Calgary Folk Music Festival 2016 picks from CBC Calgary

Thousands of melomaniacs will descend on Prince's Island Park today for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, which runs until July 24. And with 100 bands performing on six stages it can be tough to find time to take it all in, so here's some help.

The Sadies, BRAIDS and The Dudes all on staffers' must-see list

Thousands are expected at the Calgary Folk Festival at Prince's Island Park from July 21 to 24. (Submitted by Ashley Thompson)

Thousands of melomaniacs will descend on Prince's Island Park today for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, which runs until July 24.

And with 100 bands performing on six stages, it can be tough to find time to take it all in. So to make sorting through myriad acts a little easier, some music-loving staffers at CBC are offering their own can't-miss performances.


Chosen by Katherine Duncan, host/producer Key of A, CBC Radio 1 Alberta

I've loved this band since their first album, Native Speaker, made it onto to the Polaris Music Prize short list back in 2011. Five years later, BRAIDS has evolved into a trio with a sound that straddles the acoustic and electronic worlds, with lyrics that confront and challenge.

You'll still hear the band's signature brilliant drumming, interwoven musical textures, and even more of Raphaelle Standell-Preston's intense, committed vocals.

With a Juno Award, another Polaris short list (both for 2015's Deep in the Iris) and five years of full-time international touring since their last appearance at the Calgary Folk Festival, BRAIDS' live show will no doubt have matured and evolved along with their music. I can't wait!

Fortunately, you've got three chances to catch them this weekend on Prince's Island. BRAIDS closes the Twilight Stage with a solo set Saturday at 8:55 p.m. You can also hear them in workshops Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and again at 3:20 p.m., this time with Calgarians Evan Freeman and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, and Australia's Oh Pep!

The Sadies

Chosen by Catherine McClelland, executive producer, CBC Calgary

I love to go to the Calgary Folk Music Festival to discover new artists and new bands but isn't it fun to hear old favourites too? This year I'm really looking forward to the Sadies.

The Sadies have been around since 1994. They're a party band with a sound that's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Last time they played the Folk Festival we recorded them for CBC Radio 2. I remember how particular they were about the mix. They wanted a retro sound that was more mono than stereo.

In my mind, Saturday at the Folk Festival will be a beautiful sunny day. I'll drift from side-stage to side-stage, maybe check out the beer tent, but when the Sadies hit the main stage at 5:30 p.m., I expect to be completely re-energized for the great night of music ahead.   

The Dudes

Chosen by Susan Holzman, associate producer, CBC Calgary

This was a challenging decision for me to make — the Calgary folk festival has an incredible lineup of great bands to choose from.

Normally I would be most excited about seeing a band I'd never seen live before, but I have to recommend The Dudes because I know how amazing they are live.

The Calgary rock band has been entertaining audiences since the late 90s, but had a lot of attention with their 2006 single Dropkick Queen of the Weekend.

The song did well and was also featured in a national Rogers ad.

They are the type of band you sing along to in the shower, or belt out when you're driving. I first saw them in 2007 at the Hifii Club on New Year's Eve — they put on an energetic and captivating show.

The band performs on Thursday night at 9 pm on Stage 4. They are also involved in a few workshops throughout the rest of the festival.

My favourite song of theirs is Do the Right Thing, so do the right thing, go see the Dudes this weekend at Folk Fest.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra

Chosen by Drew Anderson, online reporter, CBC Calgary

I want to recommend Jerusalem In My Heart, but I'm not convinced their mix of Middle Eastern sounds and electronic beats with hypnotic audio-visuals will work outside the confines of a smaller space.

I have none of those reservations when it comes to the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, the self-described Balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-punk-super band. It's a bombastic mix of foot-stomping styles performed by a band nearly big enough to constitute a hamlet.

Often parading through the crowd and causing a general ruckus, the Orkestra should get all the folkies up and dancing. As long as you're not a disaffected tarpie, it doesn't get much better than that.

Even better the Orkestra plays with Jerusalem In My Heart as part of a workshop on Saturday. The group performs on its own today at 5:45 p.m. and in a workshop on Saturday at 11:25 a.m.

Hey Mr. DJ Session

Chosen by Dave Waddell, associate producer/technician for the Calgary Eyeopener

One of the many things I love about the Calgary Folk Festival is the incredible variety of music that's packed into a short four-day celebration.

You'll see country poets like Corb Lund and Ian Tyson, brassy party bands like the Cat Empire and Lemon Bucket Orkestra, traditional folk musicians like Oysterband, and even straight up rock n' roll courtesy of the Dudes.

The variety might be puzzling for people who are used to the more traditional definition of folk music, but there is a common thread — these are all virtuoso musicians who tell stories through their music, regardless of genre.

As an example, I'd urge anyone who's at the Folk Fest on Saturday afternoon to check out the Hey Mr. DJ session at Stage 4. You'll see Colombian electronic music from Palenke Soultribe, DJ skills from Project Logic, French-Canadian hip-hop from Vox Sambou, and it'll all be backed up by Toronto folk-rockers The Weber Brothers.

It's a perfectly distilled reflection of everything that's great about the Calgary Folk Fest — a willingness to explore different musical worlds, to mash up styles and genres, and to take musical risks.

Don't let the Edmonton travel brochures fool you — their folk festival looks nice, but they haven't had an interesting musical lineup in years. Calgary is far and away the best folk festival in Western Canada, and sessions like Hey Mr. DJ are a big reason why.

Share your memories of your favourite folk fest act in the comments section below. Or tell us: which band/musician you are most looking forward to hearing this year?


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