Winnipeg Folk Festival 2015 – A retrospective.
Ah, the Winnipeg Folk Festival: a gathering around music, art, and community that pops up in a prairie field for five days every year. Exactly two weeks from today the 2016 festival begins with the Crooked Brothers kicking things off on the main stage. Spending time with good friends (both old and new), discovering new music, and happening by chance upon unexpected joys…I’m looking forward to another year barefoot in these fields as an official festival photographer.
Last year, when the festival ended with a bang (everyone remember the huge thunderstorm that hit the stage at the same time as Wilco?), I had to quickly process my photographic work for the higher ups as I was soon leaving on a bike tour out west. That also meant that I didn’t have time to post a recap of the festival through my eyes here like I’ve done previously for 2013 and 2014. I’ve received several messages via email and social media asking about the 2015 photoessay, and so I thought to myself: it’s never too late! Why not put together a retrospective of last year to get us all excited for this year?
The Winnipeg Folk Festival is large and multifaceted; a choose-your-own-adventure meandering through fields and friends. People who attend can have vastly different experiences from one another and the same is the case for myself: year by year, the focus of my photographs changes. As I age, the festival is more about the little moments rather than the big ones…and so I spend less time at the main stage than I used to. The workshops are the heart of the festival for me – throwing musicians together on stage to collectively make music that is fleeting and will likely never be again. It is here that I love watching these artists in their element. The subtle gestures between each other, the crowd, and their instruments…it is truly beautiful to watch them share their passion.
Enjoy this view of last year’s festival through my eyes and my lens. I hope to see you out in the same fields in a mere two weeks!
Cyclists leave the city limits and cross prairie fields to be the first to arrive at the festival site.
Entering Bird’s Hill Provincial Park the doziness of the early morning rise starts to wear off as excitement for the next five days begins to build.
Home away from home.
People gather at the main stage to hear the first chords that will kick off the festival. Lost in a field of friends, watching the sun set, and listening to amazing musicians do their thing…these are the festival moments I know and love.
A mother shares a dance with her young folkie. Folk families are a key part in keeping the festival’s heart alive; the next generation growing up as a part of it.
After nightfall a different type of dancer takes to the field.
The crowd waits in anticipation of the next act lighting up the night.
A dancer is silhouetted against stage lights…
…while some of us quietly take it all in from the back.
Daylight comes and wandering minstrels welcome guests with their woodsy serenade.
Every year, the Shady Grove stage is dedicated to the Young Performer’s Program all day Friday. In the weeks leading up to the festival, these young musicians get to mentor under some of the more veteran performers, and this is their opportunity to take center stage and shine.
These talented young musicians never cease to amaze me; as they graduate from a music mentorship program I dare say they sound as if they’re ready to record. From left to right: Olivia Lunny, Hannah Sabroski Cade Zacharias, Eli Hebl, Hera Nalam, Ryan Van Belleghem, Catarina Arbour, Dane Bjornson.
On the other side of the festival, heavy hitter Ash Grunwald came all the way from Australia to perform for an engrossed crowd…
…engrossed and appreciative.
Roaming musicians flock to these stages with guitars on their backs. Pictured: Steve Poltz.
Birds of Chicago radiates raw talent. Aside: My personal favourite album of 2016 (so far) has been their new release, Real Midnight – I highly recommend you check it out.
Sunset silhouettes in the prairie fields.
After darkness falls and the music of the festival site goes silent, the people of the campground carry the spirit of the festival into the night.
The heart of the nighttime festivities center around Pope’s Hill. Covered with people, it glows in the darkness of night.
It has become a ritual of sorts that Saturday night is the time for fire dancers to work their magic at Pope’s Hill. On this particular night, the sky echoed the fire dance with quiet lightning that flashed all night long.
Mesmerized by fire.
An intimate solo set with Jeremy Fisher contrasts with the wild nightlife.
What is the most musical part of a turkey?
Anything can be an instrument when you mic it, including dancing feet!
When another musician is unable to make it to a workshop, local favourite Romi Mayes spontaneously hops on stage from the crowd to fill the space with her vocals.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival is huge. Behind the scenes it really is people in white shirts that make it possible…
…that is to say that the volunteers make it possible. It takes a lot of passionate people to make the festival a reality.
As diverse as the festival itself, the volunteers ensure there really is something for everyone – for all demographics and music appreciators of all genres.
Lost in the dance.
Successful performers return to the stages they played when they were just starting out. Pictured: Shakey Graves.
And others take to the festival stages for their very first time. Here, Leonard Sumner plays some final chords of the 2015 festival.
As Wilco steps into the spotlight for the final evening of performances, the crowd watches impending storm clouds rise high above the stage.
The rain comes heavy and hard. People seek shelter, uncertain whether the storm will pass as quickly as it materialized.
Others don’t let the rain stop them from enjoying one final dance.
Relentless, the storm brought an official end to Winnipeg Folk Festival 2015. In the afterstorm twilight, the festival grounds empty out until next year.