Popular festival off to a quiet start on Prince’s Island; Tickets are still available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday

‘People are buying tickets, they’re excited, it’s outdoors. But I think the fact that they haven’t sold out yet suggests that there’s still some uneasiness on the part of people.

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Advance ticket sales for the Calgary Folk Music Festival have been on par with pre-2019 pandemic levels, meaning plenty are still available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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At least that was the story on Thursday night, shortly before the gates opened on Prince’s Island. Artistic director Kerry Clarke said official numbers were not yet available, but advance sales suggest the festival is likely to sell out by at least 87 percent if past years’ patterns hold. The folk festival hasn’t sold out completely since 2013, Clarke said.

It marks the first time since 2019 that the festival has returned in full swing after being canceled in 2020. In 2021, a scaled-down Summer Serenades was held on Prince’s Island with an all-Canadian stage and lineup.

All six stages will be in use this year.

“People are buying tickets, they’re excited, it’s outdoors,” Clarke said. “But I think the fact that they haven’t sold out yet suggests there’s still some uneasiness on the part of people.”

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Devon Gilfillian performing at Calgary Folk Fest on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Devon Gilfillian performing at Calgary Folk Fest on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Bailey Seymour/Special for Postmedia

On Thursday, the main stage was set to host Brazilian singer Xenia Franca, Nashville R&B artist Devon Gilfillian, swing revivalists The Squirrel Nut Zippers and DJ Shub Presents War Club Live. The festival got some bad news earlier this week when the planned headliners, Austin’s Black Pumas, cancelled. No reason has been given for the cancellation other than “unforeseen circumstances”.

Clarke said the festival has issued some refunds to those who requested them.

Thursday kicked off with the traditional “tarp run,” which for years has required eager early risers to hop or skip rather than run to choose spots in front of the stage to avoid chaos. Despite the relaxed rules on drinking, the audience seemed pretty subdued earlier in the evening. It was a vibe that paired perfectly with Franca’s cool electronic samba sounds.

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Former Mayor Naheed Nenshi prepares his tarp in front of the main stage during the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Former Mayor Naheed Nenshi prepares his tarp in front of the main stage during the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Gavin Young/Post Media

Other headliners this year include Canadian hip-hop artist K’Naan on Friday, American indie icons Spoon on Saturday and Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett on Sunday.

Clarke said his approach to programming hasn’t changed. As always, there is a healthy contingent of world music and a lot of diversity. There is also a focus on local acts, particularly those who have recently released albums. That includes Astral Swans, hip-hop artists Sinzere & The Tribe, singer-songwriters Samantha Savage Smith, Bryson Waind, Clea Anais, Selci, Jess Knights and Robert Adams and Calgary bands Jung People and The Hello Darlins.

Samantha Savage Smith was making her third appearance at the folk festival, promoting her Fake Nice album. She was doing a “tweener” on Thursday night which is when local artists play between the main stages and was also scheduled to play stage 3 on Saturday at 11:30am and workshops with other artists on Saturday and on Sunday. She first performed at the festival as a solo artist in 2011.

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“When I played my first folk festival, I was super green,” he said. “I played a tweener before Stars and I was very nervous. I was like ‘there are so many people!’ But because of that, I sold a lot of CDs, and it was a great opportunity for people to hear me for the first time when I was just starting out.”

Crowds fill the lawn in front of the main stage for the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Crowds fill the lawn in front of the main stage for the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Gavin Young/Post Media

One of the major changes this year is the all-site alcohol license that allows festival drinkers to consume throughout the venue (you can’t bring your own yet) instead of just in the designated beer tents.

“We tried it out last year for Summer Serenades and it worked well and other festivals are going that way too,” Clarke said. “I was at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and people seemed to like it. It seemed to be a happy thing.”

The Calgary Folk Music Festival runs through Sunday at Prince’s Island Park.

Friends Audra Richards, left, and Ashley Yeoman enjoy a beer as they look out over the main stage on the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday, July 21, 2022. It is the first year that the festival an alcohol license at all venues.
Friends Audra Richards, left, and Ashley Yeoman enjoy a beer as they look out over the main stage on the opening night of the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Thursday, July 21, 2022. It is the first year that the festival an alcohol license at all venues. Gavin Young/Post Media

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