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Folk Festival memories and excitement - Peter Hentges

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July 11th, 2006


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10:39 am - Folk Festival memories and excitement
Having scrounged a half hour out of my return to work, I thought I'd put down a few thoughts about the Winnipeg Folk Festival that I attended from July 5 to 10.

The drive up on Wednesday was delightful. I took my time. Drove the speed limit or under for the entire trip, stopped a couple of times just because I wanted to. Still got up to the camp site while it was light out. I really enjoyed seeing the prairie plants blooming in the ditches and medians. Anyone else see the purple coneflowers?

The site itself also did good things for my prairie-gardening jones. Loads of prairie clovers and harebells in bloom around the site. The grasses were a little brown from lack of rain, but they perked up over the weekend thanks to some light rain and heavy dew. By the time we left on Monday, the site was already beginning to perk up and re-grow.

Thursday I only had interest in seeing one of the main stage shows, The Wailing Jennys. Other folks said Steve Earle would be worth seeing, but that would mean going over to main stage for the first and last acts which didn't really seem worth it. So I stayed in camp and relaxed. We had a little music Thursday night around the Baggiecon fire, but it was pretty mellow in spite of the amount of Tully consumed.

On Friday, there wasn't any music on the workshop stages I was interested in, so I made a late trip over to the festival for the folk school workshops. The first two were Celtic guitar and bodhran, featuring members of Flook. I attended the first one thinking it would be interesting in a "this will be a lot of what I'll be playing behind" kind of way. It turned out to make me want to look into some Celtic guitar due to the unique tuning used by the fellow teaching the class. He drops the E strings down to D and, IIRC, the B string down to A. The result is being able to do, again IIRC, the A, G and C chords with a single finger. (He went on to explain how these weren't full chords as they included some additional notes but that they sounded pretty close and worked for most purposes. markiv1111, I'd like to discuss this with you at some point.) To me, that made it sound like a fellow could pretty easily pick up a guitar and accompany a lot of the sort of thing I listen to. I expect it's far more complicated but it sounded like a easy place to start.

Following the guitar class was a bodhran class with what the program called, "the world's best bodhran player." I was a bit skeptical, but allowed as to how I should be able to pick up some interesting techniques. Well, the fellow, John Joe Kelly, was amazing. I have a few things to practice as well as some work to do researching bodhran makers and some experimenting with different devices to use as tippers. (For those wondering about his tippers from the Saturday main stage show: He primarily uses a short tipper cut from the base end of a fiddle bow. He also uses a tipper made by duct-taping together about 16 bamboo skewers. In the workshop he demonstrated using an Oil of Olay blush brush as a tipper, producing soft, swishing sounds. Very neat.)

Of Friday's main stage, the only performer that interested me was Neko Case and I figured I could catch her at a workshop. I ended up not hearing her all weekend so I guess I'll have to look her up on iTunes or something. By this time, however, Those Crazy Chicks (90_percent_sure, buttonlass, hunnythistle and mizzlaurajean) had shown up and so there was cocktail hour. A lot of sitting 'round and chatting ensued and music started forming. I was feeling a little tired and out of sorts and so I retired to my tent early and got some good sleep.

Saturday had some fun and music early in the morning. I helped minnehaha B lay the front baggie at the morning tarp run and settled in to hear Winnipeg's own Righteous Ike play some blues in the morning. I took a trip to the music store tent after that and picked out some things only to discover that my credit card wasn't working for them. I trotted over to the on-site ATM and waited in line to get some cash but that didn't work either. I heard later that a lot of Americans had that problem so I wasn't too worried. Saturday afternoon I hiked out to the Little Stage on the Prairie to see local girl Sheena Grobb. She has a lovely voice and, given the one piece of her newer work she played, shows some promise as a song-writer. I'll be interested to see what she does in the future.

At cocktail hour on Saturday our Canadian Friend Tim came by and shared some of Canada's bounty with us. I was knocked right out and retreated to my tent to avoid making myself a danger to self or others. Those Crazy Chicks, however, convinced me, in my weakened state, to remove myself from the safety of the tent and accompany them to main stage. This was fortunate as I got to hear and see Flook's performance, which was truly phenomenal. We also stayed for the throat-singer Tagaq's tweener, which was interesting even if it did sound like alien sex. The Refugee All-Stars didn't impress me and were one of the many acts I actively avoided during workshops because their material was described in the program as "depressing" or "melancholy" or something similar. But music back at Baggiecon was fun and we ended up ensnaring a wandering mandolin player.

Sunday I wanted to see the workshop with Richard Thompson, Bruce Cockburn and Ruthie Foster at 12:45. I knew this would be popular, however, so I got there early and watched a gospel workshop right before. That was a fun thing to have on a Sunday morning and everyone there seemed to enjoy it. The following workshop was very good, one of the highlights of the festival for me. I stayed on while many of my friends took off to see the three Danish acts that were at the festival. They shared the stage for the workshop and it was fun listening, even if some of their songs were sad. I dropped my chair at the front baggie and then returned for a bit of dinner and cocktail hour.

Sunday mainstage was a brilliant performance by Richard Thompson, a fairly dull tweener of Ferron, the embarrassingly bad Rickie Lee Jones (is she still high?), the interesting Mike Seeger and the technically wonderful Bruce Cockburn choosing some pretty depressing material. The finale was the finale, as it always is. James Keelaghan did a good job with Mary Ellen Carter but otherwise things were about the same as they always are. We lost two of our lead musicians to early departures so Sunday music was somewhat abbreviated. The cold didn't help any either. I slept toasty in my down sleeping bag and woke refreshed and ready for the pack-up and long ride home.

I took the JT portion of jdtacv home, along with his niece, as AV had gone early to Bemidji for a violin camp with their girls. Little did I know that JT had worn his deer-attracting deadhead t-shirt. (Or maybe it was the Hello Kitty hat....) JT took the wheel in Moorhead and we set out on West 94. Somewhere before Alexandria a deer came running up out of the median and ran smack into the side of the car. Its head struck the windshield, shattering the lower left corner and sending a shower of glass on JT and I and a spiderweb of cracks through the rest of the windshield. After JT pulled over we discovered it had also struck the remaining left side of the car, removing one door handle, the entire left rear quarter panel, some wiring and the like. None of us was hurt, thank goodness, but it was quite a jolt. The car remained driveable and we got back into the cities by about 8:00 p.m.

After exiting the freeway, I discovered that my oil light would come on whenever I decelerated. It turned off if I accelerated or if I maintained highway speed but stayed on at a full stop. So I'm guessing the deer must have also knocked something loose enough to get me leaking more oil than usual. I think the poor Saturn may be about done for. The worst part of it was that I had the driver's side mirror replaced right before going up to Winnipeg and that deer tore that sucker right off. I think I'm just not supposed to be looking that way or something.
Current Mood: tiredtired

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Comments:


From:markiv1111
Date:July 11th, 2006 07:12 pm (UTC)

Celtic tuning

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This is likely to surprise and disappoint you, but every so often there is something in the art of guitar playing that I simply don't know. One of these things is that I have very, very little knowledge about so called "open tunings," or other guitar retunings that might be a bit less "open." During my first 15 years or so as a guitarist, these weren't trendy, and a lot of folk guitarists didn't use them at all (like me). Then some old blues traditions got slowly merged into the general rock scene. (It is my understanding that back in the 1870s and for some time thereafter, there were some infectious eye diseases that cause blindness that happened to be endemic among poor black people. A blind man with even a touch of musical talent could learn to play guitar with an open tuning in far, far less time than it would take to learn a standard tuning, and thus be able to go out onto the street, perform, and make money to live on.) Slide guitar works better with an open tuned guitar. And then it became just a little trendy to use at least some open tunings, some of the time. I have worked on this more than not at all (and in fact, the guitar instrumental that closes my second CD was played with the 6th and 5th strings tuned down one step, E to D, A to G) but still consider this kind of tuning to be a major challenge. Because it is a major challenge, I do not teach it.

Nate
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From:jbru
Date:July 11th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Celtic tuning

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It wasn't so much that I expected you to know about it as to discuss it intelligently and perhaps to explain it in a way that would allow me to understand more than I do now. So your response is very much in the vein of where I thought this conversation would go. The tidbit about blind blues musicians is very interesting to me as it fits into my plans to be become an 80-year-old blues guitarist.
From:markiv1111
Date:July 11th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)

80 Year Old Blues Guitarists -- etc.

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Planning our lives well into the future can be a whole lot of fun, and every so often there's a future plan that can easily, easily be set into motion. During the course of my correspondence with the notorious Walter Breen (I suspect you remember my talking about Walter a few years ago) the topic of Hannes Bok came up. Bok was an excellent fantasy artist (he did the wraparound cover for the 1962 issue of F&SF that featured Roger Zelazny's "A Rose for Ecclesiastes") but also had a couple of novels in print; the first was called *The Blue Flamingo,* and was actually a very good fantasy novel. Walter said, "I know Bok, incidentally; a most extraordinary old coot, he is a professional astrologer...."

And I decided this, then and there: I have no interest in becoming a professional astrologer, and I haven't the skill to be an artist. And I'll probably grow old and die without finishing a novel. But I would *absolutely love* to be an extraordinary old coot. And I think this goal is well within my reach. (Do 80-year-old blues guitarists ever have extraordinary old coots for friends?)

Nate
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From:jbru
Date:July 12th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)

Re: 80 Year Old Blues Guitarists -- etc.

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I believe that extraordinary old coots would make fabulous friends for 80-year-old blues guitarists!
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From:minnehaha
Date:July 11th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
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Cripes. the deer thing sounds awful. I'm so glad you got home and that no humans were hurt.

K.
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From:jbru
Date:July 12th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)
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I have an appointment on Monday to have the car looked at by the insurance adjuster. The comprehensive deductible is likely the only damage that will be done to humans as a result of the incident and that is a small, small price to pay.
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From:chasophonic
Date:July 12th, 2006 12:47 am (UTC)

That tuning.

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Isn't uniquely celtic. After drop D it is probably the most widely used alternate tuning. Named after the open notes of the strings, it is called DADGAD. You can easily find books of songs to play in DADGAD.
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From:jbru
Date:July 12th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)

Re: That tuning.

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Ah-ha! Given the fellow's English accent I couldn't make him out well as he said "DADGAD" as a single word. Now it makes perfect sense, thanks for the info!

P.S. We missed you and Bonnie 'round the campfire and I'm not sure I'll make your and Becca's concert at Terry and Nancy's (though I'd surely love to).

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