The following is a quick recap of some of the acts that local photographer Ed Boulter was able to see during Stanfest 2017. All photos and words are by Ed Boulter. Ed’s work can be found over on www.edbphoto.ca
From start to finish. the 2017 Stan Rogers Folk Festival, located in Canso, Nova Scotia, was one that I would deem a success. Even though the weather wasn’t the greatest, the artists were entertaining, the volunteers hospitable, and the overall setup comfortable. During my 3 days waging war against the mist and the rain, I was able to take in some great music and walk away with the following thoughts.
Newfoundland songstress Brianna Gosse helped to kick off Saturday night with the Songs For Canada segment. With an ear for a melody and a knack to make everyone feel as if they’re directly involved with the performance, you could say that Brianna’s set was somewhat magical. Speaking to the crowd about how she went through a phase of rebelling against traditional Newfoundland folk songs, only to come around to the idea, her rendition of “By the Glow of the Kerosene Light” was both rousing and chilling at the same time. Normally you would see Brianna on stage accompanied by her acoustic guitar, however, during this song she opted to perform it a capella. Lightly encouraging the crowd to join in on the line “…by the glow of the kerosene light…”, by the time the song’s 9 verses had been covered, it felt as if the entire campground was on stage with her.
As I was sitting in the bottom row of the VIP bleachers, to the side of the stage, I couldn’t help but notice that Black Umfolosi 5, a group from Zimbabwe, was sitting directly behind me. For those of you unfamiliar with this troupe, they are a beautiful a capella group, oozing with some of the most beautiful harmonies you’ll hear. They’ve also been able to master the art of song and dance while crafting their songs. It’s hard to describe the feelings I felt as this group started to pick up on the crowd interaction and began to sing along with everyone else. Completely spine chilling. This was one of those unique moments that are so rare, people will be talking about it for years to come. But isn’t this what makes festivals so special? Where else will you find Zimbabwe and Newfoundland connect like that?
Hey, I never claim to “know” of every musician out there, and sure, sometimes I miss out on people and sometimes I’m asked to be somewhere else with my camera, but I’m so glad I was finally able to hear Jordan Musycsyn. He is absolutely captivating. His live performance is incredibly lively and the amount of talent oozing from the stage is mesmerizing. In a world where so many musicians simply go through the motions, Jordan genuinely looks like he’s having a ton of fun on stage, which in turn is completely contagious. The crowd for his set was the liveliest I saw all weekend. To say that it is impossible to stand still while Jordan and his band play would not be a lie.
One of the pieces of advice everyone gets before going to Stanfest is “bring rubber boots”, because you have no idea what the weather is going to do. I’m guess that Danny Michel only received this advice after he turned off exit #37, due to the fact that the boots he was wearing still had the price tag dangling off them. Not a big deal to the crowd or myself, however, it would lead to some loose chirping from some of the other performers. During two songwriter segments that I was lucky enough to catch, some of the other performers took Danny to task for not taking off the price tag. Of course this was all in good nature and allowed for a nice bit of lightheartedness amongst the songwriters.
In the only way you would expect him to respond, Danny came back with “I like to colour outside the lines, and I don’t follow the crowd, and just for spite I’m leaving the tag on”. This instantly became the best intro to a song all weekend as he jumped directly into “Nobody Rules You”, a fascinating song about being yourself despite what others might say. In that moment, Danny immediately became an inspiration for the both the performers and crowd with his genuine and cavalier attitude. Very cool and very moving.
This group featured a singer named Hubert Francis of Elispogotog First Nation. Hubert is a stately looking older gentlemen with a stern face and stoic presence but was also a very gifted and laid back singer. After a few songs he commented on the weather and the amounts of rain we had been getting all weekend (remember my boot story from earlier), and said “People are looking at me like it’s my fault. I say hey, don’t look at me, I only look after the snow”. With a big mischievous grin sneaking from the side of his face, he counted the Thundermakers in for the next song. Another perfect example of just how incredibly relaxed and comfortable this festival is. It’s just like having one big family reunion where everyone gets along and enjoys one another.
Hands down this duo was the hidden gem of the festival. Two high schoolers, playing acoustic guitars, singing old blues songs. Sounds predictable, doesn’t it. Everyone can picture those two guys that they went to school with, on stage, singing some variation of some popular song, in a totally different way than the original, yet still the exact same. In all seriousness, this was nothing like that and these two gents aren’t your typical High Schoolers. The level of talent that these two showcased was incredible. Musically, they can both shred, and their knowledge of musical history was spot on as they dropped old and rare names between songs. Oh, did I mention they can play? They perform as if it might be their last gig ever. Such a great way to perform and what incredible attitudes these two had. Did I mention they can play??