Ask a first-time folk fester what they think of Thursday’s main stage lineup, and chances are their reaction will be one of amazement. How often do you get Ben Harper and Gord Downie on the same stage on one night in Edmonton?
But for those of us who grew up on the hills of Gallagher Park for a few days every August, a lineup like tonight’s has come to be expected.
I saw Ben Harper once before about a decade ago at the Winspear Centre. He sat in a chair and played acoustic guitar all night for the sold-out crowd.
It was an amazing performance and despite the mellow atmosphere, fans were dancing in the aisles.
Harper was supposed to be playing with RELENTLESS7 at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this year, but they had to bail because of a “serious illness” that one of the band members is suffering from.
So it’ll be Harper back to his roots. Perfect for a folk festival.
Let’s face it, true folkies would rather see Harper strumming an acoustic rather than play with a plugged-in band. See Bob Dylan circa 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival.
And then there’s Downie. The Canadian music icon is obviously best known for fronting The Tragically Hip, but he’s also released three solo albums since 2001 — Coke Machine Glow, Battle of the Nudes and most recently, The Grand Bounce.
The Country of Miracles served as Downie’s back-up band for all three albums, and they’ve followed him to Edmonton for tonight’s performance.
Bobby “Blue” Bland opened the festival last night followed by folk icon Van Morrison — a late addition to the lineup.
Two nights into the festival and audiences have already been treated to some of the greatest musicians out there.
And we still have three days to go!