Street concert offers up a taste of things to come

Todd
Todd MacLean
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Think of some of the long-standing, deeply-rooted, highly successful folk festivals in this country: the 33rd annual Edmonton Folk Festival; the 35th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival; the 33rd annual Calgary Folk Music Festival; the 39th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival. The list goes on.

This summer, as is the case with any summer, tens of thousands of fans, young and old, were treated to days of spectacular music at these festivals in the cities where they have stood as the annual-guaranteed-good-time for generations.

And now, a group led by Music P.E.I. executive director Rob Oakie is looking to bring a new annual folk festival to life for the Maritimes — one centred on P.E.I.

Called the Malpeque Folk Festival, it will reach its full fruition next year in August.

And this past weekend, an afternoon of music, called Malpeque Folk Festival Presents Concert on the Row, was featured on Victoria Row in Charlottetown to promote next year’s festival.

It all kicked off at 1 p.m. on Sunday when Halifax-based roots/folk duo Acres and Acres (with an additional backing accompanist) began filling the row with echoing steel guitar and a sweet “everybody’s groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon” laid-back, acoustically organic vibe.

Moncton’s The Backyard Devils were up next, as they chugged out bluegrass-fired rocking tunes for the folks enjoying it in the shade of the outdoor patios.

The three-time Music N.B. award-winning four-piece band — featuring banjo, acoustic guitar, bass and an incredible country lead guitarist on a slicing Fender telecaster — kept the feet tapping for nearly an hour with new original tunes, covers and songs from its self-titled debut CD.

Next up at 3 p.m. was the pride of Kensington (and, yes, certainly the whole Island), Rose Cousins, who serenaded the gathered-round audience as they stood taking it all in with Sunday afternoon coffees in hand, gazing on placidly through sunglasses to the stage where tunes like The Darkness, Celebrate Our Love and even a cover of The Pretenders’ I’ll Stand By You, soothed us into a peaceful ease.

“This is the busiest and hardest working band on P.E.I. this summer,” said emcee Rob Oakie, as he then introduced the next act of the day, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin.

And I would say that Oakie would be bang-on with this assessment of the young trio that has steadily made a huge name all over the Maritimes over the past two years and has seemingly played absolutely everywhere.

Jesse Périard, Caleb Gallant and Rowen Gallant make up this on-fire fiddle/guitar/percussion trio who have harnessed an Acadian traditional spirit between them that is completely intoxicating, playing everything from French to Irish to even Gypsy music. You just never know where their ceaseless energy will take you next.

Finally, it was the recently knot-tied Dennis Ellsworth (congratulations, man!) who tied up the afternoon of music with a soulfully-relaxed, heartily-sung hour-long set of songs, complete with a slew of new originals (destined for a new recording this fall) thrown into the mix.

Ellsworth also commented near the end of his set about how much he supports the Malpeque Folk Festival endeavour, adding that it can grow to become a “world class” event that would be a great thing for Eastern Canada.

Oakie is excited and hopeful that the festival will reach the potential they envision for it and yet emphasizes how important it will be to recruit volunteers in order to make it all that it can be.

“Folk festivals are built on volunteers,” Oakie says. “The most successful folk festivals in Canada are Edmonton, which has 2,200 volunteers, Winnipeg, which has 2,600 volunteers. These festivals are community-owned events, and they take on a life of their own.”

So, if you’re interested in volunteering for next year’s Malpeque Folk Festival, be sure to contact Oakie at roboakie@musicpei.com.

Next week: Miss Caledonia at the Victoria Playhouse.

Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

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Organizations: Ale House, Union Place

Geographic location: Edmonton, Winnipeg, Charlottetown Vancouver Calgary August.And Moncton Kensington Canada Robert L. Cotton Memorial Park Stratford Red Rock Mount Stewart Indian River Mary

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