It seems so unlikely that Gwen Kallio didn’t even believe it.
“We checked, then double-checked, and then asked him to be sure,” the publicist told the Georgia Straight. “But it’s confirmed: this year, 2013, will be Loudon Wainwright III’s first time performing at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.”
You read it here first. The annual celebration of roots and world music—taking place from July 19 to 21 at Jericho Beach Park—has hosted more or less every one of Wainwright’s peers in its long history. But somehow it’s taken the author of “Dead Skunk” 36 years to make his own debut.
While this’ll come as great news to those who’ve stayed loyal to the VFMF since its early days, artistic director Linda Tanaka has put together yet another colourful mix of artists, great and small, for the festival’s ever-evolving audience. In the headlining spots, Steve Earle and the Dukes and Natalie Maines both symbolize the sweet spot between mainstream success and righteous shit-disturbance.
Or, as Tanaka said to the Straight about the Dixie Chicks vocalist—who comes in support of her Ben Harper–produced debut solo album, Mother—“Yeah, I think she’s perfect for the Vancouver Folk Festival, actually! I waited a long time for that and I was really happy when it came through.”
The return of the Waterboys—the band’s first visit to Vancouver since 2007—is arguably the other big story here, although Tanaka has also rounded up Kathleen Edwards, Del Barber, the Cat Empire, Whitehorse, Gypsy punks DeVotchKa, and hometown hero Hannah Georgas for the big stage.
The rest of the lineup, currently standing at over 60 artists, is as wildly eclectic as you’d expect. Singer-songwriters like Justin Rutledge, Aidan Knight, PEI’s Tim Chaisson, and Hayden share the bill this year with outré guitar genius Kaki King and the Debo Band’s Pitchfork-approved reinvention of Ethio-groove. Mutated bluegrass will be provided courtesy of Decemberists offshoot Black Prairie, while Tanaka has made good on her mission to “put a little bit more world music in there this year” with acts like India’s Raghu Dixit Project, Hanggai from China, and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars.
Avant-jazzers and fusion lovers, meanwhile, can get their freak on and their rocks off all at the same time thanks to the likes of Anthony Joseph and the Spasm Band, from Trinidad by way of the U.K., and New York’s brilliantly named Hazmat Modine. Artists including Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys, the Martha Redbone Roots Project, and Blind Boy Paxton have the more traditional forms of Americana covered, while any goths who have accidentally strayed into the sunlight will be pleased to find Cold Specks is also on the expansive bill.
“It takes forever to get it together, and then you never know where you’re going to end up,” said an exhausted-sounding Tanaka. “I start putting offers out in the fall, and a lot of them don’t go through. And so you keep trying until it shapes into kinda what you want.” With marvellous understatement, she then added: “I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve put together. I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff there.”
The full lineup can be seen at the Festival website.