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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Summerfolk40 Officially a Success

Digging Roots led a round dance in the Amphitheatre on Sunday night

Digging Roots led a round dance in the Amphitheatre on Sunday night

The Georgian Bay Folk Society (GBFS) is officially declaring the 40th anniversary Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival a success. The festival enjoys a glowing reputation among fans and performers for the beauty of its venue, quality of music, and laid-back friendly atmosphere.  Summerfolk40 lived up to the reputation  with sunny weather, a breathtaking line up, eye catching artisans, and fabulous food creating the positive vibe. This year, the festival welcomed 15,000 visitors on to the Kelso Beach site over the four day event. “We wanted the 40th anniversary to be special,” said GBFS president Phil Bye, “and I think we succeeded; I heard positive comments from performers, vendors, and patrons all weekend”.

“This is one for the books” agreed Artistic Director James Keelaghan who scheduled the 40+ acts for all seven Summerfolk stages. The festival line-up paid homage to the past and looked to the future, bringing back old favourites and introducing new performers.  For the first time in its 40 year history, Summerfolk expanded for a fourth night of music, opening early with a Thursday night Birthday Blues Bash featuring Matt Andersen. “Matt was one of the most popular artists when he played Summerfolk in 2012” said Keelaghan “,and he set the bar higher this year”.
David Essig returned forty years after playing the very first Summerfolk in 1976. Someone snapped a picture of him tuning his guitar at the inaugural festival and that photo served as the poster for two years and inspired the GBFS logo. American folk duo Trout Fishing in America first played Summerfolk in the late 80’s and have returned regularly since. During Trout Fishing in America’s main stage set on Saturday night bass player Keith Grimwood  told the crowd that Summerfolk always impresses him as a multi-generational festival.  He was preaching to the choir. The audience singing along under the stars in the Summerfolk amphitheatre was made up of those generations of Summerfolk fans.

Long time festival patrons often treat Summerfolk like a musical treasure hunt and try to discover impressive new acts. Those music lovers hit a gold mine at Summerfolk40 with acts like Donovan Woods, Jojo Worthington, and the award winning Claire Lynch Band. First time Summerfolk performer Joel Plaskett  wowed the mainstage audience on Friday night.  On Saturday morning he shared a workshop stage with the enigmatic Steve Poltz. Festival goers were talking about Poltz all weekend after what seemed like an impossibly energetic  main stage performance featuring his chart topping song-writing, gut busting impressions, and captivating stories. The Summerfolk Youth Discoveries winners – all under the age of 21 – made their festival debuts in the Down by the Bay tent and shared workshop stages with veteran performers throughout the weekend.

Artisan craft vendors lined the paths between Summerfolk stages with booths offering one of a kind work. The juried art show recognized Owen Sound based Outside Instruments with a people’s choice award for a cello made from a canning pot. Barrie based Ruby Diego Designs was recognized for a stunning dress and Rossbilt Tincan Banjos / Ukeleles won best booth.  The ribbon winners faced stiff competition from the other artisans displaying work including upcycled jewellery, puppets, pottery, and stone carvings among others.

The 40th anniversary is a significant milestone for Summerfolk and a special anniversary tent displayed memorabilia collected over the last four decades and offered birthday cake.  We paid considerable attention to Summerfolk’s legacy but the GBFS was also thinking about the organization’s future.  “We put a lot of effort and time into children’s programming” said GBFS President Phil Bye “because they’ll be the one’s bringing their kids in 30 years”. Bye himself has been involved with Summerfolk since the beginning.

The GBFS is a non-profit organization with roughly 700 volunteers who dedicated their time and talents to make Summerfolk40 happen.  With the last of the stages and equipment leaving Kelso Beach, it’s already time for the GBFS to begin thinking about Summerfolk41 which will run August 19-21th, 2016. The GBFS has created an endowment fund to ensure that Summerfolk and its other community programs continue for another 40 years. The fund has already surpassed $100,000 thanks to initial donor support and matching government funding.  More information about the GBFS, Summerfolk, and the Summerfolk Endowment Fund is available online at

A Map to Summerfolk40

By James Keelaghan

 Tonight, we are kicking off the festival with a Birthday Bash in the new Down by the Bay tent.

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Monkey Junk will kick things off at 8 PM ,with Matt Andersen headlining at 9 PM. These are two powerhouse acts. MonkeyJunk plays a swampy, funky brand of blues. It’s the kind of music that turns your backbone to jelly. The riffs are little earworms played with the kind of precision that can only come from a close and longtime musical camaraderie.

Matt Andersen never ceases to amaze. He’s a powerful presence. When he digs in on his guitar, a hammer like right hand drives the song. The head is thrown back and the voice explosive. When he plays a ballad, it’s as gentle as a southern rain. What gives Matt Andersen his power is simplicity. Matt is one of the most requested artists by Summerfolk audiences and it’s fitting that he’s here to launch us on our next 40 years.

I’ve been in and out of Kelso Beech Park a lot this week. I am amazed, as always, at how quickly the park is transformed. The million and one details that make a festival happen are being tended to.  Tents have been going up, stages are being built. I walk around the site and imagine the things that are about to happen.

And there is a lot that is going to happen. Eighteen concert slots on the Amphitheatre stage. On Friday night, Montreal’s The Bombadils will start the music on the Amphitheatre stage. Over the next three nights, seventeen more acts will play that stage including-the infectiously poppy Joel Plaskett, the high, lonesome voice of Claire Lynch, the acoustic fusion of The Duhks and the dance rhythms of Delhi 2 Dublin.

The Duhks

The Duhks

On Friday, at the Down by the Bay stage, the entertainment picks up where Matt Andersen left off. Our busiest venue, 25 different workshops and concerts happen under its canvas for the weekend. Sessions like Sunday’s Groove Summit with Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar, The MacKenzie Blues Band and Whitehorse take jamming to a whole new level. The Lovelocks, who took the Boots and Hearts festival by storm, will play the stage twice, once in a session with local heroes, Sons of Perry and their own concert slot on Saturday Night.

As raucous as DBTB can be, the Wine Bar provides a remarkably intimate setting for a large festival. Its focus is more on fitness than flash, but it gives a rare chance to see a powerhouse band like Digging Roots in a near acoustic setting.

In between the DBTB and the Wine Bar, you’ll find 17 food vendors. There are a  lot of flavours there. You’ll also pass the Look up Theatre and Vita Twirlin Diva who are offering classes on the circus arts and the spinning arts. That is also where the Saturday night fire show is going to happen.

Forty-Eight handpicked Artisans line either side of the walkway down to the beach. This is the heart of the crafts in the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival. Jewellery, pottery, one of a kind clothing, were chosen from over 300 entries. Over the weekend, there is a juried show and people’s choice awards.

That’s just the north half of the park…

Starting at the main gate and heading south you can follow the Owen Sound Public Library’s storybook walk- a literary trail using a children’s story by Jill Barber, “Music is for Everyone”

Keep going past the wine bar,past the Anniversary and General Store tents to your left and you’ll come to the Gazebo stage. On Sunday, the workshop with Jojo Worthington, Shred Kelly and Steve Poltz is going to be catchy, yet surreal workshop. On Saturday afternoon, there’ll be a special kid’s concert on the Gazebo stage with Trout Fishing in America and our own Dickie Bird (Richard Knectel).

At the end of the children’s concert , if you were a kid, you could visit the children’s village. That’s where they will be decorating the 32 foot long dragon that leads the Kid’s parade. You could also try some of the amazing things that Elephant Thoughts brings our way—reptiles and giant bubbles to name a couple.

Rejoin your elder unit at Todd’s Musical petting zoo. Todd Crowley visits us yearly from Ohio and brings a trailer load of over 200 instruments. They are there for the weekend, laid out and waiting for you to pick up and experiment.

Venture over the hill to our dance stage. You’ll find a large airy tent, a beautiful dance floor and all sorts of opportunities to learn, contra, clog step and more-and yes we, have some free-style dance as well. The jewel of the stage, though, is the Saturday Night Contra Dance with our Summerfolk All-Stars—a pick up band with some of the best traditional musicians on the planet.

I finish my walk and I’m even more in awe of the hard work of the hundreds of volunteers now swarming the site. They’ve been working for a year to get it ready for you.

Heck, we’re already working on Summerfolk 41!

You can find out all you need to know about Summerfolk at our website Links for tickets, performer bios and schedules can all be found there. I hope we’ll see you there.


The View From Stage Right

By David Newland

The other day, my teenage daughter confronted me: “Dad, why are you still wearing that t-shirt? It’s ten years old!” I looked down, stunned. “What?! This is my Summerfolk 30th anniversary shirt!” Okay, guilty as charged. But I can explain…

In 2004, I’d been playing as a singer-songwriter in Ontario for a couple of years. Festival gigs were hard to come by. I had played at a Last Chance Saloon for a slot at Summerfolk, and despite many a plastic beer cup raised to my effort, I didn’t get the gig.

 I did, however, get a chance to walk through the site at Kelso Park, where so many of my musical heroes had played. Walking among the standing stones with the winter wind whipping off Georgian Bay, I dedicated myself to someday playing Summerfolk.

 Elsewhere on the scene, fellow performers and volunteers talked of great moments spent at Summerfolk; of Willie P. Bennett and Stan Rogers; of passionate fans lined up to place their tarps; of late night jams, summer storms and endless encores; of a volunteer corps second to none.

 I got invited to play one of the off-season GBFS songwriter series shows, in a lovely theatre above the old courthouse. I stayed in a B&B with a basement vault, a relic of the Prohibition era whiskey trade. At the Tom Thomson gallery, I discovered the painter’s mandolin, a poignant artifact I have made a point of visiting time and again. If I couldn’t play the festival (yet) I could love and admire the place. And I did.

 When Liz Harvey-Foulds took over as AD in 2005, she hired some musical friends of mine, and one of them, Jory Nash, asked if I could help out as a volunteer stage host at the Homemade Jam stage. I jumped at the chance. You know the old saying: if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with… hosting. People I’d been listening to for years were playing: Tanglefoot, Rita Chiarelli, Garnet Rogers. I got to sit in on an Ian Tamblyn workshop! I was hooked.

 The following year I was back, hosting Down By the Bay. The dream was coming true by tiny increments. Prairie Oyster, Lynn Miles, Crooked Still… I was still a fan, but now I was finding myself backstage with these folks. On Sunday morning I caught the gospel workshop from my canoe, Suzie Vinnick’s voice echoing off the grain elevators.

 In 2009, with Richard Knechtel at the helm, I was back with my band, The McFlies. Rocking Down By the Bay, right before Hoots and Hellmouth on the Saturday night, was one of my favourite musical moments ever. The next day, Sharon, of Sharon, Lois & Bram showed up at a kids’ workshop I was hosting and joined me onstage for Skinnimarink. Does it get any better?

 It did. In 2011, Richard called again: how about hosting mainstage? Yes sir, I said. Summerfolk was one of seven festivals I did that year with my fiancée by my side, weeks before our wedding. Now I had someone to share all my favourite things with: the steam powered corn cooker, the deep fried turkey legs. The beach and the tipi and the smiling faces now becoming familiar: Pete Miller driving the shuttle van, Ariel Rogers managing the tweeners. Steve and Steve in the CIUT tent. The instrument petting zoo!

 In 2012, Summerfolk had a new Artistic Director, and I had a new album. James Keelaghan offered me a night hosting mainstage again, the usual workshop slots and a spot in a brand new venue: the Wine Bar. Now my wife was pregnant and the in-laws were along in support. Summerfolk had become a multi-generational affair in more ways than one: Nathan Rogers (with Dry Bones) took to the stage named after his father, just one among a slew of acts like Chic Gamine, Al Simmons, H’SAO, and my old buddy Dave Gunning. Wow.

 Two years later came another call from Keelo, this time with a bold request: would I host all three nights on main stage? On that long-ago winter’s day, all I’d hoped for was the chance to play the festival one day. And now I would be introducing the likes of Laura Cortese, Oh Suzannah, and the incredible Buffy Ste. Marie? Yes, I said. YES!

 And now here we are in 2015. Once again, I find myself heading to Owen Sound to host mainstage at Summerfolk. Now, it’s not just heroes, but colleagues and friends I have the honour of introducing: Up-and-comers, the Young Novelists. Ukulele wizard James Hill and the wildly talented Shari Ulrich. Samantha Martin, whose band will simply blow people away. The profound and insightful Evalyn Parry and the passionate and inspiring Digging Roots. The outlandish Steve Poltz and the haunting Sarah MacDougall. Joel Plaskett! Trout Fishing in America! Whitehorse!

 So yeah, I’m still wearing my volunteer t-shirt from 2005. It’s not yet holey, but it’s kinda… holy. Still, I may pick up a new one this year. Summerfolk 40? Sounds like a dream come true to me.

Workshops and Festival Magic

Randy represents the audience at the Songs from a Hat workshop in 2014

Randy represents the audience at the Songs from a Hat workshop in 2014

By James Keelaghan

We have a lot of people who buy tickets to the festival before we announce even one name from the lineup. They know that what happens at Summerfolk is unique. They don’t need to see a lineup to know that the entertainment will be top notch.

The schedule for the entire weekend is up on the website now. I looked at the spike in web traffic when we posted it. I knew what was going on. The serious were handicapping the schedule.

They were figuring out how to maximize their time at the festival. Plotting how to see everybody that they want to see. I also see it in that first hour on site, before the music has actually begun. The calm before the song, as it were. People are hunched over their programs, the highlighting tool of their choice in their hands. They are circling things.

Every year, we hear same thing,“ you can’t possibly see it all ”. It’s true, you can’t. With seven daytime stages and two to three evening stages, you’d have to have clones to take it all in.

It’s my job to program all that activity. Eighty-eight separate shows that add up to one festival. I would like to take all the credit, or blame for that, but the ideas for the workshops come from a lot of different places.

When performers return their paperwork for the festival, they also return a sheet where they have listed their workshop ideas.

Workshops, if you haven’t seen them, take a few performers, give them a theme and sixty minutes or so on stage. Performers play to the theme, but if they are feeling particularly comfortable, they start playing with each other. The very best workshops end up with the performers becoming a pick-up band. It’s electric.

They might also mention people they would love to be in a workshop with. The Bombadil’s really wanted to do a workshop with Grit Laskin. Done ( Saturday August 22 11AM, Down BY the Bay stage). Ann Lederman wanted to do a workshop with Bruce Molsky. Done ( Sunday afternoon, August 23rd, 4:30 at the Wine Bar. Be there or be square).

There are often existing relationships between musicians that you know will bear fruit in a workshop. Leonard Podolak is at the festival this year with his group, the Duhks. Mark Schatz is here as part of Claire Lynch’s band. Mark and Leonard have known each other for years. Mark produced two of the early Duhks’ records. He also taught Leonard to hambone and clog. Clogging, you are probably familiar with, or you can take a wild guess and probably will be right. Hambone, you might not be familiar with. It’s a form of dance mixed with body percussion and it’s a great thing to watch and an ever better thing to do. Master and student will teach it all to you at Noon on the Sunday of Summerfolk ( Over The Hill stage).

There are many other instructional workshops over the weekend. David Essig has a workshop called Art of the Jam that could help those who tend to stall out around the campfire. How about learning how to write a haiku, be a part of the Summerfolk choir, or learn how to spin poi?

Other workshops are about throwing musicians together and, with the relaxation that comes from the Summerfolk atmosphere, magic happens, not to mention a few sparks. I anticipate the last workshop on the Down By the Bay Stage, Sunday afternoon, called Groove Summit with Whitehorse, The Mackenzie Blues Band, and Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar is going to take the roof off the tent.

Another Down by the Bay workshop (1PM Saturday), Songs from a Hat has become a favourite of the audiences in the past few years.
The idea is simple. I have a hat. It’s filled with song titles written on long scraps of paper. Steve Poltz, Anne Beverley Foster, Trout Fishing in America and David Woodhead square off against the audience. The challenge is to sing at least the first verse and chorus of a song pulled from my hat. If the pros can’t do it, it’s up to the audience. There’s only one other rule. Don’t throw the microphone!

Shari Ulrich, Claire Lynch, Wendy McNeill and Sarah MacDougall are four writers with very different styles, but my bet is they find common ground at a workshop called “Wolf at the door”, (Down by the Bay, Sunday at noon).

Those are just a few of the things we have in store for you. The best part is, you still don’t know what it is that is going to surprise you.

You’ll find the weekend schedule and everything else you need to know about Summerfolk at The 40th annual Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens August 20-23 at Kelso Beach Park, Owen Sound and is brought to you through the efforts of the Georgian Bay Folk Society.

A workshop on the Down by the Bay stage in 2014

A workshop on the Down by the Bay stage in 2014

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