|The view from inside our tent of the Baggiecon circle. Nice weather this year!|
One thing we finally did this year was take our bicycles, as our minivan has a hitch and I was able to get an adapter so I could attach my old bike rack to it. It worked fine, although it was very long and we had to be careful not to drag the bikes at times. It was great to have them to ride around the festival campground and to the festival site, as well as to a nearby lake (where you could swim) in Birds Hill Park. We'll definitely be bringing them next year.
Our friend Teresia in New Richmond was kind enough to take care of our two dogs and cat, and even took them to her home so they could play with her dog Freya in her backyard a few times, as well as taking poor Ceilidh down in the basement with her when fireworks were going off on the Fourth of July. We were able to stay in touch with her while away too, thanks to T-Mobile now giving us free calls, texts, and even data when in Canada. It was really handy to be able to use our phones at the folk fest to keep in touch with each other as well as our fellow Baggiecon campers.
We'd planned on leaving Monday and getting to Winnipeg a day early so we could have time to pack all the camp gear and have time to visit too, but it turned out that Erin had to work until 2pm that day, and that combined with the usual extra time it always takes to pack all our stuff we decided to hold off and leave Tuesday morning instead. We finally left at 9:30am and had a pleasant drive to the border where we had no hassles crossing thankfully, and made it to the Bhigg House a little after 7pm.
That didn't leave much time to load the Baggiecon group camping gear and Dave Clement's own gear, which required me to repack the whole minivan, but I managed to get it done in about an hour and a half and I was barely able to park the minivan in the garage with the bike rack on. (I didn't want to take it off because I had a *really* hard time getting it on with the new adapter and didn't want to mess with it again.) After finishing I took a refreshing shower we all had a nice late supper that Elizabeth fixed for us and then our friends Donna and Terry came by for a visit (including two new Baggieconners, France and Steven who had arrived at the Bhigg House a couple of hours after we did) and we talked until after 10pm when they left and I then went to bed.
Erin and I had a decent night's sleep and we took our time in the morning as Wolfgang and Lillian were there plenty early enough to get a good camping spot. So after having some coffee and gathering up our things Erin and I got in the minivan and drove out to Birds Hill Park. We got there around 10am just as the parking lineup to get in the festival camping area was dwindling down to the last few dozen vehicles, and we ended up parking in the first row of the overflow parking lot. So not ideal in terms of hauling everything in but not nearly as bad as having to park somewhere waay up at the very far north end.
We found Wolf and Lil right away in Zone 1A, as they'd claimed almost the same exact spot that Baggiecon was last year, thanks to being just about the first vehicle in the lineup. It's always a mad rush as there are around 1000 eager camping beavers all trying to get a favorite spot, usually in the shade of some trees. We instead look for a firepit in the open where there's a breeze and we set up a 10'x20' car port for shade as well as shelter from the rain, and that's worked well for us for decades, ever since Erin volunteered her old art show canopy waay back in the goodle days of the early 1990s.
It took about ten full garden cart loads to get everything out of the minivan, which I did (with some very welcome help from Wolfgang) while Erin stayed around to do the organizing as her foot was giving her some pain. She'd bought a new pair of sandals before we left that helped her walk without bending her arthritic toes so much, but I was fine with doing most of the hauling. It was a good thing that I've been working out on the ellipticals at the gym and had gotten into better shape leg-wise. Of course there were hundreds of other people working just as hard hauling their gear as I was and not all of them were younger than me!
The last thing I got was my bicycle, and my reward was having the fun of riding it back to camp instead of slogging on foot. Whee! Then after Erin and I decided where the tent was going to go, she went off with France back into Winnipeg to get some groceries and other things and I helped get the kitchen tent up with Wolfgang and then put out tent up. In the meantime Dave and Elizabeth had been bringing in their things, including a cooler with sandwich fixings that Elizabeth organized, and we all had a break with a cool drink and a welcome bite to eat after working hard. Then Lenore arrived and I helped her put her tent up, and soon after that came Lana, then Polly and Sharif, and pretty soon the circle was filling out nicely.
In fact, we'd finished with everything by 4pm or so, and Dave and Elizabeth took off for the lake to cool off (it was fairly warm at around 86F, but with a few clouds) and I took a shower in our spiffy shower tent. As usual, we had passersby ask what it was and after being told it was a Tardis we told them it was our shower, complete with water warmed in black plastic cubes and pumped through a shower head with the help of a 12-volt RV battery that was recharged with a 20-watt solar panel. Yes, it all has to be hauled in but when you're going to be there for 5-1/2 days the creature comforts are worth it.
Then by the time Erin and France made it back we were ready to relax for the evening. Thanks to a truck coming by with a rack of firewood for us we were all set for the rest of the fest for campfires. I'd brought two guitars with me this year, my Simon & Patrick that I usually play but this year I brought it for Dave Clement as he's been dealing with some serious issues with his left hand and couldn't play the Seagull 12-string guitar I'd been bringing for him since 2010. (Dave has a very fine Taylor 410 guitar himself, but he won't bring it out to the festival as it's a $2000+ instrument.) So I strung my S&P with light-gauge strings to make it easier to fret. The other guitar I brought was my Seagull Artist that I bought two years ago, and while I was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs to bring it out to the fest because it's in such good condition (the S&P still sounds fine but it's acquired its share of dings in 22 years) but I was careful and it survived the experience without a scratch. Whew.
Besides Dave and myself, Wolfgang and Heather also brought guitars and a ukulele to play around the fire, and there were plenty of other people happy to sing along and occasionally sing something themselves. Sadly, we had no drummers but there was another group camping next to us that had a drummer who was quite good (I know, hard to believe) and we enjoyed hearing their music too during the fest. It's really become more of a pickin' and strumming scene in the festival campground now, with no big Castle Boys encampment or even fire show over at Pope's Hill now. There are still some featured attractions to be found, including the Big Games folks, an ink stamp tattoo parlor, an open jam session site, etc., but they're all smaller-scale. I know some miss the big stuff that used to be around, but it's a more mellow place for it. I think the folk fest management has decided to make the festival site itself the place where the big stuff happens at night, and that's fine with me.
Thursday morning came all too early as usual for me as I can never sleep in for very long thanks to my own internal clock that wakes me up whether I want to or not. It was a beautiful morning and I soon got to making that first pot of coffee after making sure the solar panel was in a sunny place to charge our battery. I usually have a couple of thermos bottles handy to use to pour hot coffee into so another pot can be made, but John and Karen hadn't made it yet because John wasn't feeling well and John had the thermos bottles. Thankfully the coffee maker was able to keep up with demand as more Baggieconners got up. We did later hear from Karen and John that they were on the way but wouldn't be making it until Friday, which is certainly better than not making it at all as folk fest happens only once a year.
As Thursday is a day where there's only music at the Main Stage in the evening, we had the whole day to relax and have fun in the festival campground. I just hung around for a few hours and visited with people and did some water-hauling (a note: I wasn't pleased with the number of people who think the communal water spigot is where their personal hygiene should be done. If I wanted to step in puddles of spat-out toothpaste, I'd bloody well say so. I must send a letter to the fest asking if they could perhaps put a sign on their flag that asks folkies to do their spitting elsewhere. Also, it really lengthens the line of people getting water.) Later in the afternoon, I went off riding my bicycle around the grounds and rode over to the lake to check it out and found Dave and Elizabeth were there for a swim themselves, and after I went wading I spent some time with them before heading back.
On the way, I decided to check out where there used to be a lesser-known entrance into festival camping so people could use a pit toilet in a picnic area, but found it was blocked off with a double fence. We used to be able to walk from the Bur Oak stage directly back to camp, but after 2011 the fest had put an end to that, so I wasn't surprised that they'd closed the entrance too. But I did find there was a nice asphalt path that ran from the picnic area north along the festival camping fence line, so I took off and quickly made it to the entrance that allowed access to Pope's Hill. Something to remember, and write down for future reference, I thought. And so I am!
I then took a spin up Pope's Hill to enjoy the view for a minute and then sped back down and re-entered the festival campground, and eventually rode over to where the Giant Scrabble game was set up in the RV camping area and found Erin and Lana there playing. Well, not playing as much as advising other players and Erin impressed them so much she earned the title "Scrabble Goddess" from one of the players there. They should meet Erin's sister Mary sometime...
|Erin in the green t-shirt (and greenish hair) kibbitzing with the kids playing Big Scrabble|
After getting back I then learned that Polly had gone down to get in line for a tarp ticket and managed to get a #2 for us, and I agreed to run it at 5:15pm. So at 4:45pm I grabed the Baggiecon tarp and biked down. When it was time for us #2's to do the tarp stroll, I kept an eye out for where the #1's (who went first, naturally) might have left an empty space for a tarp, and sure enough I found a 6x8 area only four tarps back from the front of the Main Stage and folded my tarp down to fit it. (You're allowed up to an 8'x10' tarp.) Yay. I then took a look around and noticed that instead of there being a solid wall of huge subwoofers in front of the stage like there was last year, there were only about 8 or so, and that looked promising after last year's blowout of sound.
The evening show was scheduled to start at 7pm with an opening ceremony, but I headed back to camp to have a quick shower, figuring that I'd then not have to take one in the morning which would save me time before I would be running the tarp again at 10:15 am. Soon enough it was close to 7 pm so I headed down for the main stage. I missed the opening ceremonies, but made it in time for the first show by Small Glories, a duo featuring Cara Luft (formerly of The Wailin' Jennies) and J.D. Edwards and they were a fine opening act and represented Winnipeg nicely, trading off lead on each other's songs and doing some fine guitar and banjo playing as well. Just right to start the night.
The first tweener of the night was Carly Dow, who was nice if not particularly memorable. One of the reasons I wait a bit to write all this up is to see what's stuck with me after a month or more has passed. The next act, Brandi Carlile, was _very_ memorable. I'd been told by Chas Somdahl before the folk fest to be sure and hear her and I'd certainly hear her played on the radio for the past several years and liked what I'd heard. But as a live performer she was amazingly good. She had two sidemen playing with her who had been with her for many years and they were tight but not too tight, if you know what I mean. The Chris Frayer, the artistic director of the folk fest had mentioned in a news article that he thought Brandi Carlile would be one of the hits of the festival, and he was right. Carlile is a fine songwriter and she also has a great singing voice - powerful but not shouty at all and right on key. I couldn't take my eyes off her, and at one point when she lowered her mike and walked to the front of the state and just sang, I was really glad I'd found that spot for the tarp close to the front. Wow.
After Carlile's last song the crowd really wanted an encore but we didn't get one. Oh well, I guess the need to keep things on schedule matters, but jeeze. The next tweener was Aoife O'Donovan, who I'd heard sing on Prairie Home Companion a few time and I had liked what I heard. But again, her short set wasn't all that memorable and then it was time for the last act of the night, the band The Shins. I didn't know much about them but they were definitely a rock band with a bit of a techno flavor to them and they'd bround with them a fantastic light show that I enjoyed as much, if not more, than their music. Their drummer was quite impressive, but their lead singer was hard to decipher so I just relaxed and watched the lights and had a good time, and so did the rest of the crowd. I took a video of it with my iPhone and I'll try to load it here. Don't tell anyone...
Then it was back to the campsite and more playing around the campfire before turning in for the night, which passed peacefully to the sounds of distant and sometimes not-so-distant drumming. Friday morning started out as a copy of Thursday's, refreshingly cool with a warming sun. I started coffee and did a water run and by the time Polly was back in camp with a #1 tarp ticket I was feeling fine as others arose in camp. Even Erin didn't seem to be suffering too much from the usual morning fuzziness before coffee. I had plenty of time to collect things (thanks to having showered the day before) and then walked down with my chair and the tarp for the run, and I ended up getting a spot almost exactly where I did the night before. I guess all that training is finally paying off.
After having a bite for breakfast, I wandered over to the Bur Oak state to hear a guitarist workshop that I figured I'd appreciate as a guitarist myself, and it was pleasant enough, although I'd have liked more jamming. I did like Marisa Anderson's playing for being out of the ordinary in terms of it's eclectic inspiration. After the workshop I did a walk around the Handmade Village and ran into Anya behind the Green Ash stage where I sat for a while and, ghu help me, checked my phone for stuff. I know I should have far better things to do but I had data and I just had to. In my defense, I wasn't the only one with my face planted in my phone. I did at least use the folk fest app, which was nice to have.
Then it was off to the Big Bluestem stage to hear some bluegrass. There was an all-afternoon bluegrass revue scheduled there for Friday and while I didn't want to hear it all, I was interested in Nick Forster and Danny Barnes, on guitar and banjo respectively. They were fantastic players and had good stage presence, unsurprisingly on Forster's part as he's a host of a live radio show and had been talking for years to audiences. When they started with the tune Eight More Miles to Louisville, I knew I was in good hands for the whole set.
I would have liked to stick around to hear fiddle player Tim O'Brien after that, but I wanted to head back to Green Ash to hear a workshop with Bruce Cockburn, Graham Parker, and Daniel Lanois, which was heavily attended by the time I got there as you might expect, so I found a spot a way back among the trees in the shade, as the sound was good no matter where you sat. There was a lot of banter and the playing wasn't as tight as I'd heard from Forster and Barnes, but it was a lot of fun still. Cockburn's voice struggled a bit at first when he started singing, but that thankfully didn't last long and it's not surprising given he's now around 72 years old. Geez, where does the time go? Parker made some bemused remarkes about that subject, but he was still young at heart and rocked, well, as much as you can rock out at a folk festival anyway.
I thought about sticking around for one more workshop, but there wasn't anything that just grabbed me (although I heard later that the choir workshop with Bruce Cockburn was a big hit). I headed back to camp where I took a shower and enjoyed a cold beer, or maybe two, I don't remember, and chatted with other Baggieconners who were there. I headed back down to the Main Stage and caught part of the first act, Esme Patterson, who is yet another indie artist I had no clue about, although she'd played with some bands I had heard of, like Shakey Graves. I don't think I'm that out of touch with popular music, but I do have some blind spots for sure.
Then after a local tweeer, Richard Inman, was Bruce Cockburn, solo, who I really wanted to hear and, wow, he turned in a fantastic set. His guitar playing was amazingly sharp and fluid, and I wasn't the only one on the Baggiecon tarp to note that. Of course he's a great song writer too and his entire set was superb from start to finish. Given he'd already done a couple of workshops his voice was good too and I think some of the younger folkies who were wondering "who IS this guy?" were pleasantly surprised. We wanted an encore but didn't get one yet again and as it turned out I don't remember anyone getting one on Main Stage this year. Guess that's a new policy to keep things on time. I blame Xavier Rudd, who literally had the power plug pulled on him back in 2013 when he was the closing performer on Sunday night.
I then trucked on over to the Big Blue at Night stage to hear Camper Van Beethoven's set, which was a lot of fun, and after that I decided I was ready to head back to the campground and play some music myself. After we'd gone around the circle for an hour and some more we ended up doing some show tunes after talk around the fire turned to that subject, with Kat gleefully leading us, and we had great fun. I tried to shoot a video with my phone and at least got something, here...
Saturday morning was again beautiful, which one can get used to. Then as usual I did the tarp run and then got some breakfast and decided to head over to the Shady Grove stage for the first workshop featuring duos, including Nick Forster and Danny Barnes, as well as The Small Glories, and 100 Mile House. Yeah, I'd already seen two of the acts, but I liked them and it was nice to spend time in the shade early in the day and avoid the sun for a bit longer. I'm pretty mindful about not getting sunburned over the whole five days as it's pretty miserable to deal with a bad case of sunburn while at an outdoor festival.
Then, to be honest about it, I can't quite remember what I was doing for the next hour or two. Probably walking around the Handmade Village and elsewhere on the grounds. (I'm writing this months later because I simply didn't get around to it right after getting home.) But eventually I headed over to the Green Ash stage and caught the last part of a workshop there before Graham Parker & Brinsley Schwartz had a concert scheduled at 2:45pm and I managed to find a just-vacated spot for my chair right up near the front where you can see the whites of the performers eyes, er, their fingers on the guitar fretboard. I'm glad I did as I enjoyed seeing both Parker and Schwartz get their groove on. Still pretty spry for a couple of 1970s guys, I gotta say.
Then I managed to get a hold of Erin on the phone (yay for a working cellphone) and said I'd look for her at the Bur Oak stage where there was a workshop titled Waiting For The Great Leap Forward that included Peter Yarrow, and it was something we both wanted to see. As it turned out of course, so did a lot of other people and it was a big crowd. Luckily, Lana Klassen spotted me and called my name and she had a nice spot that still had a view of the stage a ways back in the shade along with Anya and her friend Heather, so I put my chair down just in time and held a spot for Erin too, who just made it as the set started. Whew. It turned out to be a good old-fashioned folk singing set with the crowd getting to join in often too, and yes, there was a political message or two as you would expect. The final number led by Yarrow was Bob Dylan's Blowin' In the Wind, and by the time the last chorus was sung everyone was standing and swaying in the wind, arms held up high. Not many dry eyes that I could see, but then I was a bit visually impaired myself...
After that, I decided to head back to camp and take a quick shower and relax a bit, but as it turned out I decided to stay in camp and not head down to the Main Stage at all. I just felt more like chillin' for some reason. I did get some fresh ice for the cooler at the camp store and refilled some water jugs, had a beer and a bit of a walkabout in the neighborhood on my bike before settling in with my guitar and having fun beneath the setting prairie sun. (It doesn't set until 9:30pm and stays light for sometime after that.) Baggieconners eventually started trickling back home and then we were waiting for Dave Clement to return so we could have our ceremony welcoming newcomers to Baggiecon, but we waited, and waited, and waited and still no Dave and it was well after midnight. Erin was tired and decided to turn in herself before Dave finally arrived around 1pm, and we had a ceremony. Turned out Dave's friends from out east, France and Steven, wanted to stay until the very end of the last set, and on Saturday it ends fairly late, obviously. I've not been staying late myself to hear the last act on Friday or Saturday as it's generally more a dancing scene. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not what I've been into. Part of that has been the crazy loud sound that made the Main Stage hard to bear for the past few years, but this year it was turned down significantly, and I've since learned it won't be cranked up so high again, so maybe I'll reconsider hearing the last acts more next year.
Sunday morning dawned just as nice as the previous ones and before I took off I took the time to coordinate with Erin and Lana to meet them at the Shady Grove stage at 11am for the first workshop there. Then as I walked to the main entrance to get in line for the tarp run, I spotted Polly way up front in one of the lines and elected to walk right up to her like she was waiting for me, so I could be one of the first people in. Not quite fair, but no one really minded or at least said anything. I even got my chair pre-checked and enjoyed the front gate volunteers pep song, which was sweet.
Then the gates opened and I was able to walk straight to Shady Grove and put my chair right in the very front row, and put a towel out to hold space for more chairs, which people graciously accepted. Then it was off to the tarp run and back again to join Erin, Lana, and Anya to hear an amazing Celtic workship featuring yet another superb band from Prince Edward Island that Lana loved, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, along with a blazingly talented band from Scotland, RURA, and another singer-songwriter from Scotland, Paul McKenna. It was everything you could want in a workshop, with virtuoso playing and jamming galore, some heartfelt moments, and humor too. Erin and Lana, talented artists both, also spent time sketching one of the handsomer musicians (they said they like him because he didn't move so much, but it was really because he was good-looking). At the end of the workshop they had him sign them, and he was tickled. Me, I was fired up and ready for more.
|I'm sure Lana & Erin would invite him to come look at their etchings anytime too!|
Then it was right over to the Big Bluestem stage to hear a concept workshop based around the Byrd's bluegrass-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo that they released back in 1968. Featured musicians included Hot Rize, The Small Glories, Lenoard Podolak, Luke Roberts, and again Matt Haeck, among others. The idea (did two years previously by Robyn Hitchcock and The Sadies for The Band's Stage Fright LP) was to play the songs on the album in sequence, with performers taking turns on each song. They did a very good job, from the opening Dylan cover to the last song "Nothing Was Delivered", which was nicely ironic.
I should mention that I did get there early enough to hear the end of the previous concert by a great, big, fun brass band from Los Angeles, MarchFourth, which not only featured around a dozen musicians, but also circus performers in their act. They reminded me a lot of a band from England I heard back at the 2009 folk fest, Bellowhead, with even more zanyness, and they had practically everyone in front of the state up and dancing and bouncing along with their groove.
Then, after all that, I went back over the Bur Oak to catch the last fifteen minutes of Peter Yarrow's concert, which I would have liked to hear all of but I'm glad I got to hear what I did. Erin was there to hear it all and she loved it, and she managed to pick up two CDs of his in the merch tent to take home. But wait, there's more! There was one more workshop over at Green Ash with Camper Van Beetheoven and the Saturday night closing act from Africa (Kinshasa to be precise), Mbongwana Star. What does a rock band from Los Angeles and one from Kinshasa have in common? As it turned out, the opening song they jammed on was Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive. That was fun, and it was a wonderful way to bliss out under a perfect summer sky.
I did leave a bit early to go back to camp to clean up and then head back down for the last night of the festival, always a kind of sigh, it's all over already feeling, but I was feeling so good I just couldn't feel sad. The sun coming through the trees as I came back in was so nice I took a photo of it, and it captures the feeling well enough.
I grabbed some dinner at one of the food booths (a yummy burrito, I think) and made it up to the front baggie to hear the last few songs by the first performer of the night, Foy Vance. He had a very nice voice, but not terribly distinctive songs, at least to my ear. The next-to-last act for the fest was Joey Landreth, who was energetic and nice enough, but as the sun was going down it wasn't shaping up to be a rousing end for this year's folk fest. Well, I needn't have worried about that, as the final act was The Barenaked Ladies and I knew they would be a lot of fun. But they were even more fun than I anticipated and their energy and banter was infectious and the whole crowd just lit up in response. They were tight musically, funny, frenetic, and waay too bouncy for guys their age. I loved it! We all did! More Kraft Dinners for everyone!
Then it was time for the Finale, and rolling up the front tarp one more time with a satisfied mind. The usual trio of closing songs, The Mary Ellen Carter / Wild Mountain Thyme / Amazing Grace were all performed very well, respectively by The Small Glories with Leonard Podolak, RURA (a great choice!), and Begonia, who sang beautifully. It was getting chilly by the time I arrived for our usual Baggiecon closing song, and there were two dozen of us who all made a circle and sang Ripple one more warm time. Sigh. Then back to camp where we repeated the Baggiecon newbies ceremony which made Erin happy since she'd missed it on Saturday night. Then after some singing around the fire we turned in and had sweet dreams. It helped that a number of campers in the festival campground had already left earlier in the day and that we weren't the only ones remaining who were tired but happy.
Monday morning dawned clear and cool, with no rain in the forecast until later in the afternoon, which left us plenty of time to pack everything and haul it out to the minivan. We left the shade structure up until the end so we had some shade to take breaks under, but we finally took it down and bid farewell and left Birds Hill Park at about 1pm. Thankfully, I remembered all the road construction on the Perimeter Highway at Hwy 59 and took an alternate route (Dugald Road) back into Winnipeg, where we unloaded all the Baggiecon group camping gear we had into the Bhigg House garage.
|Taking one more break in the shade on Monday before the final load out...|
I guess I didn't keep it so short, but the tale just kept growing...