Bike n’ Folk

Tuckamoredew and R20 go to folk fest.

Of the some 90,000 people who walked through the gates at this past weekend’s 33rd annual Edmonton Folk Music Festival a lot of them arrived by bicycle. Each time I was there the volunteer supervised bike lock up was jammed to capacity with bikes. One of the volunteers told me that there were 900 bikes in the lock up at that time and I have no idea if that represented the peak use.  In addition to that,  the streets surrounding the festival grounds were lined with bikes locked to every imaginable stationary object. I’d have stopped to take a few more pictures but I was afraid that somebody might sneak up and lock a bike onto me.

And, oh, the bikes! The variety was fantastic. This may be the hands-down champion Edmonton event for ogling bikes . There were humble bike shaped objects, swarms of nice new bikes and hosts of stylish vintage bikes. I regret that I am unable to offer more than a handful of photos as I was a man with a musical mission this weekend ( and I was also wrangling my energetic 4 year old son). However, I can report that that a good number of manufacturers, past and present were represented. To name but a few: Kona, Rocky Mountain, Trek, Norco, Giant, Raleigh, Nishiki, Miyata, Peugeot, CCM, Brompton, Surly, Marinoni, Bianchi, Arvon, Cannondale, Specialized, Bobbin, Pashley, Linus, Dahon, Kuwahara, Apollo, Devinci. These are just a selection  that I can immediately recall. I know that there were more.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes!

Labyrinthine aisles of bikes.

Oh, there was also music. Although this blog has been almost exclusively about bikes I did originally intend to write about music as well. The festival runs for 4 nights and two days with six  smaller session stages and one big main stage. That equals a lot of music to sample, scurrying back and forth between performances. Often, the great dilemma is to decide which one to attend. Sadly, my parental duties prevented me from spending every waking second soaking up music. Nonetheless I did hear some great performances and, as always, discovered many new artists. There were several concerts where the artists passed the goosebump test. That’s when the music is good enough to give you goosebumps on a hot summer day.

This is one of the “smaller” session stages. There are 4 bands up there. Usually they take turns playing but more often than not some spectacular collaborations take place.

Mainstage is hidden behind the big screen.That didn’t much bother me as I am usually not interested in the big name headliners that perform mainstage. For me, the real action happens on the session stages. You can somewhat see in this picture the natural amphitheater that results from having the festival on a ski hill.

Finally, my favourites this year, with  few videos (although not from the Edmonton Folk Fest).

Martin Simpson. Spectacular fingerstyle guitar playing with both traditional songs and newer compositions. I have several instructional videos by Simpson and I really should buckle down to work and study them.

The Mairtin O’Connor Band. Top notch Irish trio: Fiddle, accordion and guitar. The guitar player Seamie O’ Dowd formerly played with Dervish and I had seen him play several times before. Absolutely excellent musicianship from all the players.

La Bottine Souriante. Iconic french-Canadian ensemble, once described as the “best band in the world”. This may be hyperbole but they are very, very good and you have to see them perform live to feel the energy of their music. I saw them perform once before a decade or so ago and they still deliver the goods. This video of clips is a good representation of their live show.

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4 thoughts on “Bike n’ Folk

  1. We’ve had quite a few good bands in Langholm including some Canadian players and step dancers but never one with a horn section. I was impressed by the labyrinthine cycle lock ups.

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    • Attempts to mix musical genres are so often abysmal. La Bottine is one of the exceptions. The bike labyrinth was great but tough to negotiate the evening I was towing my son in the trailer.

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  2. That’s quite a gathering on the plains of Canada! Edmonton must have a tremendous cycling population to generate 900 bikes at a single event. You won’t see that many bikes at a Washington Redskins football game, and that stadium seats 90,000.

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    • Well, I was impressed by the cycling turnout. At the risk of making a sweeping generalization, I will state that I suspect that a folk music festival draws more of cycling-friendly crowd than does a football game. I would be pleased to be proven wrong in my assumption. It is possible that a football arena that offered a supervised bike lock-up area would also see a large number of people arriving by bike.

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