38th Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival begins today
Jim Payne is a musician and fabulous folkie who will be a recognizable face to anyone attending this year’s Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival at Bowring Park.
The main stage at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival grounds at Bowring Park in St. John’s gets set up on Thursday afternoon. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
He’ll scuff up on Saturday evening in the Dance Tent, then head to the main stage as one of A Crowd of Bold Sharemen, before taking to the Oral Traditions Tent on Sunday for a session of Silly Songs and a performance on the theme of Dynamic Duos with longtime collaborator Fergus O’Byrne.
“We first have to decide who’s going to be Batman and who’s going to be Robin,” he said with a laugh, speaking with The Telegram Thursday.
The main stage is for top material, he said, but the tents and workshops can offer intimate, magically creative moments for audiences.
“You’ll hear one song that night make you remember one of your own.” And that’s when he’ll pick up the tune, or respond with that song rarely played.
“It’s kind of an unpredictable thing.”
Matthew Byrne is a fabulous folkee who started at the festival with an appearance on the Neil Murray Stage for young talent more than a dozen years ago — more years than he says he can really remember.
He now has two collections released — Ballads (2010) and Hearts and Heroes (2014) — and will be back performing at the festival this year in the Oral Traditions Tent.
“The tents have slowly become as important, I think, as the main stage,” he said, explaining the locations are key to the best audience, and artist, experiences.
“You never know who’s going to do a sudden collaboration ... or how it’s going to go,” he said.
“As a performer, it’s one of my favourite ways to play because you’re just kind of sitting there talking to the audience.”
The tents are also the place for new voices — in both vocals and instrumentals. This year, the Neil Murray Stage will feature 15 acts, including performances from Emma Peckford, fresh off her win of the national She’s The One contest at the Ottawa Bluesfest, and Jenna Maloney, who was recognized in the Statoil Songwriters of Tomorrow contest.
Of course the main stage lineup remains the most promoted and the draw for many festival-goers. The Dardanelles, The Benoits, The Fortunate Ones, Gord Downie, City on the Coast and The Blue Drop (Allan Byrne and Holly Hogan) are included in the main stage schedule.
“What I think is the most amazing thing about this lineup is the incredible diversity. There are performers here who are really into traditional Newfoundland music. We have Connemara, A Crowd of Bold Sharemen, The Masterless Men closing out Sunday night. And then we also have this really nice mix of sort of up and coming, young acts like The Freels, who do very traditional stuff,” said festival manager Erin Whitney.
“And then there’s totally off the wall acts like The Burning Hell, there’s really beautiful Basia Bulat — there’s just such a range of things to choose from, I think, no matter what your musical tastes. ... I don’t think we’re going to be getting into any heavy metal, that might be the only thing. But I mean the Dards are pretty high energy there.”
Whitney is self-described as not at all a folkie, but a big fan of stumbling across strong performers.
“I didn’t grow up going to the festival. I was more of a rock and roll girl. So its been really fun for me to kind of come over to this side and discover a whole new genre of music,” she said, naming The Dardanelles and The Freels as making the personal play list of late.
“I’m looking forward to making some more (discoveries) this weekend.”
The organizer waved off the touchy forecast. “Personally I’m looking forward to a bit of a break from all the hot weather. And if it’s like this, I think it will be lovely. We’ll see if we get downpours, but I don’t think rain scares Newfoundlanders. I think sun scares them more,” she said.
Tickets are available online, by phone at 1-888-311-9090, at O’Brien’s Music, The Attic (UC-3009) at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s St. John’s campus, the Jack Byrne Arena, Brewed on Bernard in Corner Brook, Travel Bug and The Music Collection.
This is an edited version of the original story.