Why You Shouldn’t Sleep on This Year’s Halifax Urban Folk Festival

Let me start off by saying that there are so many more reasons to attend this year’s festival, other than the five I’ve put together. It is almost unfair to limit this piece to five reasons; however, due to time constraints and the ability of people to read no more than 1000 words, I’m going to roll with my list (because who doesn’t love a fun list).

1 – The Insane Amount of Talent

I know what you’re all thinking, of course it has a ton of talent, all festivals do! And in thinking so you may be right, but hear me out when I say that this year is loaded. Let’s take a look at the headliners for a moment.  Tim Baker was the front man of one of the best Canadian acts we’ve seen in the past 15 years in Hey Rosetta!  A songwriter like no other, Baker is embarking on a solo career that could solidify his spot as one of the greatest composers this country has ever produced.  Jarvis Church has been involved in the music scene as a writer, performer, producer and frontman for the past 25 years (I doubt you can’t find anyone who hasn’t heard of the Philosopher Kings). Vocally, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone as smooth and soulful as Church. Lilly Hiatt, daughter of musican John Hiatt, brings a southern, country flare to the stage of the Carleton. Hailed as a songwriter of truths, Hiatt has lived a lifetime and a half, and has the battle scars to back up the songs you’ll hear. Steve Poltz, Dennis Ellsworth, and Ron Hawkins: look them all up and I dare you to say that you’re not blown away.

2 – The Local Representation

Carmen Townsend is a freaking rock goddess. Why the hell she isn’t a household name is beyond me. Dylan Menzie has taken the route of a new-age Joel Plaskett. His singer/songwriter persona is as tight as anyone around.  Gabrielle Papillon is absolutely incredible to watch live. Her songs take on a totally different life in a live setting, allowing for her angelic vocals to take complete control of a room.  Jessie Brown is a goddamn rock star. Nuff said! Natalie Lynn has taken a jump over the past six months, and has solidified herself as a bonafide star in the making. Toss in the likes of Makayla Lynn, Jodi Guthro, Mike Ryan, Thomas Stajcer, Mike Bochoff, Jody Upshaw, and T. Thomason, and you’ve got some incredible representation of the musical talent here on the East Coast.

3 – The Songwriters’ Circles

Getting together with 10,000 other fans, to cheer on whatever artist you might be seeing, is always a special moment, but wouldn’t it be so much better if you could sit in a small room and listen to that same artist talk about the songs which he/she has created. This festival has so many interesting storytellers on its bill that you will be hard pressed to find a more dynamic and intimate experience around.

4 – The Potential to Discover New Music

One of the best parts of any festival is discovering artists that you never have heard of. All too often people only want to check out the artist(s) that they are familiar with, but with a festival, you could find a band that you might listen to for the rest of time. I had no idea who Biffy Clyro were when they were on tour in Canada with Muse, and if I had decided to skip the opener (NEVER SKIP THE OPENER, even Jack White started out playing small bars) I never would have seen them. Maybe Moscow Apartment, Midnight Vesta or Tomato Tomato could be your Biffy Clyro.

5 – You’re Supporting a Local Festival

People love to complain about the musical landscape here in Halifax. They say that we never get any big names or relevant artists, but I say who cares. Take a look around at the musicians we have here; take a look at the artists that are being brought in. Sure you might not find them on the top 40, but open your ears, take the plunge and maybe you’ll be more impressed with what’s in front of you as opposed to that which is not. All festivals rely on the people to purchase tickets, and the Halifax Urban Folk Festival is no different. If Halifax wants the musical landscape to continue with its growth, then Halifax needs to support what is already in place. The last thing we need is another local festival to find itself looking back to when things went wrong.


6 – Mike Campbell Put This Together

I know I said five reasons, but I had to put this in at the last minute. Mike Campbell is like the Don of music. He’s been involved in this industry longer than the majority of fans have been alive. He was at the f#@%ing start when MuchMusic began. If you don’t trust this guy to put a festival together, then you trust no one.

The festival starts up on Sunday August 26th and runs until September 2nd. Tickets for this year’s festival can be purchased over here. You can also head on over the the official website to see a full schedule for this year’s performers. To close I will leave you with a playlist put together by Mr. Campbell himself. It’s a shuffle-friendly playlist that highlights some of the best these artists have put together over the years.

About the author


Jeff is one-fourth of the group that makes up HAFILAX. His usual ramblings can be read right here on the website. If reading isn't your thing, he also hosts the Basement Tapes podcast.