Saturday, August 8, 2009

Go North

My two journeys to Canadian folk festivals this summer contrast sharply with reports of friends (and family members) from U.S. summer music festivals such as Coachella and Pitchfork. Perhaps it's different philosophical approaches overall, perhaps different financial models are at work, or maybe there are inherent cultural differences between Canada, "folk" festivals, and America and "rock" festivals. Probably all of these factors are at work.

But the truth is, the Canadian festivals are much more comfortable, music-oriented and family-friendly affairs than the U.S. festivals. For example, even though both Friday and Saturday were sold out at Calgary, there was always plenty of room to move around, stretch out on a blanket and enjoy the music:

... and anyone who wanted a close view of someone like The Decemberists just had to go up to either side of the stage at the designated dancing/standing areas and check them out.

Contrast that with what appears to be the "how many people can you pack into a city park" approach that is typical of the U.S. festivals such as Pitchfork:

...and my daughter's report of the frustration of having to rely on one of her taller friend's blow-by-blow description of The Flaming Lips show there, to the point where she just gave up and left.

(BTW, notice how many more smiles there are in the Calgary photo?)

My hats go off to the Canadians. Their summer festival tradition, which is 30 years old now, have given them the opportunity evolve what appears to me to be the best string of music events in the world. They all involve their entire communities, are ecologically responsible (for example, both Canadian festivals I attended use reusable plastic plates for which you put a deposit on when you purchase your food, and return for the refund when you're finished eating), have an admirable diversity of musical talent, and are structured with musical discovery at their heart. They've simply got the summer music festival thing down to an art.

I've stopped being envious and trying to work out how to bring this approach to "The States," and instead have joined the fraternity of "North Americans" and decided to just get my ass up to at least one or two of these each summer from now on.


jeff said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more. I went to the winnipeg folk fest for the first time a few years ago and I was totally blown away.

I love Greyhounds said...

Wonderful post, Sir. It does make me very envious and wish I was Canadian. Alas...

(And you just had to put that Decemberists piece in to make me extra green.)