Groovin’ At The Fest

Five random thoughts on Regina’s best damn annual arts event

Music | by Stephen Whitworth

illustration by Paul Klassen

For one magical weekend every year, downtown Regina is transformed from the pretty damn swell, much-nicer-than-timid-suburbanites-think-it-is place it normally is to a magical musical fairy kingdom of wonder and delight.

That time is upon us once again. It’s Folk Festival weekend.

Let us prepare to frolic.

As is the case every year, this year’s line-up is an embarrassment of riches. The slate is fantastic: Sam Roberts, The Head And The Heart, The Cat Empire, Frazey Ford, Bettye Lavette, Ricky Skaggs and so many more. For three nights, these world class artists will take to the mainstage and dazzle ticket-holding fans. No tickets? no problem — most of these musicians also play free shows on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons, which makes our Folk Fest rank with the best and most inclusive arts events on the continent.

On the eve of this year’s epic urban jamboree, I thought I’d share some thoughts, observations and random notions about the importance of the Regina Folk Festival. Here are five things I love about it.

1 MIGHTY, MIGHTY EARWORMS There’s been no song more stuck in my head over the last six months than the Strumbellas’ “Spirits”. You’ve probably heard it: “I got guns in my head and they won’t go/Spirits in my head and they won’t go…” Etc. etc.

It’ll be great to hear it live.

This isn’t the first time I’ll hear a song I’ve been humming at the Folk Fest. It’s happened at least a dozen times. I’ve got great memories of Neko Case singing “This Tornado Loves You” (an all-time top-five Steve song), Jenny Lewis playing “Portions For Foxes (Top 10!), Austra playing “Lose it” (three times in one weekend!”), and a lot more.

It’s always neat to hear a band play their super-catchy tune live, and I’m sure looking forward to the Strumbellas’ Sunday night set.

2 FREE DAYTIME STAGES Already touched on this, but how cool is it that we have a weekend festival that blasts the downtown with great free music for two days? The fact that anyone in Regina, regardless of how much money they have, could see a group like Arrested Development (in 2010, if I recall) play a global hit like “Mr. Wendal” blows my mind. This year the fest has (glances at program guide) in the ballpark of 40 free concerts. Make sure you catch some!

3 FOOOD The Regina Folk Festival has a ton of great food vendors and as a human who likes to eat I dig it. This year I’m looking forward to Selam, Afghan Cuisine and especially Bangkok Fusion, which I haven’t tried but I’ve heard good things about. I will miss my friends from Patience African Cuisine, alas, who have retired after a 10-year run. Still, the important thing is that I’ll leave the weekend needing a larger waist size than I started with. Huzzah.

4 POLITICIANS MINGLING WITH CIVILIANS Politicians are looked down on, probably because some of them are stinkin’, lyin’ jerks. By “some of them” I mean Donald Trump. But most politicians are hard-working people who just want to be of service to their community. You and I won’t agree with all the decisions they make but for the most part they’re doing what they think is right or best. Anyway, I always enjoy seeing city councillors and provincial politicians out listening to bands and solo acts, and enjoying the riches that the arts bring to this community — a community that includes them, too.

(Although I was a little weirded out by Dwain Lingenfelter that one time.)

Seeing the premier of this province — a guy Prairie Dog often picks on (and for good reason) sitting on the park grass listening to music last year was heartening. It’s a good reminder we’re all just people

Except for Donald Trump. He’s an evil oompa-loompa.

5 BEING DOWNTOWN Despite the fact I live in Canada’s 23rd-largest city (long story, it was an accident), I’m an urban kinda guy, and I love the energy you get when you bring a crowd of people together. You get this easily in a music festival but you can also find it nearly every day in downtown Regina. Downtowns bring people together and make magic happen — they boost culture and spark new ideas. It’s such a treat to share the part of the city I live and work in with thousands of people who aren’t here on a daily basis. Love it.

Have a great time at this year’s festival! Maybe I’ll see you there.