Figgy Duff steals spotlight at N.L. folk fest

Justin Brake
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An intermittent drizzle and a field of mud weren't enough to stop the thousands of people who checked out the 32nd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival over the weekend.

Music fans threw on their rubber boots, makeshift garbage bag jackets and sou'westers to catch the first-class lineup festival organizers assembled this year which included the likes of Sylvia Tyson, The Roger Howse Band, Andy Irvine, The 8-Track Favourites, Shanneyganock and the much-anticipated outdoor reunion performance by Figgy Duff.

Matthew Byrne delighted the crowd with his performance at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. - Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

An intermittent drizzle and a field of mud weren't enough to stop the thousands of people who checked out the 32nd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival over the weekend.

Music fans threw on their rubber boots, makeshift garbage bag jackets and sou'westers to catch the first-class lineup festival organizers assembled this year which included the likes of Sylvia Tyson, The Roger Howse Band, Andy Irvine, The 8-Track Favourites, Shanneyganock and the much-anticipated outdoor reunion performance by Figgy Duff.

The precipitation held off for the better part of Friday evening while a predominantly local roster, including The Duane Andrews Quartet, Ron Hynes, Gulliver's Spree and The Masterless Men entertained a relatively subdued crowd, many seated in lawn chairs.

Saturday evening kicked off with the Songwriter's Circle session on the main stage featuring Colleen Power, Lindsay Ferguson, Hynes, Amelia Curran and Blair Harvey.

Juno Award winning Francophone group Le Vent Du Nord's performance was a festival highlight and prompted audience members to fill the front part of the field in a dancing frenzy.

Blues act The Roger Howse Band, local reggae outfit The Idlers and country band The 8-Track Favourites solidified the most diverse session of the festival.

Even without lead singer Mark Wilson, The Idlers were able to build on Le Vent Du Nord's momentum and keep the audience on its feet.

They brought out a handful of guest performers including Fergus O'Byrne for a unique rendition of "Rant and Roar" and Mopaya's Jeik Kalonga.

Sunday's lineup righteously attracted the festival's biggest crowd - more than 3,000 people according to Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival executive director Sherry House.

Figgy Duff stole the show with an emotional performance that may have attracted the biggest crowd to the folk festival in recent years.

Faces lit up when the band kicked off their set with a pair of sessions and there was clear emotion on stage and in the audience when Phil Dinn dedicated a song to his late brother and Duff founder, Noel.

The performance was tough to follow but recently-formed local traditional group Graham Wells and Chain Rock (Billy Sutton, Colin Carrigan, Paddy Mackey, Tom Power and Jason Whelan) carried the momentum successfully, handing it over to Shanneyganock who capped off the evening with a vigorous set of traditional songs, including "The Islander," "I Had a Hat When I Came In," and an upbeat rendition of Buddy Wasisname's "Sarah."

Although an official tally has not yet been completed, House says about 10,000 people passed through the gates over the weekend.

"People were having a good time sliding in the mud," she jokes. "Despite the weather, our attendance was up for the first time in five years."

The Neil Murray stage, a venue for new talent, was a success as a full slate of young performers showcased their talent Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and the session tents fulfilled their purpose of generating audience participation.

The biggest draw though, was easily Duff's performance - one of only four shows they will play this summer.

"People flew home for the festival to see Figgy Duff," says House.

"It was a religious experience."

Organizations: Le Vent Du Nord, Sherry House

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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