist and lover of the environment, I can get on board with the concept. They might be playing a folk music festival, but their music certainly doesn’t conform to one genre. The closest description would be their own unique form of experimental folk-rock. Their solo set might have started late on Sunday, but that certainly didn’t stop them from pumping up the crowd with their unique show. Have you ever seen someone play a bassoon? There’s really no way to not be excited for that.

Cat Empire

Cat Empire was of of the few performances that got everyone up from their blankets and chairs. With their high energy performance and stage presence they had everyone watching their set dancing. From their amazing set design to their huge instrumental ensemble, their set was one of our favourites at Folk Fest. With trumpets, trombones, bongos and a DJ, their set was a crowd favourite.

Colleen Rennison

Sitting on the grass outside of stage two we listened to Rennison’s beautiful solo set before the Defining Moments showcase. While Rennison’s style was more country than some of our other picks her set was still one we’re glad we caught. Rennison’s voice shined on it’s own, but the best part of listening to a workshop is watching how the artist’s interact with each other. The collaboration between her, MBF, Amelie Patterson and The Weather Station was one of our favourites of the festival.